The fare at Ordinary is anything but.
Ordinary was opened in April by Caseus owner Jason Sobocinski, his brother and Cheese Truck co-owner Thomas, as well as Mike Farber, owner of MiKro in Hamden, and Timothy Cabral. The four have transformed the defunct Richter’s Cafe, which faced the Upper Green on Chapel Street in New Haven into a new, New Haven institution.
As many remember, the Richter’s space was empty for quite some time. Both Mike and Jason were concerned that the space could succumb to a franchise that would erase its character. “I consider us stewards of this property,” Mike says. “We took it over, gave it a new face, we’re going to give it longevity once again.” He added, “It was a historic renovation. We brought in a woodworker [whose] forte is restoring antique wood. He was more passionate about it than both of us about it. These were people who really wanted to see it restored.” The renovation took four-and-a-half-months.
They kept the original bar top. It had divots so deep “you could take a quarter and stand it upright,” says Jason. Mike adds, “It’s the original [mahogany] bar. Yale’s charter was signed on it.” It took a coat of epoxy, oiling over it, sanding, coating, sand, coat, sand. “He’d be in here at midnight,” Jason recounts. “I’d stop in from Caseus, he’d be here with a mask on. I’d ask, ‘So when will you be done doing this repetitive sanding, coating, sanding?’ He said, ‘I’m just going to keep doing this until you kick me out!’ He’d still be here today if we let him.”
Jason and Mike say they envisioned “a neighborhood hangout … people can have a little nosh to eat, have a nice drink, conversation. Don’t have TVs, never will. An ordinary is supposed to be a town meeting place, a pub, a place where you know you can get a drink, something to eat and just kind of relax and connect.”
The food at Ordinary is about 360 degrees from Richter’s. The kitchen is 6’x5′ so, “No more griddle. No more pastrami nightmares,” says Jason. Ordinary has become another spot in town offering artisanal edibles from Caseus cheese shop. One thing Ordinary can make in their tiny kitchen are jams. Since they press citrus every day, they use the leftover rinds and juices to make marmalades and jams. “We make a Luxardo cherry and lemon rind marmalade. Killer!” exclaims Jason.
Jason thinks that a great beer and a piece of cheese “can make more of a meal that satisfies than anything. We have cheese boards because we have a kitchen devoted to cheese and nothing else. There are about 16 cheeses, all different types, all different countries of origin, all different styles,” served with jams – like strawberry-plum bourbon jam – and dried fruits. You can choose from one to four cheeses. It’s the same with the charcuterie boards that come with mustards and pickles.
Want something lighter? How about house-made candied cashews with black pepper, or a great selection of olives, including fennel-cracked raw olives, which have never been pasteurized. Jason says, “Be warned. All of our olives have pits.” He delivers his motto, “Good olives have pits, good meat has bones.” For something heartier, they’re working with Sixpence Pie Company of Southington to create a meat pie using ingredients that Jason favors, such as Nunzio Corsino’s Four Mile River Farm beef from Old Lyme. Also cheese, chicken, peas, and Jason’s own “Melville” goat cheese from his Mystic Cheese Company in Lebanon.
For the sweet tooth they have brought in goodies from LaPalette Bakery in Watertown, like chocolate raspberry tarts, dark chocolate and milk chocolate cookies, and even cookies with little bacon lardons from Jason’s Caseus house-cured bacon. Then there’s Marich chocolate-covered espresso beans, pistachios, toffee-almonds, as well as Vosges chocolates, including their dark chocolate and bacon bar. Even a busboy at Caseus is involved, bringing his truffles across town for Ordinary to offer its diners.
Wash all that down with European beers, sophisticated cocktails, wine, or Fentiman’s Botanically Brewed Beverages, originally from England and now also made in New England.
On the way to the loo, don’t miss the timeline of the historic background of Ordinary, researched and designed by Colin Caplan, local historian and architect. “The first stop at College and Chapel was the New Haven town ordinary. An ordinary is another name for a pub or tavern. [Then] the Taft Hotel was built, and they inserted this bar. You could enter the space from the Taft lobby.”
The history, the stories aren’t only in the back hall, they infuse the very essence of Ordinary. Jason and team say they want to “create our own history.”
Restaurant Website: http://ordinarynewhaven.com/
• The Detes: 990 Chapel St. New Haven. 203-907-0238. Sunday through Tuesday 5 p.m. -12 a.m., Wednesday and Thursday 5 p.m. -1 a.m., Friday 4 p.m. -2 a.m., Saturday 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.
• Price Range: Olives and nut selections $4, cheeses, charcuterie plates $5-14, meat pies $9, desserts $3-9.
• Style of Food: Jason says, “Delicious.” Similar to big brother Caseus across town
• Favorite dishes: charcuterie plates, cheese selections, meat pies, chocolates
• Drinks: full bar; classy cocktails, craft and European beers, wines.
• Vegetarian/Gluten Free available: Yes
• Outdoor seating: no