When COVID struck, Westporters rushed to support their favorite restaurants.
Owners who already had an online ordering/takeout presence heated up their efforts. Those that did not quickly cooked one up.
The ability to pick up a meal curbside — or have one delivered to your home — helped many restaurants survive.
It’s easy to pick up an order at Jeera Thai, or have it delivered. But behind that convenience, there’s a surprising story.
But most customers have no idea how much the service costs those same restaurants they think they’re supporting.
The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce wants us to know that 3rd-party apps, and delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub, feast on restaurateurs’ bottom lines.
Those platforms charge fees up to 30% to the restaurant for delivery — and up to 25% for an order that, amazingly, a customer picks up herself.
Viva Zapata co-owner Bob O’Mahoney says, “those fees are our profit margins.”
Viva Zapata has been around for over 50 years. To survive the pandemic, it needs diners’ help.
The Chamber wants to help. They’re launching an initiative called “Order Direct — Pick It Up.”
The idea is simple: Use a restaurant’s own website or app to make a takeout order online. Or just call by phone, then pick it up.
“This simple adjustment will put those excessive fees back in the pocket of our local friends and businesspeople,” says Chamber director Matthew Mandell.
Restaurant owners understand that delivery is important to some people. Pane e Bene owner Angelo Capponi notes, “70% is better than 0%. But we also offer takeout, and we hope people will come to us. They can just call us up.”
It’s easy to have Uber Eats on your first smartphone screen, or speed dial. But it’s just a step or two more to Google a website, then click on your order. Or press “call.”
If you love a restaurant enough to support it with takeout, take those few seconds to cut out the 25 to 30% fee they toss away, as they toss your salad.
As the Chamber of Commerce says: Order Direct. Pick It Up!
In the winter of 2020. Jeff Manchester emailed “06880.” He was concerned about the “incredibly dumb placement” of a utility pole at the southwest corner of the Post Road West/Riverside Avenue intersection. He sent this photo:
Jeff warned: “It will surely result in a wedged tractor trailer at the intersection (trying to get back to I-95), or worse yet a fatality into the pole.”
There’s been no fatality yet. But yesterday, Jeff saw a bad accident right there. The pole leaned precariously against the building, as police and utility workers were figuring out what to do.
Moving forward, it’s a state road. The decision — to move the pole, or do something to the road — is in the Department of Transportation’s hands.
On Saturday afternoon, 5 paintings were unveiled in the walkway to Bedford Square off Main Street. “Westport Illustrated” portrays the history — and future — of Westport.
The mural project is a collaboration between the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, David Adam Realty and Charter Realty & Development, with support from the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.
From right to left: Eric Chiang, “A Vibrant New Community Unfurls”; Iyaba Ibo Mandigo, “The Ground Beneath Their Feet”; Hernan Garcia, “The Tides of Change”‘ Jana Ireijo,. “Keeping Memories Alive”; Rebecca Ross (Westport) “Westport of the Future: Circa 2070.”
Alert “06880” readers know that Jeera Thai is one of my favorite restaurants. The fresh ingredients, wonderful spices and special flavors — all lovingly prepared — make every meal a treat.
Now my go-to spot is open 7 days a week.
They’ve announced 3 new weekly specials, too:
• Prawn phat phong karee กุ้งผัดผงกระหรี่
• Basil fried rice ข้าวผัดกระเพาะกุ้ง
• Panang curry with chicken แพนงไก่
Jeera Thai — across from Design Within Reach, next to Finalmente — is easy to overlook. But you shouldn’t!
Jeera Thai, nestled in a small space off the Post Road.
A “Roundup” item last week about the Westport Astronomical Society‘s observance of Observe the Moon Night impelled Paul Delano to head to the observatory on Bayberry Lane.
He reports: “Everyone was very friendly and knowledgeable. Quite a few people were checking out the view. It was a beautiful sky and great to use the telescopes to see the planets. It’s at the highest point in Westport, so it has a great view of the sky. That night the moon, Jupiter and Saturn were the brightest.
“I got a new camera and telephoto lens recently that I wanted to try out. They let me set up my tripod and camera. I was surprised I could see so much more than the naked eye.”
