Category Archives: Restaurants

Not So Neat News

Two readers report that Neat closed this morning.

A sign taped to the door of the former Wilton Road fire station — nestled between Vespa and Bartaco, serving sandwiches and coffee during the day; beer, wine and cocktails in the evening — announces:

We are sad to say that we are no longer open for business here in Westport. We appreciate your patronage for the past 2 years, and we hope to see you around at our Darien location.

Gratified for the opportunity to have served you here.

A phone call for more details went unanswered.

Neat used the long space of the old Vigilant Firehouse well. (Photo/Riscala Agnese Design Group)

Neat used the long space of the old Vigilant Firehouse well. (Photo/Riscala Agnese Design Group)

(Hat tips: Kirsten Woods, Lauren de Bruijn. Dave Ruden)

The Cottage Gets Bigger

It hasn’t been easy to score a reservation for The Cottage — chef Brian Lewis’ highly acclaimed restaurant featuring locally sourced cuisine, dedicated to seasonal American cooking with casual simplicity and coastal charm. Menus change weekly.

It’s a bit easier now. And for a very good reason: An additional 800 square feet in Colonial Green.

The Cottage’s next-door expansion includes seating for parties of 10 at a window seat banquette. Reservations are required.

There’s also full-service dining at the 10-seat bar, with a new cocktail menu, local draft beers and an expanded wine program. Bar seating is walk-in only.

If your New Year’s resolution is “Get a meal at the Cottage,” you’re in much more luck now.

“Hamilton” tickets, however, are still pretty much out of reach.

The newly expanded Cottage.

The newly expanded Cottage.

Paul Newman Still Helps Farmers’ Market Grow

Sure, it’s winter. But there’s always something stirring at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

The long-running food hub — operating through March on Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Gilbertie’s on Sylvan Lane South — has just received a $10,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation.

It’s a great connection for the 2 Westport-based organizations. The foundation — formed in 2005 by our own Paul Newman — focuses on 4 areas with the potential for transformational change. They include philanthropy, children, employment — and nutrition.

The Farmers’ Market, meanwhile, provides fresh, local, healthy and seasonal food to the community, while promoting education about local food and farms, and sustainable growing practices.

A typical scene at the Westport Farmers' Market.

A typical scene at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Lori Cochran-Dougall, WFM executive director, calls the grant “especially poignant.” After all, Newman helped found the market in 2006.

“Paul Newman and Michael Nischan” — Newman’s friend and partner in, among other things, the Dressing Room restaurant adjacent to the WFM’s 1st location in the Westport Country Playhouse’ parking lot — “brought life to the market we know and love today,” Cochran-Dougall says.

“Over the years we have proudly referred to Mr. Newman’s contributions and relished stories from Westporters who crossed his path at Town Hall on the days he was on a mission to get the market up and running.”

Paul Newman, flanked by Lori Cochran-Dougall and Michel Nischan, proudly sporting Westport Farmers' Market gear.

Paul Newman, flanked by Lori Cochran-Dougall and Michel Nischan.

Over a decade later, the market is thriving. It boasts some of the strictest standards for participation in the state, over 40 vendors, and that active indoor winter market.

The Newman’s Own funds will help the Farmer’s Market increase the breadth and depth of its programming.

“We’re not sure how to express our gratitude for this grant,” Cochran-Dougall says. “But we will work even harder to honor the founders who planted this seed.”

Westport Stores Go To The Dogs

An alert — and perturbed — “06880” reader sniffs:

The latest Westport trend is: dogs in stores.

And we’re seeing it more and more.

This picture was taken the other morning at Terrain:

dog-at-terrain

These 2 women conducted a lengthy checkout. The entire time their Lab licked and nibbled the holiday packages of chocolates and peppermint bark on the lower shelf.

When the transaction was complete, the women and dog grabbed a choice table in the Terrain Cafe.

I reported what I saw to the cashier, who seemed completely disinterested.

Not one to give up easily, I found the store manager who said, “It’s probably something we should frown upon. But we’re owned by Urban Outfitters. It’s their rule to allow dogs in the store and cafe.”

She did say she would remove all of those boxes of candy from the floor.

I did not stick around to see if she made good on her promise. But imagine if I hadn’t reported this? Some innocent shopper would give quite a gift: a very germ-y box of candy.

New Downtown Slowly Takes Shape

To some holiday shoppers, the ongoing construction in downtown Westport is a nuisance.

To JP Vellotti, it’s evidence of good times to come.

Yesterday, the alert “06880” reader snapped a few shots on both sides of the Post Road, near Main Street.

