For those who have visited the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in the past, you know we are passionate about food and the restaurants we recommend. Yes, call us “foodies” if you want, but we know we are not alone! And with this noted, we thought we would share some of our favorite go-to places to relax, enjoy a nice meal and/or adult-beverage, meet other people and enjoy the scenic beauty here on the CT shoreline and throughout southern New England.
So, one of the key things that makes a restaurant special in our eyes is the atmosphere. Sure we want good food, good service and a nice water view if possible. However, truly great restaurants have a “special sauce” if you will. Well hard to put your finger on it, it’s somewhat like the special sauce that McDonald’s uses on its Big Macs, well, maybe not just like that.
Anyway, the following restaurants are some of our favorites, and those that we really enjoy due to their “special sauce”, especially in the summertime. We hope you get to try a few your next visit to our Inn at Harbor Hill Marina or the southern New England shoreline.
# 1 – Red 36 (Mystic, CT)
Hard to find, but well worth the effort to search this place out. RED 36 is located directly on the water in historical downtown Mystic, and is one of our favorite go to spots to enjoy an adult beverage, appetizer or light lunch and the beauty of the Mystic River. In the summer, walls of windows completely open and lead to an outdoor bar with multiple lounge areas with dining tables and Adirondack chairs. Their eclectic American menu changes seasonally, always offering fresh seafood and an extensive raw bar. A diverse appetizer selection, multiple burgers, unique and delicious salads and flat bread pizzas complete the menu, creating something for everyone. Note, this place gets busy, real busy. So if you can, try to plan your visit mid-afternoon for a late lunch or early dinner.
Red 36 website
# 2 – Ford’s Lobster (Noank, CT)
Ford’s is another one of our absolute favorites. This place is the quintessential New England lobster shack, but on steroids. Sure this place boast an absolutely incredible view and lobster prepared a number of ways, but unlike other lobster shacks this place does a phenomenal job with a host of other dishes on their menu including a host of fresh local seafood, steaks and chicken dishes. Again, like Red 36 this place gets busy, real busy on those beautiful sunset nights. All the food preparation and dining in the summer is outdoors, so if the weather is inclement, you may be out of luck. Also note, this is a BYOB kind of place – so plan ahead.
Ford’s Lobster website
# 3- Matunuck Oyster Bar (Matunuck, RI)
Matunuck Oyster Bar in Matunuck, RI is a Farm-to-Table, Pond-to-Plate kind of place. Committed to uniting fresh, locally grown produce with farm-raised and wild-caught seafood to make the freshest dishes you’ll find anywhere. Their signature raw bar offers a variety of Rhode Island oysters, crisp cherrystones, littleneck clams, and jumbo shrimp. Also of note, their Matunuck Oysters are grown in Potter Pond right off the waterfront patio of the restaurant and many of the herbs and vegetables are grown at their private vegetable farm on the north end of the pond.
Their talented chef, Jeff Cruff, takes the bounty of fresh local ingredients and combines them to make mouth-watering dishes, from seafood classics like calamari, chowder, scallops, stuffed lobster, and lobster rolls, to creative daily specials such as pan-seared day boat halibut with English pea saffron risotto with Matunuck Farm spinach in a tomato herb reduction and lobster scallop sauté with coconut green curry and a side of Matunuck Farm cucumber gazpacho. The meat dishes feature delicious grass-fed beef from Rhode Island. Yes, this is one of Sue and Dave’s favorites, and a place we often drive 45-50 minutes just to get to. As Sue says, it’s about the experience!!!
Matunuck Oyster Bar website
# 4- Dog Watch Café (Stonington, CT)
The Dog Watch Café is a harbor side eatery featuring simply prepared fresh, local seafood, flatbreads & sandwiches with an outdoor deck & dockside bar. The Dog Watch Cafe is located at Dodson’s Boatyard in beautiful Stonington Borough, directly overlooking Stonington harbor. Open year round, the Dog Watch provides a casual seaside atmosphere perfect for kicking back with good friends and family. From May-October visit their outdoor bar, “The Dog Pound”, for drinks, views of the boats in the harbor, ice cream and spectacular sunsets. Some of our favorite dishes include their Seared Tuna, local Stonington scallops, the Lobster BLT and PEI mussels.
Dog Watch Cafe website
# 5- S&P Oyster Company (Mystic, CT)
The S&P Oyster Company in downtown Mystic, CT is a New England seafood eatery that blends South American flavors in a somewhat upscale waterfront spot with a wood grill. Not to be confused with the “Oyster Club” restaurant, another casual fine-dining restaurant in Mystic, the S&P Oyster Co. restaurant is located on the Mystic River waterfront right in the heart of busy downtown Mystic, and just before the historic Mystic Bascule Drawbridge. If you can, try to get a table outdoors on their patio; it’s special. Amtosphere, good vibe and very good food make this a must try.
