Tag Archives: Viva Zapata

Friday Flashback #156

Regular readers know “06880” often laments the loss of things that make a town a community.

Movie theaters. Mom-and-pop shops.

And bars.

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.

Cheers!

After 41 Years, Martin O’Grady Ducks Out

This Saturday, Viva Zapata celebrates 50 years as a Saugatuck institution.

But that’s not the only party in town.

Martin O’Grady

A few yards away, the Black Duck will bid farewell to Martin O’Grady.

The popular bartender is retiring after 41 eventful years at the Riverside Avenue instititution.

He’ll serve his final drinks on Saturday (July 27) from 12 to 5 p.m. The Duck invites Martin’s many fans to wish him well.

Plus, the Duck says, “this is your last chance to show him what a good tipper you are.”

Relishing The Best Burgers In Town

The burgers have been eaten. Over 1,000 votes have been cast.

Now, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce announces the winners of its Great Westport Burger Contest.

The envelope please…

Best Classic Burger: Viva Zapata

Best Cheeseburger: Match Burger Lobster

Best Gourmet Burger: Match Burger Lobster

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.

Adios, Chipotle

First there were dos.

Soon there will be cero.

Chipotle — the design-your-own burritos, tacos and bowls place in Compo Acres Shopping Center — will close next week.

An employee confirmed the news. The manager was not available for comment.

Chipotle follows Qdoba out of town. The similar fast-casual Mexican spot at the entrance to Playhouse Square closed in June.

Don’t worry. There are still over 2,400 Chipotles around the globe. And nearly 800 Qdobas.

Don’t want to travel far for Mexican fare?

Right here in Westport you’ve got your choice of Bartaco, Rio Bravo, Señor Salsa, Border Grille and Cuatro Hermanos.

And — of course — the granddaddy of them all: Viva Zapata.

It’s been around, I think, since Emiliano Zapata himself led the Mexican Revolution.

They’re Closing The Nail Salons. Guess What’s Next To Pop Up Everywhere.

Donald Trump may not like it.

But the Mexicans are coming. Or at least, their restaurants are.

We’ve already got Viva Zapata, Villa del Sol, Border Grill, Bartaco, Cuatro Hermanos, Qdoba, Chipotle and Señor Salsa.

Opening soon:

Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo (“tacos and tequila”) is located near Pier 1 Imports — right next to the old V restaurant. Which is near Bravo Pizzeria and Wine Bar.

I assumed the popular Italian eatery was branching out into Mexican. Just to be sure, I called Bravo.

¡No!

“It’s a very strange coincidence,” said a Bravo (Italia) spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the Saugatuck rumor mill has yet another Mexican restaurant headed to the former post office, near the westbound train tracks.

Hey: If The Donald decides to campaign here, at least we’ll know where not to take him for dinner.

Fish & Chips & Nachos

Two long-established, well-loved — and decidedly not fancy — Westport restaurants made big national “best of” news lately.

Coastal Living named  Westfair Fish & Chips one of the 22 best “Seafood Dives” in the country.

The magazine raved:

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.

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.

Viva Zapata’s nachos with sausage.

Congratulations to 2 very popular spots. We can always count — if not count calories — on you.

(Hat tip: Mary Lynn Halland)

Happy Days

Before J&J Car Care Service, the Getty station was a Tydol. It was mentioned last week on “06880.” Here’s a great photo (click on it to enlarge).

Dairy Queen, Westport CT 1956

What’s more remarkable about this January 1956 photo, though — posted by Nick Tiberio on Facebook — is the Dairy Queen. (Check out the cop car — with just 1 light on top — in the parking lot.)

DQ sat on the site of what later became the Crest. (It’s now the entrance to Playhouse Square.) The Crest was Westport’s 1st drive-in — as beloved by teenagers in the early ’60s as the Big Top in later years.

Today’s equivalent is — I have no clue.

A bit east of the Crest — beyond the right side of this photo — was the original Viva Zapata.

