As you diligent readers know, Emme and I have put the Bluefish Capital of Connecticut on Colbertsian notice. How is it possible that the former summer home of beloved children’s author/illustrator Dr. Seuss could get our collective Irish up? It’s easy – Clinton now has the distinction of being the only town that we have had to TWICE drudge our exceedingly busy and important selves to in order to give it a proper OneSixNining. The fact that we couldn’t properly evaluate a town of 16 square miles of land (13 thousand people!) in one day is a problem, considering that we later schooled North Branford in just a few hours and that has 25 square miles of land. We also are totally awesome at looking up towns on wikipedia. In case you didn’t already know that.
Clinton: Day 1 was Black Friday. We thought we’d kick off the Christmas shopping season by checking out the scene at the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets. Emme and I would be lying if we said we were Clinton Crossing newbies. I mean, we’re not shopaholics or anything, but I’m starting to get to know some of the staff at the J.Crew store. Black Friday is a special day in the retailverse, however, and I’ve never seen Clinton Crossing so busy. Deal-hunters were out in full force ready to get their hands on the legendary brands, abundant selection and real savings.
The line at Coach.
Of course, Emme and I weren’t there just to observe the Black Friday shoppers. You can’t expect us to visit a premium outlet mall and not partake. We, too, perused the “abundant selection” and made some purchases at J. Crew. Stores we also love include Banana Republic, the Nike store, Coach and Polo Ralph Lauren. Stores we elected to pass by include Dress Barn, Dress Barn Woman, Juicy Couture and the Crocs store.
Some of the stores at Clinton Crossing
Saks outlet all decked out for the holidays
After the outlets we headed over to Hanami, a Japanese restaurant on Route 1. If you want to know what we had, well, you can just screw off. It was a month ago. Stop expecting so much from us, okay? I can tell you we weren’t disappointed. It was a nice place. Interruption by Emme: I know that I had the sushi — super yum! Our dining companion had something soup-based. I forget what Elle had. But it was all totally tasty, and the waitress was very prompt and friendly. Recommend!
After Hanami we made our way to the center of Clinton to The Coffee Break. Alas, The Coffee Break (and it appears, almost all of Clinton) was closed. It wasn’t a huge surprise as it was after 6:00 the day after a holiday. Emme and I decided we’d return to Clinton at a later date to drink something and talk to someone.
Fast forward about three weeks. (During this time, Emme and Elle survived a Nor’Easter, were shocked by the relevations of Tiger Woods’s extramarital affairs, and completely lost track of what is going on in the health care debate.) Now older, wiser, and possibly facing higher taxes on our Cadillac health care plans, we returned to Clinton at 3:00 the Wednesday before Christmas. And what did we find? The Coffee Break – closed. Again. Malone’s Sandwich and Coffee House? Closed. Some other place we saw that I forgot the name of? Closed. Determined, we drove along Route 1 in search of someplace to “Drink Something.” Seeing an ironically snow-covered sign for a place called Beach Donut Shop, we stopped there, thinking we might be able to score a coffee.
Emme has informed me that this photo is funny
Turns out Beach Donut (not to be confused with “Donut Beach,” the tastiest of the unmade Frankie and Annette movies) focuses more on bulk rather than individual donut sales. A cafe it is not. Plus, you walk in and you’re pretty much in the middle of the donut-making action. We did snag a couple of their very yummy products but it was, in Emme’s words, “the most awkward donut-buying experience of my life. And I’ve bought A LOT of donuts.” (Note from Emme: I grew up in a place called The Colonial Do-Nut Shop. Proof of its existence circa 1983? The place still doesn’t have a website and is closed on Sundays. But anyways, Colonial made all their donuts by hand in the store, and clearly Beach Donut does the same thing, the difference being that Colonial is quaint and friendly, and Beach Donut is full of racks and on hipstered-out young teen trying the punk thing a few years too late.)
Ultimately, were able to get beverages at Dunkin’ Donuts, a small coffee and pastry shop on Route 81. You may have heard of it. Dunkin’ Donuts is a truly innovative patisserie. While most cafes cater to faux intellectuals, aspiring screenwriters and procrastinating graduate students (“Come, hipster, have an organic, fair trade coffee. Listen to this wonderful Joni Mitchell CD. Stay awhile. Have another coffee. Converse loudly about politics with all the wisdom and insight only a casual reading of The New Haven Advocate can provide”) this is not the scene at at Dunkin’ Donuts, coffee shop of the proletariat, whose interior charmingly proclaims “When you are finished, kindly return to your UPS route.” (Elle’s apt description of Dunks has forced me (Emme) to add this GREAT link from a 2007 Boston Phoenix article about the Dunkin brand — a must-read for Dunkin’ devotees).
As I stepped up to the lovely rose and pumpkin-colored counter and began asking questions of the barista, I got the impression that he was not well versed in the authentic espresso method. No matter, I’m not so pretentious as to believe one must be an alumnus of a qualified Italian bar man school to make an acceptable caffelatte. I ordered a medium (coffee sizes in English? How droll!) iced caramel latte and was impressed by the both the quality and size of the drink. I wound up disposing of half of my “medium,” but carefully, so I did not spill it on myself and drown.
In short, Dunkin’ Donuts is far and away the best coffee shop in Clinton…if you’re in Clinton past 2:30 PM.
Talk To Someone
We’re getting better at this one, we swear. We did chat a little bit with the young employee at Beach Donut (again, not “Donut Beach”). At one point we asked him if we were still in Clinton or if we had crossed over into Westbrook. He wasn’t entirely sure. Maybe we aren’t missing out on much by not talking to people on these outings.
Lessons in Connecticuting
- Shoreline towns are not good late-fall-early-winter destinations. Emme’s other life is in a beach community, so she should have known better, but whatever. Clinton, you have a giant supermall. You should have one coffee shop that ISN’T Dunks be open after 2:30. On a weekend. Furthermore, many CT towns have a town green. In most of these towns, outside the green you can find a bunch of chain stores and not much else. This is absolutely true for Clinton.
- We’re not closed-minded; we’d love to see the inside of the Coffee Break and find out if Malone’s sandwiches are the best in town. If you’re reading this, proprietors, we accept your invitations for some free samples and will gladly update this entry. But it better be free. We spent all our money on gas driving to Clinton. TWICE.
- We really shouldn’t have to talk to someone in every town. The Beach Donut kid didn’t even know where he worked. I don’t know which this reflects more poorly on — Beach Donuts, their employees, or Clinton’s memorability.
- Splitting a town into two visits isn’t the terrible idea we thought it would be, and I’m glad Elle didn’t try to lie to you and pretend we did it all in one day. Cause she thought about lying to you, you know.
- Everything good in life comes from Massachusetts. Dunkin Donuts, the only place we could find a beverage in Clinton, is a Mass-based company. Meaning that we should abandon OneSixNine and reconsider ThreeFiveOne. Obviously this is Emme writing. But I’m just saying, Clinton did not do a whole lot to sell me on the wonders of Connecticut.