Bare It All Downtown

Bijou Square
Bijou Square downtown. Photo courtesy of Bob Abbate.

As a young scribe 30 years ago there was the Ocean Sea Grill downtown and a few other eateries that came and went. And oh yeah, we had the bars. For reporters working the night shift churning out The Telegram, predecessor of the Connecticut Post (The Tele was the morning paper and the Post the afternoon) Sol’s Cafe on Fairfield Avenue was the sanctuary for cocktails all night and into the early morning and after hours. Shoot, if the cops raided the place, who was going to write about it?

Bare Tapas & Vino is the latest to fill the location of Sol’s Cafe and it’s quite a step up from the sleepy, dark, jukebox joint we knew. (What’s a jukebox?) Cool stuff is going on downtown and Joe Tiago, young proprietor of a construction company, is part of the emerging brighter face. A few years ago he opened Tiago’s on State Street, a pub across McLevy Green. On Thursday Joe hosted the grand opening of his second restaurant Bare Tapas & Vino, part of Phil Kuchma’s Bijou Square development on Fairfield Avenue. Running a restaurant is a tricky thing in the best of times. Joe has plugged a nice hole after Cafe Roma closed more than a year ago.

In a space of a few blocks downtown there’s Joe’s two restaurants, Épernay Bistro, Two Boots, Joseph’s, a steak house that rivals any in New York City, Ralph & Rich’s, Metric Bar & Grill, Amici Miei Cafe and several other culinary opportunities. The city did not have these choices several years ago. Complementing the restaurants are venues hosting theater, concerts and sports: ballpark at Habor Yard, Webster Bank Arena, Bijou Theatre, Downtown Cabaret Theatre, Klein Memorial, art galleries at Housatonic Community College and City Lights.

When my stepdaughters asked about housing options in the city I recommended downtown. Both of them are now downtown residents, enjoying highway access, train line and emerging cultural and social activities.

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, check out downtown.



  1. What a difference an election cycle makes–especially here at OIB.

    old cycle: Mayor Finch is no good as OIB takes on a one-dimensional role and encourages & tolerates anti-Finch and anti-Bridgeport rhetoric.
    new cycle: Bridgeport is a wonderful place whose restaurant options have multiplied in recent years. OIB even recommends it as a housing destination.

    (What happened in between received little attention here.)

    Most would agree we’re in a serious recession. The Mayor of Bridgeport has one of the hardest jobs in America. During the last four years he has received little help and much scorn from this blog. Considering its name, that’s downright uncivic.

    Wise men in Bridgeport sat at my table and said in unison: The Scribes of yesterday have become the scribblers of today.

    1. Ah, Local Eyes and his selective memory strikes again! We also encourage positive Bridgeport and positive Finch if commenters so choose. We are positive enough for you to keep coming back. Thank you for your loyal readership.

        1. One’s negative energy is there to promote the positive energy of positive change. Unfortunately, the recent election cycle indicates B’port is lacking in enough voter interest to be concerned about positive change and is left to wallow in the elephant manure from the Election Day circus.

        2. “I’m here to offset the negative energy that dominates these pages.”

          LE, isn’t that a mighty tall order for you, or for anyone? Is that the same as lighting a candle in the darkness? Is it like asking people what they see, what they hear, and what is going on before them? And asking someone to get active regarding the structure, the practices and the process of local municipal governance? LE, if you still reside outside Bridgeport, it may be a stretch to ask you to attend some of our “public hearings’ but it would be instructive of how far representation of the people, fiscal checks and balances and intent to use “best practices” are underwhelming here in Bridgeport. That is for real. Ignoring the reality by not voting, not informing oneself, or accusing those who raise such issues of “negative energy” is just plain dumb in my opinion. Just one man’s thoughts. Time will tell.

  2. So it’s the recession. According to you, there is nothing wrong with the way Finch ‘administers’ our municipality. Also, according to you, the omnipresent influence of Mario Testa is again blameless for our present condition. Furthermore, the only real shot we have at meaningful economic development lies in the hands of Paul Timpanelli. How do you think that is working out?

    We are cascading into a deep fiscal pit. Finch is responsible but he shares the blame with the DTC and the bums Testa placed on the Common Council.

    The OIB posters, with the exception of the confused few, do not support Finch. Nor do we have any faith he and his infrastructure have the capacity to restore this town to prominence.

    There are some great restaurants in Downtown Bridgeport. But there are no jobs, no business additions, no nothing. When Downtown is restored to a fully functioning epicenter of commerce, I will gladly praise those who are responsible.

    I’ll tell you this. So long as Mario Testa, Paul Timpanelli, Finch, the Common Council and the DTC as presently constituted are involved, we will see nothing meaningful happen.

    1. What about those big Green improvement signs with Finch’s name in big, bold letters in time for the primary? Is that not meaningful enough for you? Think how much that added to the economy of Bridgeport. Furthermore, it saved money. By spreading the cost among all of Bridgeport’s taxpayers, Finch’s political campaign and Testa’s DTC did not have to bear the cost burden alone. Plus, they are green–part of the Green initiative?

  3. I still maintain the future of Downtown belongs to the newcomers and out-of-towners. Bridgeporters rarely celebrate and support any new venue in the city. I have been to Bijou square many times and the new theater is definitely an asset. Bare is a very nice new restaurant and have been to Épernay many times. They have coupons on for those who know how to save 25 dollars per check. Two Boots is always happening on the weekend and they have great entertainment. Phil Kuchma has done a great job as he usually does. The Bijou Theatre shows some really great foreign films. The bar is great also!

  4. Local Eyes, have you ever used a battery? Did you know a battery cannot function with just the positive pole and it can only work in conjunction with the negative pole? Do you see my point, the analogy? I understand Bill Finch stated during his election-night victory speech he has heard the issues raised by Foster, Torres and Kohut. Now is the time for Mary-Jane Foster as a fellow Democrat, local businesswoman and representative of the University of Bridgeport to meet with major Bill Finch and set the stage to move the city forward. Our elected government officials cannot do it alone. If Mary-Jane Foster doesn’t take the first step, it is Bill Finch’s duty to reach out to her and UB. The combination of the positive and negative poles is absolutely necessary to power up Bridgeport. Both sides have the capability, resources, ideas and the obligation to join as one source of power. The time is now! I don’t think mayor Bill Finch would agree what I’ve posted here on OIB is all that bad. If I were so negative, why hasn’t the Finch campaign returned my $500 campaign contribution? If I hated Finch, why would I give so generously with no strings attached? I saw a man who looked like Local Eyes walking naked in downtown Bridgeport. Lennie, you need to be more careful in how you write some of your topics and the terms you use. Did you forget you have two daughters living in downtown Bridgeport? The Big Wage (remember this one?), what the heck was that supposed to mean? What was going on in your mind? By the way Lennie, I called you last week and you didn’t return my call as far as I’m concerned. If you did, you could have sent me an e-mail with a response just as quickly as you responded to Local Eyes.

  5. The battery analogy is weak. It works for neither OIB nor negative battery poles. Besides, there are already too many negative pols here already.


    bonus: yahooy, grab a paddle, you’re next!


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