An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Aug 29, 2014
11:20 AM
The Connecticut Table

The Blue Oar in Haddam Is a Delicious Destination on Connecticut River

The Blue Oar in Haddam Is a Delicious Destination on Connecticut River

Mara Lavitt/New Haven Register

Seared rare tuna with tomato, cucumber and onion salad.

The Blue Oar in Haddam is a lovely place. Casual, cool and convivial, it’s situated in a small marina on the banks of the Connecticut River.

It’s owned by Jody and Jim Reilly, who also own the highly regarded Simon’s Marketplace in downtown Chester — and that makes for long days during the summer months — 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. most days. Jim grew up in the business.

His grandparents opened a restaurant in Portland in the ’30s called JT Reilly’s. From there, it was all on-the-job training, working at various restaurants until they opened their own named Bacci, in Middletown.

When the owner of Midway Marina approached him to look at the location, Jim saw immediately it was a unique opportunity. That was 18 years ago, and Blue Oar has been going strong ever since.

Think part cafeteria, part restaurant, part house party and part treehouse. It’s first come, first served, and seating is exclusively outside, either at long picnic tables under giant maple trees or at a small number of multi-colored tables on a deck perched out over the river.

(Right, seared scallops with pineapple sauce.)

As you probably already guessed, The Blue Oar is closed on rainy days. A small white picket fence separates the gravel parking lot from the restaurant proper, and folks line up with their coolers (it’s BYOB) and wicker baskets laden with colorful tablecloths, candles and wine glasses, each table trying to “out-style” the next.

The tables are packed with lots of families: grandparents, parents and kids simply enjoying a night outside together. Corks pop and laughter abounds.

Young, super-friendly waitstaff, deliver food, bus tables, answer questions and rattle off a dozen or so nightly dessert selections at the drop of a hat.

The trees, railings and decks are strung with white Christmas lights giving the entire place a magical glow as the sun sets and darkness falls.

See the full story at the New Haven Register, where Robert Rabine, former owner of Cafe Routier in Old Saybrook, says this about the food, in part:

* The Blue Oar’s excellent soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers share equal billing with more sophisticated fare.
* New England clam chowder is not too thick, but still creamy with large chunks of everything you expect. The watermelon and feta salad is refreshing and light.
* Perfectly seared scallops come with potato hash. Sweet chili grilled grouper has Israeli couscous and crisply blanched green beans. Seared sesame-crusted ahi is served with a side of “pink mayonnaise” and curry-coconut basmati rice. Baked cod has a crispy lemon-parsley-panko crust.
* For meat eaters, there’s a grilled rib-eye with shiitake mushrooms and roasted potatoes, or dry-rubbed baby-back ribs that fall off the bone. These tend to sell out early, so get ’em while you can.
The Blue Oar in Haddam Is a Delicious Destination on Connecticut River

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