Beach + Barn, Seawich Sandwich Shop: One Space, Two Restaurants

A restaurant menu reflects the creative talents of the chef, who enjoys the challenge of mixing up the menu on a daily basis. That kind of originality exhibited by Arturo Franco-Comacho at the acclaimed Roomba and Bespoke restaurants in New Haven earned the chef and owner a spot among Connecticut's top chefs.

Since moving to Branford in 2010, Franco-Comacho has re-invented not only his menu but the concepts for a series of restaurants that he and his wife, Suzette, have opened in the shoreline town. The couple, who live in Branford and acquired a building in the center of town, has learned that the city restaurant scene is far different from the suburbs.

"We've been challenged in finding our groove here," Suzette Franco-Comacho says candidly. "Branford is very different from the New Haven market."

Most recently, Tacuba Taco Bar and its Mexican menu occupied the space at 1205-1209 Main St., but the couple decided to go in a different direction at the end of last year.

"We closed between Christmas and New Year's and did a quick revamp," Suzette says. "It seemed that Mexican [cuisine] was too specialized for everyday business. We decided that a broader menu mix with a little something for everyone seemed like the better way to go."

The newest re-incarnation in the space is Beach + Barn, which opened last month, and Seawich Sandwich Shop, which debuted last summer. While the Franco-Comachos operated two separate restaurants in the space over the past few years, they reconfigured the layout to combine both eateries and give them a cozier feeling, Suzette says.

By day, Seawich caters to the lunch crowd with a chop salad station, featuring housemade dressings and more than 60 toppings, soups and grilled cheese and smoothie stations. Arturo cooks pasta dishes to order and creates 10 or 12 specialty sandwiches each day.

In the evening, Beach + Barn opens with an eclectic menu, including some of the best-selling lunch sandwiches. The restaurant has a comfortable, vintage atmosphere accented by an oversized farmhouse table, old shutters, a farm trough of plants and plaid blankets. The bar, distinguished by custom-made wagon wheel lighting and a clam basket bar light, overlooks the appetizer kitchen.

The couple decided to carry over some of Tacuba's most popular dishes to the Beach + Barn menu. Tacos and duck nachos – an appetizer of barbecued shredded duck, black beans and housemade guacamole – share space on the menu with seafood chowder, Baja-style Fish Wrap and entrees such as steak frites, ginger-crusted salmon and, for more simple tastes, grilled or roasted chicken, steak, fish and vegetables. Pastas, including a macaroni dish with roasted lamb, minted ricotta, kale and tomato ragout, are available in half or full-size portions.

>>Seawich Sandwich Shop is open Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., for eating in, and 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for take-out. Informaton: 203-208-1709 and http://www.seawichsandwichshop.com.

>>Beach + Barn serves its full menu Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 8 p.m,; and Friday and Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m. A bar menu is available from 8 to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; and from 8 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Information: 203-208-0736 and www.beachandbarnbranford.com.