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!)
In it, something else is out: Westport as a culinary capital.
The free paper’s survey covers a broad array of categories: restaurants, bars and clubs, drinks and eating (as in “best buffalo wings,” “best burrito,” “best falafel”…).
For those of us clinging to the idea that Westport’s got all best places in Fairfield County, I have 3 words: Get over it.
According to the Weekly’s readers, Fairfield reigns as county king. Our eastern neighbor won 30 categories — 32, if you count Southport as separate, which the paper did. (Southport Brewing Company won for Best Brew Pub, Coromandel for Best Indian Restaurant.)
In 2nd place was Stamford (27 winners). The great gastronomic metropolis of Bridgeport came in 3rd (14).
Norwalk had 10 winners. We were 1 back, with 9.
Actually, only 5 separate places made the cut — 3 won multiple categories.
The good news is that Le Farm picked up the big prize — Best Restaurant Overall — along with Best Chef (congrats, Bill Taibe).
Splash was a triple victor — Best Place for Brunch, Best Restaurant With a Water View, Best Restaurant With Outdoor Dining. (The last 2 are not, technically speaking, culinary awards.)
Our only other double winner was — ah, how the mighty have fallen — Five Guys. It captured Best Burger and Best Fries honors, which are culinary awards (technically speaking).
Sakura won for Best Japanese Restaurant. Our other champ, meanwhile, took Fairfield Weekly’s version of the Oscars’ Best Key Grip: Crumbs has the Best Cupcakes.
(Well, it should. How many cupcake specialty shops are there around here?)
When the busboy fills your glass, some people see it as half-empty. They would say that — culinarily speaking — Westport has gotten really, really dead.
I prefer to see the glass as half-full. I think Westporters are too busy dining in our many fine establishments to fill out some dumb-ass survey.
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