Savor the simple pleasures of the shore at Fin's Cafe
There are some friends whose company is so enjoyable that just getting together ensures a good time. It doesn't need to be fancy.
Take a friend like that to Fin's Cafe at the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut.
The fanciest thing about Fin's is the way its name is punctuated - maybe because that backward apostrophe reminded someone of the fin of a shark, which is also the cafe's mascot and logo. The plain and simple menu appropriately offers the staples that will keep college students and faculty reasonably well fueled for academics.
But the scenery! The views! The salty breezes! Fin's is situated on one the most spectacular pieces of real estate in Connecticut, which happens to belong to you, citizens. So it really doesn't matter that the food isn't equally spectacular. The total package is a pleasure.
Fin's serves as the on-campus food service for students, faculty and staff at the breathtakingly beautiful UConn campus, which is nestled between two sea-lapped points in the city of Groton. To the west is the mouth of the Thames River, to the south Fishers Island Sound, and to the east the marina docks of Jupiter Point. The new Marine Sciences building houses, besides classrooms, labs and Project Oceanology, Fin's Cafe.
UConn and Project O welcome visitors to Fin's, whether just for breakfast, lunch or supper or in connection with an exhibition at the Alexey von Schleppe gallery in the Castle-like Branford House, a stroll to see the lighthouse or a daytrip with Project O's marine biology program.
The best time to go is on a day nice enough to sit at the weatherbeaten picnic tables with a view across to Bluff Point.
Fin's is set up like many a college or food court cafe, where the protocol is to order from the counter, collect a beverage and condiments and take a seat. The very pleasant servers then bring the finished meal to the table - indoors, which is serviceable, or out, which matches the best clamshack ambience.
On a recent, typical New England spring day when the sun played peek-a-boo, we ordered in and went out. It wasn't a Friday or Saturday, which feature "Summer Fare" specials, but we had a choice of hot lobster roll as well as cold. Standard fare includes grilled burgers, quesadillas, deli snadwiches and "wrapps." Fin's also serves fried fish, chowder and baskets of shrimp or clam strips.
Our hot lobster roll had plenty of fresh lobster meat, but it is easy to overcook and toughen shellfish, and that's what had happened here. It came with copious nicely browned french fries, a cup of cole slaw and a dill-ish pickle.
Our other entree was a beans and rice wrap that pleased the semi-vegetarian customer.
A "BIGGG cookie" was a big as a bulky roll and weighed down with chocolate chips. A banana nut muffin was freshly baked and big enough to share, which we did, to everyone's pleasure. The bakery is billed as "all natural."
Find a summer day and take your best friend to Fin's. Like the food and love the view. It's just like that friend: amiable, accessible and easy to take.
Fin's Cafe at Project Oceanology
University of Connecticut at Avery Point
1084 Shennecossett Road, Groton
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Reservations: Not required
Credit cards: VISA, MasterCard, Discover; no Amex (and no IOUs)
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