December 12, 2018

The Blue Oar: Enjoy a Tropical Feel at River Eatery in Haddam

Looking across the vibrant patio of 'The Blue Oar' towards the Connecticut River.

Looking across the vibrant patio of ‘The Blue Oar’ towards the Connecticut River.

The soft sunlight of a warm summer evening glistens off the gently flowing river as you sip wine at a pastel-colored picnic table while awaiting your Cajun catfish dinner. No, you’re not in Louisiana; you’re alongside the Connecticut River at the Blue Oar Restaurant in Haddam.

Now enjoying its 20th summer, the Blue Oar resembles more of a summer camp than a restaurant. Built on stilts to protect the kitchen from river floods, the yellow and white wooden structure resembles a children’s treetop playhouse. A trademark of the expansive dining grounds is the colored chairs and tables – pastels of lime green, melon, sky blue, tangerine and creamy yellow.  “It reminds people of the Caribbean or Florida,” says co-owner Jody Reilly. “There’s a relaxed vibe.” 

You can bring your own wine or beer, have a cheeseburger or hot dog with kraut, but your options go far beyond that.  The most popular sandwich is “the chicken, roasted pepper and cheddar,” says Reilly. “They seem to fly out of here. And also the ribs, chowder, and lobster rolls.”

A staple of fixed offerings is supplemented by a number of daily specials. Dinner entrees range from grilled salmon to Jamaican jerk BBQ pork loin. A recent Saturday night featured grilled Cajun catfish with black bean salsa and strips of grilled summer squash. The large fillet was just spicy enough and sat on a generous bed of cool black bean salsa that blended perfectly on the palate. A chilled Italian pinot grigio was the perfect accompaniment.

Appetizers are plentiful and varied. Sautéed mussels, seared scallops and fresh guacamole with house-made tortilla chips are just a few examples. If you’re looking for fried seafood, this isn’t your spot.

A view of 'The Blue Oar' from the Connecticut River.

A view of ‘The Blue Oar’ from the Connecticut River.

With docks along the river, arriving by boat is an option. “We’re a destination,” says Reilly. “A lot of people on boat trips for the day pull in from Sag Harbor or Greenport.”

On a bright, sunny evening, the Blue Oar has a distinct tropical feel. A good weather weekend can bring in up to 600 diners a day, says Reilly. There may be a line, but it moves along and provides conversation and entertainment. As waiters exit the tight kitchen, it resembles a bumper car arcade as they bob and weave through the order line that meanders out the door.

The Blue Oar is open seven days a week from Mother’s Day weekend through September, serving lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Water and soda is available but all alcohol is BYOB.

Note: it is cash only. Credit and debit cards are not accepted. The Blue Oar is located off Rte. 154 about a mile-and-a-half north of exit 7 off Rte. 9. Look for the turn sign.

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