Between the sun, sand, and warm ocean breeze, there’s nothing quite like eating on the water during the spring and summer in Connecticut. But however awesome picnics are, they can be messy (nobody wants to make the word sandwich literal now, do they?).
Avoid the gritty teeth by taking the time to visit one of the amazing waterfront restaurants that CT has to offer. In addition to romantic views of the ocean, a refreshing breeze, and lasting memories, these CT favorites offer some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in the state.
L’Escale is a seasonal Mediterranean restaurant that brings the elegance and ambiance of Provence, France to our lovely Connecticut coast. Featuring two-hundred-year-old stone tiles from France and a wood-burning stove, this truly is a little bit of France brought right to the shores of Connecticut.
Rick Wahlstedt founded L’Escale in 2003 and transformed it into an iconic stop for anyone looking for a waterfront dining experience. Their menu designed by award-winning Executive Chef Frederic Kieffer, meaning it’s sure to offer some truly amazing bites.
2. Crab Shell—Stamford
The Crab Shell offers indoor/outdoor dining for those wanting to enjoy the views. They look at the Long Island Sound and offer the best “fresh-from-the-water” seafood. Their menu consists of clams, oysters, shrimp mussels, Maine lobster, and much more. They have been feeding their community for over 29 years. They opened their doors in 1989 and built a seafood restaurant in the heart of an undeveloped industrial town. They rose to the top by offering a great food selection.
They also host live music every night Wednesday through Sunday once the summer starts, making this a great restaurant for food, drinks, and your next night out.
Prime in Stamford was opened in the summer of 2016. Being a relatively new restaurant, it is surprising to see how popular they are already. Inside, Prime allows you to look over the Long Island Sound by having a full wall of glass that makes any seat inside, the best seat in the house. The outside offers spectacular seating on the patio, you can watch as boats come in and out of the sound.
They are a surf and turf destination with a curated raw bar, sushi, and 21-day dry aged beef. They pair each dish with a selection of wine and enhance any meal with a steakhouse side dish. Don’t skip dessert: Prime has a layered s’mores dish that patrons rave about.
4. Beer Garden at Shippan Landing—Stamford
The Beer Garden at Shippan Landing describes themselves as an “outdoor oasis.” I have to say, after visiting, I have to agree.
This isn’t your traditional sit-down restaurant featuring, well, a kitchen. But what it lacks, it makes up for with delicious food trucks like HAPA the Pacific American Street Food, The Pizza Truck and Mobile TBird the bar food experts.
They have live music and plenty of outdoor games. Bring the kids, friends, family and even the dog! Make sure you check out their Facebook and Instagram before heading out to see what food trucks will be there during your visit.
5. Brennan’s Restaurant—Stamford
Brennan’s has a true pub feel while still being a clean and delicious destination. The food matches the feel, featuring a kielbasa burger topped with chipotle mayo and even a West Beach Crab Burger.
You have to check out their patio in the summer. They can seat 40 people outside who want to enjoy the sun or even watch a baseball game on the big screen. You can visit with the restaurant mascot, a turtle, who lives outside on the patio during the summer. Stop by for a relaxed evening with friends and family and enjoy the casual dining of Brennan’s restaurant.
6. Sono Seaport Seafood—Norwalk
Sono Seaport Seafood is a family-oriented restaurant that serves a wide range of foods from lobster to hamburgers. They were founded in April 1983 as a fish market, but as their popularity grew they decided opened a full restaurant the following year.
They have continued to watch over the Norwalk Harbor while still providing excellent food options for their community. They feature things like a Quarter Deck Burger and Alaskan King Crab Legs. They still operate their fish market with their pub and outside bar alongside to enhance everyone’s dining experience.
7. Harbor Lights—Norwalk
Another Mediterranean stop along the Connecticut coast, Harbor Lights has been bringing fresh foods to Fairfield County for over 10 years. They have their own dock allowing boaters to enjoy their commute via water.
They feature foods like grilled salmon and lobster risotto. They look over the Norwalk Harbor and have an outdoor patio with umbrella seating. You can enjoy the sights and sounds of this waterfront destination.
8. Sunset Grille—Norwalk
Sunset Grille is a seasonal seafood restaurant that sits right on the water overlooking the Norwalk Harbor. Come enjoy foods like BBQ baby back ribs, chicken marsala, or grilled swordfish.
