This Westport Restaurant Once Served Up a Strange Combination
As we continue our quest to find some of the most unique menu items on the SouthCoast, one beloved Westport restaurant of old had a dish you’ll likely never see replicated anywhere else.
For over half a century, Fred and Ann’s restaurant occupied the red wooden building at 977 Main Road in Westport. While it served up traditional New England comfort food and bountiful Sunday dinners, it was also the only place to get eels and Johnny cakes.
That’s right, eels and Johnny cakes – together. Two niche tastes that, apparently, taste great together.
And you thought the Francesinha was an odd combination.
What Was the “Eels and Johnny Cakes” Meal at Westport’s Fred and Ann’s Restaurant?
It was exactly what the name implied: fried eels along with Johnny cakes, the traditional New England pancake made with ground cornmeal instead of flour.
Some of the folks in a Westport town Facebook group helped explain the meal.
“Eels were split and fried and served with Johnny cakes,” Catherine Davis wrote. “They served them thin but you could also serve them thick or bake them. Mostly you would use butter and cream on top. Delicious! Called split cells. My mom would cook them at home. It was a great dish passed down from my Great Grandmother Davis. She made them on a cast iron stove.”
Fred and Ann’s also incorporated a centuries-old Westport grist mill into the dish.
“Johnny cake meal from Gray’s was used to dip eels in before frying,” wrote Faith Parker, who worked as a waitress at Fred and Ann’s.
While you might pour some nice Vermont maple syrup on your Johnny cakes, that goes against tradition, apparently.
“My dad is a 74-year-old Westport. He has always said that a real Yankee doesn’t put syrup on his Johnny cakes, so I’m guessing it was butter,” Elizabeth Wood wrote.
The History of Westport’s Fred and Ann’s Restaurant
The Westport Planning Board has a document on its website entitled “Central Village,” credited to Carmen Maiocco and Claude Ledoux, in which it gives a history of the area.
According to that document, Frederick Robinson and his wife Ann opened the small restaurant next to their Main Road home sometime in the late 1940s, naming it “Fred and Ann’s.”
“Fred is remembered as a pipe smoking gentleman who was devoted to his business,” Maiocco and Ledoux wrote. “Originally the place had a soda fountain where customers came in and sat on stools for their coffee and donuts. Later, the soda fountain was removed and replaced with booths.”
The write up also includes mention of the famous eels and Johnny cakes.
“At Fred and Ann’s, in the old days, it was eels and johnny cakes on Tuesday night, pan-fried tripe on Thursday, and ham and beans on Saturday,” the two wrote.
What Happened to Fred, Ann, and Fred and Ann’s?
The document mentions that Ann Robinson passed away from cancer sometime around 1970, and that Fred Robinson eventually retired and moved to Florida.
The restaurant that bore their names continued on under the ownership of Jerry Quick until the Quicks retired in 2004 and sold the property.
Lafrance Hospitality came to own the 17 acres of the property and in the summer of 2012 opened up Ten Cousins Brick Oven in the former Fred and Ann’s, and it’s still going strong today.
And while you’ll find lots of great wood oven-fired pizzas, wings, sandwiches and more on the Ten Cousins menu, you sadly won’t find eels and Johnny cakes.