If you’re like me, you think of Christopher Martin’s as a great pub. You also might think about it as a community partner when it comes to charitable events – over the last 30 years their Road Race for Charity has given more than 50,000 toys to needy children.
The surprise for many may be the hearty food presented with elegance in the dining room opposite the bustling bar. White tablecloths and a quiet atmosphere contrast with the boisterous pub next door. It’s also where Christopher Martin’s other annual charity event, a Thanksgiving dinner run by volunteers which serves 500 meals to the homeless.
Christopher Vigilante opened the restaurant and pub in 1984 with a partner named Martin. In 1991, Brian Virtue, a Culinary Institute of America graduate from Madison, started as chef. Virtue has been at Christopher Martin’s for 21 years, and became a co-owner with Vigilante about 10 years ago.
Virtue, who graduated from Daniel Hand High School, started in the restaurant business as a teenager, washing dishes at the now defunct Cello Oyster House in Guilford. Then he spent nine years at the Little Stone House. He went off to the Navy, then came back for the CIA program. After jobs in hotel restaurants in San Franciso and Jamaica, Virtue returned to New Haven and settled in at Christopher Martin’s.
Virtue’s recipes are what he calls “American bistro leaning toward Italian. Eclectic.” For years he has made an effort to buy local. “One of our tag lines is: local before local was cool,” he says. “I was the first guy in New Haven buying Cato Corner cheese, Buck’s ice cream, whenever possible I serve Hummel products, the list goes on and on.”
The seasonal ingredients show up most often in the nightly specials, which are offered seven days a week. “I buy quality,” Virtue says. “Trying to buy wild caught, the shrimp are Gulf, the beef is Angus, choice cuts, Vermont goat cheese.” In the mood for something other than a sedate sit down? There’s always the pub menu on the other side: burgers, nachos, and other bar favorites, with the same attention to quality.
Restaurant Website: http://christophermartins.com
• The Detes: 860 State St., New Haven. 203-776-8835. Open seven days: the dining room is 11:30 a.m. – 9-10 p.m; in the pub until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m.
• Price Range: Starters $3.50-12, entrees $15-30.
• Style of Food: American bistro leaning towards Italian
• Favorite dishes: Roasted rack of lamb, Amalfi spring rolls, pan-seared sea scallops.
• Drinks: full bar
• Vegetarian/gluten free: yes
• Events and catering: yes
• Outdoor dining: yes