I finally got to check out the new Swooner last weekend - my first visit since its re-incarnation from Skipper's Dock. I was a bit nervous given the mixed reviews, but had to see first hand. For me there are 3 important factors for dining out: food, service, and ambiance. These determine the overall experience, which I found to be very good at Swooner - with some room for improvement.
FOOD A-/B+: Much improved in my opinion is the menu: a lot of upscale options that were all very good. We tried the fish and chips, scallops, and lobster roll -- all quite delicious. The beet salad and smoked fish pate as starters were also excellent. Craft cocktails were also inventive and very refreshing.
AMBIANCE A+: We had called ahead to put our names on the wait list and were seated immediately on a Saturday night at 7:30pm. At first glance, the decor is definetly an improvement - a fresh coastal look with all new furniture. We had a lovely outdoor table overlooking Stonington Harbor at sunset. As the sun sank into a sky of purples and pinks and the starts came out - the magic of Stonington became apparent. The only improvement I could suggest is better lighting for the tables in the evening. I had a very hard time reading the menu or seeing what we were eating after dark. Dock lighting is along the rail, but wasn't enough. Our waiter, Will, was fantastic though and brought us some candle lanterns which helped.
SERVICE (A for effort, B for efficiency): This is the only area I could see needing some improvement. And hopefully this will come as the kinks are worked out in the opening months. Our waiter, Will, was absolutely wonderful. Very knowledgeable about the oyster selections, and the dishes. He went out of his way to make our dining experience great. That being said, the timing of when food and drinks arrived was rather slow. I don't believe this has anything to do with the waitstaff and is more a kitchen issue. We spent about 3 hours dining for 4 of us - drinks, apps, and main course, after dinner drinks. We actually loved the leisurely pace and enjoyed not being rushed. But if time was critical - I could see this being an issue.
Overall Experience: A-. I would definetly return here for dinner or drinks and would encourage others to try Swooner. There is room for improvement, but nothing that seemed critical - and certainly the location on a summer evening can not be beat.
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