Paul sent along a couple of photos:
Westport Astronomical Observatory, and the moon. (Photo/Paul Delano)
A first-ever International Market & Festival is set this Saturday (October 23, noon to 5 p.m.) at Lachat Town Farm in Weston.
It features include vendors representing various countries, cultural music and dance, and markets with food from countries like Italy, France, Kenya, Pakistan, Brazil, Peru, India, Japan, Romania and Mexico. Children will receive a “passport” they can fill up as they visit each exhibit.
Tickets are $20 per family. Click here for more information.
Westport celebrates jUNe Day. This Saturday, Weston hosts its own International & Festival. (Photo/Jeff Simon)
Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature is all about dogwood berries. Scott Smith writes:
“We all get festive celebrating the blossoming of our lovely native dogwood trees early each spring. But Cornus florida deserves a special shoutout this fall.
“The profusion of red berries is the most vibrant I can recall. Whether it’s the summer that just won’t quit or the autumn that can’t get started, I don’t know, but I’m enjoying it.
“So too are the many birds that flock to this windfall of nutrient-rich berries. Robins in particular squabble over the berry-laden dogwood in my yard, even though there’s more than enough to go around. Let’s hope the birds spread the seeds of these treats far and wide.”
And finally … Peter Tosh was born today in 1944. From 1963 to 1976 he, Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer were the heart of the reggae band the Wailers. He then became a successful solo artist. He was killed in 1987 during a home invasion, at age 42.
Quietly, lovingly and deliciously, the small Post Road restaurant across from Design With Reach serves some of the most flavorful, authentic cuisine in town.
Or anywhere else this side of Thailand.
Through blizzards, hurricanes — and the pandemic — owner Pook and her staff are there. They serve their many loyal customers (and anyone else who wanders by, or orders online) with love. And without dumbing down their menu for the American palate.
Pook uses “correct” herbs. She pays a bit more to import brands from Thailand. It’s certainly worth it.
Jeera Thai is a Westport gem. Here’s to the next 5 years — and many more after that.
Former Westporter Arthur Powers Jr. died Monday. The 60-year-old struck a tree while skiing at Stowe Mountain in Vermont.
He moved to Easton in 2019, after many years on Spicer Road. The Easton Courier wrote:
Known for having a comedic actor’s sense of humor and drama, Art was an inventor and manufacturer of state-of-the-art outdoor speakers who designed music systems for 40 years. He also played drums in numerous bands in a career as a musician.
Art’s many hobbies included music, motorcycles, and mountain biking. He was an automotive enthusiast who raced cars and motorcycles. He loved being in the mountains, in the woods, and on the beach, and was an accomplished biker and skier.
In addition to his life partner of 20 years, Dr. Patricia Hart, he is survived by his daughter Kelly Poweers Bluien; parents Arthur Sr. and Evelyn; siblings Kenny, David and Corrine Powers Barton, many cousins, nieces and nephews, and a menagerie of dogs, cats and goats.
A celebration of Art’s life will be held in late summer.
Plenty of people say they have faith in Westport. It’s a good town, they note. We’ve adapted to the coronavirus, and we’ll be even stronger once the pandemic is past.
It’s another thing entirely to put your money where your mouth is. (Or more accurately, where our mouths ae.)
At least 9 restaurants — Don Memo, Walrus Alley, Manna Toast, Hudson Malone, Organic Krush, Outpost Pizza, Mexica, Basso and Capuli — have opened in the 10 months since COVID completely upended the dining experience.
California-Mediterranean fusion is on the menu at Capuli, in the former Westport Pizzeria Post Road East space.
Think of it: At a time of capacity limits, fears of indoor seating, concerns whether anyone would eat outside in winter, and economic upheaval — added to the uncertainty and stress of the restaurant industry in “normal” times — these men and women planted their flag (and their food) here.
They’ve put both their money and their trust in us. They’ve given us many great dining options (and provided employment for many others.) That’s impressive.
Joining the newcomers as Unsung Heroes are all the restaurant owners who are adapting, innovating, and otherwise making it through these very tough times.
