The fresh breezes that buffet Mystic's shoreline probably feel much the same as they did 150 years ago, so it's a fitting place to find America's nautical history resurrected. Called Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, includes 19 acres of exhibition space. In addition to the museum proper, the complex hosts a recreated 19th-century sea-faring village, a working shipyard, and extensive gardens that blanket the grounds. Live museum staff lead demonstrations and performances throughout, even welcoming guests aboard the National Historic Landmark vessels moored in port. On Wednesdays through Mondays, captains take visitors out on the water in a coal-fired steamboat to experience the river and town from a different angle. They also rent out their small boats seasonally, to visitors who can comfortably handle being in charge of a boat. When tired of ship studying and naval gazing, guests can head to the Treworgy Planetarium and turn their eyes to the stars, learning how to chart courses in the manner of ancient captains, modern astronauts, and late-night deliverymen.
Over a plate of fresh Maine lobster that they brought back to the city themselves, husband-and-wife duo Ralph Gorham and Susan Povich wondered aloud, “Why doesn’t someone in New York start a fresh-seafood business?” Their destiny as restaurateurs was realized the moment those words were uttered: they opened Red Hook Lobster Pound a mere six months later. Gorham began traveling to Maine every weekend, scoping out catches and making deals with fisherman, choosing only those that partook in environmentally sustainable practices. Meanwhile, Povich experimented with recipes in order to add to an already lengthy repertoire of lobster-based recipes she learned while growing up in the Northeast. Word of mouth helped spark interest in their eatery, and before long, the demand compelled them to expand their storefront to include a picnic-style dining room. They’ve even added a food truck––nicknamed "Big Red"––that brings lobster-based dishes to diners across the city. According to The New York Times, success has had little effect on Red Hook Lobster Pound’s menu: “It tastes as fresh as can be, which matters when you’re dealing with a trend that’s growing so fast.” Their lobster rolls—served on split-top buns and garnished with just enough homemade mayo—have been lauded by Zagat, Bloomberg News, and Gourmet.com. Other popular dishes include lobster bisque, lobster mac-n-cheese, and a lobster dinner, served with homemade coleslaw, potato salad, and fresh, lake-caught corn.
From Texas beef brisket to tangy Atlantic pulled pork, chef Chet’s culinary philosophy remains the same: it’s not the sauce that makes for good barbecue cuisine, but the stuff you slather the sauce on. To that end, Chet enhances succulent cuts of meat by enrobing them in piquant spices and curing them in his metal smoker behind the restaurant. There, spare ribs, wings, and hot links simmer for up to 15 hours before cozying up to southern sides such as mac 'n' cheese and sweet potatoes.
In addition to his cuisine, Chef Chet pays homage to the rural south by decking out his brick-red dining room with rough-hewn wooden booths, folk art, and wisecracking grandmas at every table.
The ocean's bounty makes its way into most of the dishes at Stone Fleet Tavern, from the lobster quesadillas to the seafood pot pie stuffed with scallops and shrimp. Reminders of the sea pervade the wood-accented dining room as well, where two large oars decorate one wall and a grizzled captain places umbrellas in your drink. In addition to its seafood-centric food, the tavern also plates steak, burgers, and vegetarian eats including pasta and sandwiches.
Thames River Greenery unites the fineries of several artisans in the New London community to festoon patrons' lines of vision with an intricate blend of floral arrangements and gifts. Brighten rooms and nourish pet honeybees with floral bouquets such as the spring oasis ($50+), which brings together tulips, hot-pink spray roses, purple mokara orchids, and seafoam statice in a glass cylinder vase. Boxed chocolates ($9.99+) and stuffed animals($9.99+) can be added to arrangements to provide flowers with comfort and sustenance during car rides to their new homes. In addition to plush and prismatic gifts, Thames River carries its own line of wine and spirits ($10+) as well as an array of imported cheeses ($8+). To complement meals with new and interesting flavors, customers can take home a tote of Stonewall Kitchen specialty sauces ($29.95+), including wasabi-ginger sauce, coffee-caramel sauce, and sun-dried tomato-and-olive relish.
At Dev’s, owners Candace and Bunny manifest their vast travels into worldly cuisine, fusing culinary traditions from Spain, Asia, and the Mediterranean into one exotic menu. An expansive lineup of contemporary tapas helps to kick start meals with sharable bites of miniature sweet rock crab cakes with remoulade ($4.75) or toasted goat cheese, honey, and almonds on crusty crostini ($7.25). Come entree time, traverse the peaks of creamy ricotta and ebbs of tomato sauce arranged in luscious layers to form vegetable lasagna ($14.50). Or, reel in mouthfuls of mussels, shrimp, and clams on a plate of seafood Italiano, piled high with linguine and spicy tomato broth ($19.25). Between bites and juicy bits of Placido Domingo–related gossip, parched pipes find refreshment in various wines and cocktails, such as a full-bodied Kendall Jackson chardonnay ($9/glass) and piquant swigs of a red-sangria martini ($9). Adding to the festive air, Dev’s currently features live music on Friday and Saturday nights and is also in the process of hatching menus for both brunch and lunch.