NEW LONDON – Outside Seafood Delights, located at 194 Bank St. – where the Fat Boys used to be – the chef was preparing jerk chicken, “Jamaican style”, on a smoky grill on Thursday evening.
The street was closed to traffic as groups of parents pushing strollers, groups of teenagers and groups of millennials and seniors strolled – window shopping, reading menus and thinking about what they could order.
Restaurants had opened their doors and furnished the sidewalks with tables and chairs to serve customers. A variety of food trucks drew long lines of people waiting to order, filling the street with conversation.
It was Eat in the Street, New London’s food, art and music festival – and this month’s theme was ‘Locally Sourced’.
The weather was warm but comfortable.
By mid-evening, artists like Mia Moohr, who makes jewelry and has a store in Harris Place, said she had done very well selling her wares at her pop-up booth. “And the night is still young,” she said.
In the square, Sean Nelson, leader of the New London Big Band and trombonist, was taking a break between sets. He said the crowd had grown as the night went on.
“We cover big band music, jazz, classic swing and some of my stuff – we play the Social one Wednesday a month,” he said.
Meanwhile, the rhythmic music of the Hoolios, a Latin folk, reggae, Texan and Zydeco band, drifted from the Art Park next to the Hygienic Gallery, while the New London Firefighters Pipes and Drums paraded and played along Bank Street and Town Square. .
Barbara Neff, founder of Neff Productions, is the organizer of the event, which usually takes place on the first Thursday of the month from May to September.
“During Covid, Mayor Passero asked me to come up with another socially distanced event to get people downtown – and so I came up with Eat in the Street where restaurants could take chairs and put them in front and we could social distance and people could walk around,” Neff told CT Examiner.
She said the idea was to bring food trucks, music and artisans to downtown New London, and each festival would have a theme – it was Cinco de Mayo in May and chocolate in June. Neff said she also runs Sailfest, so there was no Eat in the Street in July.
She said this month’s ‘locally sourced’ theme included New London restaurants like the Shaking Crab, Issa’s Catering offering Mediterranean dishes, Dude’s Donuts, Dope Fried Food and Nora’s Cupcakes, which were in New London. London before the pandemic.
“We also brought Noank Oysters – It’s not New London, but it’s waterfront and we wanted to do something different,” Neff said. “And very fortunately we brought in Foxwoods Resort and Casino as they are the fireworks sponsor for Eat in the Street as well as Sailfest.”
Neff teamed up with local artist WORMO to create a scavenger hunt in which participants were tasked with finding stickers of local murals and posting photos to their Instagram stories.
Along Bank Street, artists outside the annex painted live canvases, while at the JBS Barber Spa, stylists cut hair on a salon chair set up across the street.
The festival included Tox Brewing Company, which is based in New London and was running at the Oasis pub on Bank Street.
“They brew the beer and they brought in the merchandise,” said Sean Murray, manager of Oasis as well as the Social Bar and Kitchen, who stood behind a table stacked with T-shirts and beer openers adorned with the Tox frog logo.
At the Blue Duck Bar and Restaurant, patrons ate at tables on the sidewalk. Managing Director Klemens Zachhuber said the new operation opened on June 27.
“It was a complete reconstruction of the Brass Rail that was previously in space,” he said.
Zachhuber said the restaurant serves its own Blue Duck Lager brewed by Thomas Hooker Brewing Company in Bloomfield, Conn., as well as local haddock in its fish and chips and fish sandwich.
Back at Seafood Delights, co-owner Tisha Henry, said the evening was regularly busy with road traffic. The restaurant has been open since Mother’s Day and serves Caribbean and southern cuisine, including seafood.
“We love the beautiful water views and it’s great to rebuild the community in downtown New London,” said Henry.