Jeera Thai, Ignazio’s, Rizzuto’s, The Cottage, Bistro du Soleil, Via Sforza, Tutti’s, Black Duck, Little Barn, Romanacci’s, Kawa Ni, Layla’s Falafel, Viva’s — they, and so many more, continue to serve great meals (and serve all of us).
So let’s do our share. Eat in or outside if you’re comfortable; take out if you’re not (they deliver!). Buy gift cards, for yourself or others.
And of course: Tip well!
Jeera Thai, downtown across from Design Within Reach., is one of Westport’s most flavorful restaurants.
On Tuesday afternoon I said this would be a long one.
I may have been low-balling things.
As of 7 p.m. last night, Eversource was still “evaluating outages.” There’s a lot to evaluate, I’m sure. But more than 24 hours after what’s been called the 4th worst storm ever to hit the state, Westporters wonder whether power restoration will take days — or weeks.
It’s not as if Eversource has not prepared for storms. Despite what an “06880” commenter said yesterday, they have a robust preventive tree-trimming program. We’ve all seen the trucks on the roads this summer.
The lack of trucks now is getting people testy. So is the heat. And the search for WiFi and food.
We’re creatures of habit. We crave certainty. Between COVID-19 and Hurricane Isaias, we’re swamped by uncertainty, 24/7.
We would not like to click on Eversource’s outage map and see “Estimated repairs completed by Tuesday, August 11.”
But seeing “evaluating outages” is megawatts worse.
(PS: I’d love to post a photo of a utility crew at work. If you’ve got one, send it along!)
So if this is Connecticut’s “4th worst storm ever,” what were the 3 worse ones?
Probably Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, followed by the “Snotober” Halloween snowstorm in 2011, and Hurricane Gloria in 1985.
Don’t forget the 1955 hurricane, or 1938.
Where does this one rank on your list? Click “Comments” below.
This scene of Superstorm Sandy’s fury is from North Compo Road.
“06880” reader and longtime friend Terry Brannigan writes:
Lots of folks are bumping around in the dark, or looking for generators. Yet many Westporters have SUVs, minivans, Jeeps and other cars with AC adaptors.
You can run a cord from them into the house, and plug in plenty of lamps. W had 6 Tuesday night, no problem.
The longer the cord, the more you will lose amperage. Shorter is better, but be careful to park outside — not in a garage. You don’t want fumes!
The car is quiet, has low emissions and will idle for a couple of weeks on s full tank of gas. Those generators your neighbors have are loud, smelly and thirsty!
PS: Your car AC adaptor won’t power your refrigerator. But you will have light, music and the ability to charge batteries.
Plenty of Westporters have discovered the library’s Wifi. The building is closed, but coverage extends into Jesup Green and the Levitt Pavilion parking lot.
Some of those seeking service have (not surprisingly) forgotten that in addition to the power outage, we’re in the midst of a pandemic. With so many people trying to access the internet, it’s hard to stay socially distant.
So, a gentle reminder: Log on, and mask up!
A peaceful, post-Isaias scene on Jesup Green. Crowds are tighter closer to the building. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)
I mentioned yesterday that Don Meno — Bill Taibe’s new restaurant replacing Jesup Green — is open for dinner. So is Walrus Alley next door (the former Rothbard + Larder).
And don’t forget Jeera Thai, the fantastic spot across the street from Design Within Reach. We’re lucky to have it in town — and luckier still that it’s one of the few restaurants with power.
I’m not sure if Balducci’s is still open. But yesterday they got kudos for serving customers (with non-perishables, of course), despite no power.
Starbuck’s is open downtown. Their Wifi and cell service are down though, so it’s cash only. And if you need an ATM, because who carries money these days? Good luck with that.
Stew Leonard’s is open too. In the hours after the storm, they went through an astonishing 20 pallets of ice. They’ll keep getting deliveries of essentials, and keep selling ’em.’
And finally … who would have thought last year that 2019 would be “the good old days”?!
That’s the tiny but wonderful restaurant tucked next to Finalmente, across from Design Within Reach, just down from Westport Pizzeria and the great new Field Trip jerky shop.
In a town filled with very good restaurants — and new ones coming (and going) all the time — Jeera Thai is at the top of any list.
