When owners Johnny Migliore and Derrick Lee took over the former Machiavelli's space in downtown Southington, they wanted to create a bigger and better version of their popular 66 Church gastropub in Naugatuck. They appear to have succeeded.
75 Center has caught the attention of a younger demographic with an upbeat atmosphere that encompasses separate dining and lounge areas and a large game room in back. Rustic elements like unfinished angled wood planking meld easily with modern windows and lighting. The lounge, with a big rectangular bar, plenty of high-tops and pounding rock music, seems to draw the most traffic.
The game room includes a shuffleboard table, beer pong, ring toss, skee ball, giant Jenga, couple of tic-tac-toe boards, and plenty of hooting and hollering. Despite the noisy vibe, we found ourselves able to converse easily in the dining room and the enthusiasm contagious.
To qualify as a gastropub, an establishment should have a better than usual drink program. 75 Center has decent wine offerings, terrific beer offerings (four six-ounce beer flights are just $10) with plenty of local representation, and imaginative drinks (check out the cocktails, martinis and lemonades/teas).
But the biggest qualifier is creative food taken up a notch, and under chef Kevin Smith the kitchen delivers. I didn't even notice the absence of conventional entrées until someone pointed it out, so intrigued was I over the smalls to share ($7.95 to $11.95), wings (eight for $8.95), soups ($6.95-$7.95), salads ($9.95-$11.95), between breads ($11.95 to $15.95), tacos ($9.95-$11.95), pizzas ($9.95-$14.95), sides ($3.95) and sweets ($7.95).
Everything we tried wowed us with its quantity, quality and fun quotient. Wings like our fireball apple and garlic Parmesan were just 50 cents apiece all day Thursday. Creamy New England clam chowder came in a bowl that could have doubled as a wash basin. A colossal pretzel, served with jalapeño cheese and honey mustard, hung like a Wiccan symbol from its own stand, as did belt-sized strips of incredible Sriracha-and-maple-glazed bacon.
Tacos, just $2 apiece on Tuesdays, came four at a time spilling out shrimp and avocado, seared tuna, coffee-rubbed steak, pork belly or Southwest chicken. An impressive burger list was headed by my Triple Piggy with its three eight-ounce Angus beef patties held together by plunging a steak knife into it. We crowned it all with a pair of bananas Foster waffles.
In all phases, 75 Center seems to make up what its name might lack in originality.
75 CENTER, 75 Center St., Southington, is open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. through 2 a.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; 860-426-1303; 75center.com