Above: Shrimp and Grits
Anew wave of restaurants is amping up the culinary scene in SoNo, where the modern tavern Cask Republic now anchors the north side of Washington Street. Opened last fall in the former Ginger Man location, Cask Republic builds on the strong beer business of its predecessor while adding a menu of American comfort foods, a raw bar and lighter options. As its name implies, casks play a starring role here; there’s a rotation of thirty-six types of beer on draft plus a selection of bottles. But in addition to all that good brew flowing through the lines, there are ten wines and several cocktails served on tap (think smoked guava chili margaritas and seasonal sangria) and even a cold-brewed Nitro coffee with foam on top that, as served, resembles a small pint of Guinness. Chef Carl Carrion infuses some of the dishes with beer and his menu of small and large plates caters to those craving creative, hearty fare.
The updated interior of Cask Republic feels part beer hall, part friend’s well-appointed man cave with a long oak bar, booths and communal tables, several sitting areas with upholstered lounge chairs, rugs and large-screen TVs. Adding to the relaxed atmosphere is a soundtrack of tunes from John Denver, Johnny Cash and others playing in the background. Outside, the new sixty-seat patio has a garden-like atmosphere, a fire pit for cool evenings and couches for lounging with one of the many drink options and snacks. When we went for lunch, that outdoor seating wasn’t available, but we got cozy at an indoor communal table.
The raw bar is exclusive to this location of Cask Republic (Stamford and New Haven are the others) and we tried the tuna tartare, a version that gets a hint of sweetness from papaya and a kick from some ancho chili, served with crisp corn tortillas. You can order from that day’s selection of East or West Coast oysters, clams or octopus.
Our favorite dishes on the menu came from the small plates selection. A shrimp-and-grits dish was especially flavorful, the grilled shrimp paired with lush, cheesy grits and andouille sausage. Smoked short-rib meatballs get an added twist from an IPA barbecue glaze and crumbled blue cheese on top. Even the Brussels sprouts are enhanced by beer, roasted with a pale ale glaze and paired with onions, mushrooms and pancetta.
On the more indulgent side of the coin, there’s a snack called bacon popcorn. On the healthier flip side, you can opt for a seasonal chopped or a kale salad with grilled chicken or shrimp on top. Entrée portions are generous enough that you’re certain to be bringing something home. Craving an unexpected main? The stuffed brook trout is a standout that showcases the chef’s finesse. The fish is filled with a blend of lump crabmeat and artichokes with onions, bacon, red pepper and mushrooms, and it’s served with whipped sweet potatoes laced with goat cheese.
Desserts are standard versions of classics such as a warm chocolate cake, but there are surprises, too—think peaches-and-cream bread pudding with caramelized fruit, peach liqueur and coconut cream. Sweets aside, you may just prefer a nightcap or a cold-brewed Nitro coffee to end your meal on a high note.
The Cask Republic burger with smoked bacon and onion jam; short rib meatballs; shrimp and grits, and crispy burrata. Pair any of these with the guava chili margarita or the cool breeze from mixologist Lyle Williams.
Christian Burns, who owns Cask Republic and The Ginger Man in Greenwich, says his favorite dishes right now are the house-made fettuccine with eggplant and pancetta, the IPA citrus-marinated ‘freebird’ chicken, and the roasted cauliflower over romesco and manchego cheeses.
The restaurant occupies a building that was once a bank, and the vault in back has been transformed into a private dining room for four guests.
Photography: Noah Fecks
99 Washington Street, Norwalk