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Abbott's Outpost looks to add to Mystic's charm

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Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, a Noank institution marking its 75th season this year, is coming to downtown Mystic.

Abbott's Outpost, the best of the menus from Abbott's and its sister eatery down Pearl Street in Noank, Costello's Clam Shack, will open later this month in The Standard, a new building on Water Street next door to Sift.

"There is certainly a Mystic charm and we expect to be part of it," said Chelsea Mears Leonard, who operates the restaurants with her mother, Deirdre Mears, who has worked at Abbott's since her high school years.

Abbott's Outpost will anchor the elevated first floor of the back side of the new four-story building, occupying about 2,000 square feet. The menu will include many of the classic Abbott's offerings, like lobster rolls and lobster bisque, as well as some of the fried fish dishes served at Costello's and their Pearl Street Tacos. In a nod to the merger of the two menus, the Home Run will feature Abbott's lobster salad topped with Costello's clam strips on a brioche bun.

"We will have a lot of the favorites from Abbott's and fried clam strips, fish tacos, and some new items as well. And, we will have a full bar," said Leonard. "There's nothing in Mystic right now like what we are doing and I think the food will speak for itself. It's something different. The style of restaurant and the menu."

Patrons will order at a counter and sit inside, in a bright room with over-sized, double-hung windows that will be opened in good weather, with views across the parking lot to the Mystic River. Food will be served in paper-lined baskets.

Abbott's, a destination for locals and tourists for decades, was established by the late Ernest Abbott in 1947 and operated for a time as a wholesaling operation and cannery. Since the 1950s, it has been a seasonal restaurant that has earned praise from Food Network, Roadfood, Zagat, Yankee magazine, Men's Health, Connecticut Magazine, USA Today Travel, "Lobster Shacks: A Road Trip Guide to New England's Best Lobster Joints," and many others.

Located at 117 Pearl St., it is situated on the Mystic River with picnic tables positioned by the waterside and sweeping views of passing river traffic. The late Jerry and Ruth Mears bought the business from the Abbott family in 1981 and ran it with their daughter, Deirdre, and now her daughter, Chelsea Leonard, operates it as well as Costello's and the new Abbott's Outpost.

Costello's opened in 1992 to satisfy the need for fried food — like fritters, French fries, whole belly clams — that Abbott's never served, as well as some of the Abbott's specialties. Now, Leonard plans to merge the two menus for downtown Mystic, which is set to open June 18.

'Beautiful and charming' Mystic

Like other businesses, Leonard has worked hard to find staff for all three restaurants, which is even more of a challenge for her with a 2-month-old son, Frederick Charles "Trip" Leonard III. The baby gets billing on the menu, with Trip's Street Corn — a grilled ear of corn with a chipotle cream drizzle and for the adventurous and a few extra bucks, lobster.

"I guess I'm crazy," said Leonard, about opening a third restaurant post-pandemic and with a newborn, but explained when the opportunity to open a lobster eatery in downtown Mystic presented itself, she committed.

"I always thought it would be great to do something in Mystic.  Mystic is hot, and we are going to be offering something new and different," she said.

Asked why Mystic is so busy, Leonard said, "I guess it's because it's beautiful and charming and I think it's a great halfway point for people meeting up, but I really don't know why."

Editor's Note: The caption has been corrected to more accurately describe the origin of the pictured lobster buoys.

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