S&P Oyster Company website
# 6- The Oar (Block Island, RI)
Enjoy “New England Island Life” on the casual side at The Oar, located at the Boat Basin in New Harbor on the beautiful Great Salt Pond. Serving lunch and dinner daily, The Oar offers something for everyone, including the area’s best clam chowder, New England lobster rolls, burgers, and a full sushi bar. Kick back on the back deck, featuring an unrivaled view of Great Salt Pond, as you enjoy a leisurely lunch or a sip of our famous Block Island Mudslide. Oh yea, getting to The Oar requires a 1-hour ferry trip to Block Island which bodes well for an entire day-trip to Block Island. One of the more popular things to do when visiting our Inn at Harbor Hill Marina.
The Oar website
# 7- Skipper’s Seafood Restaurant (Niantic, CT)
Located a short 2-minute walk from our inn, Skipper’s Seafood is a mom-&-pop counter order & serve seafood shack offering delicious fried seafood meals, plus a patio with picnic tables & water views. They also allow you to BYOB, and Mermaid Liquors is immediately next door. Simple, clean, good food and reasonably priced make Skipper’s Seafood a must try when visiting our inn. This place is also a BYOB kinda place with a local liquor / package store right next door. Convenient right!!!
# 8- Dog Watch Mystic/BBQ (Stonington, CT)
The sister restaurant of Dog Watch Café, Dog Watch BBQ in Mystic specializes in authentic BBQ and more all with that “Dog Watch twist”. Their menu features some of the best brisket found anywhere, pulled pork, ribs, burger, soups, sandwiches, a raw bar and much more. They even offer great pizzas (we personally recommend the Veggie Lovers – it’s a great pizza). Great beer selections and reasonable prices. And while not on the water, Dog Watch Mystic/BBQ offers a fantastic atmosphere with an adult outdoor play area that features corn-hole boards, giant Jenga games and ring toss areas.
So if you’re craving some good BBQ your next visit, give Dog Watch Mystic/BBQ a try – you won’t be disappointed.
# 9- The Back Porch (Old Saybrook, CT)
9- The Back Porch (Old Saybrook, CT). Panoramic views of the Connecticut River and live music star at this popular summertime only seafood restaurant with outdoor seating. Serving classic New England American Cuisine, The Back Porch Restaurant is a favorite summer dining destination. Weekly and nightly specials, Happy Hour (Monday through Friday) and live entertainment Wednesdays through Sundays make The Back Porch a must try for locals and visitors alike.
# 10- Coast Guard House (Narragansett, RI)
10- Coast Guard House (Narragansett, RI). The Coast Guard House Restaurant established itself in the 1940s and is revered for serving locally harvested seafood. The restaurant was transformed in 1979 to a year round dining destination. Over the past decade we have been recognized on a state and national level as a premier dining destination. We love it for its stunning and unrivalled view of The Pier Districts’ historic Narragansett Bay, The Coast Guard House has attracted family and friends for generations.
# 11- Water Street Café (Stonington, CT)
11- Water Street Café (Stonington, CT). With its beautiful mahogany bar, a classic raw bar, and warm and friendly staff, this casual New England eatery is a favorite dining spot amongst locals. Nestled in the center of the historic seaside village of Stonington Borough, Water St Café is known for their succulent Oyster Bar, fresh seafood and daily menu that includes Stonington fisherman’s catch of the day and fresh seasonal produce from local and organic farmers.
# 12- Weekapaug Inn (Westerly, RI)
12- Weekapaug Inn (Westerly, RI). Located on the Rhode Island shoreline overlooking the Quonochontaug Pond is the Weekapaug Inn. The Weekapaug Inn offers quintessentially New England accommodations and farm-to-table dining utilizing the finest and freshest locally sourced ingredients. It is one of our favorite goto places to sit and relax on their lawn to enjoy an adult beverage while enjoying classic New England waterside charm. “The Lawn” (as it’s known) at the Weekapaug Inn offers casual light bites and Adirondack chair-side service overlooking the beautiful Quonochontaug Pond. “The Restaurant” at the Weekapaug Inn is open to the public and offers a more formal dining experience for lunch or dinner and offers a modern interpretation of New England coastal cuisine and utilizes traditional native foraging, local produce and fresh “off-the-boat” seafood to create a unique and unforgettable dining experience.
So, there you have it – just some of our favorite sites for summertime bites!!!
Without a doubt the above restaurants are some of our favorite summertime places to eat or enjoy an adult beverage with that very special someone in your life. We hope you find our list helpful when planning a visit to our Inn at Harbor Hill Marina located on the southeastern CT shoreline here in Niantic, CT – USA. Bon appetite!!!