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Rediscovering South Norwalk

Hovering at a stoplight, overpassing the Norwalk River, I revel in the familiarity of South Norwalk and wonder what to uncover about this well-known Connecticut neighborhood.

Steps from Washington Street, Pedego is showing coastal visitors that there’s more than one way to enjoy South Norwalk. From beach cruisers to city commuters, tandems and trikes, visitors can buy or rent a variety of bikes for an afternoon of sightseeing. Pedego makes biking accessible to everyone: the Boomerang features a low step-through design, and the Trike provides stability and safety. Pedego is blazing the way for electric bikes in Connecticut.

South Norwalk has become as familiar to me as the hum of crossing the drawbridge. Yet, there are times, when I feel as though I’m a first timer again. That can be the most rewarding.

I stopped by a family-owned boutique in the heart of South Norwalk, Simple SONO offers a unique shopping experience to entice even the most reticent shoppers: from the sun-bathed walls to soy-based candles, warmth and comfort radiate throughout the store. Staple pieces of natural, high quality fabrics designed with coastal living in mind offer a polished and relaxed look for both men and women.

Just next door at Salon Etre, conversation flutters in the air as patrons relax beneath high ceilings and exposed brick, natural light filling the space. It lacks the frenetic energy so often found in busy salons, as highly trained stylists work with expert ease. Footrest up and head back, I melt into a clarifying treatment I didn’t know I so desperately needed, transforming my mane into a whirl of shine and brilliance.

Beach House, located a few streets away, offers a reprieve from the action of Washington Street. This contemporary American seafood restaurant serves up trusted crowd-pleasers: oysters can be enjoyed raw or as Oysters Rockefeller, following up with spicy tuna tartar. The chef whips up a well-loved dish with a twist: squid ink pasta takes the place of grains in a rich seafood risotto, and with just enough room left, one taste of the monkey bread with cream cheese filling has me making plans to return for brunch.

Want fabulous outdoor seating? Cask Republic on Washington Street compliments its laid-back, spacious indoors with sidewalk seating as well as an intimate side patio tucked back from the bustle of the main drag. Dedicated to serving locally-sourced ingredients and creating house-made items, Cask Republic offers as much in the way of quality and flavorful food as it does its beer selection. A light lunch of smoked salmon tartar and duck confit salad goes down easy with a glass of sangria while relaxing on the outdoor couches.

With a menu as eye-catching as the décor and cocktails as creative as their dishes, El Segundo is a go-to for those in the mood for variety. Communal picnic tables are perfect for happy hour, and their house Jungle Juice is a classy and delicious take on an old school slugger. When it comes to tacos, they do it right: unagi sauce makes for irresistible shrimp tacos. El Segundo’s sister restaurant, The Spread, is just around the corner, known for beautiful dishes made with farm fresh ingredients. A rustic ambience is enhanced by the lush greenery of the “living wall” in the main dining area, and I’m happy to see classic favorites like flat breads and brussels sprouts with the creativity found at El Segundo. With plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options, there’s something for everyone.

Stepping into Cigar Factory Outlet, the rich aroma of the craft invites guests to be seated in soft leather chairs and enjoy a cigar rolled right in store. As the largest Oliva cigar retailer in the country, the shop can provide the perfect cigar for everyone, from a curious novice to a seasoned enthusiast. With a liquor license, large TVs, and wifi, the Cigar Factory Outlet is a social gathering place unlike any other in the area.

Bar Sugo is a must for drinks and bites. For fellow Gin lovers, Mrs. Mia Wallace is a hit, while the Esmarelda Villa Lobos kicks sangria up a notch with Ketel One and cocci americano! Perfect for a first date or family dinner, Bar Sugo’s atmosphere is casual and welcoming, offering classic Italian comfort food made with high quality ingredients: the meatball sampler is mouthwatering, putting a spin on Mom’s classic meatballs and using locally sourced meat.

Beneath the Wall Street Theater’s marquee, doors open into a grand lobby reminiscent of the venue’s early vaudeville days. Recent renovations breathe fresh energy into the space, and while some linger by the bar, others crowd on the open floor, swaying on this evening to the Garcia Project’s soulful vibes. From the balcony, I enjoy a moment alone as the acoustics resonate as sweetly as the lead singer’s voice. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the theater is a non-profit dedicated to bringing arts and entertainment to everyone through a wide array of programming, from comedy to music to arts education.

No tour of South Norwalk is complete without a visit to the Maritime Aquarium. School programming makes the aquarium a lively destination during the day, while after-hours events for adults feature food and drinks from local businesses. This year, the aquarium celebrates 30 years of inspiring stewardship of the Long Island Sound, and it’s proud to announce that it’s going plastic-free: the aquarium will no longer be offering a number of single-use plastic items like straws and bottles, furthering their mission of protecting coastal Connecticut.

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