I am not sure if this is a thing outside of New England, but since we have to get through Winter a lot of outdoor attractions are put in hibernation until Spring. That includes the ever easily accessible road side food stands. Even my hometown Dairy Queen closes for the season and it still devastates me every closing day. I get over it quickly.
Do I need to explain what roadside food is? I didn’t think so. If it’s (usually) a quick pull off the main road with a walk up window in a shack-looking building and you smell fried food, you’ve found a stand.
These stands are a fully functioning relic of the past. A lot of them have been in business for close to a century. Some of them started out as ice cream stands. It was a great place to take the family or for first dates and still is now.
Most of these spots are generally open in Spring and close up shop in the Fall. The menu is the usual suspects: burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings. The sea side joints offer other good stuff like lobster rolls, fritters, chowder, crab cakes, fish, clams, oysters, mussels, shrimp, can I get some calamari while we’re at it?! I’m typing this in the middle of the afternoon and I’m getting really hungry.
There’s something so weird and beautiful about eating on the side of the road, I can’t give one specific reason why I like it. It’s just a cheap and easy meal. Never any frills. It satisfies those days when I’m craving a slice of tomato and iceberg lettuce atop a cheeseburger and I know exactly where to go to get one. There are maaaaany Summer nights when I tell my kid to jump in the car and we’ll go get a swirl cone. Sprinkles, please. The ambiance might be part ocean-view and part-traffic. The seating is picnic-style and the convo is casual. It’s great.
I don’t know about the other states, but I have a short list of longtime faves in Connecticut with a few more incase you’re stopping by or traveling through. Double check their websites and social media pages to confirm current opening dates and hours as well as possible closures due to weather.
- Harry’s Place – open March to October – 104 Broadway St, Colchester
- Fred’s Shanty – open March to October – 272 Pequot Ave, New London
- Sea View Snack Bar – open March to October – 145 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic
- Sea Swirl – open April to October – 30 Williams Ave, Mystic
- Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock – open April to October – 80 Hamilton St – New London
- Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough – open May to Columbus Day – 117 Pearl St, Noank, CT
- Costello’s Clam Shack – open May to September – 145 Pearl St, Noank
- Deary Bros. Mike’s Stand – open April to September – 12 Intervale St, Putnam
- Rose Dairy – open March to October – 906 S Main St, Cheshire
- CT’S Roadside BBQ – open May to September – 1187 Boston Post Rd, Madison
- Clamp’s – open late April to September – 518 Litchfield Rd, New Milford
- Lake Zoar Drive-In – open year round – 14 Roosevelt Drive Rural, CT-34, Stevenson
- Super Duper Weenie – open year yound – 306 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield
- The Bethel Hotdog Palace – open year round – 44 Stony Hill Rd, Bethel
- Heibeck’s Stand – open April to October – 951 Danbury Rd, Wilton
- Denmos – open March to January – 340 Main St S, Southbury
If you have a favorite that’s not listed here, let us know in the comments!
I can’t end this post without also telling you to watch out for other yummy foods that people look forward to this time of year, including the Portuguese Holy Ghost Society fish fry, St. Joseph’s Day Zeppoles, and all the ice cream stands opening soon!! Sometimes it makes sense why we have seasonal depression around these parts.
[ Photo via @SeaSwirlCT on Instagram ]