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Craft 260: Big On Its Beer, Portions

By ELIZABETH KEYSER

Special To CTNow

July 10, 2014

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Craft 260 beer bar and bistro serves contemporary American comfort food and international craft brews. It opened last February in a Fairfield shopping strip that's becoming a restaurant row, with a new lobster place, steakhouse and Cambodian restaurant. Craft's kitchen stays open late, making it popular with the late-night crowd.

Craft 260's rustic-industrial design has an old-time feel, with white and black octagonal tile floors, black cast iron pedestals beneath wood tables. Edison lights shed a low, yellow light. Many lights encased in wire baskets hang from the ceiling too, drawing attention away from the commercial dropped ceiling.

The hands at Craft 260 are busy gussying up bar food standards. Our waiter says the Southern wings are put in buttermilk batter, then floured and "flash-fried." The crisp coating makes them look enormous. My suggestion: Ask for sauces on the side. You can choose two. Three wings came doused with citrus chimichurri; the other three were doused in hickory poblano. The bold sauces overwhelmed and compromised the crisp coating, though the meat was still plump and juicy.

Shrimp and grits ($25) were excellent. The grits were creamy, yet with substance, sweet with butternut squash and a hint of cinnamon. They were topped with soft red pepper and fresh green herbs. The four good-sized shrimp could have been cooked a tad less, but the grits were more than comfort food. They had a lot of flavor.

Mac and cheese comes in two sizes ($15 and $18), and why not get the bigger order and share? Craft 260's mac and cheese is made with orecchietti. These little saucers capture the rich, creamy sauce, made with gouda, sharp cheddar and mascarpone. You can get it with or without the candied bacon, but the answer must be "yes, with."

The Craft 260 burger has a thick, dense patty made of a short-rib blend, topped with onions that apparently are caramelized for eight hours, smoked tomato and a slice of pork belly, roasted garlic aioli and cheddar-IPA sauce. The sauce runs over the outsides of the bottom brioche bun, which doesn't stand up to all these wet ingredients. The hand-cut fries are substantial, pale golden, well-salted and plentiful. Portions are large here.

This rich, highly seasoned food goes well with beer. The 11 drafts are written on a chalkboard, a changing international list that invites tasting more than one. Thornbridge Jaipur IPA is an English IPA, with round, sweet, malt flavors balancing the hops. New England Brewing Company's Elm City Pilsner was crisp and refreshing. Bronx Summer Ale was light, lemon-colored and hay-scented. Craft 260 also offers 50 beers by the bottle and can. Kelso Nut Brown Ale was sweet and malty.

Beers is used in the desserts, too. Old Rasputin Stout flavors the chocolate lava cake. But if you want to have room left for cake, you probably have to save some of the generous portions for another day.

Craft 260, 260 Post, Road, Fairfield, is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (kitchen closed; bar open to last call); Friday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight (kitchen closed; bar open); Saturday 12:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Closed Monday. Information: 203-955-1745 and www.craft260.com.