The historic village of Essex, Connecticut, has long served as a favorite stopover for coastal cruisers in New England, given its location just five nautical miles from Long Island Sound. Built around a trio of coves tucked into the western shore of the Connecticut River, Essex is home to three marinas and a yacht club, all of which offer transient slips and dockage for large vessels (moorings are also available). It’s a boater-friendly place, for sure, and Essex officials like to boast that the town has more slips than parking spaces.
Steps from the waterfront, pleasant tree-lined Main Street is home to an eclectic array of boutiques, gift shops and stores, as well as several places to dine. Chief among these is the Griswold Inn, which has been serving mariners since 1776 and is the oldest continually operating tavern in the country.
There’s plenty to do and see in and around Essex, starting with the excellent Connecticut River Museum, directly on the waterfront. The grounds are a lovely spot to relax and take in the river, while inside you’ll find fascinating exhibits on the history of Essex, including the 1814 British raid on the village and a replica of the first submarine ever built. Other exhibits explore the river’s former importance as an inland trade route for timber and farming products, and Essex’s past as an import center for African ivory.
The historic village of Essex, Connecticut, has long served as a favorite stopover for coastal cruisers in New England, given its location just five nautical miles from Long Island Sound. Built around a trio of coves tucked into the western shore of the Connecticut River, Essex is home to three marinas and a yacht club, all of which offer transient slips and dockage for large vessels (moorings are also available). It's a boater-friendly place, for sure, and Essex offcials like to boast that the town has more slips than parking spaces.
Steps from the waterfront, pleasant tree-lined Main Street is home to an eclectic array of boutiques, gift shops and stores, as well as several places to dine. Chief among these is the Griswold Inn, which has been serving mariners since 1776 and is the oldest continually operating tavern in the country. The interior is cozy and warm, with a low- beamed, wood-paneled dining room that evokes a ship's cabin, the walls covered in paintings of steamships and sailing vessels. After dinner at the Griswold Inn, satisfy your sweet tooth with an ice cream at Sweet P's on Griswold Square.
There's plenty to do and see in and around Essex, starting with the excellent Connecticut River Museum, directly on the waterfront. The grounds are a lovely spot to relax and take in the river, while inside you'll find fascinating exhibits on the history of Essex, including the 1814 British raid on the village and a replica of the first submarine ever built. Other exhibits explore the river's former importance as an inland trade route for timber and farming products, and Essex's past as an import center for African ivory.
Just north of the village, the Essex Steam Train offers a ride aboard a vintage steam-powered train to the neighboring village of Deep River. And if you'd like to let someone else do the navigating, sign up for a tour of the river aboard the 50-passenger RiverQuest, which offers history and wildlife tours of the lower river during which bald eagles are often sighted.
Lower Connecticut is a paddlers' delight, and the Essex area offers numerous marsh-lined creeks to explore in a kayak or SUP. On the opposite side of the river, you can enjoy the beach at Nott Island and explore this wildlife preserve, while just downriver is the entrance to Lord Cove and the Lords Cove Wildlife Area a vast network of tidal creeks that teems with birdlife.
Brewer Essex Island Marina - A resort marina that can accommodate boats up to 150 feet and maintains 80 transient slips. Offers tons of amenities including a pool, a restaurant (Marley's Cafe), laundry, showers, a rec room/arcade, volleyball and basketball courts.
Brewer Dauntless Shipyard & Marina - Two great marina locations that offer modern fully-equipped facilities and state-of-the art service work, in a historic village known for three centuries of maritime excellence.
Essex Yacht Club - Slips and moorings for transients, as well as showers, bathrooms and a galley that serves lunch.
The Griswold Inn (36 N Main St.) The Gris (est. 1776) is a local institution known for its hearty food featuring a pub and wine/tapas bar with live music.
Abby's Place (37 Pratt St.) Casual breakfast, lunch and dinner spot on the water at Brewer Dauntless Shipyard it's famous for its breakfast menu.
Marley's Cafe´ (11 Ferry St.) Marley's Cafe´ at the Brewer Essex Island Marina serves contemporary fare with Caribbean, Latin and Asian accents with incredible views of the river along with reggae music.
Black Seal Grille (15 Main St.) Casual seafood grill and pub fare on Main Street. The Seal features a wide selection of craft brews and serves delicious burgers and creative pub grub.
