One of the joys of summer is al fresco dining, and right now, Fairfield County is rife with colorful umbrellas and awnings that promise an oasis from our travels and travails. Whether you seek a front row seat for some serious people watching, or your preference is more the off-the-beaten-path variety, opportunities abound. From the waterside deck to the clearing at the edge of the forest, the pickings are as diverse as our County.
To inspire you to get outdoors, Patch compiled a sampling of popular spots, each with a distinct appeal. After the winter snowstorm marathon that teetered to the brink of spring, it is indeed liberating to take a meal outdoors in the warm, fresh air of summer.
Long before the renaissance of downtown Darien, the birth of the weekly farmer’s market and the addition of ample municipal parking to siphon cars off the crowded Post Road, there was a reliable spot in town for cheerful outdoor dining. With its raised terrace and flower planters bursting with sunny zinnias and ornamental grasses, has been a staple in the downtown mix since 1986. On any given summer day, the tables fill quickly and demand for the menu of American and Continental fare is brisk.
Set your GPS for Sherman Town Green and just as the white gazebo comes into view, you’ll happen upon a trifecta of restaurants with outdoor seating. To the east, Centro brings its festive theme of bright colors outdoors for the summer. Across the green is with its vintage red station house and sea of umbrellas and picnic tables. Just next-door is with its cool aqua themed outdoor café that splashes across the wide sidewalk.
It's hard to miss ’s outdoor café as all manner of passers-by funnel along Greenwich Avenue en route to destinations such as Tiffany and Saks, but it’s easy to miss Terra’s secondary patio area, just down the cobblestone alley, as it is almost completely enclosed with ivy-covered trellises. Peek inside this well-kept secret through the row of columns at the side, or take a meal there in the cool shade.
The brick and cobblestones of Forest Street lend a sense of permanence to its restaurant row. And, like the well-tended front gardens of some elegant terraced housing in France, the outdoor bistro seating at beckons passers by for a second look. Though not open for lunch, Bonne Nuit, with its upscale French fare, comes alive at night and is particularly romantic with its tables-for-two set under strings of twinkling white lights.
Just outside Calf Pasture Beach, you’ll spot the first sign directing you to . Meander through a vast boatyard to its furthest corner and you’ll discover what appears to be a small seafood shack. A closer approach reveals that the building wraps around the corner and abuts an enormous yacht-filled marina and warren of weathered docks. On the deck patrons enjoy the salty sea breeze and, as promised, spectacular sunset, which more than fulfill the promise of the moniker.
And on the flipside of Norwalk from the Sound front, just where the Route 7 connector delivers all comers to the sprawling DMV, sits that institution’s proud neighbor, Tuscan Oven Trattoria. Located close to the Wilton town line, the restaurant has a cheery and immaculate outdoor patio and bar kitted out with shade umbrellas and plentiful seating. The raised patio is both fenced-in and set back from the high-traffic hub.
The expansive stone patio at Squire’s is a worthy destination for locals and stressed-out lower Fairfield County types alike. Parking in the rear gravel lot, Patch overheard the happy kitchen staff singing while they worked, and both the bartender and owner greeted visitors warmly. The Roadhouse itself is a historic tavern, and, just outside the vintage taproom, the cool stone patio is set under a centuries-old canopy of trees. In fact, one wonders whether the patio ever even gets hot in the summer.
On the town's oh-so-charming Main Street, it’s easy to get bookstore envy and miss your turn. In fact, Big Shop Lane is really no more than a narrow one-way driveway. However, it does lead to , which, with its cozy garden patio, offers a charming spot for lunch, and, judging from the strings of lights in the low canopy of trees, an equally delightful destination for an alfresco wine and cheese sampling or homemade pasta dinner.
Just opposite the historic in downtown Stamford, the Bedford Street sidewalk swells wide to accommodate throngs of outdoor café-goers and offer a variety of options. The popular has a series of vast green shade canopies and a menu of Italian fare. Situate yourself for optimal people watching and with a little imagination and a glance at the busy delivery scooters, the setting will transport you to a bustling café in old Italy.
Tucked behind a berm of summer perennials, the walled patio at in offers an outdoor spot where patrons can relax and unwind. Order from the varied French, seafood and Mediterranean menu at lunch or dinnertime or stop by for Happy Hour and try a specialty martini.
Along the Saugatuck River in downtown Westport, offers waterfront dining with a keen view of kayakers and rowers, as well as occasional people watching, as several riverfront office buildings flank the boardwalk and series of small docks.
In the town’s historic Cannondale Village, soothes landlocked locals with the lull of a babbling brook as well as sweet garden scents. Though the restaurant has limited hours of operation, tables can be reserved in advance, and there is outdoor seating on the charming patio.
We all know how summer flies by, so treat yourself to an al fresco lunch, dinner or cold drink before it’s too late and Fairfield County marks the end of another season.