This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Drew Estate Connecticut Barn Smoker. It was a trek to tobacco mecca, the Connecticut River Valley. I will have a full article up on that event soon but I have to tell you all about a spectacular lounge I visited while I was there. In fact, my friend Andy Tosetti, who lives in Connecticut, introduced my, Taking It To The Nub Co-host, Quinton Brown and I to a number of lounges during the weekend. Each had its own vibe, but the one that truly stood out, as the best we visited, was Bongo Ron’s in Old Saybrook Connecticut.
Let’s just be clear, Old Saybrook, Connecticut is a rather quaint old fishing town on the Connecticut river which leads out to the Long Island sound. It’s like a harbor town and the lounge is housed in an old 19th century captain’s house that reflects the beauty of the town and days gone by. The house dates back to 1795 and it was known as the Griswold house, owned by a ship captain that also owned a fleet of vessels. Ron and his partner Andria took 4 months in early 2018 to renovate the building into their dream cigar lounge. The doors of Bongo Ron’s opened in April of 2018.
As we pulled up to Bongo Ron’s, I noted that there was plenty of available parking, both on the street and in the rear of the building. It is located right on Main Street just off Boston Post Road (US1). Yep, that is the same US1 that goes all the way from Maine to Key West. In fact US1 drives right past my development in Florida.
As you walk up the stoop, to the front door, you have to take in the view of the house. I mean it’s just classic. I wouldn’t want to change a thing on it. As you walk through the door you’ll be in the foyer that houses the checkout counter and a center display of cool books on cigars and whiskey along with accessories, candles, and a collection of cigar specials. This is where the cool vibe of Bongo Ron’s continues to evolve.
In the back of foyer is the humidor, which is not the largest and it’s certainly not the smallest but the size can only be what it is because of the rules and regulations of maintaining this historic building. I will say the humidor is clean, neatly arranged and properly humidified. It is stocked with enough choices, so whatever you like, you’ll find it or something that will fit your pallet. Sometimes it’s good not to have the brand that you like and have an educated tobacconist be able to fit your palate to something new – and there is where Ron, the owner, comes in.
Ron is like a old-school hippie, sporting long grey hair and full grey mustache. He actually looks kind of like actor Sam Elliot. In fact he sounds a bit like him too. Ron is a skilled percussionist and there in lies where Bongo comes in. From what I understand, Ron can play bongos! Ron told me he had a background in retail but opening this shop has been the best business he ever ran. He has real passion for the leaf and it showed in all our conversation.
Once introduced, we headed into the humidor to select a something to enjoy during our stay.
I found the selection to be fine with both large box and small brands throughout. The prices were quite reasonable. Ron explained that the state tax is 50-cents per cigar and he does not double that to the consumer. Think of Florida prices plus 50-cents.
Once we all settled on a cigar to start the day, Ron gave us a tour of his lounge. The first stops were a tour of the first floor seating areas that are open to the public. There is no smoking allowed in the front foyer but with the comfort and beauty of the numerous seating areas I saw no reason to. Later he took us upstairs to view the members only area.
1st Floor Lounge Area
The first stop was a beautifully appointed room that I would describe as very Zen-like including a small Japanese water fall and plenty of green plants. The room is brightly lit during the day from the large windows – letting in the daylight. There is a number of wicker chairs neatly spaced throughout and ample ashtrays next to each. The original fire place and pinewood floors add to the ambiance.
The next stop was the music room with guitars and a banjo hanging on the wall and a bongo drum on the floor. This is not just decorative as they have music nights where Ron and friends play music.
Coffee and Ice Station
Just off the music room is an area that houses a coffee and ice station for the patrons along with a cooler that houses numerous soft drinks and water. The opposite wall has a full collection of Oscar Valladares Ciseron boxes. I do not recall any lounge I have been to that has a complete display of this collection. In fact he is a huge fan of Oscar and I understand Oscar is fan of Bongo Ron’s. Ron even had some Oscar boxes made into cigar box guitars and even a stand up bass that he plans to present to Oscar.
Outside Deck and Smoking Yard
Out behind a screen door there is an outside patio that overlooks the side smoking yard. There is also a parking lot in the back. A small stair case leads up to the deck allowing you to enter the lounge from the patio – if you park in the back. The deck is neatly appointed with green plants, a cocktail table with a small fire pit in the center, chairs, and seascape decorations on the wall and hanging from the rafters. It was such a beautiful day that we spent most of our time on the deck.
Members Only Lounge Area
Coming back into the house we went over to a staircase and headed upstairs to the members lounge area. In the members lounge, they get additional comfortable seating in a private setting and also get to store their spirits there. There is a coffee maker, small microwave, TV’s and even a draft beer tap that the members pay for their own usage. Ron told me the shop has yearly memberships and 3 month memberships. When you think of the summer season, having a 3 month membership makes sense as Old Saybrook is a place where people like to spend the summers. I understand the rate is very reasonable and if you are interested you can contact Bongo Ron’s through their website to get more information.
But the cool thing is – You really don’t need to have the membership if you want to just enjoy the ambience of this beautiful lounge.
Having a wedding, bachelor/bachelorette party, corporate event, or any other special event? Then contact Bongo Ron’s for special event packages. The also offer local home delivery of cigars in case you don’t feel the need to venture out.
Location, Contact Info, Hours of Operation
Bongo Ron’s is located at 65 Main St, Old Saybrook, CT 06475
The Shop is open 7 days a week:
- Sunday 10AM–4PM
- Monday 10AM–8PM
- Tuesday 10AM–8PM
- Wednesday 10AM–8PM
- Thursday 10AM–8PM
- Friday 10AM–8PM
- Saturday 10AM–8PM
Phone: (860) 388-2876
Email: Visit the Contact Page on the Website
I have to say once again, Bongo Ron’s is a terrific lounge that is open and friendly to all that enter. The vibe is cool and laid back. The shop is meticulously clean right down the bathrooms. The humidor is well stocked and there are plenty of lounging areas both inside and outside to enjoy that fine cigar. This most certainly is one of the best lounges I have been to this year and is certainly in the running for my best lounge of the year award.