Big Eats At The Bistro
Sam and Audrey Leary of Blackberry River Bistro. 
Photo by John Coston

Big Eats At The Bistro

As we come to the end of Railroad Street and start on Main Street, on the corner of the Canfield Building is the Blackberry River Bistro. If you haven’t been to North Canaan in a while and find yourself saying “That name sounds oddly familiar,” that’s because it is. Owners Sam and Audrey Leary owned the Blackberry River Baking Co., but unfortunately due to COVID-precautions had to close the doors on the bakery. Fortunately, you can still find their delicious food on Main Street. The Bistro is a small spot with a few tables on the inside for dining but is geared mostly towards takeout. During the height of the COVID pandemic, the Bistro had to undergo a few changes in order to adapt. “It was weird, it was stressful. We had to pivot pretty quickly. We couldn’t afford to close our doors and take a vacation so we changed our system to get online orders” said Audrey. That pivot was not as smooth of a transition as they would’ve liked and certainly took time and patience. “For the first couple of weeks, Sam was working at the Bistro by himself. I would take orders over the phone and call him to tell him what to make and then he would make the food and run it out to cars. It was a nightmare… but we figured out an online ordering system and our landlord was great and offered to build us our walk-up pick-up window.”

The Bistro has since adjusted to the changes and they optimized themselves for takeout, which turns out to be a majority of their sales. Within the first few months of 2023, they have reopened their restaurant to indoor seating, something that they have been excited to do for a while.

As 2023 approached, owners Sam and Audrey knew that they wanted to have their restaurant once again filled with the noises of customers having conversations or sounds of forks scraping plates, the sounds of people eating. After nearly two years of just takeout they knew the time was upon them so opened their doors. The Bistro is definitely not a traditional menu. There are certainly less adventurous options like, my personal favorite, the burrito that you can get with chicken, steak, or pork, but they’ve also got things like Hawaiian poke bowls or Vietnamese bánh mì, as uncommon specials that change every week. With such a diverse menu I asked if it makes ordering the ingredients difficult at all, but Audrey assured me that anything they need they can easily get from their suppliers. Another thing that I was curious about was their culinary background.

“We met in New York City and we knew we didn’t wanna stay in the city, we wanted to open up a bakery somewhere,” Audrey said. “We started looking at smaller cities on the East Coast. Sam’s family is from Connecticut so we knew we wanted to stay kind of close to the area. We looked for a while, and we visited a bunch of places, but we weren’t really finding anything we could afford or liked. We loved the area and we decided to kind of just go for it.” In the city, they pair worked with food from all different cuisines not only to just do their job but to get experience cooking with anything they happen to come across. When deciding on menu options they took a deep look at the area and food options that we have around here and decided to do a lot of things that you don’t often see. “We just wanted to make a menu that was food we would want to eat. We love pizza, we order from the local places all the time, but there aren’t a ton of options outside of that that are affordable.” A blend of things led to their unique menu such as dishes that are rare to encounter in restaurants around here, making a menu of food they would like to eat, while also doing their best to make it cost-effective for the good folks of the Northwest Corner is how they stumbled upon the menu we see today.

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