Category Archives: Restaurants

Happy Easter!

I can’t believe anyone had Easter dinner today.

Everyone was at the beach.

The best weather of the year drew enormous crowds of all ages to the playground:

Joey Romeo was everywhere — as usual — making sure his snack bar served everyone:

But the biggest attraction was a kitesurfer. For at least 2 hours, this guy whipped through the waves. He leaped 20 feet in the air. He circled far out, then zoomed close to land.

That dude has amazing upper body strength, great balance, and a sailor’s sense of the wind.

Thanks for the show!

Bedford Square Is Complete. Another Intriguing Project May Come Next.

Since it opened 2 weeks ago, Bedford Square has become Westport’s newest destination. Folks flock there to shop, eat, and hang out in the courtyard.

David Waldman’s project — which took many years to conceive and sell to town boards, and another 2 years to construct — seems like the end of a long process.

But it may be only the beginning.

Numerous sources say that the Westport-based developer is under contract to buy both Sconset Square and 155 Post Road East. They’re contiguous properties: Sconset is the small shopping center off Myrtle Avenue with stores like Bungalow and Le Penguin restaurant, while 155 Post Road is the cement building across from Design Within Reach (the old post office). Eyeglasses.com is a current tenant; it used to house the Tack Room and Christian Science reading room.

155 Post Road East is a tired-looking building across from Design Within Reach (the old post office).

With Bedford Square, Waldman re-imagined the way we use Elm Street/Church Lane/Main Street. If he acquires those nearby properties — and, rumor has it, the Westport Pizzeria building too — he could redesign that section of downtown as well.

And tie it together with Bedford Square, which is much closer physically to Sconset Square than most of us now realize.

Sconset Square has been in Westport for years. Originally called Sherwood Square, it was the site of the original Sport Mart.

Word on the downtown street is that Waldman could reorient Sconset Square, opening up the backs of those stores to anyone using a redesigned walkway from the Post Road to Church Lane.

Removing the Westport Pizzeria building could create a pedestrian walkway to Church Lane — and enable merchants to utilize the backs of their stores, as well as the fronts.

He could also consolidate several of the parking lots on Church Lane — like the one behind SoNo Baking (soon to be Aux Delices) — making them more accessible and practical.

Right now there’s a hodgepodge of small parking areas off Church Lane, and behind Sconset Square. It’s tough to walk there from the Post Road.

Other rumors are flying, including the possibility of the Westport Arts Center and/or Westport Film Initiative moving into 155 Post Road East. That could give those organizations great visibility — and bring more people downtown.

The synergy between arts, retail, restaurants (and the new Bedford Square rental units) sounds exciting.

Of course, Bedford Square did not happen overnight.

It took many long nights of meetings.

Followed by 2 years of construction.

Westporters have so far voted with their feet. They’ve poured into Bedford Square.

There are sure to be many votes ahead for this next phase of downtown development.

Acorn Squash Soup Still Mmmmm Good — After 240 Years!

The Spotted Horse is not an old-fashioned place. It’s got a fresh menu, and a lively bar scene.

But it does call itself a “tavern.” It’s housed in a 215-year-old building.

And now it’s serving a dish from the Revolutionary War.

No, the acorn squash soup wasn’t made all those years ago. But it was popular then. And all the ingredients date from 1777.

The soup is tied in to the current Westport Historical Society exhibit. “The British Are Coming!” celebrates this month’s 240th anniversary of the Redcoats’ landing at Compo Beach.

(They were headed for Danbury, to burn an arsenal. We — well, some of our ancestors — surprised them along South Compo on the way north, then engaged them in a big battle on Compo Hill when they returned.)

As part of the exhibit, WHS board member Ed Hynes asked the restaurant to feature something from that period. They chose the soup.

Acorn squash was plentiful here then. Allspice — another key ingredient — was a popular import from the Caribbean.

