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Tag Archives: Black Duck
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.
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.
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.)
Click here for the Black Duck’s GoFundMe page.
(Hat tip: Jennifer Rankine)
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.
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.
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!)
Friday’s nor’easter has moved out to sea.
Power is back on. Roads are cleared.
But for this homeowner on Cross Highway, near North Avenue, recovery will take a bit longer.
Meanwhile, tides are still running much higher than normal. This was the scene earlier this afternoon, at the Black Duck.
The Black Duck — Westport’s favorite dive/karaoke bar — has sat tilting in the Saugatuck River forever, right?
Well, sort of.
Seth van Beever posted this painting on Facebook:
He wrote that his grandfather — Gerry Haehl — owned the barge, and ran a bait and tackle shop there.
Seth says the barge was later replaced by a new one.
In the early ’70s, it looked like this:
Some things never change.
Others change very, very slowly.
Yesterday’s New York Times NY/Region section included a “Day Trip” feature to Westport.
Readers in the tri-state area — around the world, really — learned some interesting things about our town.
The itinerary begins at Match Burger Lobster, Staples grad Matt Storch’s new restaurant next to Fleishers Craft Butchery. Who knew that his kitchen crew shucks more than 500 pounds of lobster each week — or that lobster tastes better in winter, because cold water makes it sweeter?
From the restaurant, the story suggests, visitors can walk over the William F. Cribari Bridge. It’s named, the Times says, for “a beloved traffic conductor,” though “beloved traffic cop” is a bit clearer.
“The short span provides vistas of the nautical town and entree to uninterrupted sidewalks through a Gold Coast neighborhood of mansions that are not above running weekend tag sales,” the paper excitedly reports.
The next 3 paragraphs talk about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s 1920 rental on Compo Road South, near the Longshore entrance. Friends said the couple were “reveling nude in the orgies of Westport,” even though Zelda called the town “unendurably dull.” Imagine what they would have done in a livelier place!
“Day Trip” moves on to “secluded Compo Beach.” The Times describes it as “rocky (and) shell-studded….Tranquil and contemplative in winter, the sunsets are gorgeous.”
The final part of a day in Westport, apparently, should be a stop at the Black Duck. The paper calls it a “watering hole,” and singles out this feature: the $11 martini.
The martini “may be the biggest on the Eastern Seaboard, a further way to unwind after a leisurely day. Founded in 1978, too bad it wasn’t around for the Fitzgeralds,” the Times concludes, with both lame humor and a dangling modifier.
(Hat tip: Peter Perry)
After graduating from Staples High School in 1988, Chris Pardon headed to Marquette University.
“It was good to get out of the Northeast,” he says of the Milwaukee school. “I saw a part of the country and met people I wouldn’t have if I stayed in the area.”
But as a journalism and broadcast communications major, most work was on the coasts. His first job was as an NBC page — so he moved back home.
Then it was on to Turner Broadcasting, where he’s been ever since. He now works on the business side, with CNN.
Pardon’s career and personal lives followed a path familiar to many Staples grads. He lived on the Upper East Side, got married, had a kid, and landed in Brooklyn.
Though his son was in a “decent” public school, it was crowded. A year and a half ago Pardon and his wife Ria decided the time was right to move to the ‘burbs.
Her family is from Scarsdale. Pardon’s parents still live here, in the same house they raised him in. So he and Ria started looking in Westchester and Fairfield Counties.
They spent a lot of time searching for the right spot. But Westchester property taxes were “staggering.” And, Pardon says, “there are places like Chappaqua, with great schools. But there’s nothing to do there.”
In Connecticut, they did everything they could to avoid Westport — mainly because of the long commute.
But the homes they saw in Greenwich did not appeal to them. In Darien, everything affordable and likable was next to 95 or Metro-North. New Canaan — well, it’s not on the water.
It took some convincing for his wife to agree to look at the town where Pardon’s brother Doug had just bought a house, and where his parents live too.
A couple of open houses opened her eyes. And, Pardon says, “We were surprised how much further our money went in Westport.”
He knew about “great music and arts in the schools. Compo blows other Fairfield County beaches away.” But, he admits, “If I didn’t know what I was getting into, I wouldn’t want to be this far out.”
Two days before Christmas, they moved into the Old Hill neighborhood.
One surprise was the 4-year wait list for a train station parking permit. Fortunately, the shuttle bus travels along Pardon’s new street.
“The realtor told us, but I didn’t realize how important that is,” he says.
“I thought I’d just pay $5 a day for parking. But I take the bus every day. We didn’t have to buy a 2nd car. That’s the greatest thing ever.”
He uses the app to see where the bus is in the morning. In the afternoon, it drops him off in front of his house.
Some things have changed — there’s a “new” high school, and Bedford Square “is amazing” in place of the old Y — but Pardon settled quickly into his old/new home town.
His wife took their son to a Coleytown Middle School play. “They were blown away!” he says. She has gone to school breakfasts, and met other parents.
Pardon is also surprised by the number of people he recognizes. Far more than he realized have stayed around — or, like he, returned.
“I feel like a bit of a townie,” he says. “I know there are new restaurants, and I look forward to going. But so far we’ve only been to the Duck and Dunville’s — the towniest places around.”