The Cask Republic
179 Crown St., New Haven, (475) 238-8335, thecaskrepublic.com
Come Friday or Saturday night, The Cask Republic can be a pretty hoppin' spot. Their beer selection is outstanding, with more taps and bottles than your average beer snob could comfortably keep up with. Dark wood, low lighting, and booths and high tables provide a soothing atmosphere that'd work for friend times, date night or barhopping. However, if you're hungry the next time you walk by, or are heading there in the evening on an empty stomach, skip beer for dinner and have a sit-down meal.
My date and I started off with the grilled flatbread pancetta pizza ($11), topped with cherry peppers and mozzarella. It's the perfect size for sharing between two or three people, the crust was thin but not floppy, and it arrived piping hot from the kitchen. I chose the pesto mac and cheese ($9) and fire roasted tomato soup ($5) as my meal, and it's more food than it may seem. The mac and cheese, made with aged Amish cheddar and topped with crispy breadcrumbs, was quite possibly the most amazing thing I've put in my mouth in a long time. It was perfectly balanced, not overly pesto-y, not too cheesy (no tongue traps or endless chewing), and it kept its texture as I savored it. The soup came with brioche croutons, and was thick without being pulpy, but obviously did not come from a can. My date ordered the moules frites ($14), Prince Edward Island mussels, fennel, chorizo and cherry tomato in a butter garlic broth, served with hand-cut fries and roast garlic mayo. The only complaint he had was that the bowl he got to discard the shells in was too small. He was so excited he didn't really talk through the meal. I had some of the fries, and even as we were finishing up, they never got soggy or chewy.
Beverage-wise, I stuck to old favorites, but my date ordered a Cask Flight ($15), four adorable five ounce glasses of their cask conditioned beers for you to try. Twenty ounces of beer for that price is a good deal when the beer is fancy.
So whether to accompany your brew, or just to try, I very highly suggest ordering off the menu at The Cask Republic if you haven't already. The dishes mentioned above are also on the lunch menu.