He likes the pavers going in at the front terrace of Rothbard Ale + Larder (the former Town Hall):

old-town-hall-new-pavers-december-2016

Meanwhile, across the street, decorative railings are being installed at Bedford Square. “The original ones in front of the YMCA were smashed during construction,” JP says. “I never thought they’d be replaced!”

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Intrigued, he also took this photo. “The old girl looks spiffy!” he notes.

(Photos/JP Vellotti)

(Photos/JP Vellotti)

Moseying back up the Post Road, JP adds, “It’s nice that Post 154” — the old post office — “is rented again (though not for food). It’s a good time for local landmarks!”

Photo Challenge #104

Maybe last week’s photo challenge was hard.

Maybe everyone was out Christmas shopping. Or enjoying a drink at their favorite restaurant.

Whatever. Only 3 readers — Ken Palumbo, Dan Vener and Andrew Colabella — knew that the gas lantern posted last week sits outside the Pink Sumo restaurant on Church Lane. (Click here for the photo.)

Then again, with the ongoing Bedford Square construction I’m sure no one stands around gazing at the scenery.

Things will be different once that project is completed, a couple of months from now. Until then, it’s a testament to Pink Sumo — and its neighbor, the Spotted Horse — that they still draw diners.

Speaking of diners: If you can tear yourself away from today’s Christmas ham — or Hanukkah sushi, or whatever — here is today’s challenge:

photo-challenge-december-25-2016

If you recognize it, click “Comments” below. Happy holidays!

Restaurant Rights Abandoned; Big Changes Ahead For Old Mill Beach

The on-again, off-again, on-again saga of a restaurant near Old Mill Beach is off again.

This time, forever.

When Positano — the latest in a string of restaurants on Hillspoint Road — closed almost exactly 2 years ago, there was speculation the new owners wanted to tear it down, and build a big house right there on the sand.

There was also talk that some neighbors — fearing the loss of their shoreline view, and enjoying the funkiness of a restaurant in the midst of a residential area — were doing what they could to make sure a new restaurant took Positano’s place.

The "Positano property," at Old Mill Beach diagonally across from Elvira's.

The “Positano property,” at Old Mill Beach diagonally across from Elvira’s.

That was somewhat ironic. When Positano applied for patio dining in 2012, neighborhood opposition scuttled the plan. Lack of outdoor seating was one factor leading to Positano’s closing, and its subsequent move to a new location next to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Though a number of residents worked for months to get another restaurant on the site, one neighbor continued to object. She sued.

Now comes news that the owner of the property — an LLC with an office in Nashville, Tennessee — has filed an affidavit with Westport’s Planning and Zoning Department. The owner acknowledges and affirms that “any and all commercial uses of the premises at 233 Hillspoint Road have been irrevocably abandoned and discontinued.”

In other words, any chances for a new restaurant — grandfathered in as a pre-existing condition — has been killed. Now, and in perpetuity.

Before it was Positano, 233 Hillspoint Road was several other restaurants (including, most notably, Cafe de la Plage). But before THAT it was a grocery store. Among its names: Beach Food Mart, and Joe's.

Before it was Positano, 233 Hillspoint Road was several other restaurants (including, most notably, Cafe de la Plage). But before THAT it was a grocery store. Among its names: Beach Food Mart (above), and Joe’s.

So what happens next?

The property is back on the market. It’s listed as “A Generational Waterfront Opportunity.”

Potential buyers have a chance to “build and live directly on Compo Cove Beach’s [sic] most unique [sic] lot with spectacular Long Island Sound views.” The land “is now available for a luxury private home to be built.”

Buyers can enjoy “the most beautiful expansive water views, spectacular sunrises and sunsets” (those sunsets might be tough, since the listing notes it is an “east facing property”, and Compo Hill is a substantial obstruction to the west).

This photo from the real estate listing shows the current footprint of the former restaurant (center). The yellow line shows the property boundaries.

This photo from the real estate listing shows the current footprint of the former restaurant (center). The yellow line shows the property boundaries. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The listing continues:

Enjoy the ever-changing tides and light, the shore birds, and the tranquility that exists with living right on the beach. With no neighbor to your right,  it’s like having your own front row seat to the best Long Island Sound offers — sunbathing, swimming, fishing boating…

Seize this opportunity to create your own magnificent custom home for the first time ever on this site.

The cost?

A mere $4,500,000.

But wait! There’s more!

Elvira’s — diagonally across Hillspoint from #233 — continues to be on the market too. There’s been no sale yet, but word on the soon-to-drastically-change street is that it may not remain a grocery store/ community center.

All of which is food for thought.

A good place to think about it is at the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve.

