It’s not easy to create a new dining destination – an enclave of restaurants gathered together to create the critical mass of an energetic food scene. SoNo was a large-scale urban planning success. The southern end of Main Ave. is an eclectic, naturally evolving dining district. Now the developers of Waypointe apartments on West Ave. in Norwalk are attempting to create one from scratch.
Pointe Place Market, a courtyard open to the sky, is at the center of the complex. With a contemporary fountain and four arches to the outside world, the brick-paved plaza strives for an updated old-world feel. What really makes it work are the surrounding restaurants with windows overlooking the fountain and outdoor seating around the edges.
Two restaurants are open now with a third under construction and a fourth coming just outside the Merwin St. archway. In addition, there are still some available storefronts facing the square that will be for retail or more places to eat.
Sedona Taphouse, open since last July, has established itself as the anchor of this growing restaurant scene. Its busy bar – with 50 craft beers on tap and hundreds more by the bottle – draws a lively and youngish crowd. The wide-ranging and well-prepared menu appeals to all ages.
Next door is the Colony Grill, a branch of the much-loved, much-lauded original restaurant in Stamford. Their legendary thin crust pizza – and pizza only – is the draw here. The list of toppings is painted on the walls.
Barcelona, the popular pioneer of the SoNo dining scene, is moving up to Pointe Place. Their new restaurant is under construction with a hoped-for opening date this summer. It will be an important draw and a significant feather in Waypointe’s cap.
Bobby Q’s is migrating from Westport to a location just across the street from the Pointe Place courtyard. It, too, will be an important addition to the critical mass of the project. The restaurant has an excellent reputation for authentic barbecue, a strong local following, and the expertise of Bob LeRose, an experienced owner.
The constant lament of any local dining enclave is parking – or should I say lack of parking – or perhaps I mean inconvenient parking. We all like to park close by – right in front is best. The Pointe Place plaza has street access on three sides through the grand pedestrian arches. The fourth arch leads to a FREE parking garage. With street entrances from either side of the building and ample space, this is as good as it gets for a high density restaurant area.
Dinner with friends at the Sedona Taphouse was our introduction to Pointe Place. With the chilly spring weather, eating on the plaza by the fountain was not an option, but the dining room was warm, inviting, and busy. Our friends David and Linda, from South Salem, were thrilled with the decor, menu, and drinks list. “There’s nothing like this near us; we’ll definitely be back. It’s only a half hour from our house,” they said.
David and I poured over the list of fifty beers on tap – Breckenridge Summer, a light wheat beer from Colorado for him; Firefly, Trains Best Bitter for me – “a pint of bitter”, just like they order in the English murder mysteries. Brewed at Firefly Hollow Brewing in Bristol, CT, it had a lovely copper color and just the right malty bitterness.
Menu picks were hard to make. We agreed on shared starters of goat cheese and sun dried tomato crostini and Mediterranean hummus with warm flatbread, marinated peppers and feta cheese. Both were quickly gobbled up.
We negotiated our dinner choices, making sure we all ordered something different. Devil’s Pass Penne, with chicken, red peppers, mushrooms, Parmesan, fresh basil and a little kick, had the glossy sheen of a pasta properly dressed with cream. The generous portion of Roman Parmesan Crusted Chicken was crunchy-crisp, under its bonnet of melted mozzarella, italian salsa, and roasted Brussels sprouts.
With dinner, Marsha and I shared a refreshing Two Roads Hizzoner Maibock. This German-style spring bock beer brewed in Stratford was light and crisp, perfect with our dinners. In Germany, the first keg is traditionally tapped by the mayor.
The Bourbon Pork Chop was grilled juicy and served on garlic mashed potatoes. Fresh Golden Sea Bass was topped with crab, shrimp, and lemon butter. It also got a mound of the garlic mashed and a bouquet of spring asparagus.
The aromatic sliders at the next table looked great. Flatbread pizzas were appealing as the servers hustled them past, fresh from the open kitchen.
Owner Jeff Hardy, a restaurant industry veteran, is on hand to expedite food from the kitchen, visit tables, and keep a proprietor’s eye on the action. With almost a year under his belt at this location, he’s happy with the crowds at Sedona and anticipating the buzz that will come when the other restaurants open and Pointe Place Market is Norwalk’s newest dining destination.