Brewer Yacht Yards is well known for running 24 of the largest full-service marine facilities in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic all of which are popular destinations for cruisers. It's hard to believe that it all started with Jack Brewer's great grandfather back in 1879, when he opened a hardware store in Mamaroneck, New York. While Jack was enrolled at Columbia Business School, his father called and asked him if he would be interested in running the boatyard next to the hardware store. Jack was hesitant until his father promised to let him run the boatyard entirely on his own. Besides Jack, the boatyard's only employee was a talented all-purpose worker who taught Jack a lot. In addition to bottom painting and carpentry during the day, Jack was doing the bookkeeping at night. Jack was one of the first people in the boating industry to treat his boatyard as a business, not a hobby, says Doug Domenie, Vice President and General Manager of Brewer Dauntless Shipyard. Once the yard became financially successful, Jack decided to expand and, in 1969, purchased Pilots Point Marina, in Westbrook, Conn. From there, Brewer Yacht Yards grew dramatically, expanding further in New York and Connecticut, then on into Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.
This year, Jack Brewer decided to step down as president and asked Rives Potts to take on the position. Jack will still be involved as the company's chairman and will continue to visit each marina, though not as frequently. The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary next year and is continually looking to acquire new marinas if the right opportunity comes along.
The Brewer Yacht Yard philosophy is one thing that Jack has standardized at each location. He makes sure that facilities provide the best level of customer service by paying close attention to customers' specific needs. The company strives to ensure that all its facilities are well maintained, constantly updated and kept immaculate, while also staying stocked with the best equipment and tools. Jack Brewer gives managers at each location full authority to run the boatyards as if they were their own. The average manager has been with the organization for 22 years, indicating an extremely high employee satisfaction and loyalty. Jack says that the key to his company's success is treating the customer right and having a little bit of good luck along the way. He continues, I have been blessed with really great managers, and that has enabled us to grow into the business we are today. No matter what Brewer destination you choose, you'll know that you are in excellent hands.
What's one of the best ways to get to know a new location? Find the area's best seafood dive and start eating like a local. Here's a roundup of some of our favorite spots.
Hanging out on a gorgeous barrier island with tropical breezes and crystal-clear waters can build up an appetite that's why for years beachgoers in South Padre have flocked to Dirty Al's. Fresh gulf shrimp in all its glory is one of the biggest draws, and it comes in many guises, from baskets of boiled peel and eat shrimp to shrimp cocktail to shrimp quesadillas to shrimp-and-oyster po' boys. If none of that appeals, opt instead for fried crab fingers, whole blackened red snapper, or fried fish baskets heaped with onion rings and fries. Oh, and did we mention the chilled Lone Stars and frozen margaritas?
Locals' opinions may differ about whether this landmark spot is past its prime or better than ever, but there's one thing everyone agrees on: You need to stop by to check it out for yourself and form your own opinion. Tucked away in a bungalow with river and bridge views, you can spend the better part of a day working your way through the menu. There's gumbo, soft shell crabs, fresh gulf grouper and oysterslots and lots of oysters. They're available raw, to be sure, but better yet, go for one of the over-the-top combos for which Boss is famous. How about baked oysters topped with capers, asparagus, bacon and artichokes? Or topped with blue crab, sherry and Monterey jack cheese? The options are almost endless. It may take you a few delicious visits to form an opinion.
This family-owned, beachfront joint on Mobile Bay frequently has live music and is such a rollicking good time that it would probably be a draw even if the food weren't any good. But luckily, the food is awesome. You can dig into everything from crawfish and crab claws to platters of local oysters and soft shell crabs. The crab bisque is to die for, and the fantastic downhome side dishes just make everything more delectable turnip greens, garlic cheese grits, Vidalia onion rings, red beans and rice. You can even polish off your meal with a slice of house-made Key lime pie. Mullet Mondays are just what they sound like an all-you-can-eat feast of local mullet filets to kick each week off right.
Wondering if the colorful, supremely laid-back vibe of the old Florida Keys still exists? Look no further than Hogfish Bar & Grill. Set on a lively yet somehow still snoozy marina, with plenty of outdoor tables and usually some patrons' adorable canine buddies milling about, this is the type of insiders' secret, where all that's required of you is to relax and enjoy being in the best spot in town. And oh, how much there is to enjoy local delicacies like conch fritters, coconut Keys shrimp and Cuban sandwiches; and glorious new-fangled concoctions such as the grouper reuben, crabmeat-stuffed hogfish and crispy hogfish fingers. Don't worry if you don't get to try everything on the menu you'll be back.
