The Griswold Inn is a favorite for Thanksgiving or anytime


Built in 1776, The Griswold Inn is not the oldest building on Main Street in Essex, but it is one of the oldest working inns in the country – a window into the founding of the United States.

Le Gris has been welcoming hungry and weary travelers ever since the Sala Griswold opened on the eve of American independence. Once the trading hub of Essex’s bustling Connecticut River Marina, the Inn is now the heart of an elegant and historic town for vacationers, boaters and people lucky enough to live there.

It is a perfect place to celebrate Thanksgiving.

If you aren’t eating at home for Thanksgiving, then a cozy New England Country Inn brimming with old world charm and spirit is the place to go. In this category, The Gris ticks all the boxes.

The food is delicious, and it’s better. You need good food on the table to take your eyes off the decor. Every inch of the rambling dining rooms and award-winning Tap Room is covered in nautical Americana. Portraits of ships and antiques from the golden age of sailing to subsequent coastal and river paddle boats are everywhere. There is a remarkable collection of paintings of ship portraits by Antonio Jacobsen – the Rembrandt of this trade in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The timetables and prices are tucked away among the portraits. A memorable play requires “Fantasy Women and Players” to register with the captain prior to departure.

Baked cod under a gremolata crust with sautéed shrimp, brown butter, lemon, fried capers, jasmine rice and peas at the Griswold Inn in Essex.

Frank whitman

On a recent visit I had a great dinner on baked cod under a gremolata crust ($ 34) with sautéed shrimp, brown butter, lemon, fried capers, jasmine rice and peas . Marsha chose the Grilled Faroe Island Salmon ($ 30), mostly I guess, for the fall succotash, mashed roasted carrots, sautéed spinach, and the sherry-maple gastric that came with it. Both dishes were particularly tasty and creatively presented.

The menu includes some New England traditions: Clam Chowder ($ 9); Roasted butternut squash and apple bisque ($ 10); and seared scallops ($ 40). It also goes a step further with Duck Spring Rolls ($ 15), a Bowl of Quinoa Grains ($ 14), and Crispy Duck Leg Confit ($ 28) with Sweet Potato SpÓ“tzle. A Tavern Fare menu offers sandwiches and salads.

Not wanting to give up our seats in front of the fireplace, we ordered a good Sticky Toffee Pudding to extend the evening (and our waistline).

The Thanksgiving menu touches on traditional basics with the same creativity and finesse. The Butter Roasted Turkey ($ 42) takes a traditional path with a sage and sausage stuffing. The three-course dinner menu, including one starter and one dessert, will be all the more authentic in historic Griswold. Start with a soup or salad and end with a pie or cake.

From my days in the restaurant business, I can tell you that turkey will be over 80 percent of Thanksgiving orders. But for the rest, the Gray will serve braised baby back ribs ($ 42), Faroe Island salmon ($ 48), or pumpkin risotto ($ 38).

There are also enticing boutiques around the inn, perfect for holiday shopping. The Griswold Inn Store, one of Marsha’s favorite stores, is more than just a logo source. Next door are the Essex Duck (you have to search), Chocolate Geeks, Sweet P’s Ice Cream, and the Essex Coffee and Tea Company. On the other side, there’s Emmy’s on Main for creative clothing, Gracie’s Corner, and Toys Ahoy (a must stop for grandparents).

This Sweet P's Ice Cream sign across the main drag from the Griswold Inn says everything you need to know.

This Sweet P’s Ice Cream sign across the main drag from the Griswold Inn says everything you need to know.

Frank whitman

A short walk down Main Street is the Connecticut River Museum on the waterfront. Their annual holiday train show, great for kids of all ages, runs from November 23 through February 20.

The loop for walking around town (fix your meal or whet your appetite) includes fascinating shipyards, beautifully restored historic houses, and exclusive boutiques.

The Griswold has thirty-four well-appointed rooms on its campus inviting an overnight visit or more. This is what we love to do. We won’t be arriving in Essex this year for Thanksgiving, but it’s fun to visit in any season.

Frank Whitman writes a weekly food column called “Not Bread Alone”. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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