It’s dusk on a Friday night at the Blue Oar restaurant in Haddam and the place exudes its usual casual charm.
Located directly on the banks of the Connecticut River, about a mile north of the Swing Bridge, the Blue Oar is one of those best-kept local secrets that tourists haven’t seemed to figure out.
Still, even late on a Friday night, the place is hopping. The Blue Oar has outside dining only and that dining is somewhat in the rough – on large picnic and small bistro tables arranged on a deck overlooking the water.
But that’s what gives this seasonal restaurant – open May to October - its very charm. With its stunning views of the Connecticut River and the boats at the nearby Midway Marina, who would want to sit inside?
Don’t be fooled by its rustic character. This is no glorified clam shack, not by a long shot.
First, there’s no fryolater at the Blue Oar and everything is made fresh-to-order inside a small kitchen. Diners arrive, grab a table, then trek up the restaurant’s stairs and inside to peruse the menu, hand-written on a large chalkboard just inside the door. If you’re there later in the night, you may notice a sticky note or two slapped over some of the more popular menu offerings, like clam chowder or the daily special, that can sell out early.
Then you’re off to the counter to place your order, take your number to display on your table and wait to be served.
While the Blue Oar serves up a bounty of fish entrees and appetizers, it also offers non-seafood items, such as burgers and a tasty rib eye steak finished with Gorgonzola butter.
And if you’re a bargain hunter – and who isn’t these days? – here’s the best part of the Blue Oar; you can bring your own beer, wine or other alcoholic beverage to drink with your meal.
Many diners take that “bring-your-own” spirit to another level and bring tablecloths, wine glasses, cutlery and even flowers in a vase, to dress up their tables.
The atmosphere at the Blue Oar becomes even cozier at night, when hundreds of strung white lights twinkle on the restaurant’s deck, candles flicker on the tables and large colorful lanterns hung from the trees bob in the breeze.
But don’t come too late to the Blue Oar. The kitchen closes at 9:30 and specials often sell out early.