From Gourmet Guide contributor Meghan Ryan Finegan, Associate Director of College Counseling at The Pingry School and formerly Director of College Counseling at The Williams School in New London, Connecticut:
13 Water Street
Whether for a comforting cup of chowder on a rainy day, or a gourmet salad and a creative cocktail on a summer night, the Oyster Club offers an eclectic range of options for foodies (as well as tamer palates). The more formal dining room is on the left side of the restaurant while the younger, hipper crowd tends to congregate in the bar, on the patio, or in the “tree house” (the multi-level wooden deck with its own bar and water views). The menu changes daily, and the chef uses local farms whenever possible for their produce and meat, while the local fish is fresh daily. Favorite staples are the superb juicy burgers, the handmade tagliatelle with ragu, and whatever filet of fish they are serving.
Lis Bake Shop
15 Holmes Street
A tiny space in a special spot (where you can also rent kayaks and canoes), this is the perfect place for an afternoon coffee and a scrumptious cupcake or scone. The alluring display offers a range of goodies and pastries from breakfast sandwiches to Russian tea cakes to sour cream coconut cupcakes. Lis opens early and closes in mid-afternoon, doing much of their business in summer, when it’s high tourist season. While there isn’t much space to sit inside, there is outdoor seating along the Mystic River. The go-to spot for iced coffee, a cookie and an afternoon reverie while the boats go by.
223 Thames Street
A phenomenal find for fresh pasta at reasonable prices! Though usually crowded (often with a line out the door) on spring and summer evenings, the food is worth the wait. Family owned and run since 1988, Paul and his wife Dorothy still serve customers daily. The servings are ample and staples like lasagna, fettuccini alfredo, penne pesto, and linguini with clam sauce are augmented with daily specials and salads. There is outdoor seating on a deck with a view of the Thames River, and all the tables are outfitted with classic plastic red and white checked tablecloths. If it’s not listed on the dessert menu, ask for the peanut butter pie!
The Captain Daniel Packer Inne
32 Water Street
Mystic, CT 06355
Ever popular with the locals, The Captain Daniel Packer Inne (or the DPI, as locals call it) is easy to miss from the outside but hard to forget once you’ve experienced it. The downstairs of this charming 250-year-old establishment houses its rustic pub with wooden beams and a fireplace. Upstairs, you’ll find the more formal dining room. They offer seafood, steak, vegetarian and pasta dishes, and do them all well. Their classic signature side is a baguette with roasted garlic –that spreads easily on the crusty bread. This place is a must in the winter…and if you stay late enough at night, there is live music every night beginning at 10:00 p.m. in the pub.