Both Hynes and WHS immediate past president Ed Gerber have enjoyed the Spotted Horse soup. They call it “delicious.”

It will be featured all month.

At a 2017 — not, unfortunately, 1777 — price.

(For a full list of all “The British Are Coming!” events, click here. The exhibit runs through May 29.)

Acorn squash soup

Finding Hope, In Sugar & Olives: The Sequel

A month ago, “06880” described the amazing journey of Josh Kangere.

After 7 years in a Kenyan refugee camp, the refugee from Congo arrived in New York moments before President Trump’s suspension of America’s resettlement program.

Despite years of vetting, Josh endured many more hours of questioning before he could travel to his new apartment — and life — in Bridgeport.

The Wall Street Journal reported his story. Immediately, Jennifer Balin — the Westporter who owns Sugar & Olives — offered him a cleaning and dishwashing job at her restaurant/bar/cooking school/event space, just over the Norwalk line.

Josh — who in his native country worked as a hospital nurse, documenting rape cases for criminal prosecution — quickly said yes.

Josh Kangere, at work.

Now the WSJ has followed up. A video posted yesterday shows Josh working — with a smile — at his job. It also shows him taking the hour-long bus trip between work and home; eating simple foods at the restaurant, and talking about his new life here.

Jennifer is interviewed too. Describing her job offer as “a way to do something for someone that’s meaningful,” she notes the uncertainty of Josh’s future.

He might be at the restaurant “forever,” she says. “Or maybe he’ll open a clinic, with his medical training, and be a great asset to our country.”

Whatever happens, Jennifer has already been a great asset to Josh.

And to us all.

To see the full, inspiring video, click below:

 

Flowers Pop Up By Railroad Tracks

Last Friday, “06880” readers were lamenting the loss of Daybreak’s greenhouse — and the many back-in-the-day flower shows that made Westport look (and smell) wonderful.

We’ve still got some great florists here.

Now — just in time for Easter — there’s one more spot to buy gorgeous arrangements.

But you better hurry. It’s a pop-up shop.

Owner Breno Donatti has added Rowayton-based Stems + Co flowers to his Winfield Street Coffee, across from the train station.

Stems + Co. flowers, at Winfield Street Coffee.

Bouquets are available for $35. You get a free cup of coffee too.

They’re there only through April 24, though.

Then they disappear. Like Brigadoon.

Or Daybreak.

The Story Beneath Bedford Square

The glass-half-full crowd loves Bedford Square: Its retro-yet-fresh look. Its new tenants, including retail, restaurants and residential. Its re-imagining of the entire downtown.

The glass-half-empty folks moan: But there’s no parking!

Wrong. There’s plenty of parking. There’s the Baldwin lot, Taylor Place and Parker Harding.

And — even closer — there’s a garage with up to 120 spaces. In fact, it’s so close it’s right underneath Bedford Square. The entrance is on Elm Street, next to Villa del Sol restaurant.

The entrance to the Bedford Square parking garage.

Some spots are reserved for residents and senior employees. But the rest are open to the public.

Right now there’s a valet system, with a drop-off on Church Lane near Amis Trattoria. A 2nd drop-off may be added on Elm Street.

Valet parking is still a work in progress. Developers and Anthropologie are figuring out the best way to use the garage.

But to all the nay-sayers: There are lots more parking spots than you realize.

Now find something else to bitch about.

PS: Meanwhile, Westporters who did not go to the beach this afternoon found a new spot to hang out: the Bedford Square plaza. Here’s the scene, a couple of hours ago:

Friday Flashback #33

It’s been nearly 3 years since Westport’s Boat Locker sailed off for Bridgeport. But owner Scott Hardy still proudly displays a mid-1980s poster of his home town.

The other day, Jeff Manchester was in the store. He’s a 1980s Westport guy himself — a former Staples wrestling star, now back here raising his own family.

