Open since last summer, the Brasserie Pip has revved up Ivoryton’s dining scene with its chirpy yellow walls and Parisian sensibilities. Escargot, hanger steak with tarragon butter, and homemade baguettes are menu staples. The bar opens an hour before the kitchen if you're especially thirsty for a vodka cocktail infused with fresh lemongrass and ginger.
New York restaurateur Jonathan Rapp (Etats-Unis) is at the helm of his Chester restaurant, River Tavern, on Saturdays and Sundays (he’s a part-time resident of neighboring Deep River). Fresh from renovations that left the southern chestnut walls gleaming, the tight quarters are jammed with locals lining up for daily changing dishes, made-to-order guacamole, and date pudding for dessert.
Come May 13, local celebs like Dominick Dunne can be seen slumming it at the Blue Oar in Haddam. More backyard barbecue than blue-blood yacht club, it's fantastically casual with picnic tables overlooking the river and burgers, hot dogs, steamers, and lobster rolls on the menu. Pets and store-bought beverages permitted.
For a mid-day nosh, pick up a crab-cake sandwich or one of the daily blackboard specials from Olive Oyl's (79 Main St.; 860-767-4909), a gourmet shop in Essex. The best place for a picnic: the Steamboat Dock at the foot of Main Street. Whatever you don't eat, the mallards and gulls will gladly snap up.