Just a five-minute walk from the Westport train station, a warm Connecticut-style lobster roll is available, dressed in butter, and not much else. Perhaps a little salt, a hit of lemon.
“Only through travel up and down the New England coast, I’ve found people shamefully putting on mayonnaise,” said Matt Storch, 40, a Westport native. In September, the chef opened Match Burger Lobster, at 580 Riverside Avenue. His kitchen crew shucks more than 500 pounds of lobster weekly, shipped live from Maine and also sourced from the Long Island Sound, kept cold (not frozen) and submerged in tanks until their time is up.
“Lobster tastes better in the winter, definitely gets sweeter in colder water,” Mr. Storch said, contrary to the popular assumption that the crustacean is mostly summer fare.
At the breezy bistro, 45 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan, hollowed-out brioche buns are griddled with butter and stuffed with 4.25 ounces of lobster tail, claw and knuckle meat ($24). A netted bag of steamers ($12) is another time-honored Connecticut custom. A cup of briny broth is also provided, traditionally for cleaning purposes, but the clams are purged of sand so the step is more for flavor than a necessity.
Also for necessity, Storch has a mayonnaise-based, chilled lobster roll on the menu. It’s for people traveling through, perhaps unaware of how things are done in Connecticut.
Westport is where the Sound meets the Saugatuck River, which can be crossed on foot near the restaurant. The wrought-iron William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge, rechristened for a beloved traffic conductor, was built in 1884 and is the state’s oldest surviving movable bridge. The short span provides vistas of the nautical town and entree to uninterrupted sidewalks through a Gold Coast neighborhood of mansions that are not above running weekend tag sales.Continue reading the main story
From Bridge Street, turn right at Compo Road South and pause at No. 244, a gray, shingled house from the 18th century. A plaque affirms that F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived there in 1920. According to “Zelda Fitzgerald: The Tragic, Meticulously Researched Biography of the Jazz Age’s High Priestess,” by Sally Cline, the notorious flapper at first behaved like a “conventional lady, paying and receiving calls and making polite acknowledgments.”
Keeping up appearances gave way to parties so wild that friends reported the couple “reveling nude in the orgies of Westport” and “fighting like mad.” They were even brought to court, accused of sounding a false fire alarm. Even so, Zelda complained in correspondence that the town was “unendurably dull” and after a few months, they moved on.
The summer sojourn may have proved a springboard for her husband to imagine “The Great Gatsby.” In 1996, Barbara Probst Solomon wrote in The New Yorker that the Compo Road house adjoined an estate owned by a “flamboyant, gregarious millionaire” who was famous for his “wondrous parties” attended by actors and politicians, the liquor catered by bootleggers.
The Fitzgeralds could take a shortcut to the secluded Compo Beach, but for nonresidents it’s roughly a mile, past a statue of a minuteman commemorating the site of a 1777 British invasion. The rocky, shell-studded beach is supplied with picnic tables and grills. Tranquil and contemplative in winter, the sunsets are gorgeous. For those driving, parking is free, as opposed to summer weekend daily fees as high as $50.
Before catching a train back to Grand Central, stop at Black Duck Cafe, a watering hole at 605 Riverside Avenue. Their $11 martini may be the biggest on the Eastern Seaboard, a further way to unwind after a leisurely day. Founded in 1978, too bad it wasn’t around for the Fitzgeralds.Continue reading the main story