Since I moved from Newport, Rhode Island back to Wilton, Connecticut, I have made an effort to enjoy Fairfield County as much as possible.
I moved back to Connecticut in November 2015 and I haven’t been adulting in the way I had originally planned. I interviewed for positions at marketing agencies and fashion brands for months and struggled to get a few bites. Even though I built a strong foundation in fashion retail, marketing and PR in Rhode Island, clearly my experience with small businesses failed to impress employers looking for candidates who have already worked in the city.
Being back in Connecticut has helped me focus on my blog and build my side hustle as a freelance social media consultant. In March 2016, I found an assistant manager position at a new store in Westport, which eventually led me to my current position at Theory. Looking back on the past 18 months, I can say—for the first time ever—that I’m actually happy to be in Fairfield County.
To be honest, I didn’t want to come back to Connecticut. I dreaded it.
Growing up here
was an emotionally suppressing experience was not fun. My family didn’t fit in with the Vineyard Vines/Brooks Brothers aesthetic.We didn’t have old family money or new, hedgefund money. Both of my parents did a lot for me and my brothers to have the best life possible. My dad gave up his career as a musician to become a businessman and worked hard to support the family and put three kids through private universities. We didn’t place a priority on materialism. We’re from Rhode Island, but we never cared about what cars other families drove or the square footage of their homes.
Also, with our Filipino background, my brothers and I were part of the handful of students in the Wilton education system that belonged to the “diverse” population. It was always fun explaining how my “tan skin” and straight hair were natural and not a result of spray tans or Brazilian hair straightening.
One of my favorite memories is a classmate telling me how my “color” was perfect the way it was in the spring and I shouldn’t get “too dark” over summer vacation. I also remember a time when I was washing my hands in the girls’ bathroom, a girl told me that I looked like Tila Tequila…
By the time my senior year of high school came around, I refused to buy the “WHS Class of 2010” T-shirt. I decided to attend Salve Regina University—I wanted to stay in Rhode Island until I had enough work experience to move to New York City.
But life happens. So here I am, sitting in my favorite coffee shop in downtown Wilton, blogging quietly, trying not to say anything to the group of moms who could clearly use some marketing help for their boys’ baseball team fundraiser.
I appreciate living in Fairfield County much more as an adult, but as I’ve explained before, suburbia is not a place for an ambitious 20something.
The inspirational quotes on my Instagram tell me not to compare my progress with others, but my friends from high school or college are doing awesome things. They’re living in the Upper East Side or Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas. They’re enrolled in graduate programs at prestigious universities—Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown and someone else was recently accepted to Duke.
Besides working at Theory and focusing on my side hustles, the only other consolation I have being back here was exploring the changing restaurant scene.
I loved eating and drinking through Newport, so it only makes sense to do try up-and-coming places in Fairfield County that are still being discovered.
These types of restaurants—the ones with the polished, yet low-key atmosphere who served craft cocktails or premium beverages and small plates that didn’t cost a monthly car payment—either weren’t around when I was growing up or I was too young to be able to enjoy them.
Then again, Wilton had been the only dry town in Fairfield County for years until a decade or so ago…
Whether it’s comfort food or cocktails, here are my favorite restaurants that have won me over since returning to this neck of the woods:
Where: South Norwalk
Year of Opening: 2016 (?)
From my understanding of this article in The Hour, Peaches used to only be a bar on the top floor and the concept eventually evolved into taking over the whole building. I enjoyed taking a break from my relatively healthy diet to enjoy some Southern comfort in New England. Order a cocktail fit for a Georgia peach, chicken wings and cheddar grits, then be prepared for a delightful food coma for the next 24 hours.
South Norwalk, opened in 2016
Some people are used to doing beer or whiskey flights at the bar before dinner. Or even opting for a wine pairing with a meal is normal.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a meat enthusiast—it’s hard not to be impressed by a restaurant’s presentation of different flavored bacon strips perfectly hung on a clothesline made of an industrial cast-iron. Pair your bacon tasting with a bourbon cocktail from the bar and you’re ready for a fun night out in SoNo.
As an avid macaroni and cheese lover, I passed on the burgers and ordered the spicy mac. It’s like eating a cheesy, warm hug. It’s a beautiful feeling.
Wilton, opened in 2016
I’ve been back a second time since I first came here and my opinion hasn’t changed. It was cool to see people from all age groups enjoy the experience of afternoon tea.
Ridgefield, opened in 2014
Everyone recognizes Luc’s and Bernard’s as the go-to French restaurants in Ridgefield, but Sucré Salé offers a casual, approachable vibe for passionate Francophiles or those curious enough to try something different from their typical American brunch. The service is so slow, but it’s well worth the wait for authentic Bretagne cuisine. I came for Sunday brunch and loved my omelette, but I would come back to try the dinner menu on Thursdays for live music.
If you need another reason to stop in, read how The Ridgefield Press shared the romantic story behind the creperie-bistro.
Rothbard Ale + Larder
Westport, opened in 2015
I found Rothbard last spring when I was walking around town for the Duck Races.
If you haven’t been already, get ready to relive your European college semester abroad at Walrus + Carpenter’s sister restaurant. Find your Belgian beers, Pimm’s Cups and absinthe cocktails at this cozy spot in downtown Westport.
Mecha Noodle Bar
SoNo, opened in 2015
Because of my love for both Mecha Noodle Bar and Boru Noodle Bar in Newport, Rhode Island, I’m always on the hunt for ramen noodle bars wherever I travel. My favorite time to go is during Happy Hour—it’s hard to go wrong with their drink specials, a side of mushroom dumplings and a bowl of spicy miso ramen.