Dine and view the Connecticut River from The Back Porch

Craving a Shore Dinner

Back Porch view

View across the Connecticut River from The Back Porch

Serendipity, a happy occurrence discovered by pure chance, is always good. When it’s something like finding The Back Porch in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, it’s memorable.

Truthfully, I lie. I found it online through four or five search engines, but the comments looked “good enough to eat”. Finding it by car was another matter, to be discussed later.

Arrival at The Back Porch:

Let’s say you have found the parking lot, crossed the road and walked the forty or so yards to the Back Porch of a modern restaurant on the western bank of the river. Follow the catwalk to the reception desk for seating.

On a sunny day, you may want to eschew the railing seats as the deck awning may not shield those tables. If you are satisfied with sunglasses and a brimmed cap/hat you will be fine. Otherwise, the shaded tables share the same view, passing over a marina filled with power boats ranging from fifteen feet or so to some in the forty foot range at the outer end of the docks.  Throw in an occasional sailboat mast.

Amtrak bridge open

The Amtrak bridge is in open position

The River is about two hundred yards wide at this point and there is a moderate amount of activity. We were there on a Wednesday. On summer weekends both the boating and restaurant activity could be called frenetic, so go early or late, but not at noon. (See hours in the Post Script.)

The railroad bridge on the south side remains open for boat traffic except when an Amtrak train is about to cross the river. A little ambiance is added when the bridge tender gives five blasts telling the boats, “Hold off, I’m closing and you can’t come through.” Then you get to watch the waiting boats jockey for position, trying to keep the current from pushing them into the bridge fenders, and generally becoming impatient because they want to get to open water for fishing and play.  But that is why you chose to visit a waterfront restaurant.

Cirrus and Cumulus

Wild winds from the Sound scatter cirrus and cumulus clouds.

Looking at the eastern shore of the River from The Back Porch, you can encompass the whole distance between the two bridges. On the banks you’ll see the Old Lyme Marina and a long stretch of beautiful lawn leading up to a large graceful house at its head. This is the Old Lyme Inn, a recently restored B&B. The tree line at the crown of this ridge is cut off by the bridges, but you have an unobstructed view of the heavens – absolutely glorious on a clear, windy day. The cirrus clouds virtually fly across the sky with a few fun cumulus ones to engage the diners in the game of “Do you see the lion rearing his head?” or “Where do you think that plane is going?”

But you came here to eat, didn’t you?

fish sandwich at The Back Porch

Highlighted: the fried fish sandwich - Incognito: my husband

And you’ll be glad you did. Our waitress, Jessica was excellent: swift, helpful without being condescending, and cheerful. We noticed the regular daily specials so asked Jessica, “What day is this?” She looked at us quizzically, then tendered, “Wednesday.” Say us, enthusiastically, “Great! We’ll have the lobster.” Jessica counters, “The Specials start at 5:00.” It was now noon  but she did offer the daily lunch choices.

We ended up with fried fish sandwiches – excellent. They were large filets, fried to perfection and moist, served on large, lightly toasted rolls, and accompanied by lots of good fried potatoes, lettuce, tomato and a remoulade sauce. The dessert was a warm brownie à la mode, hot fudge sauce and mountains of whipped cream. We shared one that would have fed four easily.

If I were passing out stars, the Back Porch would get 4.5 out of 5. The missing .5 is for the chairs: metal wire, hard on the thinner fanny. They could use a slight pad.

Post Script: The Back Porch is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.
On Fridays and Saturdays it stays open until 10:00 p.m.

For boaters and inquisitive readers: About bridges

FYI: Please understand this section is for those die-hard “gotta know why” people who have become fascinated by boats and railroads, the shoreline transportation system, and signals that keep boaters alive. The referenced sites are NOT reader-generated – this is your government speaking:

§ 117.205
Connecticut River.
(a) The owners of the AMTRAK Old Saybrook-Old Lyme Bridge, mile 3.4 the Route 82 Bridge, mile 16.8, and the CONRAIL Middletown-Portland Bridge, mile 32.0, shall provide, and keep in good legible condition, clearance gauges with figures not less than twelve (12) inches which designed, installed and maintained according to the provisions of § 118.160 of this chapter.
(b) The draws of the AMTRAK Old Saybrook-Old Lyme Bridge, mile 3.4, and the CONRAIL Middletown-Portland Bridge, mile 32.0, shall be opened as soon as practicable for all non-commercial vessels that cannot pass under the closed draws, but in no case shall the delay be more than 20 minutes from the time the opening was requested.
(c) The draw of the Route 82 Bridge, mile 16.8, at East Haddam, shall open on signal except that, from 15 May to 31 October, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., the draw need open for recreational vessels on the hour and half-hour only. The draw shall open on signal for commercial vessels at all times.
[CGD01-95-009, 63 FR 10140, Mar. 2, 1998]

All you ever wanted to know about bridge opening and closing:
Title: PART 117 – DRAWBRIDGE OPERATION REGULATIONSContext:
Title 33 – Navigation and Navigable Waters. CHAPTER I – COAST GUARD, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. SUBCHAPTER J – BRIDGES.

By the way: the line from New Haven to New London is diesel operated, with engines being changed from electric for this section.

Links to related sites:

Google Map to The Back Porch, Old Saybrook, CT

The Back Porch on the Connecticut River
Between the Bridges Marina: north and south yards
The Connecticut River Joint Commissions – Fast facts about the Connecticut River
The Connecticut River Joint Commissions – General Information
Old Lyme Marina – East bank of the Connecticut River

More Striped Pot articles by Gail Hunter

 


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