Planning your summer weekends and in need of a quick getaway? Take a quick, food-filled trip around Connecticut’s coastline (none of our picks are too far off of I-95), and enjoy some local sights while you’re at it.
Morning Cocktail: Wake Up Call at Rye House (Port Chester, NY)
The Wake Up Call cocktail at Rye House.
Your first stop off I-95 is exit 21 for Rye House, an American bar/restaurant outfitted in reclaimed wood, leather benches, and a granite bar, just on the New York/Connecticut border in quaint downtown Port Chester. Here, bartenders like Sarah Pyles believe that “alcohol is medicinal,” and that credo is reflected in carefully crafted cocktails like the Wake Up Call, a spicy combination of jalapeño-infused Heaven Hill Gold Label Bourbon, lemon, honey, cinnamon, and mint, that will rev you up for the full day ahead. Tide yourself over by snacking on some creamy Carolina shrimp and grits with bell peppers, andouille sausage, and stone ground cheddar grits before you hit the road again. 126 N. Main St., Port Chester, NY, 914-481-8771
To see: Check out the lineup at the historical Capitol Theatre, where the acts this summer include everyone from Bob Dylan to Ben Harper. Hatch a plan to come back to catch your favorites (it’s a short 50-minute ride on the Metro-North from New York City).
Brunch: Crispy Chicken and Waffles at Noir (Stamford, CT)
Inside Noir's French-inspired space.
Head approximately 15 minutes down the highway and discover Noir, a French-inspired bistro, nestled just off exit 7 in Downtown Stamford. The interior feels like a little piece of Paris plopped in Connecticut—think exposed brick, wooden beams, shining chandeliers, and menus written on chalkboards in a small, intimate space—but the brunch fare puts an inventive twist on the usual suspects. Dig into French toast drizzled in Grand Marnier and browned butter, a signature omelet with cana de oveja cheese, caramelized onion, and bacon, and a melt-in-your-mouth short rib hash. But the standout dish is surprising for a French spot—fried chicken and waffles, which feature juicy, home-fried chicken on a fluffy waffle that gets a spicy kick from jalapeño maple syrup. Keep the heat going with cocktails like The Jazzy Latina with jalapeño-infused rum, Cointreau, lime, and strawberry mash, or cool off with classics like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. 225 Summer St., Stamford, CT, 203-564-9883
To see: Noir is tucked a short way off Downtown Stamford’s main drag, which stretches from Bedford Street between Broad Street and Forest Street. Head there after brunch to check out what becomes a veritable block party of people eating and drinking outside of the strip’s many restaurants and bars. Or shop for one-of-a-kind finds from Chic Jack’s Vintage Clothing, which offers antique designer duds (including some old-school Lilly Pulitzer—how very Connecticut) and has dressed the casts of iconic TV shows like Mad Men and Saturday Night Live.
Hop off the highway about 25 minutes later at exit 22 in idyllic Downtown Fairfield. There are tons of quality shops and dining spots along the Post Road, but head to the town’s Brick Walk area for a truly off-the-beaten-path experience. The aptly named Brick + Wood is tucked toward the back, and it’s the ideal spot to snack on the restaurant’s modern takes on Neapolitan street food, like a fried mac ‘n cheese ball, zeppole dip, or any of the tasty wood-fried pizzas. But there’s also a homemade mozzarella and burrata bar that offers up items like truffle burrata—fresh mozzarella with a decadent cream and truffle-filled center, served alongside prosciutto and arugula. Wash it down with a glass or carafe of any of the wines, which are all on tap. 1275 Post Road, #7, Fairfield, CT, 203-939-1400
To see: Stroll Fairfield’s Downtown along the Post Road, which is bursting with restaurants, bars, and shopping (The Beehive is adorable), and experience a real New England village green with a gazebo to boot. Or, drive just a bit further South to find the town’s pristine beaches on the Long Island Sound. Jennings and Penfield offer daily passes for $20 on weekdays and $50 on weekends.
On your way home, stop in Stamford again—this time to discover a little slice of Italy situated a short drive off exit 7. Cotto offers authentic Roman fare, from wood-fired pizzas and homemade pastas to tapas and a solid selection of Italian cheeses and meats. The true star here is an elevated take on your usual penne a la vodka—penne coated in a tomato and Grey Goose vodka cream sauce and topped with bits of pancetta and prosciutto San Daniele. The restaurant interior offers up a romantic atmosphere via vintage black-and-white photographs, old Italian movie posters, exposed brick, and low lighting, but if the weather agrees, enjoy your meal outside at a sidewalk table dressed with a traditional red-and-white tablecloth. 51 Bank St., Stamford, CT, 203-914-1400