On Connecticut’s southeastern coast, along either side of the picturesque Mystic River, the village of Mystic holds a deserved reputation as a relaxed, family-friendly destination. The Mystic Seaport Museum and Mystic Aquarium are just two attractions that highlight the region’s rich maritime history and aquatic diversity. Downtown Mystic is a destination in itself, with a mix of shops and restaurants, and a still-operating 1920 Bascule bridge. The famed bridge uses overhead counterweights to allow boats to pass underneath at intervals, regularly drawing the attention of curious visitors. The downtown area is busiest in the summer, but it’s not hard to find peaceful and scenic spots — or a great meal — throughout the year. At some of the best establishments, you’ll find standout fare, much of it locally sourced, in casual surroundings.


Get cozy as you start your day at Rise (risemysticct.com; 860-415-9519; 10 Water St.), a sunny breakfast and lunch spot with just 22 seats (30 if you count outdoor tables). The first thing you’ll see upon entering is a serve-yourself coffee nook outfitted with a hodgepodge of novelty mugs — an indication that chef and owner Melody Pere’s spot doesn’t take itself too seriously. (Nor do the locals, who have begun donating to the quirky collection.) The unlimited java comes from Mystic Coffee Roasters, a few blocks away. No espresso drinks are served at Rise, but excellent pours may be had just across the street at Sift Bake Shop, owned by Adam Young, recently named Food Network’s “Best Baker in America.” Rise’s menu is modest but rewarding, with inventive egg dishes, fluffy pancakes and challah French toast that’s slightly crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle ($9). The brisket hash ($13), prepared in-house, is moist and rich with just a kick of spice, making it a perfect foil to the eggs, home fries and toast served alongside. Standout breakfast sandwiches include the Little Mel ($7), with an egg, bacon, cheddar, aioli and local greens; and the PB&B ($7), a savory and satisfying (if messy) meeting of an egg, bacon and peanut butter on an English muffin.


Walk off breakfast with shopping and sightseeing along West Main Street before heading off to lunch at Ford’s Lobster (fordslobster.com; 860-536-2842; 15 Riverview Ave., Noank). This BYOB waterside restaurant (with only outdoor seating in the summer) can stake more of a claim to lobster-laden cuisine than most. For decades, Ford’s operated as a retail lobster pound as well as a small fuel dock for boaters. (The buoy-covered building, technically located three miles from downtown Mystic in the quaint village of Noank, even had a cameo in 1988’s “Mystic Pizza.”) While the family-run business continues to sell just-caught crustaceans, it also prominently features freshly cooked lobster meat and other seafood on its lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch menus. Lobster rolls ($21) are served either hot, with the meat covered in melted butter; or cold and dressed with mayonnaise and celery. The adventurous (or the extra-hungry) should try the Lobster Bomb ($42), which is about twice the size of the typical lobster roll, with half a pound of meat served in a bread bowl and slathered in lobster bisque. Speaking of lobster bisque ($6.50), it’s a rich, creamy treat worth an order in its own right. The clam chowder ($5) doesn’t disappoint, either; options include creamy New England-style or a broth-based Noank version.


Back in downtown Mystic, Oyster Club (oysterclubct.com; 860-415-9266; 13 Water St.), helmed by executive chef James Wayman, is the place to settle in for a leisurely dinner — and slurp down another local gastronomic treasure. Fresh-shucked oysters (usually $2.50 each) are always on offer, from such nearby suppliers as Fishers Island Oyster Farm, located in the sound that the Mystic River feeds into. Seafood lovers will find more to delight them on the ever-changing dinner menu. Steamed mussels in a coconut-lemongrass broth ($14) are boldly flavored — at turns tangy, salty and spicy. The pan-roasted blackfish ($34) is delicate and buttery, served atop white-wine-braised flageolet beans, spinach and grilled spring garlic, with a lemon-rosemary relish. Prefer farm-raised cuisine? Housemade tagliatelle ($15 appetizer; $28 entree) is a welcoming palette for a ragout of prime beef, vegetables, white wine and cream. Dessert also features seasonal ingredients; a recent springtime offering was a corn cake trifle with rhubarb compote ($8). As a bonus, check out the “clam shack classics” and creative cocktails at the Treehouse, Oyster Club’s no-reservations outdoor venue (open Memorial Day to Columbus Day). Climb the stairs until you’re among leaves and branches (and probably quite a few other people). This popular hangout is the perfect perch for savoring Mystic’s crisp sea breezes.

Aberbach is a writer based in Boston. Find her on Twitter @katieaberbach.