The statements made on this website are the personal opinions of Laura and Diane. If we feel that a restaurant visit is not up to par, please remember it is our opinion. If you disagree with us, feel free to write us at info@newenglandbites.com.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sea Swirl

30 Williams Ave.
Mystic, CT 06355
(860) 536-3452
Date: 7/12/08
Personally, I think our Web site is fantastic. I really try to give our readers everything from color photos to the nitty gritty of the restaurant bathrooms. However, there is another Web site that my mother frequents that has sent us on many an eating adventure - Roadfood. Together, writers Michael and Jane Stern have traveled the nation in search of the best out-of-the-way spots to grab a meal. With rave reviews about Sea Swirl's delicious seafood, Mom and I just had to take the drive to Connecticut to see what all the fuss was about. Besides, I can't think of a better way to spend a hot summer day than to sit outside on a picnic bench eating at a clam shack. Although it was over an hour away, Mom and I pulled into the parking lot at just around 3:45 p.m.
Mom had read online that Sea Swirl was housed in an old Carvel Ice Cream stand, which gave the place a very old fashioned feel. Luckily for us, it wasn't too busy. Perhaps everyone was still shopping at Mystic Village or perusing the nearby Seaport or Aquarium. Nevertheless, Mom and I got in line and waited to order. We had already discussed what we were going to get before we arrived (a fish and chip dinner, a side of clam strips, a side of clam fritters, and drinks), so ordering should have been a breeze. Unfortunately, when I got to the window, I realized that I was going to have a little difficulty in relaying my selection. Apparently, the family who owns Sea Swirl is from another country and all the employees have very thick accents. I'm not sure if it was Russian or not, but it sounded very similar. Anyway, as I began to tell the girl my order, we started to have a "what did you say" contest. I didn't know what she was saying, she didn't know what I was saying, etc. Eventually, we were on the same page, although I may have screwed her up when I referred to the clam fritters as "clam cakes." That must be a Massachusetts/Rhode Island thing. Oops. Once the ordering was complete, she quoted me a price:

1 clam fritters - $4.95
1 fish & chip dnr - 12.95
1 s/o strips - 9.80
1 bottle water - 1.25
Subtotal - $28.95
Tax - 1.74
TOTAL = $30.69

Yikes! I wasn't expecting the bill to be so high, but apparently the price of seafood has gone up along with everything else in the world. I paid the cashier and she handed me a receipt and told me that my number was 206. Mom and I found an awesome table that was at the end of a row and right on the main road. We hadn't been waiting long before our number was called. Since Mom already had both legs under the picnic table, I sacrificed myself and went up to the window to retrieve our food. I noticed that there was only one bottle of water on the tray, but when I told the girl that I had ordered two, she found the restaurant's copy of my receipt and told me that I had only paid for one. Annoyed, I brought the food over to my table, plopped it down, grabbed my wallet, and headed back to the ordering window to get my water. After spending another $1.33, I was finally able to sit down and eat - or was I? They had only given us one fork, so I had to wait in the for the third time to get another fork. When I got back to the table, Mom had found the second fork in the bag of clam strips. Now there were three forks. OK, deep breath. "Hey Mom, can you pass me a napkin?" "Hey Laura, where are they?" Uh oh. Getting up a forth time, I trudged over to the window to get some napkins. I was really starting to annoy myself. All I wanted to do was eat!

After we were finally assembled, and all of our utensils were firmly in place, we dug in. The first thing I ate was the cole slaw that came with the fish and chip platter. It was excellent! It had just the right amount of vinegar and mayonnaise, and was very light and tangy. Next, Mom and I split the large piece of fish in half so that we could both try some. It was a good-sized piece of fish, but we both felt that - for the price - there should have been a second piece in that order. However, the taste was great. The fish had fried up nicely, leaving a light, crisp batter on the outside. The inside was white, flaky, and tender. The fries underneath the fish were also very good. They were a little thicker than shoestring, but had the same consistency and taste. Everything was served very hot, including our two side orders. The clam fritters (or "cakes," depending on where you're from) were excellent. The same crispy batter that was on the fish held the fritter together very well. Inside, instead of the clams playing hide and seek inside the dough, each piece was chock full of them. The fritters were nice and fluffy, but very hearty. Now, some people don't really know what a clam strip is. It is basically a strip of clam without that large, chewy belly that you see people gnawing on sometimes. Gross. Mom and I can't handle any kind of chewy bits of food in our mouths, so we figured that clam strips were the way to go. Battered and fried, these strips came highly recommended on Roadfood. Since we'd never had them before, we figured now was as good a time as any. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed them. They were sweet, with a meaty filling and crisp coating. As we were ending our meal, I polished off what was left at the bottom of the bag. Delicious! This is definitely something we would get again, but as a dinner plate next time (we only had a small side).