The outside patio allows you to experience the breeze off the water and the sounds of the marina. The elegance of their scenery matches the food. The intimate dining section inside allows for a little more privacy than the outdoor seating. You can choose to enjoy the beautiful outside patio or the calm and elegant inside atmosphere.
9. Ripka’s Beach Cafe—Norwalk
This local gem is home to a passionate team that pushes for excellent food and service. They are a very casual place and appeal to everyone from “barebacked skateboarders to 70 something year-olds.”
The Beach Cafe is a place where you can go to get great food without the “Fairfield County price tag.” If you are someone that enjoys delicious seafood, simple burgers and dogs, or just need a place for a fine adult beverage, then Ripka’s is the place to be.
10. Pearl Restaurant & Bar—Westport
Pearl Restaurant focuses on sophisticated American Cuisine. They are tucked into the coastline of Westport. They have panoramic water views, paired with fine cuisine and unparalleled hospitality.
Their menu features innovative flavors throughout their raw bar, salads, fish, grass-fed meat, handmade pasta and much more. Their bar features craft beers and huge wine list with handcrafted cocktails.
11. The Boathouse at Saugatuck—Westport
The Boathouse gives a new meaning to elegance. The dining room inside gives customers a luxury setting to look out onto the water, and the outdoor patio allows guests to enjoy their handcrafted food while taking advantage of the sun. And, speaking of food, they things like Scottish salmon and chicken scarpariello on the menu.
The exposed beams inside the restaurant will make you feel like you are in the finest restaurants CT has to offer. Their happy hour specials and outdoor views make this a great weekend visit.
12. Dolphins Cove Restaurant & Marina—Bridgeport
Dolphins Cove is a family restaurant that offers specialized seafood dishes. They have outdoor seating in the warm weather on their spacious deck overlooking the water. They have built up their loyal customer base with their attention to detail and quality of food. They have lobster and NY strip on their menu.
They have been operating for over 14 years and are open year round. The wide view of the water allows for great sunset viewing while you enjoy a cocktail on the deck. Make sure to put this one on your list of places to visit this summer!
13. Knapp’s Landing—Stratford
Knapp’s Landing sits right on the shores of the Housatonic River. They have been looking over this beautiful river and serving their community for over 10 years. Their menu is updated every season and consist of the freshest catch from the surrounding area, like Alaskan cod filet and pan roasted filet of salmon.
The enclosed bar allows an easy transition from outdoor dining to indoor relaxation. This popular stop is a great place to visit if you like the freshest seafood and a pleasant atmosphere.
14. Costa Azzurra—Milford
Established in 1971, Costa Azzurra has been providing fresh veal and seafood to Milford for quite a while. The Faustini family owns and operates this local restaurant and takes great pride in their culinary dishes, featuring such creations as veal shrimp Francese, steak alla pizzaiola.
The dining room provides an intimate place where you can enjoy their excellent menu choices while taking in the sights of the water. This would make a great place for lunch, dinner or special event. They have event space for up to 250 people!
15. Shell & Bones Oyster Bar & Grill—New Haven
Located in City Point of New Haven, Shell & Bones has been a historic cuisine landmark for decades. They have an award-winning chef constantly enhancing and changing their menu, which focuses heavily on the heavenly combination of seafood and steak.
They offer indoor and outdoor seating that overlooks the waters below. The newly-renovated inside creates a modern and clean atmosphere for everyone to enjoy an amazing culinary experience.
16. Dockside Seafood and Grill—Branford
This waterfront restaurant has been a spot for fresh seafood in Branford for a while now. The patio serves as a viewing place for elegant sunsets. They host summer events so make sure to check out their events page to stay on top of everything going on.
They have great sandwich options along with specialty dishes like Blue Point Oysters, Ipswich Whole Belly Clams, and N.Y Bleu Cheese Crusted Steak. Make sure to check out their website for a full menu and other updates.
17. Nellie Green’s Restaurant—Branford
Mike Savinelli opened Nellie Green’s in April 2007 and has turned it into one of Branford’s most popular restaurants. The indoor/outdoor experience allows for intimate and casual dining options. They offer breakfast lunch and dinner so come by any time of the day, featuring dishes like eggs benedicts for breakfast and Crispy Fish wrap for lunch or dinner.
They are open year round so enjoying any meal doesn’t have to wait until the summer. Come by and enjoy a cozy setting to enjoy a drink while looking over the Branford River. They have great deals on their website on their specials page so make sure to check out their website before you visit!
