Tag Archives: Coffee An’

Street Spotlight: Woods Grove Road

Some Westporters live on the water. Others live in the woods, or close to town.

But only residents of Woods Grove Road enjoy the Saugatuck River on two sides — with Coffee An’ just beyond.

Plus, of course, an easy stroll downtown.

Woods Grove is off Canal Street, on the right just past the parking lot for the old 323 restaurant, heading west toward Kings Highway.

Woods Grove Road is close to downtown. I’s bordered by 2 branches of the Saugatuck River.

AJ Izzo — owner of the old Crossroads Ace Hardware, another great close-by attraction (now replaced by an excellent liquor store) — says that when he grew up on nearby Richmondville Avenue, the area was woods, and a dirt road. Most houses were built in the 1940s and ’50s.

Ken Bernhard — who moved there from around the corner — calls Woods Grove “a charming respite.”

It’s a dead-end, so there’s little traffic. But it’s a long, winding road, so there are plenty of families. Kids play in the street. Neighbors chat.

Woods Grove Road is well named.

A “watering hole” features a dock and rope swing. “There’s nothing more pleasant than the sound of kids laughing and splashing,” he says.

The main branch of the river is great for canoeing and kayaking. Every morning, Ken says, a neighbor on the Wilton Road side paddles — with his German shepherd — to the dam and back. Everyone waves.

The neighborliness extends to Aquarion. The water utility owns land across the river. A while back, the pumping station made a distracting, growling sound. Ken offered to buy equipment to deaden the noise.

Nope, Aquarion said. They did it themselves.

A Woods Grove back yard.

Ken calls Woods Grove “delightful. The houses are not big, and the lots are not too large. Everything is the perfect size — just as much as we need.”

Besides Coffee An’ and the Merritt Country Store, residents can walk or bike to the library and Levitt. The Y — and Merritt Parkways exits 41 and 42 — are around the corner.

Yet one of the most interesting features of Woods Grove Road is one that neighbors barely mention.

A non-profit enterprise — the Westport School of Music — is located in a house halfway down the road. Established in 1938, it’s got a great reputation.

The Westport School of Music looks like any other home.

Students come and go quietly. There’s a little more traffic because of it than normal, but Woods Grove residents hardly notice. They’re happy to be near such a well-regarded, artistic enterprise.

Life on Woods Grove Road is good. Between the beautiful river and delicious donuts, who can complain?

Restaurant Churn? Not These!

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.

(Photo/Katherine Bruan)

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!)

It Took A Tough Nor’easter To Knock This Tree Down

Yesterday’s mega-storm brought this monster tree down on Canal Street.

(Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Westporters had to find an alternate route to two of the most important spots in town: Crossroads Ace Hardware, and Coffee An’.

If You Can Get Out, You Can Get Coffee

Coffee An’ is open.

And thriving.

(Photo/John McCarthy)

Sunday Diners With Alex

Gold’s Delicatessen serves a tongue sandwich.

Christie’s Country Store sells 100% natural jam — the 1st ingredient listed is fruit.

Coffee An’ is so good, President Clinton ordered donuts from there.

Those are some of the on-target observations of Alex D’Adamo, gleaned from regular Sunday morning breakfasts with his dad.

A few years ago a 3rd grader — which Alex is — might have told those things to a couple of friends. A particularly creative kid might have written them down.

Alex created a blog.

Alex and Gold's owner Jim Eckl.

Now — with a bit of help from his father, James — he publishes Sunday Diners. Once a week, Alex’s relatives, his teacher — and random strangers, searching for things like “father-son breakfasts Fairfield County” — read Alex’s comments about the places he goes.

As well as his numerical ratings of “Food,” “Service,” “Looks” and “Bathroom.” (That’s very important. “If there’s toilet paper all over the floor, that’s gross,” Alex says. “If the bathrooms are clean, the kitchen is too.”)

Here are some of his recent comments on Gold’s:

Even though Gold’s is mainly known for their lunches like Pastrami and Corned Beef sandwiches and Hebrew National hot dogs they also make great breakfasts.  Except, they don’t serve eggs or pancakes, because, the kitchen at Gold’s is too small for that.  But that’s OK, because they say they have the best lox in the state, and that’s what I came to try today….

Before I even had my Nova, Karen the server gave me some pickles which were also really good — I’ve never had pickles at breakfast, but I had to try them.

