Fork in the Road thinks you should get out of town this summer, even if it’s only for a day. In this Summer Fridays series, we’re covering the best spots to eat in popular day trip locations.
Port Chester is more than that town The Strokes played the weekend before Governors Ball — it’s also a walkable gateway into the wealth of southern Connecticut’s dining scene, home to a tourable local craft distillery, and an outpost of Mario Batali’s Otto, under the more WASP-friendly moniker Tarry Lodge. It’s exactly the kind of overlooked town Billy Joel and Steve Buscemi should talk about in those vague ubiquitous commercials promoting New York summer tourism — except they don’t, which means more honeycomb vodka and meatball pizza for you.
A landmark playhouse dating back to the 1920s, The Capitol Theatre has been renovated and reborn in the last two years as Westchester’s premiere music venue, drawing wild headliners like Snoop Dogg, Band of Horses, and Amy Schumer; arrive early via Metro-North, and you can get a taste for Port Chester’s native spirit at StillTheOne Distillery.
Named in honor of master distiller Ed Tiege’s wife, the local spirits maker now produces award-winning honeycomb vodka and gin as well as wheat whiskey and rum you’ll find on menus all over town, including behind the bar at the Cap. If you want to learn about the spirits-making process, groups of four or more can book weekend tours by emailing via the StillTheOne website.
If you’d rather pair your booze with antipasti and pasta, book a table at Tarry Lodge.
Around the corner from Tarry Market, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianach’s petite gourmet store, you’ll find the Lodge, where the menu completely mimics Otto, but in a dining room more closely resembling a New England bed and breakfast than an Italian train station. And if you haven’t been to the corner of 8th Street and Fifth Avenue in nearly a decade, you may have forgotten how light and crisp, and how fatty, smoky, and beefy those proscuitto and arugula, sausage and gorgonzola, and meatball and jalapeño pies are.
If you’re planning on turning your day trip into a weekend, cross the border into Connecticut and work up an appetite window shopping and people-watching along Greenwich Avenue, where luxury stores and boutiques line the uphill walk to Le Penguin, recently named by GQ as one of the 25 best new restaurants in America. The snug and decoratively thematic French bistro packs diners elbow to elbow for plates of steak tartare, frites, and overflowing bowls of garlicky mussels and bouillabasse.
While you’re waiting for your table, pick up something for breakfast the next morning across the street at Black Forest Pastry Shop, its bakery cases stocked with buttery, not-so-dainty, cinnamon croissants, apple turnovers, and sugar-powdered crumb danishes.
And then there’s Stamford. How else would those accountants at PwC and RBS work 18 hour days during tax season if it weren’t for a steady flow of pizza and espresso? Ride in for the afternoon to sample the town’s best kept secrets, like the hot oil pies at Colony Grill. The secret recipe bar pies — no photography was allowed in the kitchen — seep searing oil and are studded with hot stingers (peppers); they’re a mouth-watering, sweat-inducing alternative to the ashy offerings up in New Haven.
Cool the roof of your mouth under the roof of Stamford’s Avon Theatre, another Art Deco gem. The 1930s picture house reopened 10 years ago as a non-profit indie film hub, with an eclectic line-up of special screenings and limited releases. It’s also a block from Lorca, a Bedford Street cafe serving fried to order baskets of churros served with a drinkable espresso cup of housemade Mexican chocolate dipping sauce.
And if, come Monday, no one believes how well you ate in Stamford, just remember there’s no accounting for taste.