Hello from North Haven!
Summer is in full swing here. All the restaurants are open, poetry readings, concerts and film screenings abound at Waterman’s Community Center, and the water lapping at the island’s shores is welcoming and warm enough for a dip (if you’re part polar bear, which I luckily am).
Calderwood Hall, purchased four years ago by filmmaker Cecily Pingree and converted from a gift shop and storage space to a restaurant, several year-round apartments and the space for the new North Haven Brewery, stands at the corner of Smith Street and Iron Point Road. It marks the edge of the commercial district and its re-shingled exterior shines like a beacon for new and returning customers.
North Haven is no stranger to delicious restaurants. Cooper’s Landing, which I rhapsodized about in my Working Waterfront column, is the epitome of lobster roll (or veggie burger) and fries with a view. Nebo Lodge, of course, is famous for its farm-to-table cuisine. Calderwood Hall’s pizza, appetizers and desserts are certainly delicious, and take advantage of many of the fresh ingredients available on island and close by on the mainland. But what brings us back over and over again, and what keeps my three-year-old daughter excited every time, is the combination of wonderful food, inclusive menu, and a really welcoming space.
Dining out with a toddler can be hard. Let me rephrase that: dining out with a toddler is like dining with an alarm clock, set to an unknown hour, with a centrifuge that activates to fling food in a maximal radius when it goes off. And it’s loud. And it’s hungry, or possibly not at ALL hungry. Penrose is a reasonably well-behaved kid, and a fairly good eater, but even so our dinners often include a kid on my back, a tower of salt shakers, enthusiastic greeting of friends (and sometimes strangers, if they have a cute baby with them), and an insistence on coming with me to order drinks, visit the restroom, or pay at the counter.
Calderwood is READY. Their beautiful booths are more than a match for a wiggly kid. We started to favor them last summer, when Penrose’s lack of motor control was out of whack with her desire to no longer be contained in a high chair or booster seat. There’s a clean play area, with creative play-encouraging toys like a pizza parlor set (of course) and a vintage telephone. Its draw is powerful enough that even my koala-child will leave me for a few minutes and meet some new friends.
The food is part of the welcoming environment, and not just for kids. There’s plenty on the menu to satisfy the carb-and-cheese requirements of many young kids, including my own, who’s partial to the house-made pimento cheese and tortilla chips, and a “salad pizza” topped with fresh arugula and tomato slices, both of which she picks off before she eats, pretty much rending it a cheese pizza. But just as importantly, vegetarian options abound, and Calderwood has found the secret to a really delicious gluten free pizza crust, which is available with any of their regular toppings. Many of the desserts are gluten free.
On a very busy night this week, we had to wait for a table. Although at first I was worried about entertaining Penrose (and the four out of town visitors we had with us), but we were able to wait outside on the welcoming front stoop and lawn, and Penrose watched older kids wrestle on the grass and used her Spiderman umbrella to shelter us from the deerflies. The 20-minute delay sped past with no whining.
Calderwood Hall is open for breakfast and lunch several days a week, with pastries (from paleo pumpkin bread to decadent fruit topped brioche buns) egg dishes, and sandwiches premade and laid out for self-service on the counter. It’s a little quieter during the day, too, although plenty of patrons come through, and it’s a great place for a snack and a break before or after the playground, or for a chai and a marathon writing session on the mornings when I can get there by myself.
Not every restaurant can be as accommodating to patrons with dietary restrictions, families, and those seeking a great local food experience. Calderwood Hall has made it part of its vision, and I certainly notice and appreciate it.
And so does Penrose.