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Bridgeport's Black Rock Neighborhood Offers Cultured, Affordable Seaside Living

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When Courtney Hartl and her husband Matt looked at a potential space for a coffeehouse in Bridgeport’s Black Rock neighborhood, they weren’t familiar with the area. While exploring the neighborhood, they walked at St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea, a popular waterside park and walkway. “People kept smiling and saying hello,” Courtney says.

The Hartls were surprised and intrigued, falling in love with the friendly community spirit. They opened Source Coffeehouse five years ago. “We have come to love this neighborhood and the city that [is] now our home for so many reasons,” she says. “We love the diversity, high level of community engagement and sense of connection among neighbors. There is an energy here that we love being a part of. So many of our customers are artists and creators, activists and organizers.”

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St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea is a popular waterside park for both Black Rock residents and visitors.

Black Rock is that rarest of gems anywhere, but particularly in Fairfield County: an affordable area on the water. It is also walkable and liveable. Residents and visitors alike enjoy a mix of hip restaurants and drinking establishments on the neighborhood’s main drag of Fairfield Avenue as well as access to waterside attractions. 

Foodie finds

Lovers of high-end coffee will want to seek out the Hartls’ Source Coffeehouse (203-522-5662, sourcecoffeehouse.com). From espresso drinks to nitro cold brew to pour-overs, Source features elite beverages. Nearby Walrus + Carpenter (203-333-2733, walruscarpenterct.com) is a celebrated gastropub specializing in craft beer cocktails and barbecue that has long been praised in the pages of this magazine. On a recent trip, an order of burnt ends was the standout. Across the street is Match Taco (203-923-8686, matchtaco.com) a Mexican takeout spot owned by Matt Storch, who won Food Network’s Chopped last year. Black Rock is also home to Bloodroot (203-576-9168, bloodroot.com), a feminist restaurant with a seasonal specialty in vegan and vegetarian items; Harborview (203-367-7336,

harborviewmarket.com), a neighborhood favorite for breakfast and lunch; and Fire Engine Pizza Co. (203-333-3473, thefireenginepizzaco.com), a crowd-pleasing pizza spot and bar. Beyond food, Aspetuck Brew Lab (203-540-5555, aspetuckbrewlab.com) is a small craft brewery with a cool taproom and a variety of innovative craft beers.

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Hikers walk along the jetty toward Black Rock Harbor lighthouse.

Soaking up water views

St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea is one of the neighborhood’s most beautiful attractions. A tree-lined waterside walkway with dazzling views of Black Rock Harbor and Long Island Sound, it stretches about a half-mile from the Black Rock Yacht Club (80 Grovers Ave.) to Ash Creek. There are also picnic tables and a grassy area. Another waterside attraction is Captain’s Cove Seaport (203-335-1433, captainscoveseaport.com). This delightfully kitschy marina features a restaurant and bar with a boardwalk that is home to a variety of shops where visitors can stroll during warm months and take home various trinkets. Black Rock is also near to Seaside Park in Bridgeport and Jennings Beach in Fairfield.

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A team competes in the Black Rock Bed Races during 2018’s Black Rock Day. 

Quirky concerts and events

Those looking to experience Black Rock’s quirk and character need look no further than two of its annual festivals: Black Rock Day (blackrockcc.org) and PorchFest (facebook.com/brporchfest). Scheduled for June 9, Black Rock Day features a mattress race that is just as wacky as it sounds. Teams of no more than five people must push a mattress with four wheels on it while at least one team member lays on the mattress at all times. In addition, the event features a more traditional running race, a parade and a concert. The fourth annual PorchFest will be held Aug. 24. This festival consists of bands performing from various porches throughout the neighborhood. Last year’s free festival featured more than 50 bands. The concept started in Ithaca, New York, in 2007. For live music all year round, check out the jam-band scene at The Acoustic, a bar and music hall (203-335-3655, theacoustic.rocks).

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Deaf Horsefish performs at a home on Bartram Avenue during 2018's third annual Black Rock PorchFest.

REAL ESTATE

Shari Nerreau, a Realtor at William Raveis Real Estate in nearby Southport, says Black Rock offers “a mix of residential properties including townhouses, condominiums and single-family homes.” Some examples of what was recently on the market include:

For $185,000

A two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,320-square-foot condominium on Ellsworth Street.

For $334,900

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,543-square-foot house on Woodland Avenue that was built in 1920 and sits on a .13-acre lot.

For $990,000

Four-bedroom, 5 ½-bathroom, 4,885-square-foot waterfront contemporary home on Anchorage Drive on .52 acres. The property has a pool, beach and dock.

This article appeared in the May 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University