All that’s missing is the Fonz.

Something Old, Something Blu

Though tomorrow’s opening of the Blu Parrot ushers in a new era of local entertainment, it’s hardly the only place in Saugatuck to hear live music.

Viva Zapata has booked bands for years.

And, alert “06880” reader Chip Stephens notes, every Thursday is Black Duck Local Artist Open Mic Night.

“The music is outstanding — it kicks ass,” Chip says. “And there’s no cover.

“It’s a hidden Westport gem. Reminds me of the late great Players Tavern.”

The Blu Parrot, Duck and Viva’s are not competing with each other — they complement themselves. The more live music in Saugatuck, the more people will come — and the hotter the whole area will be.

A rising tide lifts all barges boats.

Open mic night at the Duck.

Fine Dining, With Steaks And Shirley Temples

Alexander Lobrano knows his onions. And every other food.

Alexander Lobrano (Photo/Steven Rothfeld)

The Westport native — and, since 1986, Paris resident — was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine from 1999 until it closed in 2009. He has written about food and travel for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other publications. He has won several James Beard awards.

His blog is called Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants, but he ranges far beyond France. Alexander reviews eateries all over the world.

When he looks back on his culinary youth, Alexander is not your average Joe. And — as you would expect on a blog called “06880” — it all comes back to Westport.

Recently, he wrote:

When I was growing up in Westport, Connecticut in the ’60s and ’70s, the default “good” restaurant was a place down near the train station called Manero’s, an Italian-American owned steakhouse with a brick walls covered with shiny copper cookware and jovial older waiters with accents of indeterminable origin. [NOTE: Manero’s is now Rizzuto’s.]

This was where Grandmother Drake would take us for a birthday dinner or sometimes just a special night out, and with her pretty green eyes, Titian blonde hair in up-swept French Twist chignon, good jewelry, faux leopard jacket and quick wit, the waiters adored her.

The running joke at almost every meal was that it was her birthday, and they’d often bring out a baked Alaska with a candle in it for her after we’d eaten the exact same meal we always had: cocktails—bourbon for the adults, and Shirley Temples for the girls or Horse’s Necks for the boys, the difference being in name only, because they were the same concoction of ginger ale and grenadine syrup with an orange slice and a vivid Maraschino cherry (oddly enough, the concept of children’s cocktails seems to have gone completely out of style…can’t think why), shrimp cocktail, steak with onion rings, baked potatoes wrapped in foil, and salad with blue-cheese dressing.

If the food at Manero’s was good, no one could ever have accused it of being interesting, but then in those days no one wanted food that was interesting.

To be sure, Westport had an excellent Chinese restaurant, West Lake, and the Italian food at the Apizza Center in nearby Fairfield was wonderful, too, but aside from a couple of New England-y seafood places—The Clam Box [NOTE: now Bertucci’s], etc., and a “French” restaurant downtown where they flambéed everything, but most of all the bill, the town offered slim pickings for anyone who really loved good food with the exception of the rather mysterious Café Varna [NOTE: actually Cafe Barna, on the site of what is now Mitchells of Westport], which served, rather amazingly in retrospect, Bulgarian food [NOTE: actually Hungarian].

The local restaurant pulse quickened in the ’70s with the opening of places like Viva Zapata, a Mexican place that Grandmother Drake heartily disapproved of — “Barbara,” she’d say to my mother, “You shouldn’t feed food like that to growing children” — and a fun little café called Bon Appetite.

During a recent trawl through southwestern Connecticut, I thought of this long ago gastronomic landscape and couldn’t help but be amazed by the variety of ethnic eating now on offer in the area, a reflection, I think of how Americans have become so much more adventurous at the table than they were 40 years ago.

That’s the introduction to his review of a New York restaurant called The Left Bank (“er, um, well, not quite,” Alexander writers, referring to its French aspirations).

It’s also a great introduction to a long-ago dining scene that long-time Westporters recall with a bit of fondness, some amusement, and much embarrassment.