266 College Street as a restaurant space has not been idle for long. This March, owner Leon DeMaille and chef Mike Hazen launched a new restaurant, naming it to reflect the building materials throughout the space: briq.
DeMaille and Hazen had the same vision: “Unpretentious. Fun. A place to come in, feel like a king, feel like a queen,” says Hazen. “Order a cocktail, a glass of wine, whatever you want to do. Not the kind of place where we are telling you what to do on the menu.” DeMaille adds, “There’s a huge niche for what you see [here], casual dining.” They call it “table style: food for the table,” says DeMaille. Much of the food is sliced for you, “Everything is for sharing.” DeMaille continues, “If you go back to early American times, the restaurant, the tavern, that’s the community, that’s where people went to get together, to sign contracts, to work together. We’re trying to bring that feel.”
Mike Hazen started cooking as a teenager growing up in Feeding Hills, MA. His mom had the kids cook once a week. His dish was was lamb and rice pilaf, his favorite. Although he went to college for software writing, he was “drawn to the camaraderie of the kitchen. At age 21 he started his way up the kitchen ladder at the Old Storrowton Tavern in West Springfield, serving 3,000 people a day during the Eastern States Exposition, or Big E. He moved on to Chanterelle Caterers in Springfield, then La Caravelle in NYC, and on to his own restaurants in Chicago: Rushmore and Phil & Lou’s, then on to the Stephen Starr Restaurant Group in Philadelphia. Four years ago Hazen was recruited by Barcelona and came to New Haven.
One of Barcelona’s customers was Leon DeMaille, a marketer who had recently returned to Connecticut from NY to start his own New Haven interactive marketing company: Q-Bridge. In October of 2009, DeMaille purchased 266 College St., living upstairs while his tenant, Bespoke restaurant, operated downstairs.
DeMaille, who had been a bartender in his 20’s, had always wanted to have a restaurant. He and Hazen became friends and began talking about starting their own restaurant. When Bespoke closed they made their move.
DeMaille says they are learning as they go. They are shaping the restaurant to reflect what the community wants. They thought it would be more of a happy hour place, but they found customers flocked to them more for late-night. And when the weather warms, they’re looking forward to opening the only rooftop dining spot in New Haven.
Restaurant Website: http://briqrestaurant.com/
• The Detes: 226 College St., New Haven. 203-891-7155. Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. – close, closed Mondays.
• Price Range: Sides and appetizers $5.50 – 12, entrees $12.50 – 23.50.
• Style of Food: globally-inspired modern American
• Favorite dishes: Shrimp salsa, Mike’s Italian steak tartare, Korean fried chicken, Szechuan tofu, briq chicken, taco tower.
• Drinks: full bar.
• Events: Absolultely, five different spaces to choose from.
• Vegetarian/Gluten Free available: Yes
• Outdoor seating: Yes, two locations: on the street, and a rooftop patio on the weekends.