Surrounding the green are trendy and traditional women’s clothing boutiques, ethnic markets, and great restaurants. The much applauded Billy’s Pasta Cosi, CIA grad Chef Billy gets ovations from even The Times for his fresh sauces and noodles, and Darbar of India, well known for its luncheon buffets, are packed to a full house on most evenings. Le Petit Café, a modest-looking spot, is well known statewide for its high echelon French offerings. Across the green is Ashley’s Ice Cream, where you’ll get the best scoop in town.
West of Branford Center is Short Beach, lapped by the East Haven River on its western boundary and by glimmering Granite Bay on the east and Sound side. Around the eastern shore of Granite Bay, on Harbor Street, is the town dock and Parker Memorial Park at Branford Point. The twelve-acre park has a beach and fishing pier, and the dock offers a place to fish and to watch the maritime traffic at the Harborview overlook.
A return to the town green provides a link to Route 146, the designated scenic highway that traces the coastline through Pine Orchard and Indian Neck. From the green, Montowese Street slips under the railroad trestle and crosses the causeway over the Branford River.
A bit farther south at Indian Neck, Montowese swings eastward along the shore. Just before that turn is Lenny’s Indian Head Inn, a restaurant with lush marsh views and legendary fresh seafood. Nearby is Bud’s Fish Market, which is happy to provide take-home delights such as lobsters and the like. A detour on Linden Avenue reveals an exquisite quality of light that can be savored at the Owenego Inn, the last of Branford’s summer hotels to capitalize on sweeping views of the Sound.
Back out on 146, the coastal route heads eastward through Pine Orchard to Stony Creek. Stony Creek seems to exist in a time warp, with a sense of New England’s nautical past and the time-honored work of trawling for nourishment from the Sound. A peek into the backyards reveals lobster traps and boat trailers, faded buoys and an occasional net draped to dry on a fence.
Stony Creek’s history swells with tales of quarry life, pirates, and romances of the sea, but today the village is mostly known for its Yankee charm and its islands. Named for the thimbleberries that once flourished here, the more than 100 Thimbles, of which only 32 are inhabited, are the largest group of islands on the Sound. Sightseeing businesses have developed to take tourists to see the islands, all of which are held in private hands.
As is evident after a drive through the town, each of Branford’s many neighborhoods has its own character and personality – and the residents express abiding affection for whichever of these villages they inhabit. Ask them where they live and they might say Stony Creek or Short Beach, but ask them to name their hometown and they’ll all say, “Branford.”
Jack McConnell Photo