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!
2003 Staples High School graduate Jesse Levin owns the Readiness Collective — an emergency training club and outfitter in Norwalk. Earlier, he opened a pop-up shop in Bedford Square.
After the chilling news from Afghanistan, Jesse turned the Collective into am ad hoc volunteer emergency operations center, to facilitate emergency evacuation efforts.
We have turned our training club, The Readiness Collective into an ad hoc volunteer emergency coordination operations center to facilitate efforts under way for emergency evacuations in Afghanistan.
Professional logistics and disaster response experts on site help guide volunteers on how to contribute. They’re tied in with working groups on the ground, and assisting from abroad.
Recent efforts include the expatriation of 20 targeted Afghan nationals and their families to Uganda, critical medical advice provided to parents of a young girl injured by a tear gas canister and unable to reach medical help, and the development of overland evacuation plans for wide distribution.
Jesse’s Collective needs help and support. “Just bring a computer and a willingness to dig in,” he says.
Offices are in the SoNo Collection (just off I-95 Exit 15 in Norwalk, Level II0. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-275-7297.
For the 2nd summer in a row, nearly every Westport restaurant will offer outdoor dining.
Viva Zapata has done it for decades.
Viva’s (as it’s universally known) has not changed much over the years. Here’s a view from the 1970s.
The menu is not much different either.
As for the prices … well, consider what your Westport home cost back in 1969, when this menu was popular, and Viva’s was in its first location. That was Post Road East (State Street), at the entrance to what is now Playhouse Square.
As former president of Staples High School’s Gridiron Club and current treasurer of the Staples Boys Basketball Association, Amanda Thaw knows that whenever a Wrecker team needs help for a fundraiser, it turns to local restaurants and businesses.
They always come through.
Now, she thought, there must be a way to help support those owners in their time of need. And at the same time, to help front line personnel when they’re working so hard.
She made a few calls. Quickly, nearly a dozen Staples sports teams said “sign us up!”
#FeedItForward works this way: Teams pair up with a restaurant they choose. They provide a meal for a front line group of their choice. The restaurant delivers. The hungry personnel eat well. Everyone wins!
So far the girls soccer team fed Norwalk Hospital staffers, from Sherwood Diner. Boys soccer provided Tutti’s dinner to the Westport Police Department. The football team took care of the Westport Police Department, thanks to Viva Zapata. And boys lacrosse donated dinner to Westport EMS, through Colony Grill.
Also committed: boys basketball, rugby, wrestling, boys track, boys volleyball, baseball and boys tennis.
Future food providers include Calise’s Market, Jr’s Deli & Grille, and Four Brothers Pizza. All are grateful for the business, and eager to help.
Boys soccer co-captain Jack Douglas, flanked by Tutti’s owner Maria Funicello and Officer Jimmy Sullivan.
ASF — the always-helpful sports store — is involved too. Norwalk Hospital staffers are on their feet all day. So they’ve been provided new socks — and chewing gum. (Their mouths get stale wearing masks).
Hot meals for the Fire Department, courtesy of Staples football and Viva Zapata.
There are plenty of other groups to feed too, like supermarket and pharmacy personnel, utility workers and others.
More teams can get involved — not just Staples, but throughout town. Other organizations can help as well.
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.
Match Burger Lobster was one of two double winners. From left: Matthew Mandell, director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce; restaurant owner Matt Storch, and Ira Bloom of Berchem Moses, contest sponsor.
Best Veggie Burger: Little Barn
Best Non-beef Burger (fish, turkey, lamb…): Little Barn
Best Fast Food Burger: Shake Shack
Best Slider: Dunville’s
Honorable Mention: Rothbard and Parker Mansion
Vegans: Eat your hearts out!
In more Westport Weston Chamber news, the 5th Supper & Soul event takes place on Saturday (April 6).
One $75 ticket buys 3 great entertainment elements: a 3-course dinner at 6 p.m., a concert with Head for the Hills, and happy hour prices for drinks after the show.
Participating restaurants are 190 Main, Amis, Jesup Hall, Rothbard Ale + Larder, Spotted Horse, Tavern on Main and Wafu. All are located within a couple of blocks of Seabury Center, where the concert takes place.
Head for the Hills has been together for 15 years. They mix rock, folk, R&B and bluegrass. Mandell says, “If you like Mumford & Sons, you’ll love this band.” (Check out the video below — you’ll agree!)
Click here for tickets. A limited number of concert-only tickets are available too.
Westfair covers all of the clam chowder bases: New England (white), Manhattan (red), and Rhode Island (clear). This tiny storefront, with just five tables and half a dozen stools at a window counter, hides in a strip mall and caters mostly to nearby residents. Fried clams and fried oysters, both lightly battered, are especially tender and juicy.
A tantalizing dish from Westport Fish & Chips.
Meanwhile, the Delish website picked 1 “Epic Nacho Plate” from every state.
Connecticut’s entry? “Nachos with sausage” from Viva Zapata.
Viva Zapata’s nachos with sausage.
Congratulations to 2 very popular spots. We can always count — if not count calories — on you.
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