Snack Shacks and Pop-Ups
Here are a few of our favorite local summer snacks.
You know the sort of summer place that just looks like a good time? That’s what you’ll find at Shank’s. Order your fried seafood platters or fish tacos from the folks inside the lobster boat (with a fully functional commercial kitchen), then head to the upstairs deck for a stunning view of Clinton Harbor and sailboats bobbing on their moorings. We spent a perfect Wednesday night, grateful for long days and lazy sunsets, watching paddlers and kayakers ply the calm waters. Mammoth platters of fat belly clams and crispy steak fries arrived at our table from an earnest staff who genuinely aims to please. The fish tacos are a winner here, served either grilled or fried, but you won’t go wrong with any of the fried offerings. The New England style chowder is a tasty one, studded with clams and potatoes and not too gloppy. Paleo peeps will be happy with piles of greens topped with giant grilled shrimp. Kid friendly and BYOB.
131 Grove Street, Clinton
OP’s Place, Niantic
Townies and tourists alike line up (or drive up) to this tiny ex-fotomat perched in a parking lot in Niantic. Mainly they come for the dog with the works: a foot long weiner smothered in melted cheese, chili, fresh onions on a buttered griddled roll. Me, I’ve yet to meet a hot dog I didn’t like, and I was good with this one, too. But the Walking Taco (Frito Pie) is a don’t miss: a bag of fritos doused with chili, cheese, onions and sour cream. A Walking Heart Attack may be a better name, but bizarrely yummy and irresistible.
Find O.P.’s in the parking lot at 36 Pennsylvania Avenue in Niantic
The Pilot House, Haddam
I’ve blazed past the Pilot House a bazillion times over the years and never stopped in. You’ve seen it on 154 in Haddam as you turn toward the river to the Blue Oar. This classic roadside stand never exactly screamed healthy choices for my clean eating regime but once my mind was set on snack shack indulging, I made a bee line. I’d heard from a couple of hot dog connoisseurs that THIS is the place, justly famous for their housemade relish. On a shady picnic table overlooking lush woods, I tucked in for a taste test atop long grilled hot dogs. I couldn’t decide between HOT and SWEET so I went for one of each. The hot was HOT, but bold with flavor and the sweet was crunchy with loads of celery – both perfectly paired with a grilled and buttered bun. After 70 years in full swing, these folks have it down.
They serve burgers and ice cream, too. But that relish…
1364 Saybrook Rd, Haddam
Visit their Facebook page.
by Laura Williams
Cedar Lake Snack Shack, Chester
Where can you get your morning egg sandwich and coffee waterside these days? I get mine at the Snack Shack at Cedar Lake. During the summer months, Cedar Lake Town Beach is for Chester residents and guests only, but anyone can hit the Snack Shack for breakfast, lunch or dinner and enjoy the view like a local. Munch on grilled chicken sandwiches, burgers, fries and all sorts of candy, chips and ice cream on the deck at an umbrella-topped picnic table. This place meets all snack shack criteria: fry-o-lator, swinging screen doors, breeze off the water. Need to charge your phone? Or a magazine to read while you’re here? They’ve got that too. Even better, there’s LIVE MUSIC every Sunday on the beach. BYOB and a handful of friends for a variety of bands like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde or Essex Corinthian Jazz Band.
Check the FB page for details and times. Concerts are free and open to everyone.
218 West Main Street, Chester
James Farmacy, Old Saybrook
Every year, on my birthday, I have an ice cream sundae for lunch. A once-a-year dive into hot fudge and whipped cream does not seem like too much of an indulgence. And now I have a new place to go for my annual rite: the historic James Pharmacy in Old Saybrook has been reimagined as an organic ice cream parlor, specializing in all things local, fresh (and, at least, in the case of the smoothie menu), healthy! The sundaes come dripping in house-made hot fudge and freshly whipped cream, and while my usual preference for topping is peanuts, I was all over the raw trail mix. Who knew that cashews, raisins and dried bananas are the perfect addition to an already very good thing?
For those looking for a healthier snack, go for a smoothie. I’m obsessed with the Chocolate Cherry Almond, a dense blend of banana, cherries, dates, cacao powder almond butter, cashew milk with a squirt of chocolate sauce. My breakfast smoothie kept me satisfied until dinner. On another visit we tried the vegan chocolate pudding ice cream (with coconut milk as a base), and, if I didn’t know better, it could have passed for the real deal. Also on the menu are fresh juices and salads made with produce from Old Lyme’s Long River Farm, Ashlawn Farm coffee drinks and yogurt parfaits. Complex smoothies with lots of ingredient options take a few minutes to whip up, so this isn’t a grab and go spot, but the recent reno has turned the old shop into a pleasant place for a leisurely bite.
2 Pennywise Lane, Old Saybrook