Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb

What a great treat for dad on Father’s Day to visit Dad’s Restaurant in Niantic, Connecticut.  Not far from Rocky Neck State Park, Dad’s is a terrific seafood and burger shack perched on a small hill directly across from the ocean. It has two outdoor decks and inside the ocean breeze floats through screened windows across the picnic tabled dining area. Colorful, ocean themed decor creates a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Husband and wife Pete and Debbie Salomonson run this place with an attentiveness to their customers that sets a tone for the friendliness of the entire staff.

“My wife is the owner. I work for her,” said Pete during a recent weekend stop.

Pete and Debbie Salomonson shown with employees Emily Levanti, and Sara Brother.

Approaching its 50th anniversary, Dad’s opened in 1963 as the Harbor Drive-In, according to Pete. He explained that the original owner had four daughters and every time they headed for the restaurant they would say – “let’s go to Dad’s place” – hence, the name was changed to Dad’s Restaurant. Too young to retire after wrapping up careers in other fields, about 15 years ago the Salomonsons acquired the restaurant from the previous owner.

“We were best friends and he was ready to sell,” Pete recalled.

It is clear the couple enjoys running the business. Free balloons for children is a “Dad’s tradition,” Pete said. When he can, he personally delivers the balloons, much to the surprise and delight of the youngsters.

Dad’s employs students from Russia, Serbia, Ghana and of course, the good ole’ U.S.A.”I’m a member of the Rotary Club and we promote international love and understanding,” said Pete.

Working the grill.

“Debbie and Pete are great bosses. We’re like a family, the Dad’s family,” agreed staff members Emily Levanti and Sara Brother.

As for the food, the steady line of customers who step up to the windows and pick up large, heaping full plates of whole belly clams, clams strips, onion rings and stuffed lobster rolls speaks for itself.

Members of the 143rd unit out of West Hartford enjoy lunch at Dad’s Restaurant. They are training at nearby Camp Niantic.

“Our onion rings are hand-made daily,” Pete noted.

The couple is open to suggestions for menu items from their staff, which is how lobster fritters became a new weekend specialty. They also have soups, including a seafood gumbo which was described by one customer as “out of this world tasty, with just a bit of a bite.” It is prepared with Debbie’s recipe, using pollack she said. The burgers and hot dogs are also especially good! For dessert, Dad’s Ice Cream Factory features an array of flavors and toppings.

Among those here for lunch on this day were Specialist William Niedzwiecki, Sgt. Omar Jimenez and Private Cooper from the 143rd unit out of West Hartford, currently training at Camp Niantic.

“We’ve been here before. We heard about it by word-of-mouth,” said Sgt. Jimenez.

It was the first time for mother and daughter, Raina and Kellie Cox of Southington, who happened upon the spot and plan to return.

Mother and daughter Raina and Kellie Cox of Southington.
Check out those onion rings!

Said Ms. Cox, “We will be back.”

Definitely worth coming back to, Dad’s Restaurant is opened seasonally from the end of April to Labor Day. Located at 147 Main Street, it is an easy stroll to the new Niantic Bay Boardwalk.