When the Thimbleberry opened in August, owner Mike McNamara was not expecting to have to remodel his newly-remodeled restaurant within six months. But Hurricane Sandy provided a setback for the restaurant, and after a month of making fixes, the Thimbleberry is once again open for business.
The Thimbleberry, located where Creekers operated in 2004 and 2005, and where the Shack was a bait and tackle shop where fishermen could get coffee and conversation in the 1940s and 1950s, is a restaurant and deli that features all house made foods. McNamara, a veteran sous-chef and Stony Creek resident of the last 12 years, took the plunge to become a restaurant owner in June 2012. "Every time I passed by [the building], I could see its potential," he said. All of the deli meats are house-made, as are the crab cakes and the soups and chowders. Making the pulled pork is a 12 hour process, but McNamara feels the extra effort makes Thimbleberry rise above your typical deli.
The Thimbleberry got off to a busy and successful — "Summer was just off the charts," McNamara said — featuring not only breakfast and lunch items, but also fresh hand-dipped ice cream. McNamara was preparing to add dinner to the restaurant's services, but postponed as Hurricane Sandy loomed — and caused severe damage to the property. All of the remodeling that McNamara had just completed to open the restaurant was undone, and the walls had to be replaced, the floors patched, and all new equipment had to be installed.
The result, however, is a clean and bright restaurant that has lost none of its homey, nautical feel. The mermaid statue situated next to a display selling t-shirts is one of the building's original occupants, who has been around since the original owner, Howard Betts, ran a business there in the early 1900s. McNamara's reopening has allowed him to start the dinner hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m., he offers a single dinner special (as well as soup or chowder) for dine in or take out.
If my lunch today was representative of the new taste and friendly atmosphere of Thimbleberry, the restaurant is sure to do well. The chicken salad wrap, a special, was made with the delicious, house made cranberry chicken salad. With plenty of sandwiches to choose from — and breakfast options that can be ordered until around 11 a.m. — there's plenty on the menu that's child or family friendly. My young dining companion was quite happy with a hot dog and a very tasty side of French fries. We overheard a group of diners debating the virtues of the several options available at the coffee bar, and the cookies, provided by Judies, were delicious (especially the ginger snap made with fresh ginger). Though the dining space is limited — there are only four tables and a bar — both the dine in and take out options appear brisk, and the community atmosphere of the place is apparent.
Community is important to McNamara. As soon as he moved to Stony Creek, the fourth generation fire fighter became a volunteer EMT and fire fighter at Company 5. "That's how I got to know the community down here," he said. As to the challenges he's faced so far, "it's been a little trying, but it's well worth it." McNamara said that so long as he's able to put a smile on someone's face, he considers it a job well done.