An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jan 29, 2014
02:35 PM
The Connecticut Table

Cuckoo's Nest Mexican Restaurant in Old Saybrook Has Changed Hands But Not Much Else—and That's a Good Thing

Cuckoo's Nest Mexican Restaurant in Old Saybrook Has Changed Hands But Not Much Else—and That's a Good Thing

New owners Heather Samuelson and Eddie Souza.

Hey, did you hear that Cuckoo’s Nest in Old Saybrook changed hands a couple months back? No? Well, that’s exactly what the owners intended.

When Cuckoo’s Nest owner Jim Fitzpatrick decided to hang up his sombrero after 36 years, he wanted to entrust the place to someone who’d love the place as much as he did. He shouldn’t have any worries on that score. Fitzpatrick found new stewards right under his own roof—longtime employees Heather Emanuelson and Edmilson “Eddie” Souza—and suggested they become partners and buy him out.

That move pretty much assured a seamless transition—and that Cuckoo’s Nest will be around for a long time to come. “We both love the restaurant and have put our heart and soul into it for years,” says Emanuelson. “We never had any doubt we could maintain the quality and consistency people have counted on Cuckoo’s Nest for all these years.”

If you’ve haven’t dined at this ever-popular shoreline landmark in a while, now is a great time to reconnect, or to discover Cuckoo's Nest for the first time.

Emanuelson started as a waitress at Cuckoo’s Nest 15 years ago. Now, she’s general manager. Souza’s been around even longer, beginning as a dishwasher, and working his way up through the ranks all the way to executive chef.

They make a great team, Samuelson says. “Eddie makes sure everything runs smoothly in the kitchen, while I manage the dining room and the bar.”

So are there any changes in the works? Not really. The sprawling restaurant, set in a 200-year-old barn, is the same festive, family-friendly place it’s always been. The extensive menu still features dozens of Mexican specialties, along with Cajun, Creole and American offerings. There are a few additions—street tacos, and some new gluten-free and paleo items—but the whole point was to maintain the fun traditions and identity that customers love.

One of those traditions is “Cinco deLirious!” Not content with waiting around for Cinco de Maio, the folks at Cuckoo’s Nest celebrate the 5th of every month with a mariachi band, food specials and prizes. There’s also live jazz every Sunday and Thursday evening. 

“The biggest surprise about becoming owners is how much people care about this restaurant,” says Samuelson. “Our customers come first. Our success depends upon everyone having a wonderful dining experience.”

The Cuckoo’s Nest is open seven days a week. Cuckoo’s Nest, 1712 Boston Post Rd., Old Saybrook, 860/399-9060, cuckoosnestbiz.com.

Cuckoo's Nest Mexican Restaurant in Old Saybrook Has Changed Hands But Not Much Else—and That's a Good Thing

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