Like you, I think I know the town where I live (Rowayton) pretty intimately, but after reading Chris Hodenfield’s cover story on page 38, I’m realizing I don’t know it nearly as well as I should. And that’s what makes his feature, our second-annual Insider’s Guide, such a solid and entertaining read. Even those of us who have been walking along the same streets year after year will find something fresh, relevant and helpful on the pages here.
We asked Chris to write the story for us because he’s no stranger to the area. A true insider, he’s lived in Darien for more than seven years, although through his wife’s family, he’s been part of the community for twenty-two years. And, he’s been a resident of Fairfield County for more than two decades. To research the piece, he worked his network of plugged-in pals and friends of friends, asking each to share with him local intelligence that we can all use to better navigate the dining, retail, cultural, home and health scenes in our towns. He pounded the sidewalks, too, and his conversations with locals gave even this longtime resident a fresh perspective on what to see and do.
Chris says working on the story also reinforced something he’s been sensing about the area for some time now. “My research just amplified what I’ve been noticing over the years, and that’s how urbane, or simply urban, our towns have become,” he says. “Paul Mauk at Tequila Mockingbird said it best when he opined that he could never have opened up his sort of restaurant in New Canaan in the 1980s. Now, our town streets and attitudes are starting to resemble, say, the Upper West Side. There are more places to get a high-powered cup of coffee or a sophisticated dinner.”
But even so, Chris says it was a hoot to hear old-timers sentimentalize about places such as the old orange-roofed Howard Johnsons coffee shop that used to stand on the Post Road in Darien. “As much as many of us miss the funky old shops,” he says, “I’m happy about the new joints. Besides, we still have the New Canaan Diner and the Darien Diner when we want a good, old-fashioned breakfast.”