Chamber Talk: Westport’s restaurant renaissance
Recently Saugatuck was informally bestowed the moniker of "Dining District" by a number of real estate agents in their list of reasons why Westport is a great place to live. A critical mass of fine dining, that began only few years back, has tipped over the threshold and on any evening you can see the results with friendly patrons roaming the streets and entering one of the many local eateries.
From the Whelk to Tarry Lodge to Harvest new restaurants have blossomed in the area, where in the recent past they would not have been allowed to be in such close proximity due to archaic liquor and zoning regulations. With those rules removed, to the point of the Boathouse inside the Rowing club now legally open to the public, even old neighborhood favorites like the Black Duck, Viva Zapata's, Dunville's and Tutti's who are celebrating their 15th anniversary this month, are benefiting from public attention and are part of the thriving scene.
The Chamber of Commerce run Slice of Saugatuck Festival, now in its sixth year, continues to highlight the area's businesses and restaurants with attendees receiving tastes from every venue including Tarantino's, Kawa Ni and Rizzuto's who have added a lobster shack to their mix of terrific offerings. Julian's is always a highlight with a second location coming on the Post Road and Bistro du Soleil, set to open in the next few weeks, will be a welcome addition to the September event and the area.
But Saugatuck has not cornered the Westport thirst for dining out. Downtown is working on it own renaissance as a dining and shopping destination with exciting new venues. While there have been some bumps in the road for some, three new restaurants have opened or will imminently. Bill Taibe comes back to downtown with Jesup Hall, Amis just opened in the new Bedford Square complex and The Port on the West Bank of the river will offer a family friendly atmosphere beginning next month.
With spring coming, Downtown will light up, Rothbard will begin to offer music, Bar Taco's outdoor dining along the river will bring throngs and Boca has gotten nothing but rave reviews. The Spotted Horse is always packed with its music offerings and it too has an engaging outdoor scene.
Downtown also offers tasty faire from around the world with Matsu Sushi and Jeera Little Thai and who would want to miss a personally cooked meal at Da Pietros. Tavern on Main and 323 are cornerstones on Main Street and Arezzo has a beautiful outside patio right along the river.
Just because there is a concentration of venues in the town's two business districts, doesn't mean great cuisine does not exist elsewhere in Town along the Post Road and afar. The Chamber runs Restaurant Week each October to highlight all the great restaurants in town and have included these integral members; Mumbai Times, Rive Bistro, Via Sforza, Granola Bar, Terrain Cafe, Positano's, Sakura, Sherwood Diner, The Pearl, Pane e Bene and the Little Barn. Each one another great place to dine.
Westport is clearly leading the way in creating the hottest restaurant scene in Fairfield County. Whether you go to Saugatuck, Downtown or all around town, you will find fine food and chefs eager to welcome you to their venue for a great lunch or dinner.
Matthew Mandell is Executive Director and President of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce.