Cask Republic: great drinks, dining, and fun in the heart of SoNo

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 A fine interior sets the mood for a fun evening

Cask Republic is one of the cornerstone dining spots on the hip and lively block of Washington Street in South Norwalk Ct.  If you have not been to Washington Street in SoNo, then you are missing a great experience.   The block is lined with many 19th century brick buildings which retain the charm and character of the street, and today they host  galleries, shops, bars, and restaurants. The vibe is very special.

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Wonderful communal table with views of the vibrant street scene

We had heard good news about Cask Republic and were excited to spend what would be a fun evening there.   The restaurant is housed in a former bank building which is evident from the carved stone eagle over the door and the large bank vault in the back of the restaurant (which also serves as a special and intimate dining space).

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Inside the bank vault, an intimate and special dining experience awaits

The dining areas are divided between the finely crafted yet casual indoor space and the relaxed outdoor area on the side of the building.   The interior creates the feeling of an upscale tavern experience, yet it is still friendly and inviting.  There are tables for two and more, as well as a nice tall communal table at the front of the restaurant with views out to the active street scene.   It was interesting to see a mix of ages from 20s and up, as well as couples, singles, and groups of friends enjoying the food and drink on a warm Saturday evening.    The wooden bar is long and hosts a large number of taps that provide beer from its extensive beer list, wine, as well as house prepared cocktails that are freshly made, kegged and easily served.  There is also a cozy lounge area of four comfortable chairs in which to gather with friends or family and enjoy drinks.

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Al fresco dining

We decided to sample a list of items from the dinner  menu as well as some of the cocktails.  We tried a flight of the Cocktails On Tap, which contained four different cocktails.  All tasted fresh and the Cool Breeze and The Brooklyn were favorites.  The Guava Chili Margarita was spicy and full of taste, is a good libation for the spice lover in your party. Our waitress Hannah was happy to provide suggestions and descriptions for us.

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Flight of Cocktails !

Other  cocktails we just had to try (full size) were the fun Popstyle with sparkling rose served with a flavored popsicle.  The Pink Panther (a sangria on tap) featured a refreshing blend of rose, riesling wine, strawberry, kiwi, cantaloupe, coconut rum, orange vodka, campari, and pineapple.  A fruity and tropical twist on the Spanish classic.  Very refreshing.   We also tried the Strawberry Rhubarb Mojito, a fresh and fruity version of the Cuban Classic.

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Hand Crafted Cocktails

Our party decided we should share some of the Small Plates which make up the majority of the menu.  Although Cask Republic  is an upscale American tavern, its food is not typical tavern fare and features some interesting choices.You can create your own Cheese board which is a great way to start.  You can pick from 3 cheeses and meats and it is served with rustic bread, housemade jam, mustard, dried fruit and nuts.  A real nice plate to share and kick off the meal.     A perfect dish for the Vegetarian or healthy eater in your party is the Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with onions, 12 hour roasted tomatoes, a goat cheese/cauilflower puree and salsa verde.  Very fresh, and flavorful.  The flatbread is small, so it can be enjoyed by one, or shared.

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Cheese Board

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Veggie Flatbread

We followed  with more tavern like fare with the Crispy Zucchini Fries.  Breaded and cooked in a flavor packed garlic oil, it was served with toasted sesame seed aioli.

Though I usually do not order fried food much when dining, this dish was really a delight and great to share.   The Korean BBQ wings was next and kept in the tradition of tavern fare, but the Korean sauce made for a tangy flavor that was not hot and had satisfying flavor.

Also from the Small Plates came the Short Rib Meatballs, served in a mini skillet with IPA BBQ glaze and crumbled blue cheese.  The short rib meat gave the meatballs a unique taste that was quite satisfying.  The Shrimp And Grits was a real favorite and a real comfort food. This Southern classic served with  Tiger shrimp, cotija cheese grits, and Andouille sausage vinaigrette was the stand out dish of the evening.

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Shrimp and Grits

There are three salads on the menu which can be ordered as a side of as an Entree.   We ordered the very healthy and satisfying Quinoa Salad with baby greens, cranberries , feta, toasted walnuts, and drizzled with an interesting charred lemon vinaigrette.  Super healthy and a welcome item on the menu for the health conscious diner.  We finished with the Smokey Chicken Quesadilla (Small plate) which was an interesting variation of this Mexican standard, and served with a cilantro sour creme.  Happily it was not heavy like many Mexican dishes, and it is large enough to enjoy alone or share.

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Smokey Chicken Quesadilla

 

The Cask Republic Burger is not to be missed. Winner of the Best Burger at the  2016 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival, it is a flavorful  burger and worthy of its trophy.  The meat is a blend of brisket, short rib, and sirloin, that you can taste on the first bite.  Served with maple wood smoked bacon and onion jam,  this is a selection  that should satisfy burger fans.

There are many items on the menu we did not get to in our visit. There is even a raw bar with oysters and shrimp.  I would encourage the chef to perhaps add  a few more seafood selections to the menu.   There are 25 items on the menu, hand crafted with fresh ingredients, so there is something for everyone.

One could write an entire article just on the bar at Cask Republic.  There is an impressive list of over 20 beers and ciders on tap, buckets of beer,  as well as flights of beer and pitchers.   There are 45 beers domestic and imported and available in cans and bottles.  Very impressive and it is clear their wish to provide a wide choice to their customers.

 

Wine lovers are not left out as there is white and red wines on tap, and an impressive list of red, white and sparkling wines from California, Italy, Spain, and France are available by glass and  by bottle.  Flights of wine are also offered.  Bourbon, scotch and whiskey fans will be impressed by the long list available including a large number of single malt scotches.

There are  happy hours (see website for details) with drink specials. There is an Octoberfest special running currently as well as specials during football games.

Cask Republic is a warm and comfortable place to dine and drink with good friends, family or for a fun date night.  Thanks to Marissa Mayo, General Manager for her tour and creating such a warm and inviting atmosphere for her guests.

Cask Republic  has two other locations in Stamford,Ct. and New Haven Ct. as well.

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Cask Republic

99 Washington Street  Norwalk, Ct   (in the heart of SoNo)

tel. 203.354.0163

web>>  http://caskrepublic.com/norwalk

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all photos by I on the Valley

 

 

 

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