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Bars + Baristas

The Gray Goose Cafe

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246 Old Post Road, Southport

I was in France three weeks ago and noticed a number of women eating alone in cafes. Here, I see men eating alone at restaurant bars. Now, I don’t mention this to advertise I spent a week cavorting around Paris but to point out a potentially interesting socio-cultural phenomenon. And I write “potentially” because I don’t know if it’s interesting. I may never know. What I DO know is that it’s summer break, my brain is melting like a dropped popsicle on hot slate and I have renewed love and respect for teachers and compulsory education.

Anyway, I made this dubiously intriguing note on Tuesday night, when my girlfriends treated me to a birthday dinner at The Gray Goose Cafe. I darted from my home and screaming children the nanosecond my husband touched down on the driveway, allowing me a solid 20 minutes to observe the eating habits of lone males before my friends appeared.

One other observation: women order dessert. Men don’t.

As you may have now inferred, I needed a night out with my chicks. And Gray Goose, friends, does not disappoint. Granted, a Tuesday night doesn’t attract the most enticing of crowds (unless you’re over 60) but it hardly matters. If you’re not staring at the bartender with bright white hair (Let if flow, Elsa!) or musing over the eating habits of strange men, the fabulous cocktails and amazing menu will siphon any remaining thought power.

Not surprisingly, Gray Goose is brought to us by the same geniae behind Little Barn, Spotted Horse, and that ilk. Think cozy yet elegant barn-like atmosphere with hopping bar and minimal parking. The service is inconsistent - sometimes great, sometimes lousy, so manage your expectations.

Robin’s note: No appetizer or entree is over $25. And, yes, we had dessert (surprise birthday cake!)

Who you’ll see eating here: Older groups of men and women during the week. Couples and small groups of men and women age 35+ on Thursday-Sunday.

Their specialty: Lobster macaroni, Maine Lobster club, Ahi Tuna tacos.

What you should order: Lobster macaroni, Miso salmon with coconut rice

What you may not know but should:
  - There’s a “no reservation” policy so your downtime options are limited: drink or step outside and watch traffic. Thus the bar tends to be crowded and loud on weekends.
  - Thursday night is Ladies night! 1/2 price house wine and martinis, including those fruity little numbers we love
  - Live music on the tiiiiiny patio ever Sunday at 5:30 and Friday from 10 PM - close

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Fairfield    
Thursday, July 10, 2014 • Permalink

Match

Match, Norwalk

98 Washington Street

I don’t shower in the mornings. With 3 children awake and ready for action at 5:45 AM, I hit the ground running and, unless I’m going to be in close proximity to celebrities and movie producers, don’t shower until evening.

So it was last Saturday. The day was exhausting and moments before our sitter arrived I was weighing the pros and cons of bathing before date night. Bathing won, as looking like a slob does precious little for one’s sex appeal.

We decided to paint SoNo red and, after a watery cocktail at a hip bar, decided to cut our losses and eat at Match.

Ah, Match. The bartenders’ smiling faces, the exceptional (potent) cocktails, and the excellent New American cuisine. Every time we go there we wonder why we don’t go more often. Then we remember we have 3 kids who wake up before dawn. And we marvel at how we manage to get out at all.

Who you’ll see eating here: Couples mostly, ages 30-60 years old. Some groups of girlfriends ages 35-50.

Their specialty: Appetizers and anything wood-oven roasted.

What you should eat: “Carpgetbaggers” –fried Blue Point oysters and bunch of other stuff. Mmm…

What you may not know but should:
  - They’ve won every award from every local and food magazine in the country, from “Best Appetizers” to “Best Overall Restaurant.”
  - Maybe it’s the name, but Match tends to attract a lot of cougars and those who prey upon them.
http://www.matchsono.com

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Norwalk    
Tuesday, July 01, 2014 • Permalink

Java Coffee & Café

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44 Church Lane, Westport

I have observed, with a certain dark interest, the rise and fall of several eateries on this random bit of real estate, tucked around the corner from the Y and a touch inconvenient for Main St. consumers. Then, like a knight in shining armor, Java struck its sword into this plot of commercial property and out popped a great cafe.

Java - based in Idaho - is hip, colorful, and boasts excellent coffee. The service is prompt and friendly and they even keep a large dispenser of ice water and lemons by the door so you don’t have to lighten your wallet for bottled water. Awwww.

Holy cow, it’s healthy. The salads are rife with kale, quinoa abounds, and fresh salad accompanies almost everything. For cross-fitters and über-moms, there’s Paleo banana bread. For the rest of us, there are organic sweets and baked snacks. Soon it’ll have a wine, beer & limited liquor license.

It has an outdoor patio for eating al fresco, overlooking the lovely grounds of Christ & Holy Trinity. So the health benefits of your meal won’t be offset by the inhalation of traffic toxins.

