Fresh seafood is coming in the door every day at Jimmy's Southside Tavern near the western end of the Noroton Heights Shopping Center in Darien, and inside there's a nautical feel, with portraits of fish on the walls, ropes around the pillars and rods and reels mounted by the windows.
But even with oysters on the menu and an oyster bar in the planning stages, Noroton Heights' newest restaurant is just as much a spot for traditional American comfort food.
"I've had people grab me and say, 'This is the best burger I ever had,'" Jimmy Love, the owner, says. And on their next visit they say they like the seafood more, he said.
Both fish and fowl—and more
Love himself thinks the fowl is more than fair: "We do a great half-roast chicken," he said on Tuesday evening, when the restaurant and bar hosted its own ribbon-cutting ceremony with the chamber of commerce and local officials.
"We got very lucky with a chef," Love said of Alastair Revell. "He's a British man who was in southern California for 20 years."
Revell was about to take a job with a new restaurant near Darien when the plans for that business fell through, then a mutual friend introduced him to Love.
Love said Revell has brought some very professional shrewdness into designing a menu that uses some of the same ingredients in several different dishes, wasting less food.
"I don't know that we could have been as successful without him," Love said.
Although the town allows 94 indoor seats at the restaurant—the former location of Phil's Grill—Jimmy's Southside now has 65 seats, he said, with 40 more available outdoors when the weather warms up and about 10 more available in a back corner when the oyster bar eventually gets started.
The new restaurant has a full liquor license, expanding the wine and beer that was served by Phil's Grill, and an expanded interior, moved out about four feet toward the outdoor dining area and Heights Road.
The restaurant's location is excellent, Love pointed out. "We're in a neighborhood kind of starved for a restaurant," he said.
Darien Doughnut and Heights Pizza serve customers who want a quick, less expensive meal, but for sit-down dining at a higher end of the comfort scale, patrons would have to go to downtown Darien or into Stamford (or to the edge of town, where the Water's Edge by Giovanni's is located).
Love is the former owner of Jimmy's Seaside in the Cove section of Stamford, Five Mile River Grill in Rowayton and the Boathouse Restaurant & Bar.
After extensive work on the building, inside and out, Jimmy's Southside Tavern opened Oct. 2 for dinner and eventually expanded to offering lunch, as well.
"We've been going strong ever since," Love said.
Jimmy's Southside Tavern
Website to come (already on Facebook)
Open: 11:30 a.m. to midnight