Owner Pete Aitkin wants to add some new “flashback” items to the Black Duck menu.
And he needs “06880” readers’ help.
“Many readers have fond memories of the Big Top,” he says, referencing the beloved, mouth-watering burgers-and-more joint on the Post Road and Roseville Road that is now (aaaargh) McDonald’s. “Some even worked there.”
Pete wonders: What kind of ribs did they serve? Baby backs? Beef? He thinks they were pork spare ribs. Any info on sauce or seasoning would be great too.
Email email@example.com, or call 203-227-7978.
Yesterday marked the start of another school. It’s different than any that came before. But — as students, staff and parents saw yesterday at Coleytown Elementary School — some things never change:
The Artists Collective of Westport knows about shows. So they’re proud to collaborate with the Remarkable Theater on a showing of “Best in Show.”
The drive-in movie — a biting satire about dog shows — will be shown Thursday, September 17 at 8 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The gate opens at 7.
Today’s Friday Flashback honors another kind of leap.
Since its construction in the mid-1950s, the Saugatuck River I-95 bridge — back then, it was called “The Connecticut Turnpike” or “Thruway” — has been the scene of very occasional (and daring) (and stupid) leaps.
Startled drinkers at the Black Duck bar — and before it, Davy Jones’ — have watched teenage and 20-something guys (it’s always males) land in the water nearby.
The Saugatuck River bridge, under construction in 1957. Back then, I-95 was called the Connecticut Turnpike.
“06880” does not recommend this. The jump is spectacularly dangerous. And who in his right mind would even think of standing on the side of the bridge, with traffic whizzing by?
Nevertheless, if you have a story about leaping off this bridge — or any other one in Westport — click “Comments” below.
Feel free to comment too with any non-bridge Leap Year stories of your own.
Regular readers know “06880” often laments the loss of things that make a town a community.
Movie theaters. Mom-and-pop shops.
I’m talking about real bars. Not bars attached to restaurants, like so many places in town: Spotted Horse, Tavern on Main, Arezzo, Little Barn, you name it.
And not restaurants with very active bars, like Viva’s and the Duck.
No. I mean actual, go-and-stay-and-drink-and-maybe-have-peanuts-but-a-place-where-everybody-knows-your-name bar.
The Westport equivalent of Cheers.
Parsell’s Purcell’s was that kind of bar, on the Post Road near Southport. So was the Red Galleon, across from Green’s Farms Elementary School.
Ship’s Lantern was too, downtown on the Post Road (before it become The Ships nearby — which today is Tiffany 🙁 ).
Then there was “The Bridge.”
Formally Ye Olde Bridge Grill — though there was nothing formal about it — The Bridge sat on Post Road West, right over the bridge (aha!), a couple of doors down from National Hall (at the time, Fairfield Furniture), and directly opposite Art’s (now Winfield) Deli.
It was around for years, but hit its stride in the 1970s and ’80s. With generous owner Dave Reynolds, popular manager/bartender Dennis Murphy, a large and loyal bunch of regulars, and a jukebox that played the same songs over and over and over again (“Domino” by Van Morrison, anyone?), The Bridge was the kind of gathering spot we just don’t have any more.
Owner Dave Reynolds …
(It was also the sponsor of an Under-23 soccer team of the same name. Stocked with the best Westport players of its time, and their friends from the college and semi-pro ranks, it won all kinds of state and regional championships. After every match, players and fans celebrated you-know-where.)
… and manager Dennis Murphy (standing, left). He coached the Bridge Grille team to many state titles.
Things change. Rents rose. The drinking age rose too, from 18 to 21.
The Bridge has been gone for 3 decades or so. Today it’s an antiques shop, or something like that.
Everyone loves the Black Duck. But admit it: With its wings, stuffed burgers, fried shrimp, po’ boys, onion rings and beers, it’s no one’s first choice when someone says, “Let’s eat healthy!”
Yet that doesn’t mean you can’t join the gang at the barge. Today,dietician Heather Bauer offers tips on the best, healthiest dishes to order at the Saugatuck landmark.