fish and chip platter

clam fritters

clam strips

The prices at Sea Swirl are a little high. I don't know if it is the price of seafood, or because it is in Connecticut, but everything was almost $10 or over. There were a lot of things that said "market value," but I noticed that almost all the dinner plates were between $10-16, and side orders were just around $10. They definitely offered a great deal of seafood including whole belly clams, oysters, extra large gulf shrimp, sea scallops, chowders, seafood salad, lobster salad, and codfish. They also have sandwiches, assorted American appetizers (jalapeno poppers, buffalo wings, etc.), and hamburgers and hot dogs. Sea Swirl also serves ice cream, which Mom read was very tasty. Of course, as full as we were, we just had to try some. This led to one of the biggest meltdowns any almost-30-year-old has ever had.

On the Sea Swirl Web site, Mom told me that they had dips for the cones. One of the dips was toasted coconut. I could picture it in my mind. A big ice cream cone with all these little brown flakes of yummy coconut all over it. I never get my cone dipped, but I figured I would splurge for some coconut. I asked Mom what she wanted. Not shockingly, she asked for a small cup of some sort of coffee flavor. Yawn. I spotted banana on the list, so when I found myself back at the ordering window, I ordered her a cup of espresso, and myself a cone of banana - with a coconut dip. The total came to $4.55, bringing my grand total for the day to $36.57. A little high, but we did have a lot of food, so it wasn't too bad. It could have been worse. I waited in line behind a pushy woman with two large, panting dogs, and a baby carriage complete with screaming baby to get these cool treats. The cashier handed me Mom's cup, and then my cone - without the coconut pieces. "I asked for a coconut dip," I said. "Um ... ok," she replied. I watched her dip my ice cream in what looked like a hot vat of oil. The cone, which had a nice swirly top to it, was now a big, mushy mess. When she handed it back to me wrapped in a paper towel, it had a glistening sheen to it. Through the shiny pieces, I saw some bits of coconut. I also saw that half of the ice cream had melted away. Why did I think that they were going to dip the cone in actual coconut? Was this a foolish thought? Nonetheless, I stepped over the screaming brat, big dogs, and pompous lady to get back to Mom. Mom had a great time with her ice cream. She said that it had a deep coffee flavor, and was very smooth and creamy. Although the serving was a bit small, it would be worth getting again.

the ice cream, or the calm before the storm

Poor me. I can't even tell this story without getting mad all over again. Are you sitting down? When I took my first lick of the cone, the coconut coating moved, and took all of the ice cream with it. I had melted ice cream ALL over my hand - and I was paralyzed. I could barely even hold the cone, and was too messy to grab my camera. I had to eat it so fast that I barely tasted any. However, what I did taste was excellent! It had a great banana flavor and the coconut dip was quite sweet. Unfortunately, the ice cream wasn't the only thing that was melting down. I was fuming because now I was sitting in the sun, on a hot day, covered in dairy. Anyone that knows me knows that dairy scares the Hell out of me. I love it, but I can't take it when people leave milk on the counter or dirty ice cream bowls in the sink. Dairy products come with an expiration date, and that really makes me nervous! All I could think of was that my hand was now expiring in the hot sun. GROSS! I started yelling about my hand, then yelling at Mom for just being there, and then finally washing my hand with various wet naps and the antibacterial hand wash that I keep in my purse. I also threw some of my bottled water over my hand to rinse off the ice cream, but to no avail. I felt filthy, and I could think of nothing more than to get the Hell out of there and wash my hand. Yes, I was overly dramatic, but GROSS! Ice cream on your hands? Eww.

After stomping back to my car in a huff and leaving Mom to clean up the messy, ice cream filled tray (sorry, Mom), we sped out of the parking lot. We were headed for Foxwoods, but all I could think about was washing my hands under some hot, soapy water. We will definitely be visiting Sea Swirl again, but I'm going to stay away from any type of ice cream cone with a dip. The seafood was excellent and well worth the trip. The service wasn't that great (they were a little on the cocky side), the tables were situated right behind the ordering window which made for a crowded space, and the prices were a bit high, but the taste of the food made up for it. I could really pig out on a bag of those yummy clam strips, and I'm sure if you visit Sea Swirl, you will not be disappointed. Just make sure you bring plenty of wet naps.

Sea Swirl is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. until Columbus Day.

PS - We lost at Foxwoods, but we found this awesome new progressive Wheel of Fortune slot machine (only a nickel). It is in the center of one of the rooms at the Rainmaker entrance, and it was fantastic! Lots of fun, and you actually get to sit at a giant wheel. I wish we would have spotted this earlier in the day!

... and yes, I finally got to wash my hand. Hooray!