Road Trip: Marley's Café at the Essex Island Marina

Amy Kundrat

What is it about taking a boat to lunch that transforms what would have been an ordinary meal into a clandestine rendezvous?

Luckily there are no code names or other spycraft necessary for a visit to Marley’s Cafe, a seasonal restaurant located at the Essex Island Marina. Getting there is half the fun, requiring your own vessel or a free ride on the tiny 6-person ferry for a 2-minute trip across a sliver of the Connecticut River.

Marley’s Cafe is BYOB, open seasonally from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, serving breakfast and lunch with dinner served at the height of summer. Your best bet is to call ahead to confirm hours before you arrive or visit their Facebook page.  

With a name like Marley’s, I felt compelled to opt for the Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich, a smoky yet mild take on the traditional barbeque dish of Jamaica. I missed the heat, but the supple yet dense coco bread made up for the loss. Overall, the menu is standard grill fare – burgers, dogs, sandwiches (including a Lobster Roll) but with their own New England-meets-island twist, including an Island Cheesesteak, Jerk Chicken, and Caribbean Banana Toast (for breakfast).

Let’s be honest, what makes this place special isn’t the food, it’s all about the atmosphere and the moment – being surrounded by water, boats, and friends at the height of a Connecticut summer. If Marley’s was able to convince my blood pressure I was on an island vacation in Connecticut, perhaps there was a bit of spycraft involved.

Marley's Cafe

Essex Island Marina

Essex, CT  

(860) 767-2489

Open Memorial Day Weekend thru Columbus Day Weekend

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