18. Lobster Shack—Branford
The Lobster Shack is really a food truck! We all know that the best foods come from food trucks, this is no exception. The two owners Nick and Arlene always dreamed of opening a small seasonal food stand where they could cook the food that they cooked their families. They’ve become so popular that their family has grown a little bit. They’re known for—you guessed it!—their lobster.
People that come to the Lobster Shack can enjoy the casual dining and overlook of the Branford River. The live music enhances the visit and really gives this food truck the summer vibe.
19. Guilford Mooring—Guilford
Located on the shores of the Long Island Sound Guilford Mooring is serving up amazing seafood and meat options. They have gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options to cater to anyone specific dietary needs! This place is open 7 days a week and year-round for lunch, dinner, and brunch on Sunday’s.
Speaking of food, their menu is out of this world. If you’re a seafood lover, make sure to check out their Maine lobster BLT. If you are more of a meat lover you have to try their fried chicken sandwich.
20. Rocky’s Aqua—Clinton
At Rocky’s Aqua, they want you to take your time and enjoy a little relaxation time. They will impress you with their delicious American style food menu. They pride themselves on the meaning of family and treat everyone as a member of theirs as soon as you walk through their doors.
They love what they do and enjoy taking care of others while they enjoy a great tasting meal of things like gorgonzola burger or a ribeye wrap while admiring the lovely views of the water. Bring your friends and family to Rocky’s, you won’t leave disappointed.
21. Shanks Waterfront Dining—Clinton
This isn’t just another food truck stop, it’s a food truck, out of a boat! A food boat? Anyway, Shanks Waterfront dining of Clinton offers a large menu for being just a boat. They took a 42-foot commercial lobster boat and made it into a state of the art kitchen serving up delicious seafood like fried calamari and oysters.
The owner always wanted to own a marina and when he finally got the opportunity he promised to never let it go. After adding a boat dealership, his child’s ice cream shop, and a paddle boarding rental store, he finally opened up Shank’s! Shanks is the name of an old dive bar that operated on the property back in the 70’s and 80’s. The name is now reborn with their amazing seafood and views of the marina.
22. Fresh Salt—Old Saybrook
Fresh Salt says that they are more than a restaurant, they are a place where you enjoy another’s company and experience breathtaking views of Long Island Sound. Their menu is simple but high quality. They only use the freshest and local ingredients from local Connecticut Farms.
Fresh Salt is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can enjoy foods like short rib Genovese pappardelle, seaside platter or even Nutella stuffed french toast. They were recipients of “The Best Sunday Brunch” for 2016. If you’re a seafood lover, Fresh Salt definitely belongs on your list.
23. The Dock Restaurant—Waterford
The Dock Restaurant is a small restaurant tucked into the corner of Mago Point in Waterford, a perfect place for families to hang outside and enjoy some local seafood. Come try out their fried clams or fish sandwich!
The Dock is a very casual place where you can sit outside and enjoy the summer sun. Swing by, grab some shrimp, a beer and enjoy the views out into Niantic Bay. Check out their Facebook for more information.
24. On the Waterfront—New London
This restaurant is perfectly set on the water and makes for a very elegant dining experience. I went here a few years ago and really enjoyed the stuffed chicken marsala, I really need to go back soon. The food was amazing, and I really enjoyed how the menu accommodated people that don’t like seafood (like myself).
From my seat, I could look out and see New London Harbor and it really made the atmosphere very relaxed. I highly recommended paying On the Waterfront a visit. Make sure to try the Jack Daniels Steak.
25. Fred’s Shanty Restaurant—New London
Fred’s Shanty offers a selection of jumbo shrimp, whole belly clams, handmade hamburgers, long Roessler hot dogs, and ice cream! What can’t they do? This old-school food stand offers outdoor picnic seating along the waterfront.
This is a great stop for kids and families because they offer an upscale-ballpark menu while still having amazing seafood options.
26. Paul’s Pasta—Groton
Paul’s Pasta was opened in 1988 and they specialize in, you guessed it, pasta. Their dishes like spaghetti and meatballs and linguine primavera are known for their generous portions and quality of food. Their reasonably priced food has created a loyal customer base and has helped them be named for multiple Readers Choice Awards in Connecticut Magazine.
Their restaurant overlooks the Thames River in Groton. You can join them for lunch or dinner or even take out. Their small but productive size makes them a first come first serve place, no reservations. Check out their website for their full menu.
