Windsor Locks: Complete!
Here is the CTMQ Guide to Windsor Locks with my list and stories about everything I’ve done there!
After a decade of writing CTMQ, I decided to try to “complete” towns. In that decade of traveling and writing, I had already done a lot of stuff in many of our towns already. However, I have been continually surprised by how much more there often is to do. This page includes my “town completion celebration meal” and recap of my Windsor Locks experiences.
Let’s get to it.
Windsor Locks, Hartford County
Windsor Locks was my: 30th town completed
First CTMQ Visit: New England Air Museum, 2012
The Celebration Meal
There aren’t too many dining choices in Windsor Locks. I suppose it would have been mildly interesting to celebrate my incredible feat inside the new terminal at Bradley, but… nah. I chose Bobby V’s, not only because as a middle-aged white guy, I’m hard-wired to love ridiculous sports-themed restaurants like Bobby V’s, but because it gives me the chance to work in the phrase “that’s a wrap!” in a new and creative way.
Yes, Windsor Locks, “that’s a wrap.” This is also a wrap:
If you ever go to Bobby V’s (the original location is in Stamford), you simply have to get a wrap. Why? Because Bobby V(alentine), long time MLB manager and television bobblehead, supposedly invented the wrap. Yes, invented it.
Of course tortilla-wrapped handheld sandwich-type things have existed for a long, long time. And since Valentine claimed this fame, he seems to have wavered on it a bit. From Wikipedia:
The Bobby Valentine Sports Gallery Cafe in Stamford, Connecticut, is sometimes claimed to have invented the wrap at about the same time, but Valentine is diffident about it: “Well, that’s legend and folklore, but until somebody disputes me or comes up with a better story, I’ll say I invented the wrap.” Beth Dolan of Stamford, Connecticut, is the waitress credited for serving the first wrap after the restaurant had run out of bread. Moreover, Valentine’s own story dates his use of the name ‘wrap’ to the mid-1990s, after it is documented in California.
However, earlier news items claim an older provenance. From the paper of record, in 2012 (bolding mine):
STAMFORD, Conn. — Bobby Valentine the baseball manager has won 1,117 games in the major leagues. Bobby Valentine the restaurateur invented the wrap sandwich.
The latter feat would seem to have the greater impact on American culture. But it is not nearly as verifiable as the former.
Still, Valentine is cited in various credible sources, and interviewed occasionally by cable food networks and cookbook authors, about the claim that he created the wrap. It occurred at his restaurant here in the early 1980s, and hinges, Valentine says, on his parsimony.
“I wouldn’t spend the money on a $100 industrial toaster,” Valentine said. “If I did, I wouldn’t have come up with the wrap.”
Asked last week for the complete tale, Valentine — in words delivered with various chuckles — described how the discovery occurred:
“I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was 1982. I had been buying $4 toasters from Caldor. I wouldn’t buy an expensive toaster because we didn’t have that much money and there was only one menu item involving toast: a club sandwich. But the banker who loaned us money came in for lunch often and he always wanted a club sandwich on toast.
“So the banker comes in one day and the toaster is broken. In fact, it broke and we had thrown it out. The waitress comes into the kitchen with a long face wondering what we’re going to do because the banker wants his club sandwich. Well, we had just put nachos on the menu and we were ordering tortillas from Phoenix, too.
“I was cooking and I looked over at the tortillas that were sitting there. I grabbed one and put all the ingredients of a club sandwich into the tortilla. I rolled it up and I melted a little cheese on the top to keep the tortilla from opening up. And I said: ‘Tell him, we don’t have club sandwiches today but this is a club Mex.’
“And he ate it and liked it. A few weeks later, my manager goes on a local food-network program and they ask if we have invented anything unique at the restaurant. And he says: ‘Yeah, we have a club sandwich that we wrap. Bobby made it up.’
“People started calling it the wrap, and we put it on the menu as a club sandwich wrap: turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese. Now, yes, I had eaten burritos. But had someone put American sandwich ingredients in a tortilla? I don’t think so.
