For many people whose power had already been knocked out Sunday morning by the approach of Tropical Storm Irene, the parking lot at the Duchess Restaurant on the Post Road was a sight for sore eyes.

Filled with cars, it was a signal that the fast-food outlet -- as well as a few other nearby eateries -- was open and that food and hot coffee were being served.

For the Bader family, who live in the Stratfield neighborhood, it was a welcome respite for the gathering storm. They'd been without electricity since about midnight Saturday. "We had a battery-powered DVD player, but that died after about 30 minutes," said Mary Kate Bader, who along with husband Kyle and children Brendan, 5, and Katie, 22 months, was finishing breakfast.

With no idea when electric service would be restored, Mary Kate Bader said she expected "we'll be doing lots of crafts" for the rest of Sunday.

At the other end of the Post Road at the Dunkin' Donuts in Southport, the line of cars stretched out to the road. Only the drive-through window was open and part of the parking lot was under water.

Spruce Street resident David Rondeau said he had about three feet of water in his front yard, but his electricity was still on. "I just needed a good cup of coffee," he said. As for the storm, he said, "I've been through worse -- Agnes in '71 and Gloria in '95."

At the Mobil gas station at the corner of South Pine Creek and Post roads, Pete Silvestri was filling an orange gas can. For a backup power generator, he was asked? "No, actually it's for a leaf blower. The storm's about over so it's time to start cleaning up."

Michael Bowen and daughter Wesley, 3 and a half, were enjoying a pie at Colony Pizza. It was probably one of the few times since the pizza joint last summer opened that getting a table was not a problem.

Power at home went out around 4:30 a.m., Bowen said, and by 2 p.m. they just decided to take a drive and see if the Colony was open, and give his wife a chance to take a nap.

Colony owner Ken Martin said he decided to play it by ear and keep an eye on the weather, rather than make a decision on staying open before Irene even hit. And while it was relatively empty, Martin didn't expect the pizzeria would stay that way for long.

And once the worst of the storm passed through and the rain stopped by late Sunday afternoon, a once-deserted Post Road in town's business district began to fill with cars and officials fielded inquiries from residents of the town's shoreline neighborhoods who had been evacuated but were anxious to get home to assess possible damages.