27. Costello’s Clam Shack—Noank
Costello’s offers outdoor dining by the sea with a fresh seafood menu. Some menu items include fried clams, fish tacos, scallops. Oysters and much more! Don’t fear, if you don’t like seafood they offer burgers, chicken sandwich, a hot dog, and chicken tenders.
If you want the view of the calm water and marina while you enjoy some of your favorite clam cakes than this might be the spot for you.
28. Abbott’s Lobster in The Rough—Noank
This restaurant stood the test of time, it was founded in 1947! They specialize and are famous for their lobsters. They have stuffed clams, clam chowder, oysters, shrimps, and plenty more. They are a BYOB establishment so if you want to have an adult beverage with your meal, you’ll have to bring your own.
This is another first come first serve type of place because of the high volume of customers they see on a daily basis and the size of their establishment, so it’s best if you can get their early to ensure a table.
29. Ford’s Lobsters—Noank
Ford’s has a long history in the Noank area. The Ford’s small gas dock and bait and tackle store opened in the 1950’s. After a few changes, Ford’s restaurant came to life in 2012. This place is usually packed and again, no reservations. Their menu consists of items like blackened salmon salad, lobster scampi, and lobster mac and cheese.
Enjoy the outside patio and the views of the water. If you want to bring your furry friends than make sure the outside patio is open, they don’t allow dogs inside.
30. Red 36—Mystic
Located directly on the water in the lovely historical town of Mystic, Red 36 offers a combination of Seafood and other American favorites like seared 5 spice ahi-tuna burger, cheese fondue, and Cajun potato, and cashew-crusted pork tenderloin. The strive for quality and fresh ingredients while providing a comfortable dining experience.
Dock the boat at their dock if you want to avoid car traffic. Red 36’s patio space is the perfect spot to enjoy the warm weather and have a cocktail while admiring the sun setting over the Mystic horizon. Need some more fun ideas for your next Mystic day trip? Check out our guide to getting the most out of this CT-favorite.
31. S&P Oyster Co.—Mystic
The S&P Oyster Co. offers a high-class dining occasion perfect for couples or families. The outside patio offers a riverside dining space complete with tons of plants creating a feeling of a lush outdoor scene. When you visit you can enjoy things like fish tacos, jumbo shrimp scampi risotto, or chicken tostada.
If you prefer to sit inside I would recommend sitting upstairs. The upstairs offers a panoramic view of the historical Mystic Bridge and Mystic River. This would make for a very intimate night for a date or for seasoned sweethearts. Check out their website for details of their full menu.
32. Latitude 41 Restaurant—Mystic
Latitude says it best on their website when they mention that this is a place where “connections are made, memories begin, and where great food meets great people.” Latitude 41 is next door neighbors to the historic Mystic Seaport and offers some of the best views from their patio.
Their menu is mostly seafood with a couple of meat options sprinkled in. Some of the seafood options include bourbon seared scallops, lobster pot pie, garlic shrimp, and sole florentine. If you love great seafood from a historic town this has to be our your list of Mystic visits.
Located in the Stonington Borough of Mystic, Breakwater creates a perfect atmosphere for any occasion. They offer tons of seafood options like little neck clams, fish and chips and seafood pasta, with a few other meat and sandwich choices for those who aren’t in a seafood mood.
The cozy inside of the restaurant sets the mood for upscale casual dining. If you chose to dine outside you will have a 360-degree view of the beautiful water and boats docked at the mooring below. Stop by to the Breakwater for a pleasant evening on the water. Bring a sweatshirt, as it can get chilly, especially at night. You can check out things happening here on their event page.
34. Dog Watch Cafe—Stonington
I had the pleasure of visiting this restaurant by boat! I used to work down in this area and my old boss had a 35-foot boat that we would tie up on their dock. We would get off and walk to the outside bar where we could grab a beer or two and play some cornhole, giant Jenga, or tic tac toe.
I have to say, this place has amazing sandwiches. When I went I couldn’t resist the open face steak sandwich. It was a grilled sirloin on a garlic baguette topped with onion rings and a teriyaki drizzle. If you have a friend with a boat, beg them to take you on the gorgeous trip up the river to this lovely restaurant. Check out their website for their full menu.
What do you think?
Did we miss any of your favorites? Comment below if we did and we will consider adding them to our list!