Robin’s note: During one of my three visits in four days, I sat on the patio with friends. We happily agreed that hanging out there felt “just like being on Friends!” Which both dates us and divulges our communal belief that sitcoms are real and present a life to which we all aspire. So… there’s that.

Click to read the rest ... "Java Coffee & Café"

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Westport    
Friday, May 02, 2014 • Permalink

Las Vetas Lounge

Las Vetas, Fairfield

29 Unquowa Road, Fairfield

The hodge-podgiest coffee shop I’ve ever graced with my presence, this café boasts an enormous selection of teas and coffee drinks (Flava-Mave, Shizzler’s Toffee Chocolate Shake), retro candy (candy bracelets, Bit O’Honey), single-serve bowls of sugared cereals, wall o’ bagged chips, some baked goods, sandwiches, garage-sale seating …you get the idea. Coffee’s okay but – let’s be honest – completely beside the point.

Robin’s note: Good news is, the environment itself is so loud no one notices when your children act like non-domesticated wildebeest.

Who you’ll see eating here: Fairfield U students, moms with young kids, and a random sprinkling of 50 year-old men.

Their specialty: Coffee drinks.

What you should order: One of their crazy coffee drinks, bag of fritos, handful of mini chocolate bars, and some sort of hard taffy lollipop that’ll keep the kids busy while you enjoy your lunch.

What you may not know buy should: They don’t have a liquor license, but bring in a bottle of wine and they’ll serve it for a nominal corkage fee.
http://www.lasvetaslounge.com

Bars + Baristas     Fairfield    
Saturday, April 05, 2014 • Permalink

The Little Barn

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1050 Post Road East, Westport

Opened by Kevin McHugh, co-owner of Spotted Horse and Grey Goose, I imagine the conversation he had with his Little Barn partner, Scott Beck, went something like:

McHugh: “I’ve had heaps of success naming eateries after farm animals.”

Beck: “But the only ones left are Pig, Cow… maybe a Housecat, a Rat.”

McHugh: “Right. Which one makes you hungriest?”

Beck: “Not… none.”

McHugh: “Hmm…”

Thus, The Little Barn was born.

The Barn, made from reclaimed almost everything, has a collection of perfectly worn license plates and a neon “Liquor Store” sign. These touches evoke a cozy “Aw, shucks” roadhouse environment, belied by the high-end bar with a parade of designer cocktails and wonderful gastro-pub fares. Which, of course, is irresistible to those of us who enjoy fraternizing redneck-style without actually involving rednecks.

The basic kids (“Half Pints”) menu appeals to, like, kids.

Robin’s note: The cocktails, concocted from fresh juice and top tier liquors are good, if inconsistent. The margaritas are sweet. Very sweet. I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting to be attacked by a flock of hummingbirds.

Their Specialty: Chicken Pot Pie

What You Should Eat: Excellent burgers and kale salad, Fish ‘n’ Chips, and pulled pork.

What You May Not Know But Should:
  - The chefs are flexible and happy to monkey around with your entrée. So if you want chowder on your chicken wings or bacon on your baby backs, just ask.
  - No entrée is over $20
  - The location used to Dairy Queen, then a lousy diner, then Swanky Franks. Some people remain wistful about these restaurants.
  - Beck and McHugh are proud Staples grads.
  - No reservations accepted.

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Westport    
Thursday, March 13, 2014 • Permalink

Spotted Horse Tavern

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26 Church Lane, Westport

Spotted Horse Tavern - with a lively bar, delicious food, and consistent service - has won over the hearts of foodies and divorcées alike. Painstakingly re-constructed from a dilapidated (“historic”) home, the tavern-chic interior compliments the upscale American comfort food and moderate prices. There’s no kiddie menu, but the entrees are palatable for picky nippers and the generous pours from the bar help increase tolerance levels among adults dining with them.

So come for the cozy meals and big cocktails, then migrate to the bar to watch men dust off their pick-up lines for women in short skirts.

Robin’s note: It’s not, technically, a cougar bar: older women are not trawling for wide-eyed innocents here. Our experiences indicate it’s more of a manther bar, even though I cringe at perpetuating the term “manther.” (Pumale? Catamant?) But an occasional lonely-heart one-liner doesn’t detract from the fun.

Their specialty: Lobster & Avocado BLT, Maine mussels, “Under a Brick” Grilled Half Chicken

What you should eat: Lobster BLT, Atlantic Salmon

What you may not know but should:
  - Parking is a teensy problem, but drivers who illegally park in the neighboring pre-school lot seem to have created an unsustainable solution
  - The Spotted Horse is owned by the same people who own The Grey Goose in Southport and The Little Goose in Fairfield
  - Food is organic and locally-sourced
  - Live music on Thursday nights

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Westport    
Thursday, March 06, 2014 • Permalink

Margarita Man

Margarita Man, Fairfield

Margarita Man
Mike Beetem, 860-790-1234

Every year my husband and I celebrate Mexican Independence Day with a large party. Being American, we change their day of freedom to whatever happens to work best for us, typically a Saturday night. So “Cinquo de Mayo” cheekily becomes “Secondo de Mayo” or “Octavo de Mayo” or whenever (and however we feel like translating it.) We think this is cool but it will probably be one of those dorky things that haunt our children far into their adult lives.

