W hen I first moved to New Haven and a bartender recommended the Owenego, I thought he and his Irish accent were having fun at my expense. I’d recently embarrassed myself with a novice “apizza” conversation, so I tried to Google my way to an understanding. I gave up when “Oh-knee-go” and “Oh, an Eagle” failed to produce any results. I sheepishly requested a spelling, and I’ve been visiting regularly ever since.

On Branford’s Indian Neck, the Owenego inn and beach club has a long and interesting history stretching back to 1847, which you can learn a little about on their website or, better yet, from their friendly bar staff. Everyone I’ve ordered from is knowledgeable about the joint and seems genuinely glad to be there. I would be too with their view of the Sound.

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What needs knowing is that the inn stands as the last of the small beach club resorts that once dotted the shoreline in and around Branford. Though still largely private and utilized primarily by its members, the Owenego welcomes the public to a bar on the first floor and the Hungry Dog Cafe on the lower level, both open after 5 p.m. during the summer months.

Though I’d like to, I can’t afford a boat or waterfront housing. But for the cost of a drink, the Owenego grants me access to that rarified sea air and, hey, I get to enjoy the drink, too. If you like a crowd, summer Fridays offer food trucks and a live band. Parking is 10 bucks, and there’s an outdoor bar to handle the masses and ensure you don’t leave thirsty.

Personally, I like a quieter, more contemplative Owenego, on a weeknight when there’s just a few members and their kids putting away their kayaks and playing lawn games. I try to appreciate the personality of the water and the dusky blue half-light. I indulge my comically romantic side that seems to make an appearance when I’m next to large bodies of water. I shake the ice in my cocktail and do my best not to take the moment for granted.

My favorite thing to do is grab a cold beer at the bar and walk directly toward the water, specifically the granite jetty at the corner of the property. A concrete causeway leads to the rocks, where a few semi-comfortable flat spots let you sit down and take in the panorama of passing boats and Thimble Islands.

Speaking of which, the nearby Thimble Island Brewing Company contract-brews two enjoyable house beers for the Owenego: a New England Pale Ale and, getting fancy, a Lemongrass Saison. Grab one of those, and head out to the rocks for one of the most contented drinks you’ll have all year.

The Owenego
40 Linden Ave, Branford (map)
(203) 488-3805

Written and photographed by Chris Renton.

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Chris lives in Hamden, Connecticut, with his wife and dog. He likes old trees and old bars. He works at the Yale Peabody Museum, home to a lot of old things. He is getting old.

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