Bartaco is a couple of miles from Compo, as the seagull flies.
But it’s got a cool beach vibe.
And — if yesterday’s soft opening is any indication — it will fill a huge void downtown.
Bartaco will become the go-to place for intriguing tacos (spicy chorizo, felafel, curry shrimp, wild boar, sesame ribeye…), over 25 types of tequila, and a relaxing patio overlooking the river.
Right next to Save the Children on Wilton Road, it’s a shot across the bow that Saugatuck is not the only cool place in town to eat and drink.
The creative menu fills a culinary need. And the casual interior fills a need for a comfortable hangout.
Like all of Sasa Mahr-Batuz’s restaurants — he owns 3 other Bartacos and 8 Barcelonas, from Boston to Atlanta — his own stunning photos fill the walls. But the former Staples student also put out a call for local images.
Nearly 100 were submitted. The most compelling shots were scanned, enlarged on parchment, then put into custom-built frames. (The yellow pine stools are hand-made too.)
Owner Sasa Mahr-Batuz stands in front of one of his own photos: a dramatic beach scene.
Photo donors include a Who’s Who of Westport: the Playhouse. Longshore Sailing School. Coach Paul Lane.
It rained for yesterday’s opening. It was hardly beach weather.
But inside Bartaco — Westport’s newest restaurant, 2 miles from Compo — life was chill.
Ben Root and a large staff prep in the open kitchen.
Bartaco — the Mexican restaurant with a beach vibe — opens soon in the old Peter Coppola Salon, next to Save the Children.
It’s a couple of miles from Compo, but no problema.
The first Bartaco in Port Chester is smack on the water. The 2nd — in downtown Stamford — isn’t. And the one in West Hartford definitely is not.
Owner Sasa Mahr-Batuz — of Barcelona fame — knows a bit about the beach. He grew up in Westport, graduated from Staples, and will make sure his newest Bartaco has not just a beach flair, but his beach.
He and his staff are on the lookout for Westport beach photos. Specifically, shots from the 1960s and ’70s — people, landscapes, landmarks, that sort of thing.
The photos will be used throughout the restaurant. Send yours to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, yeah: Sasa’s willing to pay for the photos.
Dollars, not pesos.
Though maybe you can wangle a free margarita or two.
A great Compo Beach shot — but too old for Bartaco.
When Ellen Bowen launched the Southern Connecticut territory for Living Social — the website offering daily discounts to subscribers — she liked working with restaurant owners to design enticing deals.
But, she soon realized, the website got a lot better deal than the merchants.
“It brings in traffic,” she says of the discounts. “But most people were spending only the value of the coupon. And there wasn’t a lot of repeat business.”
Her now job — event curator at CTBites.com — is much more satisfying. The Westporter has helped site founder Stephanie Webster move beyond the wildly popular restaurant reviews.
Amy Kundrat, Stephanie Webster and Ellen Bowen (from left) represent CT Bites at last fall's Blues,Views & BBQ Fest in Westport.
Ellen and Stephanie have introduced CT Bites Invites. Each week, the website offers readers a special culinary event. Because Ellen works closely with owners and chefs, the results benefit everyone: the restaurants, those who work there, and Fairfield County’s enormous population of “foodies.”
“We get very creative,” Ellen says. For example, Bobby Q’s paired great barbecue dishes with craft beers.
“You can’t just walk in and ask for that,” she notes. “It’s insider access.”
There’s insider access to chefs too. A 10:30 cooking demonstration by DaPietro’s Pietro Scotti was followed by a special 3-course lunch.
Pietro Scotti of DaPietro's wows his CT Bites Invites guests.
Beyond the great food and behind-the-scenes activity, Ellen says, “It’s very social. People invite their friends. And it’s really creative.”
Since CT Bites Invites began in November (with a pairing of exotic tacos and various tequilas), every event has sold out. Some are so popular, extra dates have been added.
Feedback (ho ho) has been great. And Ellen is having a good time too.
“I’ve learned a lot about food, chefs and restaurants,” she says.
One example: Iberico, a very rare ham. It comes from special pigs in Spain. Raised only on acorns, they’re “happy and totally stress-free,” Ellen says. “Even when they’re slaughtered, there’s music playing.”
The result is “the most tender and delicious ham you can imagine.”
(Also, very expensive.)
Barcelona Restaurant paired Iberico ham with cheeses, wine and sherry. “It was very successful — and educational,” says Ellen.
On January 25, Bonda in Fairfield features an evening menu tasting with chef Jamie Cooper. Participants will give insights — and the results will help shape his next menu.
“For a foodie, learning about chefs’ training, watching them in action, talking back and forth — it’s heaven,” Ellen says.
“This goes way beyond ‘honey, where should we go for dinner tonight?'”
Good food, conversation and education await CT Bites Invites guests.
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