Amongst NYC’s many great failures of infrastructure and urban planning, the lack of worthwhile public spaces connecting the citizenry to the city’s waterways is a particularly glaring one. But what if you could simply jump an MTA train, head an hour north and be around all sorts of watery wonders?
You’d be in Norwalk, of course – one of Connecticut’s most urbane, good-looking harbor towns, and arguably a still under-considered getaway from Gotham.
Tri-Staters, obviously, have the tendency to make for New England every spring and fall for all the obvious reasons. But we’ve been popping up to Norwalk for as long as we can remember, especially for its restaurant-rich, historic SoNo district – which also happens to be right on the harbor.
Come spring, the beaches, bicycling and boating opportunities are like siren songs for stressed out urbanistas. But we recently made a well-fed winter weekend of it, complete with one of the prettiest snowfalls we’ve ever experienced.
Here’s what we did.
(Check out the Fairfieldista Instagram page before you go.)
Proprietor Mike Heslin has a plan: he wants to make the word “Pedego” a verb. In other words, “Let’s go Pedego today!” And once you try these exceedingly cool electric bicycles, you’ll wonder why it took so long for someone to make this a…”thing.” The bikes themselves have compelling names like the Interceptor, the Trail Tracker and the Boomerang – and they’re actually quite stylish rides. Essentially, you can shift constantly back and forth between peddling them like regular bicycles, and throttling them like motorcycles – so, obviously, it’s a ridiculous amount of fun, especially trekking around water’s edge.
Admit it, there have been innumerable times when you just thought to yourself, “How can I get that dashing, cultivated Jeremy Irons or Kate Winslet look?” The elegant Simple Sono boutique answers that and many more of your most pressingly urbane fashion questions. To be sure, there’s almost something of an Anglophilia at work in their stylistic mission. They stock men’s and women’s – quite a bit from Europe – and you’ll find labels like Adriano Goldschmied, Majestic Filatures, and Calleen Cordero accessories. Don’t forget to pick up one of the ethereal LAFCO candles.
This is a great diversion from the usual, especially for music geeks. Book a tour of this thriving studio, and enjoy the anecdotes of owner Ethan Isaacs and his amiable staff. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes peek at vintage guitars being repaired; perhaps meet the next great singer-songwriter singing or writing that next great song in one of the rehearsal rooms; and watch raw video footage being edited into something exciting. Check with them about the occasional on-site special event.
Despite the Latino moniker, El Segundo is actually a thrillingly international affair. The menu is broken up into continents, so you can make a meal of Venezuelan arepas, Vietnamese banh mi, and Portuguese style grilled sardines. Pair it up with a Japanese Road Soda gin cocktail or a Jamaican Red Stripe, and it’s like doing an epicurean world tour. We loved the Indian curry soup and the insanely delicious esquite shaved corn with cotija cheese. The crowd is cool, the music is well chosen reggae and dub.
If you’re counting the days until summer, this is a great place to wait it out. The decor is appropriately breezy and beachy, the vibe totally laid back. No surprise, seafood dominates the menu, from organic Scottish salmon to seafood risotto to rock shrimp tempura. Landlubbers should try the truffle mushroom flatbread and goat cheese wontons. Chef Kane Xu also lords over the super-trendy Beach Cafe, the sister restaurant in Greenwich.
A top international cigar seller, their lounge is one of the few places that you can actually still sit and enjoy a luxurious smoke and sophisticated tipple. We loved kicking back with an Oban single malt and a super smooth Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado, 2014’s Cigar Aficionado #1 pick (they also recommend the Oliva Serie V Belicoso, and the Padron Serie 1926 No. 2 Natural), while owner Brian Shapiro explained to us that the highest quality cigars are now coming out of Nicaragua, and not, as generally assumed, Cuba. They also offer their own El Cobre line from that country, and boast an in-house hand roller, Daniel Cruzeta, for the ultimate bespoke experience. They’re planning more nights with live music and / or DJs.
This will automatically be one of your favorite restaurants ever. Run by the charismatic Greer Fredericks, the bar up front is a totally buzzing local scene. And in the elegant main dining room, you could actually score big points for atmosphere on date night. The Southern-influenced food is just ridiculously good: the Cajun confit wings are almost indescribable, as are the truffle grits and the pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese – which might just ruin you for everything else you ever eat. There are also unexpected dishes like roasted butternut squash & burrata salad, or the crispy pork shank cassoulet. Bonus: enjoy a hipster-free live music scene at the wood-beamed, exposed-brick upstairs venue.
This is as good a steakhouse as any we’ve been to in the last year. And though they’ve got a ribeye that might just change your life, you’ll literally swoon over the steak tartare with truffle vinaigrette and quail egg, or the thick slab bacon with their signature sauce. Specialties also include the roasted duck and the crab-stuffed filet of sole. Their happy hour, particularly, is totally aces: come for specially priced Copp’s Island oysters and littleneck clams, as well as nicely priced signature cocktails. Atmospheric interiors are rustic-industrial chic, with hanging vines wrapping around dangling bulbs.
A new Intercontinental brand devoted entirely to health, the vibe at the Even Hotel Norwalk is somewhere between cool, retro airport lounge and casual, contemporary spa – all done in soothing, mellow earth tones. There’s a top class Athletic Studio in house, rooms with workout equipment (including fitness channels on the television) and eucalyptus fiber bedding for that special calming effect. The Cork & Kale Market Bar, which also has organic grab and go food items and awesome breakfast smoothies, is replete with comfy, wi-fi-equipped public spaces for working or just people watching over an evening cocktail. A concept hotel that actually does what it says on the label. (There are outposts in Brooklyn and Manhattan, with Seattle, Pittsburgh and Miami on the way.)
Stop in for a Deep Chill session at Saraswati’s Yoga Joint; pick up Game of Thrones worthy accessories at Knotted Bone Leatherworks; do some kitschy Euro food shopping at A Taste of Holland; hit trendy Mecha Noodle Bar for pho and ramen, Match for great classic cocktails, Barcelona Wine Bar for happy hour tapas, and Troupe 429 for the city’s best LGBTQ nightlife scene. And do not miss Norwalk’s amazing Maritime Aquarium.