Jane Stern takes fondly to Sandy Hook’s Foundry Kitchen & Tavern

Photo of Jane Stern

I love a certain type of restaurant and Connecticut is gloriously chock full of them. I love old buildings that have been transformed into charming and cozy places to eat and drink. This is perhaps why I took so fondly to Foundry Kitchen & Tavern, with its old bricks and rustic industrial feel.

It is a great place to drink, not a raucous bar but a neighborhood tavern. Friendly servers who are in no rush to make you go back out. The vibe is country casual, nothing fussy or intimidating, just a nice place for nice people to gather.

My most recent gauge by which I measure a new place is their mojito. I ordered one at Foundry, and it was very good. Not the best I have ever had but the rum was smooth, the mint leaves fresh and the simple syrup brightened everything up but did not make the drink sickly sweet.

Usually I avoid freebies that restaurants now leave on the table when you order. Because restaurants find bread and butter too expensive to serve I have seen bowls of peanuts, popcorn and trail mix instead. Maybe if I were just somewhere for cocktails I would fill up on these things, but I doubt it. Cold popcorn and stale peanuts do not tempt me.

When I am “on duty” reviewing I come to seriously eat from the menu and the room in my stomach is vitally important. However (and that is with a capital H), my mojito was accompanied by a bowl of hot house-made potato chips. You know the kind; they are variegated shades of brown, no two alike. I laid waste to the entire bowl of potato chips before I had the third sip of my mojito. These were about the best potato chips I ever had, and I would return just for that reason.

The menu at Foundry is casual, fairly priced (not cheap but not shocking) and covers all the bases on what a diner might want to have for lunch or dinner. I think my favorite part of the menu is called “Handheld” and as you may imagine consists of foods that do not require a knife and fork.

Foundry Kitchen & Tavern

1 Glen Road, Sandy Hook

I visited with my vegetarian pal who usually can hardly find anything to eat on restaurant menus. At the foundry she was shocked and delighted to see the Impossible Burger. It is a revolutionary vegan burger but tastes nothing like extruded soy or any other the other fake meat substitutes. This burger is a plant-based product which a panel of well-known gourmets compared it to the real McCoy. “Yes, it tastes just like a good juicy beef hamburger” was the consensus.

My vegetarian friend ordered this and was thrilled to see it was not only a “beef” patty on a bun, but one generously layered with sliced avocado, bib lettuce and sliced summer tomato. This is then dressed with a house made vegan mayonnaise (Veganaise) redolent of garlic and a brioche bun holds it all together. The side of fries that came with it were consistent with the quality. It was probably the first time my friend did not talk and complain throughout the meal. She was too busy eating.

After she polished off the Impossible Burger she asked to see the menu again and contemplated the (vegan) Mushroom Rueben. Was she still hungry? She is a size 4. The answer was no, but it broke her heart to walk away from sauteed mushrooms dressed with a garlic Soubise (a classic sauce for vegetables made by sauteeing onions and adding them to a basic bechamel sauce). In addition, Foundry adds pickled cabbage and Swiss cheese all on a deli-style marbled rye.

I felt it was my duty to balance her vegetarian purity with some red meat. I ordered a fabulous Asian-influenced braised short rib. It came with kimchi spaetzle (sounds odd, tastes good), and sauteed baby boy choy. Along with my short rib I asked for a petit filet, a small yet tender slab of beef sided with fingerling potatoes roasted in duck fat, charred cauliflower and a dollop of whipped blue cheese. My friend was annoyed that I got to eat two dinners while she was limited her to one. My carefully considered reply was, “Tough!”

My future visits will have me ordering a dish seldom seen on menus, it is lamb ragu on freshly made pasta. I have seen lamb ragu exactly once in my travels, in Milan, and it was unforgettable. I can’t wait to try it again.

I like the playfulness of Foundry’s menu. There are two types of “tater tots,” one with rosemary in it and the other with Old Bay seasoning. Coupled with Foundry’s line-caught swordfish, the Old Bay tots would sing.

Restaurant columnist Jane Stern co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series.