Ordinary is anything but. Walking into the beautiful dark wood bar and candlelit-but-casual dining area, you immediately feel like you’re a part of Yale’s history. The bar has been in this spot since the 1600s, part of the old Hotel Taft and host to Benedict Arnold, George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and most importantly, the Gilmore Girls. Since November 2012, the minds behind our favorite cheese-truck-and-restaurant pair Caseus have been renovating and reworking what was previously known as Richter’s. Two of the four Ordinary managers, Tom and Jason Sobocinski, grew up in New Haven and made some of their best memories at Richter’s. Tom believes that one of the reasons they were able to get Ordinary up and running in just a few months was because the rest of New Haven is just as excited as they are about their most legendary bar being restored.
In a way, that’s where its name comes from. Tom says that when they thought of an “ordinary” New Haven bar, this is the vision they had. Not only did we definitely feel New Haven vibes in Ordinary, but we were also pleasantly surprised to find traces of Caseus in there too. The menu is cheese-and-meat focused, and they get their high quality products from the same purveyor as Caseus does. If you’ve ever had a Caseus cheese truck grilled cheese (if you haven’t you should immediately check the truck’s location on Twitter and go get one), you remember the cute little pickles and the delicious mustard that come on the side. Well, those guys appeared in Ordinary on the charcuterie plate we ordered.
Ordinary’s drink menu is short but sweet and the atmosphere is amazing. The coziness made us feel like we were back in old New Haven grabbing drinks with Abe. Brian ordered a couple of cocktails, Bee’s Knees and Viking Funeral, both of which were rather exotic-tasting. Bee’s Knees, made of botanist gin, honey, and lemon, was absolutely delicious—its herbal flavor reminded me of chamomile tea. Viking Funeral, made with Mezcal, luzardo orange, orange juice, and “bubbly”, was stronger, with a smoky, smooth taste.
Ordinary is a perfect place to have a small dinner of several different items that will still be substantial enough to fill you up. We did a big sampling of their menu and were really impressed with the quality and casual-but-classy presentation of the food. We first ordered one sheep, one goat, and one cow cheese, which came on a plate with a “fig cake,” almonds (palate cleansers for in between cheeses), nut crackers, maple olive oil crackers, strawberry rhubarb jam, and dried apricots. The cheeses themselves were not plentiful, but they were so good! Even lactose-intolerant Sofia had to indulge. The sheep cheese, a rather mild, oniony cheese called Brebis Ossau, was my favorite. The cow cheese, Beamster Gouda XO (stands for extra old- 26 months baby), had a buttery whiskey flavor. This was Sofia’s favorite. And the goat cheese, Monte Enebro, was the strongest of the three and Andrew’s favorite. It was creamy on the inside but had a flavorful rind on the outside that balanced out the tanginess of the cheese. The rest of the platter was great—I was all about mixing the fresh jam with the cheese on a cracker.
We also ordered the Creminelli Wild Boar Salami charcuterie plate, which came with the classic pickles and whole grain mustard and about 8 small slices of thick salami. Peppered and smoky, they were perfect when paired with the cheese and crackers.
Finally, we ordered two of their “meat pies,” which are individual-sized baked pies similar to chicken pot pie. We ordered the bacon, potato, and cheddar pie and the spinach, artichoke and Cato Corner blue cheese pie. When we cut into them, we basically melted at the smell of the freshly-baked pie crust and bacon and oozing cheese. The spinach pie’s flavor reminded us of spinach-artichoke dip (believe it or not!) and the bacon pie was hearty and cozy. So good.
You could say the food we ate here really was ordinary—after all, when it comes down to it, we were eating makeshift salami sandwiches and cream-cheese-and-jelly on crackers. But the experience itself was extraordinary. Vibrant bar, beautiful décor, and simple yet excellent-quality food made for an amazing time. Tom told us that the grand opening of Ordinary is coming up in about a week, but they’re “soft-open” until then (shhh) so go grab some meat pie and Montenegro before the rest of New Haven finds out…
A huge thank-you to Andrew Goble for his photography!