Set along the Southport Yacht Basin, on the Intracoastal Waterway and the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Provision is the type of trim, cheerful place to which boaters just naturally gravitate. But you might need to wait through a short line after you tie up your dinghy at the dock plenty of landlubbers have cottoned onto this special spot too. Order at the counter inside crab cakes, steamed shrimp, steamed clams, seafood chowder then grab a beer from the cooler and find a place to sit on the deck out back. Everything's paid on the honor system, which just adds to the low-key, unbuttoned vibe. Hint: Hit Provision for sunset if you can, you won't regret it.
We love a comeback story. After being a locals' favorite for many years, Sue Island Grill & Crab House hit a bit of a slump but new management has recently brought it roaring back to life. New in July 2016 they opened a boat bar (boat turned bar). Set on the Chesapeake Bay's pretty Sue Island Creek, this Orioles- and Ravens-regalia festooned joint is a celebration of all the things Maryland does best, chief among them blue crabs. There's crab soup, warm pretzels with crab dip, crab balls. The jumbo lump crab cake is achingly tender, one of the best you'll ever have. And then there are the steamed crabs, glorious heaps of them, ready to be washed down with an icy cold Natty Boh.
Only in this neck of the woods would a chichi spot such as Navy Beach come close to qualifying as a dive, but after all, the Hamptons are right down the road. There's a charming, sparkling indoor dining room, but grab one of the tables outside on the 200-foot private beach instead. You'll look west over Fort Pond Bay and the notoriously stunning sunsets. Dig into such divine dishes as local fluke ceviche with pickled vegetables and house-made hot peppers and clam-and-corn chowder with basil oil and chives. There are killer cocktails like Painkillers and Dark and Stormies, and the extensive list of rose wines is not to be missed.
Overlooking the Cape Cod Canal, this clean, bright spot is its own slice of Cape Cod heaven and has had an avid following since 1974. In Massachusetts they're serious about their clams, and Seafood Sam's respectfully upholds this tradition, offering top-notch clam chowder, fried whole-belly clams, fried clam strips and stuffed quahogs. But they don't stop there. The fish fry for four is a bounteous spread of two pounds of fried haddock, mounds of French fries, a pint of coleslaw and tartar sauce and rolls. There's also baked haddock with a crumbled Ritz-cracker topping and lobster Newburg sauce, hand-cut onion rings and a slew of local beers. No wonder folks return again and again and again.
When you close your eyes and dream about the ideal lobster spot, this is probably what you envision. Set in a barn-like building right along the rocky Atlantic coast, Harraseeket has its own fleet of lobster boats and serves up the freshest, sweetest crustaceans you can imagine. If you're a purist, you'll want to order the whole steamed lobster without getting distracted by anything else. If you're not quite as devout about your whole lobster, there are plenty of other delicious things on which to nosh. Clam cakes, fish chowder and fried scallops in crumbs or batter are all knockit-out-of-the-park bets, especially when accompanied by fried onion middles and followed by an enormous house-made whoopie pie.
Patrons wash up at Captain Lou's for many reasons its raucous atmosphere and festive ramshackle cabin appearance, outdoor waterfront deck strung with twinkling lights. But when it comes to ordering some food to help line your stomach before pouring in countless rum runners and excellent craft beers, there's really only one choice: perch. You can have it in a wrap, you can have it in a taco, but however you choose to have it prepared you won't go wrong. Devouring the tasty local catch while listening to the live band and admiring the ducks skittering across the surface of the water, you'll wonder what took you so long to find this place.
If you're in search of fish tacos in San Diego, their birthplace, your expectations are understandably high. Head straight to South Beach Bar & Grille to have them fulfilled. The Pacific Ocean views alone are worth the trip, not to mention the 22 tequilas and more than 40 beers 20 of them on tap but let's be honest. It's about the fish tacos. So after warming up with a ceviche or an octopus cocktail or perhaps some stuffed-shrimp jalapenos or bacon-wrapped swordfish medallions, get down to business with those tacos. You can have them with mahi, wahoo, albacore, shrimp, shark or lobster, all topped with shredded red cabbage and tangy salsa fresca. Ask the surfers bobbing in the waves outside the window this is the life.
This funky, snug little spot has been in operation for more than 90 years. That in and of itself makes it a winner in our books. But add the location next to the fascinating Ballard Locks, part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the seafood-heavy menu, and it's a shoo-in for a good time. They claim to have the best fish and chips around, made with cod, and that's what many patrons go for. But we think any of the salmon dishes are more interesting options. After all, you're in a city that considers salmon king. Try a bowl of the smoked salmon chowder, a blackened wild sockeye salmon Caesar salad or the teriyaki salmon platter. And why wait for lunch or dinner? Belly up to the bar in the morning for a plate of smoked salmon eggs Benedict (and a Bloody Mary, if you so choose).