There you go. Bobby V invented the wrap.
Bobby V also played for five MLB teams, managed three, managed in Japan, worked at ESPN, was athletic director at Sacred Heart University, and ran for mayor of Stamford in 2021. He lost the election as an independent and, as a 70-year-old guy does these days, accused Stamford of voter fraud and while he did at least concede, he refused to congratulate the young, female, Democrat winner.)
My turkey wrap and Hoang’s buffalo chicken wrap were both pretty darn good – as you’d expect sitting in the literal Mecca of Wraps.
Bobby V’s is also the mecca of televisions and sport. This place is absolutely ridiculous with its massive wall of massive televisions. This place is America. Beer, pub fare, an uncountable number of televisions, a whole room dedicated to video golf, and a large degenerate gambler customer base. You see, Bobby V’s is attached to an off track betting parlor. Some of the tv’s here are always showing dog track races from lord knows where, and various horse races.
These days, no one actually “goes to the races,” they go to places like Bobby V’s where they can bet from afar. On dogs. It’s the oddest thing.
I don’t know how viable this business model is now with the ability to watch anything and everything at home. The lure of sports betting in Connecticut is strong though, and that will keep people coming. That, and the fact that so many flights are delayed. (The restaurant is across the street from Bradley’s short and long-term parking lots). It’s a good place to hang while waiting to pick up someone who’s flight is delayed – been there, done that. Your friend can land, text you that they’re going to the luggage area, and you can finish your beer, pay your bill, and drive across the street to pick them up just as they appear with their suitcase. I like that.
So there you go. I brought my whole family to Bobby V’s to celebrate my completion of little Windsor Locks just to get wraps for the sole purpose of being able to write, “That’s a wrap, Windsor Locks.”
I live a simple life.
Windsor Locks Wrap-Up
I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody from Windsor Locks. I vaguely recall that the ex-wife of my wife’s 1990’s boyfriend was from there and the great Jerry Dougherty is from the town The town is really quite tiny and it seems like half of it is taken up by the airport.
And what’s not airport, is mostly airport-adjacent stuff. Route 75, named for Windsor Locks’ Ella Rosa Giovianna Oliva Tambussi, or as you know her, Ella Grasso, is here. I think people in Connecticut recognize Grasso as Connecticut’s first female governor, but perhaps don’t know that in 1975, she was the first elected female governor in the entire country. “Her” stretch of road isn’t the prettiest, as it’s stuffed with long-term parking lots, hotels, gas stations, and pool halls that want to be strip clubs.
That’s the Windsor Locks everyone knows. I got to poke around the far reaches of the town. The New England Air Museum is far and away the stand out attraction (as long as we ignore that 99% of the museum is actually in East Granby, a fact that bothers only me) but some of the quirky histories over by the Connecticut River and the 19th-century canal make this town unique.
I’ve seen part of the town improve of the last couple of decades. Just today, as I write this, it was announced Windsor Locks was getting a new Amtrak train station. Gee, maybe someday people will be able to take a train to Bradley? (The new train station won’t be anywhere near the airport, but bus connections will exist.) As with every post-industrial town that has seen better days, I’m pulling for little Windsor Locks. You can do it! Do it for Ella Grasso!
Thought exercise: If I had to send someone to Windsor Locks for a daytrip, that’s easy: Book a flight somewhere nice. I kid, I kid… Of course, go to the New England Air Museum and spend a very large chunk of your day there. Go eat a wrap at Bobby V’s for historical reasons, take a walk along the much-improved Windsor Locks Canal Trail, and end your day with a nice beer or two at Luppeleto Brewing. And then go buy weird food at the Ocean State Job Lot next door because I have a friend who works there.
Surprise: There’s really nothing surprising about Windsor Locks. How old the Dexter Corporation is I guess?
Favorite fact: That the first Christmas Tree in
America err, New England um, Connecticut was here.
Disappointment: I’d heard about a Model Airplane Museum at the US National Guard post at Bradley, but got no confirmation after several inquiries.
Windsor Locks: Done!