This is the real deal. The menu is authentic — not watered down for American palates. Chicken, lamb, noodles, soups, stir-fry, curry — it’s all there, flavorful, zesty and real.
Herbs and spices are “correct” — imported from Thailand. Other ingredients come from New York, where there is a robust Thai dining scene.
Clockwise from top: Su Kho Thai, a very spicy noodle soup; curry puffs (chicken with cucumber sauce); Bangkok Stir Fry, another spicy and wonderful dish.
I had a salmon, red curry and coconut dish that was truly out of this world. Or at least, halfway around it.
Here’s the interesting thing: As I chatted with owner Jeeranunn Atiportunyapong — you can call her “Luna,” and I sure do — several other diners offered totally unsolicited praise.
“I’m very well traveled,” one said. “I study Asian culture. This is as spot-on as it gets. The food is so fresh. It’s real cooking. You can’t fake flavors. There’s a perfect balance between pungent and spicy. It can be ecstatically amazing.”
But she wasn’t finished. She added, “This place is a refuge for me. I come here 3 or 4 days a week.”
Luna, in her Jeera Thai restaurant.
Overhearing us talking, another customer chimed in.
“I’ve been to Thailand. This is so authentic. The pad kaprow and drunken noodles with beef — you can’t beat that anywhere. You should write a story about it!”
I don’t usually do that. But those customers — and all of Luna’s many others — are right. It’s a true Westport gem, hidden right in the middle of downtown.
So here’s that story. And (thank you, Google Translate!) here are my thanks to Luna, for Jeera Thai’s wonderful food and beautiful spirit:
Jeera Thai, nestled in a small space off the Post Road.
It takes courage to open a (non-Italian) restaurant in Westport. In a small space.
But plenty of Westporters are glad that Darapon Wongchame — you can call her Dara, or Pook — did.
A year ago this month, the Thai native welcomed diners to Jeera Thai. Located next to Finalmente — opposite the old post office/aka the enormous and now shuttered Post 154 — it proves that a wonderful, authentic restaurant can succeed in a tiny space.
Jeera Thai, nestled in a small space off the Post Road.
Pook does not have a lot of money to advertise (though she donates generously to every fundraiser that asks for a gift card or ad, and bought a booth at last summer’s Downtown Arts Festival). Success has come largely through word of mouth.
Because the mouths that Jeera Thai feeds love every savory bite.
Boards list the specials in Thai and English.
Pook was born near the Mekong River. She came to the US in 1992, and helped her family with their restaurants in New Haven and Guilford. (Her mother — “a great cook” — taught her well.)
She laughs that she came to Westport for the shopping. But she found the people here “very nice, friendly, kind and helpful.” When she spotted the space available next to Finalmente, she did not hesitate.
Pook likes the location, on the busy Post Road in the heart of downtown. She trusted her instinct that her menu — truly authentic Thai food, not watered down for the American palate — would resonate with Westporters.
It has. “People here have open minds,” Pook says. “They travel a lot. If food is not cooked right, they know.”
Her customers are “smart eaters. They don’t just swallow things down.” Many are pleased that her dishes can be vegan, and gluten-free.
Pook uses “correct” herbs. She pays a bit more to import brands from Thailand. Other ingredients come from New York, where there is a robust Thai dining scene.
Clockwise from top: Su Kho Thai, a very spicy noodle soup; curry puffs (chicken, potato, onion with cucumber sauce); red jasmine rice; Bangkok Stir Fry, another wonderfully spicy dish; ginger tea.
Much of her business is takeout. She also delivers via UberEATS. (It’s expensive for her, but she wants to make customers happy.)
There is seating for 30. Pook has no liquor license, but diners can bring their own drinks.
In just a year, Jeera Thai has become an integral part of Westport’s dining scene. Pook’s customers have made her feel welcome — and she loves them back.
Meanwhile, she has adapted well to our town. Like any local, whenever she craves a certain food, she heads right over to her neighbor: Westport Pizzeria.
(For more information on Jeera Thai — including the menu — click here.)
Pook Wongchame (right) with 2 of her staff (from left): Yada Nakarnchintranath and Nena Vong.
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