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Fearless Critic restaurant review
New Haven
Food
Feel
Price
9.1
9.0
$35
Modern, Burgers
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Sun–Thu 4:00pm–midnight
Fri–Sat 4:00pm–1:00am

Features Date-friendly, good wines, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.116crown.com

Ninth Square
116 Crown St.
New Haven, CT
(203) 777-3116
116 Crown
Stimulating digs evoke the elements while innovative cocktails provoke the senses

The cocktails at 116 Crown aren’t just the best in New Haven—they might be the best in the state of Connecticut. The bartenders are equal parts chef and parfumeurs; their palette of aromatics and herbs, elixirs and potions, small-batch liquors, and juices are culled from the very finest producers. Even the tonic water is artisanal.

The cocktail list is divided into helpful subheadings, like “Aromatic & Subtle,” where you’ll find the “Eli Sunday”—heady Bourbon with chamomile-infused grappa—whose sea salt rim gives the flora a bracing bite. The “Gin Garden,” with lychee-sweet elderflower liqueur, a wisp of cucumber peel, and apple cider, is garnished with a translucent, tart Cape gooseberry perched on the rim of your glass like a delicate yellow bird. We love the delicate potency of the “Dr. No,” with Miller’s gin, Zubrówka bisongrass vodka, and white Lillet (now this is what a “vodka martini” should be: gin plus vodka!), and the unusual balance of the “Grace (absinthe frappe),” which artfully combines absinthe, rose syrup, and lime juice without drifting toward oversweetness. And in colder weather, hot cocktails like “The Great Pumpkin” warm you to the bone with pumpkin butter and rum. The wine list is small but superb and reasonably priced.

On the veggie-friendly menu, basic staples are here transformed into small wonders of flavor, texture, and aesthetics, beginning with crisp, bright pickled seasonal vegetables; artisanal charcuterie (La Quercia speck, house-made pâtés); and beautifully sourced cheeses. Fries are thin, crisp, and golden, delicately aromatized with truffle oil and sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano; they’re the best in the city. The same might be said of the crisp-skinned half-chicken, skillfully roasted to ideally juiciness and balanced by lemon and thyme. As for the pizza, the Bar pedigree of 116’s friendly owners shows: the bubbly, oily, seductive crust does justice to the New Haven appellation. A heroic hamburger slider, with smoked cheddar and caramelized shallots, seems to have endless depth. Pulled pork sliders are too sweet, however, and marrow bones have come practically sealed off, impossible to exploit.

The setting is hilariously mod, a place Austin Powers would like, from the sleek, curvy woods and glowing faux-marble bar to the “pods” that remind us of Idlewild, the old 1960s-70s-jet-set-airport-themed bar in New York. But we love it. Unusual gold lighting makes everyone look good, and the vibe is lively even when the place is empty (which it rarely is). What a wonderful newcomer: 116 is just the sort of place that gets us excited about the restaurant scene in New Haven all over again.

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