Small house salad (the best option for vegan/vegetarian); oil/vinegar dressing
The Duck’s raw bar (6 oysters or 6 littlenecks)
Lobster cocktail ($20, but delicious)
Steamers (skip the butter on the side)
The Black Duck’s littleneck steamed clams (go easy on the butter and beer!)
Broiled salmon (ask for a veggie side, instead of rice or potatoes)
Large house salad with shrimp or salmon on top (the best dressing option is oil/vinegar)
Steamers (skip the butter on the side, or go light)
1 1/4-pound steamed lobster (skip the butter and potato if you can; depending on the market price, this may be a great deal — it comes with a house salad)
Large house salad with grilled chicken or flat iron steak (the best dressing option is oil/vinegar)
House hamburger (choose the English muffin, and make it “topless” — take the top off, and eat with a fork and knife; ask for extra lettuce and/or tomato, and a side of coleslaw instead of fries or tater tots)
Turkey burger (again, order it “topless”; eat with a fork and knife; ask for extra veggies)
Take the top off a burger. (And avoid the sour cream.)
Iceberg wedge (without the bacon and blue cheese; ask for oil/vinegar dressing instead)
Veggie Burger (order it “topless”; ask for extra veggies and avocado on the side)
Bonus dining tip from Heather
Snack or not before you go?
You might think that a snack before you go out is a good way to avoid overeating, but it’s not always true. Be honest with yourself. Think about the times you’ve done this. Did you actually eat less at the restaurant, or was your overall intake that much more? Sometimes your pre-meal snack can increase your appetite, and decrease your self-control.
A Westport favorite, for decades. (Photo/Chou Chou Merrill)
This was just posted on the Black Duck’s Facebook page!
We are beyond pleased to announce that after many days of discussions with our creditors, landlord, and investors, the Duck has been able to secure a financial package which will allow us to continue operations (hopefully for the next 40 years!).
The outpouring of support from our loyal patrons over the past few days has been deeply moving and gratifying, and we sincerely thank you. Like Phoenix, the Duck has risen from the ashes!
To celebrate, please join us this Sunday (November 4), for all day happy hour prices.
(Photo/Chou Chou Merrill)
Just another Tuesday at the Duck. The good times continue!
NOTE:The GoFundMe page referenced below has been shut down. A note says “No longer accepting donations.”
Yesterday’s announcement was stunning: The Black Duck will close on Sunday.
No reason was given. Just like that — poof! — Westport’s iconic burger-and-bar joint will be gone.
Earlier today though, a GoFundMe page appeared.
Posted by “The Black Duck team” — described as “the remaining few long-time employees” — it offers a glimmer of hope. The goal is to raise $100,000, to keep the beloved barge restaurant open.
The crowdfunding plea reads:
The Black Duck Cafe, the last of “Old Westport,” the place of many first dates and first beers, home of famous burgers, wings and strong drinks, the place to “ruin your liver down by the river”…is drowning. We have been so fortunate to have served so many wonderful customers and friends for 40 years with the Saugatuck River as our backdrop, and are hoping to continue being able to serve you.
Our beloved old barge withstood Hurricane Sandy, the departure of near-celebrity status bartenders, rising food, liquor and utilities costs, and the takeover of Westport by brand name chains. Despite these changes, it is our long-time customers, camaraderie and meeting new customers that have kept us, the remaining few long-time employees, going.
Part of the Black Duck’s peril: increasingly frequent floods.
Consistency and “turning back of time” has been the Duck’s long-time appeal. Indeed, best-selling novelist Jane Green stated in 2017 that the Black Duck is “one of the few places where old Westport and new Westport meet.”
Yet this turning back of time, has also led to the accrual of increasing debts. Though we have had to increase our prices over the years, these increases have been disproportionately lower than the increasing food costs. In other words, our commitment to being one of the last affordable, laid-back restaurants in lower Fairfield County has caught up to us. In the last 6 months, we’ve been experiencing slower business and now have fallen on significant financial hardship, and are facing the biggest challenge of the Black Duck’s 40 years of business.
It is devastating to think that we won’t be part of Westport and a part of your lives anymore. If our small barge on Riverside Ave becomes empty, so many of you, our guests, will no longer have your go-to place to go to, so we the employees, are doing everything we can to keep it going.
