Milford calls itself a small city with a big heart. It’s also a beautiful seaside community with more miles of coastline than any town in the state. The Milford Green — the second-longest in New England — stretches for blocks in the heart of a walkable downtown dotted with shops, bars and restaurants. Nearby Milford Harbor and Wilcox Park provide even more outdoor options on a gorgeous summer day in the sixth-oldest town in Connecticut. The weather gods smile down on the day my wife and I return to the place we called home for seven years. It is mid-May but a forecast of overcast and 62 degrees is replaced by sunny and 75.
No singular attraction — unless you’re a beach bum — truly puts Milford on the map. There’s no casino, amusement park, minor-league baseball team or large concert venue. But that’s also why it’s such a wonderful place to live, and a great place to spend a spectacular Saturday. Walking on the beach, appreciating nature and history, eating great food, enjoying a drink in a bar full of regulars — if it’s not home to you, it can start to feel that way in no time.
12:30 p.m. Things’ll be great when you’re downtown
Still amazed at our lucky weather day, we exit I-95 and head straight for downtown Milford. Plenty of locals have dropped their lines into the Wepawaug River, which momentarily morphs into a tranquil duck pond by city hall. Standing by the lagoon in the shadows of City Hall, the Parsons Government Complex (the old Milford High School) and the First United Church of Christ, which dates back to 1639, I gaze up at trees finally in bloom against a backdrop of crisp blue sky. If a skywriter flew by and spelled out “Welcome to Milford,” the postcard would have been complete.
1:30 p.m. Get me to The Greek Spot
The Greek Spot Cafe & Grill on East Broadway is one of those places we had talked about going to for years but never did. What better day than today? East Broadway runs parallel to the ocean between Milford Harbor and Silver Sands State Park. It’s a residential neighborhood of beach homes that were battered by Hurricanes Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012). The Greek Spot, the only non-residential building for as far as the eye can see, opened in the summer of 2013.
Trying to keep it relatively light for a long day ahead, we split a plate of Stacy Loaded Fries (garlic feta fries, tzatziki, gyro meat) and a tender, tasty chicken souvlaki stick at our outdoor table. Much like the afternoon’s weather, the fries are unexpectedly phenomenal. The Greek Spot is a little out of the way, but people clearly go out of their way to get there. Every seat, inside and out, is full.
2:15 p.m. Silver lining
A leisurely stroll after a good meal is one of life’s simpler pleasures. The mile-long boardwalk connecting Silver Sands State Park and Walnut Beach is the perfect setting. Vast ocean views, soaring birds you won’t see in your backyard and opportunities for people-watching are all plentiful. Once we reach Walnut we walk out onto the pier and soak in the surroundings. Heading back toward Silver Sands we wander out to the tombolo connecting the beach to Charles Island. It’s a bit of a natural marvel, a low-tide walkway to an island. The tide isn’t low enough to venture across, so we stay on the mainland. No time to waste anyway; a brewery visit is on tap.
3:30 p.m. Point well taken
Milford Point Brewing, the city’s first brewery, was formed in late 2016 by friends Chris Willett and Jerry Candido and officially opened in April of last year. MPB has already undergone a pint-room expansion and had its grand re-opening in April of this year. Located in a small business park off Woodmont Road, Milford Point Brewing is a truly hidden gem with a fun vibe. It was packed but not crowded, with a lone acoustic guitarist leading an impromptu sing-along to the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” A Street N’ Savory food truck parked outside and Scarlett the big brewery dog parked on the floor only add to the ambiance. An Anchor Beach IPA is quite refreshing, and my predetermined time limit is the only thing stopping me from exploring the menu further. Many of the beer names pay tribute to the city — Pond Point Lager, Devon Wheat, Silver Sands IPA and the West Shore Double IPA, to name a few.
4:30 p.m. “It’s all good. It’s all Milford.”
Our love for Milford rekindling, we head back downtown to do some shopping. We park at the Metro-North station and walk up River Street to Canvas Patch, a small store of crafts, nautical-themed items and tsotchkes that serves as Milford’s gift shop. Owner Marti Reed has been running the store for more than four decades. Next door, above the now-shuttered Subway, was home to Dan Patrick’s nationally syndicated sports radio show for many years. Patrick, Milford’s most famous resident, and his crew moved into a new studio (dubbed The Man Cave) on Naugatuck Avenue earlier this year. Reed tells me her daughter Susan painted a mural and did some other artistic work in what may be the most elaborate and extravagant radio studio in the world. We chat a little more about the history of the city before it’s time to go. Reed closes the conversation by saying, “It’s all good. It’s all Milford.” As far as mottos go, that may give “a small city with a big heart” a run for its money.
We then saunter over to Inside Living Style on Broad Street, a cute decor boutique that opened after we moved out of town. We browse for about 10 minutes before I decide on a travel mug that reads, “You know what I like about people? Their dogs.”
5:30 p.m. Christmas in July
Mug in hand, we walk across the street to the Green. A large craft fair is going on at the south end, but I’ve done enough shopping to last me till December. Like many town greens, Milford’s is a tribute to its past. A bell that served as the city’s first fire alarm warning system from 1887 to the 1930s hangs near a memorial to deceased volunteer firefighters. War monuments honor those who served and died from the Civil War up to the recent conflicts in the Middle East. My wife asks me about the Korean War, and I struggle to find answers. I realize I owe it to the names etched into the stone to find out the reason they gave their lives.
We approach the tree that will be lit up throughout the holiday season. Getting closer, we realize the evergreen is completely draped in Christmas lights. It makes total sense to not redecorate the same 50-foot tree every year, but it was a bit surprising nonetheless.
6 p.m. Seas ’n’ Greetings!
If you ask someone in Milford which bar to go to for happy hour, I would wager a guess the majority would recommend Seven Seas. An institution known for its lobster rolls and clam chowder, the Seas is an old-school bar and restaurant where longtime locals congregate. It’s Milford’s version of Cheers, which is appropriate considering John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) is also a resident.
6:45 p.m. Our pie, the bar pie
We’re in love with New Haven pizza, but our mistress is Colony Grill. The large, covered outdoor bar is the place to be on a nice warm day. A personal-size, thin-crust bar pie is the only item on the menu, and the signature topping is hot oil. We each polish off five of our six slices, saving a little room for dessert.
8 p.m. Dessert Island
Our favorite way to end the day in Milford — after hours at the beach, an afternoon of bar-hopping or following a show at the Milford Arts Council — has always been Cafe Atlantique. Owner Tina Roberts serves up scrumptious food all day, but nighttime is the right time here. A woman strums her guitar and sings while we sip on a caramel apple chai. Dense, decadent cake balls and brownies make the day sweet and complete.
As we sit and chat I notice an older man sitting alone in the corner wearing a Korea Veteran hat. His denim shirt, jeans and all-black sneakers make me think of my grandfather, himself a World War II vet who was on the Missouri when Japan surrendered. When Gramps died he must have left his wardrobe to this gentleman, I think to myself. Recalling our conversation by the monuments on the Green, and becoming slightly emotional, I consider walking over to say hello.
Just then a woman approaches him, maybe an old friend or neighbor. “So good to see you,” she says. After a few minutes she walks away and a man instantly takes her place. He shakes the veteran’s hand, and their hands stay locked while they talk. My grandfather used to do the same thing with me. They remain engaged in conversation as we leave the cafe.
A small city with a big heart. It’s all good. It’s all Milford.