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What was Sailor Ed's? The Day chronicles Stonington restaurant's long voyage in response to reader question

Mystic — While it now sits vacant, with a "For Sale" sign on its faded blue shingles and a chain link fence blocking entrance to its parking lot, this Old Stonington Road building onced housed Sailor Ed's, a thriving seafood restaurant that catered to locals and tourists alike.

It was billed as "The Shore Dinner House of Distinction."   

A Day reader recently asked what Sailor Ed's was as part of the paper's CuriousCT series. Some other, newer residents began asking the same question when a Pawcatuck man proposed last month to reopen the restaurant with 100 seats and outdoor vendors. The Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan.          

Located just east of the Big Y off Route 1, Sailor Ed's had a long run beginning in 1965 and into the early 1990s. That was followed by a series of restaurants and name changes before its last incarnation, the Tongue and Groove nightclub, with a controversial sign featuring a big pink tongue. The building closed for good about 15 years ago.  

The sprawling 10,000-square-foot, 250-seat restaurant has hundreds of parking spots and sits on a 2.6-acre lot that borders a cove.

A vintage postcard from the early 1970s shows a neatly painted white building with a chimney and awning. A black sign out front with white script featured the restaurant's name, while a flagpole flew the American flag. Inside, there were varnished wood floors, light pine paneling, fireplaces and nautical decor such as life rings and fishing nets.

The postcard said the restaurant served all types of seafood and American specialties and invited the public to visit its new cocktail lounge. 

"Open for Lunch & Dinner. Air Conditioned. Catering to Banquets, Parties & Receptions. The Godomskys host," the postcard said.

A red and white restaurant matchbook cover features a lobster and touts Sailor Ed's as an "Unexcelled Shore Dinner House."  

The longtime owner was Chet Godomsky and his family. Godomsky bought the building in 1965 and constructed additions to it on two occasions. In 1984 he sold it to Robert Doherty, who had run former establishments such as the Mystic River Tavern, Ryann's Cafe in Stonington and the Seafarer Restaurant in Mystic. Doherty filed for bankruptcy a year later, and Godomsky, who held the mortagage, resumed ownership in 1985 after a foreclosure. Godomsky then reopened the restaurant after substantial renovations.

In 1987, Howard Wallach of Old Lyme, who had owned the popular Bee and Thistle Inn in Old Lyme, bought Sailor Ed's from Godomsky for $950,000. It the closed for two years in the early 1990s before reopening again in 1993. In 1992, Efthymios Papakostas, who owned the former Avanti's restaurant that closed in 2020, bought it from Union Trust Bank, which had taken it over in foreclosure. Papakostas renovated Sailor Ed's and ran it for about a year.

In 1996, renowned restaurateurs George and Ainslie Turner of Stonington, who owned and operated the former Harbor View and Skipper's Dock restaurant in Stonington borough from 1969 to 1988, reopened Sailor's Ed's space with a new menu, new decor and a new name — the Quiambaug House. That restaurant closed in 1998.

Beginning in March 2000, the restaurant operated for 10 months as the Mystic Lobster Co., a restaurant and music venue. It remained vacant until 2004, when a Mystic man opened the Tongue and Groove Lounge, which closed the following year.

The restaurant building and property are currently owned by the Pappas Group of Bedford, N.H., whose principal is Papakostas. 

Former Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons recalled that it was his father, who was president of the Wadawanuck Club in Stonington at the time, who gave Godomsky, a Navy veteran, a job cooking at the club in the later 1950s.  

Simmons said Godomsky cooked at the club for six or seven years and then told club officials he and his wife were going to open their own restaurant, Sailor Ed's. 

Simmons recalled frequently dining at Sailor Ed's with his family and "always enjoying it."

"Chet was always very friendly and a delightful host. He always had this wonderful smile. He really liked people," said Simmons. "And you always got a very good meal at a very reasonable price."

Simmons said the restaurant catered to tourists on bus trips to Mystic during the day and served a traditional dinner crowd and families at night.

"It was great fun. Chet would always come out and work the tables," Simmons said. 

The building operated as a restaurant for several decades before it became Sailor Ed's. Retired Stonington police chief and local historian Dave Erskine recalled it was named Clark's before Sailor Ed's.

Erskine said it became a popular spot for banquets and other special events, including those for town employees.

"I had my 25th class reunion there," Erskine recalled. 

He recalled Godomsky giving police officers bottles of wine or liquor as a "thank you" for referring people visiting Mystic to his restaurant, which was a short drive from the downtown.

"He had a great reputation," said Erskine. "That was the place to be."

Editor's Note: This version corrects that the Wadawanuck Club is located within the boundaries of the Town of Stonington.

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