The poster brought back many memories: Soup’s On, Party Barn, Allen’s Clam House, Pancho Villa’s, DeRosa’s, Ships, Westport Bank & Trust.

Some of the businesses — Mitchell’s and Sakura — are still around. And some of the views will never change.

Take a look. Think about how Westport has changed.

And how it hasn’t.

Then — whether you grew up before or with Jeff, or moved in yesterday — click “Comments” below.

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

Bedford Square: Sneak Preview

Guests of Anthropologie and Amis restaurant enjoyed a sneak preview tonight of the new Bedford Square.

I’m not in the market for a wedding gown — or most of the rest of what Anthropologie sells. But plenty of folks will be. Judging by the creative and stylish way they’ve repurposed the old YMCA, the 40,000-square foot store will do exactly what an anchor tenant should: draw plenty of shoppers to the entire complex.

And based on what I’ve seen and tasted of Amis, it too will be an instant hit. It takes full advantage of its Church Lane/Post Road/interior alley location — it is a true “trattoria.”

We’ve endured noise, dirt, dust and disruption for 2 years. Now the fun begins!

The 2nd floor of Anthropologie. If the view across the Post Road looks familiar, it should: For 30 years, this was the cardio fitness center for the YMCA.

Amis Trattoria. The windows actually open. As soon as the weather warms up, the downtown street scene will be rejuvenated.

Bedford Square developer David Waldman (center) and lifestyle guru Mar Jennings are interviewed for a TV special. They’re standing in one of the alleyways. Restoration Hardware is visible in the background.

A fountain is the centerpiece of Bedford Square’s courtyard. Shops and restaurants will occupy the first 2 floors; rental apartments are on the 3rd.

Amis Trattoria occupies what was once the firehouse, and later became part of the YMCA (left). Bedford Square also includes the former site of the Y’s Weeks Pavilion (right), off Church Lane. Seabury Center is in the background.

Introducing: Bedford Square!

Amis Trattoria has had a soft opening all week.

Anthropologie opens tomorrow.

After 2 years of construction — and right on schedule — Bedford Square has become a reality.

All along, alert “06880” reader Jennifer Johnson took photos.

Here are 3 views of the transformation, from YMCA to retail/restaurant/ residential complex.

And to think that it was only last century when the Y first talked about moving…

January 2012

March 2016

March 30, 2017 (Photos/Jennifer Johnson)

Sono Baking To Close; Aux Delices Moves In

Two years ago, SoNo Baking Company took over the downtown coffee shop space vacated by Java.

The popular mini-chain — with branches in Norwalk and Darien — drew 150 to 200 people a day, 300 on weekends. Customers came to eat and meet — despite the noise and dust of the Bedford Square construction project, diagonally across Church Lane.

But now — the moment the retail/restaurant/residential complex is opening — SoNo Baking is closing. Owner John Barricelli expects to sell his final coffees, pastries and salads by Easter.

Plenty to choose from at SoNo Baking Company.

Moving in is Aux Delices. They’ll keep their other Westport store next to Carvel. This will be the 5th location, with 2 in Greenwich and 1 in Darien. Aux Delices offers imported and local foods, freshly baked desserts and full-service catering.

“The rent was astronomical,” laments SoNo owner John Barricelli. “We couldn’t pay what we owed on coffee and cake. We fell behind, and it got to be a huge burden. I’ve never walked away from a bill in my life.

“If we were going in now, we might have had a chance. But the numbers didn’t add up.

“To make it there we needed alcohol, and to be open 24/7. For some reason, at 2 p.m. downtown gets very quiet. We had plenty of people in the morning, and until 2. But with the average check of $10 to $15 — you do the math.”

Barricelli calls SoNo’s closing “very sad.”

But he’s not giving up on Westport. He’s looking for another site near Southport — close to their previous location, near A&J’s Farm Stand.

And speaking of farmers: SoNo Baking was an original vendor at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

They’ll still be there this summer.