We need to raise cash immediately. Our hope is that with the money raised, that the Duck will be able to stay open for this month and next month. This money will get us through the slower time. We would love your help and we are so thankful for your business over the years and for taking a look at our campaign!
Love humbly from the entire Black Duck team.
So far, $300 has been raised.
Duck-lovers: Now’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is. (Right around those wings, steamers and onion rings.)
A recent “06880” photo of the Compo Beach palm tree got an alert — and hungry — reader thinking about lobster rolls.
That reminded her of clam chowder, which made her think of Westfair Fish & Chips. She’s been a fan ever since she was a student at Staples High School, back in the mid-1980s.
The small, unassuming takeout-or-eat-in spot behind the strip mall opposite Stop & Shop has been a Westport favorite for over 30 years. And that got the “06880” reader wondering about other restaurants that have stood the test of time.
Three decades is a great achievement for many things: a career, a marriage. But it’s particularly remarkable in the constant churn that is Westport’s restaurant scene.
She and I came up with a list of places we think have been here for at least 3 decades. They include:
Gold’s. The anchor of Compo Shopping Center since it opened in the late 1950s, and the anchor 6 decades later for anyone who loves a quintessential deli.
Viva Zapata. Probably the oldest continually operating restaurant in town, especially when you consider its predecessor, at the entrance to what is now Playhouse Square.
Westport Pizzeria. Opened in 1968 on Main Street, where it stood proud and unchanging for over 45 years, “Westport Pizza” moved around the corner to the Post Road in 2014. Its special recipe thankfully remains the same.
The Black Duck. A star turn on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has not changed this waterfront favorite one bit.
(Photo/Chou Chou Merrill)
Dunville’s. Around the corner from the Duck on Saugatuck Avenue, another down-home place that’s the same now as when its present owners grew up here.
Sherwood Diner. Or, simply, “the diner.” It’s no longer open 24/7, but is still the go-to spot for Staples High School seniors, senior citizens, every other human being in Westport, and anyone wandering in off nearby I-95.
(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Sakura. As steady as she goes. It — and the gorgeous cherry blossom tree outside, which gives the restaurant its name — has been a fixture opposite McDonald’s since the fast-food franchise was Roy Rogers. And before that, Big Top.
Fortuna’s. With limited seating, this is not really a restaurant. But stop quibbling. Its winning formula has filled the stomach of Staples students, Post Road workers and everyone else since the Ford administration.
Coffee An‘. If it’s good enough for Bill Clinton, it’s good enough for the rest of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a president or a peon. The donuts are the same — unbelievable — for all.
Little Kitchen. When it opened on Main Street, it really was a “little kitchen.” Now it’s bigger, and the granddaddy of all Asian fusion places in town.
Da Pietro’s. One of Westport’s best — and smallest — restaurants, earning praise and love since 1987.
Tavern on Main. This cozy 2nd-floor Main Street spot has not been here as long as its predecessor, Chez Pierre — but it’s getting close.
I couldn’t find out for sure when a few other long-lived (though probably less than 3 decades) restaurants opened. But these too have stood the test of time: Tengda. Tarantino’s. Finalmente. Via Sforza. Planet Pizza. Tutti’s. Positano’s (at 2 different locations).
Special mention goes to 2 fantastic delis that offer a wide variety of hot and cold food, and serve as community centers: Elvira’s and Christie’s Country Store.
Plus, of course, Joey’s by the Shore. It’s not a restaurant or a deli. But the beach concession occupies its own special. much-loved niche. And if it hasn’t been here for 30 years, it’s at least 29.
Finally, 2 other downtown delis have been around for decades. They’ve changed names, and — particularly with one — substantially updated the interior.
But Rye Ridge (formerly Oscar’s) and Winfield Street Coffee (previously Art’s, and definitely not on Winfield Street but right over the bridge) keep doing what their predecessors have done.
And what every other place in this story does: provide excellent food and continuity to generations of Westporters.
(Have I missed any longtime restaurants or delis? Click “Comments” — and my apologies!)
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)