So when the stress of planning a party and knowing you’ll someday destroy your children’s social development starts becoming less fun than what you envisioned, it’s time to call… Margarita Man!

Margarita Man, aka Mike Beetem, saved my party and made me so happy I forgot about the other stuff that was bothering me. I simply told him when and where and he delivered a beautiful machine – all gussied up in a grass skirt and silk flowers – the afternoon of my party. He supplied the delicious mix, I supplied the tequila and the triple sec. After giving us a quick tutorial (1. Pour it in, 2. Flip the switch) he told us he’d pick up the machine the next day (which he did, precisely when he said he would).

And the party? WOW. Nothing says “Viva la Independence!” like one too many Margarita Man margaritas!

Click to read the rest ... "Margarita Man"

Bars + Baristas     Entertainment     Darien     Fairfield     Greenwich     New Canaan     Norwalk     Stamford     Weston     Westport     Wilton    
Monday, February 10, 2014 • Permalink

Post 154

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154 Post Road, Westport


As recently as two years ago, I stood in line in the Post 154 building* in late December with three heavy boxes, two whining kids, and a migraine in a pear tree. So sipping a cosmo in roughly the same area is oddly satisfying, like yelling in a library after-hours or muttering inaudible threats to DMV workers.

While the space is lovely and conveniently located, the Latino-Italian-Portuguese fusion fare – many small plates and large plates - is inconsistent. Some love it, some don’t. But the bar is large, the atmosphere is inviting, and the mood is festive.

* Westport’s old post office.

Robin’s note: The drinks, like the lines at the post office, vary with each order.

Who you’ll see eating here: Families with tween kids, couples 35-65 years old, groups of women and men.

Their specialty: Golden Corn Bisque, Duck Confit Taquitos, Portuguese Octopus

What you should order: Heirloom Tomato Salad

What you may not know but should:
  -  Happy hour lasts from 3:00-6:00 M-F, with drink and appetizer specials.
  -  On Friday nights their house band “Swirl” does just that.
  -  The outdoor terrace, cold and creepily deserted in the winter, is lovely in the summer.

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Westport    
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 • Permalink

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

18 West Putnam Avenue, Greenwich
222 Summer Street, Stamford
4180 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield
63.65 North Main Street, South Norwalk

Well, that was skeevy.

Before I dive into details, two things:

  1.  Barcelona is a delicious and delightful wine bar/tapas joint with a fun, noisy vibe.
  2. After reading this write-up, the new (and very kind) general manager of Barcelona SoNo, who was not aware of a certain employee’s behavior, contacted me to apologize. He was very concerned and expressed intolerance of such behavior. As of this writing, I’m confident that certain Barcelona employees will never hit on a patron—or, perhaps, anyone—again.

Robin’s note: One of the managers hit on me. Not in a flattering or coy way, but in a “God, it’s getting late and I haven’t picked up a chick yet” way. So here’s the story: I and 5 of my girlfriends go for drinks at Barcelona SoNo. We meet at 9:00 and there are several tables of women having birthday parties, drinks, whatever. When I ask a manager for the location of the restroom, he holds out his arm to escort me to a set of two doors in a narrow corridor across from the large glass wine refrigerator. I half-heartedly take his arm, then slide my arm back because it’s so queer.

An hour later I’m up again to use the facilities (I drink a lot of water when I tipple) and find both bathroom doors locked.

Click to read the rest ... "Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant"

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Fairfield     Greenwich     Norwalk     Stamford    
Friday, November 11, 2011 • Permalink

The Black Duck Bar

The Black Duck

605 Riverside Avenue, Westport

All hail our brave little eatery/watering hole featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. It caused a sensation, and rightly so. However, it’s better at night when the conviviality and darkness obfuscates its imminent slide into the Saugatuck River.

Who’ll you’ll see drinking here: Used to be the local cognoscenti and fishermen. It still is, actually.

Their specialty: Beer so cold it could remove a wart.

What you should order: Fresh lime margarita (beg for it) and request the good tequila.

What you may not know but should:
  1. When it snows, the Duck reduces drink prices.
  2. Consider patronizing the Duck on karaoke night if you enjoy crooning with people who wear: 1. ripped denim devoid of irony, 2. tight clothes, 3. cigarette company apparel.

http://www.niteimage.com/clubs/BlackDuck/BlackDuckCafe.htm

Bars + Baristas     Westport    
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 • Permalink

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