A waterfront, seafood restaurant where dinner is flat-out exciting. Ingredients are simple and local, but with punched up, knock-you-out flavors. And tables of well-dressed foursomes and groups of ladies sipping drinks and sharing a plate of New England oysters lends a celebratory buzz to the place.
Why it’s worth the drive: Chef-owner Bill Taibe is one of the most exciting chefs in Connecticut to watch right now. He was nominated for Best Chef in the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation three consecutive years, and also made Food & Wine’s Star Chefs list.
See more: Destination Restaurants Worth a Drive.
What to order: The Copps Island oysters, fresh from nearby Norwalk, are plump, juicy and slightly sweet. Pair them with one of the brinier Canadian varieties, like Canada Cup from Prince Edward Island. As at Le Farm, Taibe’s other restaurant in Westport, a farm-to-table modern French joint, many of the dishes feature pork in one of its many glorious forms. We swooned over the crispy porchetta, served with zucchini, snap peas, anchovy charred onions and zesty salsa verde.
While you’re there: The Whelk sits on a lovely little spot overlooking the Saugatuck River, but the real draw of Westport is the shopping. We recommend taking a short drive before dinner to Main Street, where you’ll find everything from hip little boutiques like LF to high-end brand shops like Theory, Kate Spade, LuluLemon and Eileen Fisher.
Insider tip: Reservations, weekend or not, are required: folks well beyond Westport town lines are lining up to eat here. After dinner, head across the waterfront patio to an ice cream shop serving Longford’s and gourmet candy.
Details: 575 Riverside Ave., Westport, Connecticut. 203-557-0902,thewhelkwestport.com.