After a bit of history of Christie’s, and before an interview with owners John and Renee Hooper, Alex wrote:

Today I had the Egg, Bacon & Cheese Sandwich on a toasted poppy- seed bagel — one thing I noticed was that the Egg Sand- wiches were very popular, it seemed like every person coming in the store was ordering one — one guy actually came in and bought not one…not two… not three… four or five… BUT six of them!  I wonder if he ate them all himself!  I also had some home fries which were tasty and hot.

Alex has always loved breakfasts with his dad. He remembers his 1st: at Commuter Coffee in Westport. That’s still a favorite.

“When I was little, I loved to watch the trains go by,” the 3rd grader recalls. “And Tommy (the owner) was always very nice to me.”

Sunday Diners’ 1st anniversary is coming up. Alex hopes to continue discovering great new places for breakfast for a long time to come.

And, on a return visit to Gold’s, he might even try that tongue sandwich.

(Click here to read Alex’s Sunday Diners blog.)

Alex, savoring breakfast.

The Man In The Van

Yesterday, “06880” burbled about the owner of Coffee An,’ who raced into the parking lot to give $2 back to a customer he’d inadvertently overcharged.

Today we present the flip side: Westporters behaving badly.

An “06880” reader was driving down the narrow exit lane that runs in front of Pompanoosuc Mills and Angelina’s, on her way out of the Barnes & Noble parking lot.

She was leaving, that is, until she reached the cleaner’s. There, a large van was parked in the middle of the lane. Its emergency lights were flashing. Its driver was nowhere to be seen.

The woman tapped her horn. A man strolled to the door of the cleaner’s, then turned back to his conversation with the person behind the counter.

She tooted again. Again, he made no move to leave.

She honked a 3rd time. The man slowly walked out of the store, telling the woman: “Relax! Relax!”

She told him she was late for an appointment.

He replied, “You have no choice. If I don’t move, you can’t get out.”

Then he swaggered into the driver’s seat, and drove away.

Chances are, the man in the van is not an “06880” reader. Yet he — like all of us — must look in the mirror every day.

Does he like the face that looks back? I have no idea.

But I know the owner of Coffee An’ does.

Stools

You can’t stop progress.

First the Y sells its downtown building.

Then Mario Batali and Danny Meyer bring New York-chic restaurants to our little village.

Now Coffee An’ has gone an’ reupholstered their stools.

Alert “06880” reader Larry Perlstein sent this photo along:

The owner — George — told Larry it’s the 1st time the seats have been redone since the place opened.

What’s next?  A level floor at the Duck?

Coffee Complications

It was a simple request, repeated dozens of times a day in Westport:

“Let’s have coffee.  Where should we go?”

Then my friend added a caveat:  “Besides Starbucks.”

The list of options dwindled dramatically.

Westporters — and the world — has a love/hate relationship with Starbucks.  Globally the chain has been pilloried for gross corporate commodification, introducing pseudo-sophisticated quasi-Italian complications into the formerly simple act of ordering a cup of coffee, exploiting third world farmers, and driving small shops out of business.

On the plus side, they have Wi-Fi.

Locally, the downtown location weirds me out.  The seating area is dark; the tables are in the wrong spot (they should face the river, not Klaff’s); it’s cramped, and not always, um, clean.

The 2nd location — “the Starbucks by the diner” — is better, provided you don’t mind listening to bad music just loud enough to be irritating.  It’s airier and roomier; there’s more parking, and if you’re lucky you can snag 1 of the 4 comfy chairs from the 50 people who park themselves there all day, laptopping their consulting projects, novel writing, porn-watching, or whatever it is they do in the seat I want to sit in.

The 3rd Starbucks — in Barnes & Noble — is reserved for tutors and tutees; Craigslist users meeting in public before hooking up to be sure the other person is not an ax murderer, and consultants and novelists who couldn’t get a comfy chair at the Starbucks by the diner.

The 4th Starbucks doesn’t count, because it’s in Super Stop & Shop.

So what’s the alternative?

If this was Fairfield, we’d go to Las Vetas Lounge.  If it was Norwalk:  Sono Caffeine.  If we were in Seattle we would be so paralyzed by choices, we’d never decide.

But this is Westport.  And despite being the most fabulous, hip, cool, wealthy and splendiferous spot on earth, our coffee shop choices suck.

Coffee An’ has great donuts, but it lacks ambience.

Great Cakes has Rick, Bonnie, and 3 little tables.

Doc’s is nice, but it’s in Saugatuck.  In Westport distances that’s like the galaxy Zork.

So after intensive deliberations, my friend and I decided on the perfect spot.  We’ll meet next week for coffee at a nice little place.  It’s got 4 comfy chairs, and parking.

See you at Starbucks!