MiKro Beer Bar Opens on Whitney Avenue
MiKro Beer Bar In Hamden: Craft Brews, Gourmet Food
Special to The Courant
January 6, 2011
MiKro Beer Bar in Hamden may be located squarely in the midst of Quinnipiac University's neighborhood, but it's about as far from a traditional college bar as you can get. No sticky floors, no shot specials, no nachos and, most important, no Budweiser.
Instead, it's a handsome, inviting space with a focus on craft beer — 18 on draft and another 40 by the bottle — and mouthwatering gourmet plates elevated beyond run-of-the-mill pub fare.
MiKro is owned by Mike Farber, a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry. He has owned several restaurants in Connecticut, most recently Prime 16 in New Haven. (He also owns and operates Monster Grille, a weekday lunch spot in the center of Hamden.)
The name MiKro, pronounced "micro," is meant to reflect the bar's small size (53 seats) and its lineup of microbrews. The "K" was added to stand out among search-engine results, Farber said. (And in case you were wondering, he's not part of the Greek electronica group of the same name.)
Overseeing MiKro's menu is Milford native Mike Fox, a young and energetic Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who has worked with Bobby Flay at Manhattan's Mesa Grill and Denise Appel at Zinc in New Haven. Under his direction, the tiny kitchen is turning out dishes that reflect his experience and creativity, but still complement the bar's massive beer selection.
"Typically, you'll go to a beer bar, and you'll get out-of-the-bag onion rings and fries," Fox said. "We're selling a craft product; why not follow it up with craft food?"
The menu starts with small snacks and plates, like a house-made pretzel with IPA mustard, mixed spiced nuts, several salads and mussels cooked with shallots and herbs in Allagash White ale. Farber says MiKro is becoming known for its Montreal-style poutine, hand-cut fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. There's also an artisanal cheese board, with rotating assortments recommended by Bon Appetit, a cheese shop across the street.
And there are chicken wings, but don't expect the blazing-hot buffalo kind. Rather, Fox brines them for 24 hours and then slow-cooks them, confit-style in pork fat, for nearly three hours. They're left overnight to absorb more flavor, fried crisp and then basted with a sriracha-beer glaze. Fox serves them with pickled carrots and crunchy celery as palate cleansers.
Beyond the bar bites, there are grilled flatbreads, panini and a house burger on a brioche bun, baked fresh at Hamden's Bread and Chocolate. Large plates include bistro steak, wild salmon in a hazelnut-cherry butter, free-range chicken and ale-braised bratwurst.
"If you're drinking a heavy beer, you're going to want something nice, rather than a grease bomb sitting in your stomach," Fox said. "…I'm inspired by things I'd like to eat myself at a beer bar."
For instance, Fox likes pork, so he created a pork belly Reuben, pastrami-style, with Vermont cheddar and house-made sauerkraut on toasted rye. And when MiKro adds lunch hours later this month, he's modeling the menu after street-cart fare: things like Kobe beef hot dogs and tostadas.
Beer is still the focus, with the ever-rotating draft selection chalked onto a back-wall blackboard. The lineup includes everything from Belgium's Chimay (rarely on tap) to lesser-known Connecticut breweries like Calvary, brewed in Oxford, and Elm City Lager from Woodbridge's New England Brewing.
MiKro will occasionally get a few "hardcores" who won't stay because there's no Bud Light in a bottle, Farber said. But overall, he said he thinks there's something for everyone.
"That's the nice thing we do about the 18 [drafts]," Farber said. "We're conscientious about keeping something that's user-friendly to some degree."
And for those who can't decide — or feel like taking a tour of the blackboard — there are beer flights. Customers can choose a "low flight" tasting of four lower-alcohol beers for $9, or a "high flight" of four higher-alcohol, higher-priced drafts for $12. These have been very popular, Farber said, and keep MiKro's bartenders busy.
The space has been home to a string of college bars over the years, Farber said. Now, he says, a more sophisticated audience is returning.
"People are so happy to come back here and find something different," he said.
MiKro is at 3000 Whitney Ave. in Hamden. Open 4 p.m. to close (bar hours) Monday through Friday, 2 p.m. to close Saturday and Sunday. 203-553-7676, mikrobeerbar.com.
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