Once or twice a summer I like to go out for a nice meal by the water, something a few steps up from fried clams or lobster roll eaten in flip flops. I’m not alone in this, so it can be hard to snag a table at a restaurant with a water view.
I’ve discovered a secret, though, that makes it a lot easier to get that coveted table. Brunch! With competition from summer activities and out-of-town travels, demand for brunch is down in July and August. Restaurant managers are happy to confide that this is the best time of year to enjoy their brunch menus. Once the cool weather returns, brunch business picks up.
I can think of a few nearby restaurants with water views that would be delighted to see you for brunch between now and Labor Day. Harbor Lights, with its stunning views, has opened a new outdoor dining patio right on Norwalk Harbor. Mediterraneo on Main Ave in the Hotel Zero Degrees offers woodsy views of the Norwalk River and the picturesque Flock Process Dam. In Westport, the Rive Bistro looks out on a lazy bend of the Saugatuck River.
On a recent visit to Harbor Lights, the exceptionally high tide had invaded the parking lot and put their umbrella shaded patio within inches of the high water. Waterfront dining close up! We were one of a handful of tables inside enjoying the serenity.
The Brunch menu here is an add-on to the regular menu ($16 to $21), but with enough choice for the four of us to each pick something different.
My Eggs Benedict on freshly toasted English muffins were a little runny – just the way I like them – and topped with a lemony Hollandaise. Doug’s Belgian Waffles, warm and crispy under a spoonful of strawberries, came with a rasher of crisp bacon. Diane ordered the Smoked Salmon Club, a triple decker on rye, with red onion and and lemon aioli, a nice brunchy combination. Marsha’s Quiche, a generous deep dish slice, was packed with vegetables, generously cheesy, and came with a green salad.
Driving by Mediterraneo on busy Main Ave, you’d never know there is a soothing woodland, flowing river, and high waterfall on the other side. Floor to ceiling windows facing the view in the sleek, contemporary dining room put you close to the scene. On a fine day, the windows are pushed open to bring the outdoors in.
The brunch menu, only served on Sundays from 11 to 4, features their wood-fired oven and northern Mediterranean coastal cuisine. A scrambled egg and andouille sausage wrap, brioche French toast, buttermilk pancakes, and a wood-oven roasted frittata with wild mushrooms and goat cheese are all French and brunchy. Wood-oven pizza, Radiatore Bolognese, and Tagliatelle with cauliflower “Carbonara” style with smoked bacon and a soft poached egg all speak with an Italian accent. The burger, avocado toast, grilled chicken wrap, and Caesar salad are all-American. There’s something delicious here for everyone. Prices range from $15 to $21.
There’s a Bloody Mary Bar and a jazz-up-your-Mimosa option where you can make your own mixer choices from an extensive array of possibilities. At $20 for bottomless drinks, it’s a better deal than ordering two rounds, and lots more fun, too. Sorry – no sharing. The Albert Rivera trio entertains with live jazz from 11:30 to 3:30, adding a soothing rhythm to the afternoon.
Rive Bistro is French through and through. From the French accented voice on the phone to the Deux Chevaux and Citroën parked out front, there’s the promise of an authentic experience. The covered patio by the river was fanned with a delightful breeze for our visit. On hotter days, sit inside where windows on three sides look out on the river. Either way, there’s ample opportunity to watch waterfront activity – boaters, osprey, cormorant, great white heron, gulls and more. The professional service staff, with their delightful French accents, elevate the whole experience.
The Sunday-only brunch menu (11:30 to 3:00) doesn’t disappoint. There’s Eggs Benedict, of course, but those wonderfully soft French-style scrambled eggs, too. Marsha’s plump and golden, ham, spicy cheese and vegetable omelette of the day was a picture of perfection. Smoked salmon comes on a croissant, and both Madam and Monsieur Croque sandwiches appear on the menu. My Madam was trimmed to an exact square, loaded with ham and Gruyère then topped with a sunny-side up egg. Steak Frites, Salade Niçoise and Trout Almondine are more French than brunchy, but very satisfying. Prices range from $14 to $22.
We usually skip dessert at brunch, but word of a freshly made orange-pineapple mousse cake broke through our resistance. The light and frothy mousse studded with chunks of fruit sat atop a layer of moist cake. Dabs of creme Anglaise dotted with raspberry mousse decorated the plate. Yum!
So now my secret’s out. Take a break from the traffic, sunscreen, and energetic summer activities for a nice waterside brunch. Enjoy the luxury of service and the peace of a quiet afternoon at a good restaurant. If you opt for the Mimosas, I suggest a nap when you get home.