Chamber Works / What does Fairfield need?
I know that Money Magazine staffers did a survey of towns about the size of Fairfield and decided that Fairfield, Conn., is so superior to other towns the same size, that researchers assigned Fairfield to a position in the top 10.
Nobody can possibly love Fairfield more than me, but because I work at the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce office, I can tell you that there are a couple of really important things lacking in Fairfield which the Money Magazine people missed altogether. I know this because I field the questions from out-of-towners regarding the town's amenities.
For one, there are no seafood restaurants on the water. Unfortunately, I have to direct those who wish fish by the seashore to Stratford, about 10 miles east of Fairfield. That's where Outriggers is. It's not exactly the most picturesque spot on Bond's Dock, amidst boats wrapped in plastic, but it is water (the Housatonic), and it is seafood, and it does have outdoor dining, including a bar on the deck.
There's another restaurant in Stratford called Knapp's Landing, also on the water. The road leading to Knapp's Landing is just opposite Sikorsky Airport, and you will think you're in the wrong place as you travel through a deserted industrial area. Just keep going, and at the end of what appears to be a road to nowhere, you'll end up at the water's edge. Although not necessarily a seafood restaurant per se, they do make a mean lobster roll. There's a huge outdoor patio complete with a sunken garden and Koi fish pond, and a direct view to the channel where boats pass buoys by the dozens that you can view either from the dining room or the outdoor patio.
If you like breakfast by the water, also in Stratford is a place called Marnick's. Marnick's has been in the same location for a thousand years, and while the décor shows it, the eggs and bacon are first rate, served hot by a smiling waitress who can't wait to please you. The best part about Marnick's is the newly installed outside patio and bar. If you have little kids that won't sit still, it's the best place to take them. With the beach right off the patio, the children can collect seashells under your watchful gaze while you enjoy your Sunday paper and another cup of Joe. Call ahead for service on the weekend as the place is jumpin.
If you yearn for lobster, you don't have to go as far as Stratford, because Dolphin's Cove in Bridgeport will dish you up a couple for a reasonable rate. They, too, have an outdoor dock and the water is Long Island Sound, not the river.
Now here's an idea. Why not entice Boston's Legal Seafood to Fairfield? What a gold mine a restaurant like that would be if we could just find a place overlooking water. Certainly not anywhere near Jennings or Southport Beach, and nowhere near the residences that already have to occasionally deal with university beer parties. And Lake Mohegan isn't exactly what I had in mind, although it is water.
You would know I'm not kidding if you took as many calls as I did asking where's a good place to get a seafood dinner? On the water, of course. Well ... there's a little town up the road called Stratford...
Fairfield's schools are the envy of Fairfield County, and our shopping is divine. What else could we possibly be missing? OK. Here it is: a Bed and Breakfast. I have lamented this fact in prior columns, drooling over the thought every time I drive down the Old Post Road before turning onto Reef Road. All those grand old houses with more bedrooms than today's smaller families need. Think about it. Downy comforters, an aperitif before bedtime, hot buttered muffins in the morning. "Sorry," I say to our callers, "we don't have any B & Bs in Fairfield. There are a few up the road in Milford that you might try." The pain of sending people out of Fairfield remains the same regardless of what a caller is looking for.
Look at it this way. Fairfield has become a mecca for restaurants.
We have every kind of cuisine available from French and Indian, to Continental, to Italian, Chinese, Mexican, BBQ, Asian Fusion, Japanese, Thai, grills and taprooms, and an assortment of diners, and neighborhood bars. We have a pretty good tax base with good bond ratings. We have several first-rate golf courses, boating, too many parks to account for here, and some of the finest beaches around. But no B&Bs and no seafood restaurant on the water. In the scheme of things, and with so much else going for it, maybe these minor annoyances don't matter at all.
Patricia Ritchie is the president and chief executive officer of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at patricia@FairfieldCTChamber.com