>> 3/29/11

116 Crown Street
New Haven, CT 06510
(203) 777-3116

With Operagirl having returned from doing the opera thing in Italy, I thought it was a good time to drive north to New Haven. Our plan was a simple one. First go see a terrible movie then go find a good place to get our drink on and badmouth it. Operagirl is aware of my love of cocktails, the speakeasier, the better, and suggested 116 Crown in downtown near her place. While 116 Crown isn't really a speakeasy (think fancy hotel bar in a fancy hotel, it's closer to a cocktail club/wine bar) it fit the bill nicely. It's half priced bottles of wine on Sunday didn't hurt either.

It was weird ordering drinks while the sun still shone, but it didn't stop us. We had Red Riding Hood to mock (ugh, using any objective standard and every subjective one, this was a terrible movie). We sat at a table in the back, instead of in the little booth kiosks buried in the wall at the front and instead of at the long bar, back-lit to look like a huge glowing slab of concrete.

Our first round was better than our second one. I ordered the Pimm's Cup, Pimm's Number 1, ginger ale, lemon juice, muddled mint and muddled cucumber. It looks like a rotting salad but tastes like a light, cucumbery mojito. It was fantastic. Operagirl got the Four Thieves, blueberry-infused vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and lavender and was like a spiked blueberry lemonade. Next she ordered the Branch & Vine, Chardonnay, grapefruit juice and vodka. She took a sip and immediately asked to trade me for my New Black, creme de cassis, gin, campari, lime juice and mint. This was dark and syrupy, sweet and bitter. Better by miles than her drink, but not quite as good as the Four Thieves.

I always recommend ordering some food while you're drinking. We ordered a Three-Cheese Cheese Plate. There are a selection of cheeses to choose from and we opted for the Tallegio, the Stilton and the Manchego. On the huge wood block the cheese comes with bread, house made herbal butter, grapes and a pear jam. We also ordered a round of Olives, typically great cocktail/wine bar food. Regrettably, these, while huge, were mostly pit and you spend far too much time fighting the olive instead of enjoying it.

116 Crown has actual food, too. Operagirl and I decided to stick around later than we thought we would simply because we couldn't think of any good reason to leave (other than to save money). It was Sunday, so we took 116 up on their half-priced bottle of vino. We chose a Spanish white to be served alongside our Brick Oven Roasted Chicken For Two, served with potatoes and brussels sprouts. It was good, but not great. Operagirl liked it far more than I did. The skin wasn't crisp enough so there was a layer of fat I could have done without. Probably a few more degrees in the oven would have helped in that regard. Where 116 succeeds most highly is when it doesn't stretch too far from being a wine bar. Since you wouldn't order a chicken at a wine bar, I don't suggest ordering it here (likewise, no wine bar would pour grapefruit juice and vodka into their chardonnay).

I ordered a fifth cocktail after dinner but by this point, do you really expect me to remember what it was?

Cocktails cost about $10-12. Our three-cheese cheese plate is $14. The roast chicken dinner for two is $32.

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