You know — where for nearly a century, Allen’s Clam House used to be.

Westport’s Ritzy Oysters

This weekend, alert — and hungry — “06880” reader Keith Lombardo is at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. The hotel restaurant — Jack Dusty — has a great raw bar.

Keith asked about the oysters. The waiter said they had 3. But “the signature ones that everyone loves are from Westport, Connecticut.”

Keith did not order them. He gets his Westport oysters often enough at Pearl at Longshore.

But, he says, the waiter was right. Everyone in Sarasota loved them!

westport-oysters-in-florida

Westport Oysters Pop Up At Grand Central

Claus Meyer is a world-famous food activist, cookbook author, professor and TV host. A founder of the New Nordic cuisine philosophy, his Copenhagen restaurant Noma was rated the Best in the World 4 times (!) since 2010.

So it was pretty cool the other day when he showed up at Sherwood Mill Pond. He visited the Northrop family’s Hummock Island house, accessible only by boat — the base of operations for their famous oyster farm.

He and a few of his chefs sat with the Northrops, discussing the finer points of oystering.

Claus Meyer (left) and Jeff Northrop Jr. at Old Mill Beach, before their oyster farm tour and tasting.

Claus Meyer (left) and Jeff Northrop Jr. at Old Mill Beach, before their oyster farm tour and tasting.

But that’s not the whole story.

Meyer invited Jeff and his son (Jeff Jr.) to be part of his food operation in Grand Central Terminal.

That’s the 16,000-square foot Great Northern Food Hall in Vanderbilt Hall, which has taken the historic landmark by storm.

Which is why — all week long — commuters, other travelers and food lovers of all kinds have been stopping  in at the Hummock Island Oyster pop-up bar.

Pat Hanna and Kenny Varyruardrok of Hummock Island Shellfish opening oysters from Westport for the hungry masses.

Pat Hanna and Kenny Varyruardrok of Hummock Island Shellfish opening oysters from Westport for the hungry masses.

They’ll be there through next Thursday (December 22) tomorrow (Friday, December 16) from 4-8 p.m.

That’s good news for Westporters heading home via Grand Central.

But if you’re not — heck, even if you are, but you love Hummock Island oysters — you can get them at Pearl at Longshore, any day of the week.

 

Boathouse Restaurant: Saugatuck Secret Slips Out

It’s one of those enduring urban — okay, suburban — myths: The restaurant at Saugatuck Rowing Club is private. It’s for members only, but if you go there they’ll (wink, wink) serve you.

Once upon a time, that was semi-true. The restaurant was private, but signing in made you a member for the day.

Now it’s totally false. The Boathouse at Saugatuck is a full-fledged, legit, open-to-the-public restaurant.

And a great one.

With indoor and outside (enclosed in winter) seating, and a spectacular setting — overlooking the Saugatuck River — the Boathouse is one more in a long list of excellent dining options in the neighborhood that has become Westport’s dining hotbed.

Plenty of windows offer a view of the Saugatuck River -- including rowers from the club.

Plenty of windows offer views of the Saugatuck River — including rowers.

Several months ago, says manager and event planner Nancy Burke, the Boathouse added needed parking spots and changed their liquor license, to become an actual restaurant. They can now advertise, and market themselves to the public.

Word is getting out. Executive chef Paul Scoran — formerly of Paci in Fairfield — focuses on innovative American cuisine. There’s plenty of local fish, with other selections too. (I had a really interesting pasta dish, with lobster, shrimp and crab.) The menu changes seasonally. Full catering services are also available.

Westporters may still be confused by the relationship between the restaurant and rowing club. They share a building — and from the dining room you can watch rowers work out in the gym — but they’re 2 separate entities. Both, however, are owned by the same man: Howard Winklevoss, a Greenwich businessman perhaps better known as the father of Tyler and Cameron, twin Olympic rowers/litigants who claim Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea to create Facebook.

There's indoor dining on the 2nd floor (left), and outdoor dining on the deck (enclosed in winter). The bottom floor -- and part of the 2nd -- is devoted to rowing.

There’s indoor dining on the 2nd floor (left), and outdoor dining on the deck (enclosed in winter). The bottom floor — and the right side of the 2nd — is devoted to rowing.

Winklevoss’ Saugatuck Rowing Club helped jump start the revitalization of Saugatuck. Now his restaurant will draw even more folks to the neighborhood.

But although the Boathouse is relatively new — at least as a public venue — it is in some ways part of the “old” Saugatuck.

One of the waiters is Frank DeMace. His grandfather — Tiger DeMace — was the longtime owner of a restaurant that for decades had quite a name of its own: Mario’s.

boathouse-logo