Darien Social to open

There's a new neighborhood bar and restaurant coming to town -- Darien Social, a place to gather over food and drinks that encompasses everything an all-American bar should be.

Set to open by Feb. 1, Darien Social holds the corner spot of a rejuvenated downtown Darien with a window overlooking the MetroNorth train station and town. The street side brick façade gives way to an urbane respite framed by exposed brick and wood paneled walls, dark wood furnishings, leather banquette seating, a large white granite top bar and soft lighting to compliment the earth tones throughout. The courtyard entrance is adorned with tall potted greenery and guests are greeted as they make their way through the large mahogany doors. Wood floors throughout are made from recycled wide plank oak and even the restrooms boast attention to detail as seen in the use of real river stone pebble flooring. The dining room walls are adorned with vintage black and white photography that depicts the carefree attitude of the 1920s and the resolute of a nation during the prohibition years. The decor speaks to Darien Social's approach and commitment to providing their guests with a place from which to hang their hat.

Setting this stage is a team of seasoned restaurateurs and savvy wine and spirits devotees.

General manager Baird Van Beever brings more than 20 years of hospitality industry experience to Darien Social and has managed such high volume Fairfield County hot spots as Conte's, Barcelona and Red Lulu. Assistant general manager Christian Orlando's career highlights include a stint as a tapas chef for Top Chef Spike Mendleson's Pepin in St. Petersburg, Fla., and as a sommelier at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianch's Otto in New York. Beverage director Mike Boughton began his foray into the beverage world in 1999 at the reputable Connecticut-based Southport Brewing Company. His knowledge and thirst for the art of beer soon led him to the grape and becoming a certified Sommelier through the Sommelier Society of America. He extended his repertoire to mixology and now specializes in bar menu creation.

Spearheading the kitchen is executive chef Nick Bilello. Having opened the original Burger Bar & Bistro in South Norwalk in 2006, which served a limited but highly-specialized menu of burgers and comfort foods, Bilello's quirky restaurant soon earned him consumer raves and "best burger" accolades from area media outlets and online food chatters. Prior to BB&B, Bilello owned and operated the same location as Tenero, an Italian Trattoria. While the restaurant was a success, Bilello was looking to do something more exciting and accessible to a wider audience. With a long history in SoNo, including management and cooking positions at Mario Fontana's Habana and Ocean Drive, Bilello created BB&B, filling what he saw to be a void in the area's offerings. Bilello has created a menu that takes its cues from both tried and true favorites and unfamiliar foods.

Menu highlights include an array of farmstead cheese, as well as "snacks and small plates" such as local oysters with sherry onions and crispy shallots; deviled eggs with house made mayo, pimento, and chives; pork belly "BLT sliders" with tomato aioli and arugula; and Swedish meatballs served with sweet jam, toast and foie gravy.

More dishes include;grilled artichoke pizza with sundried tomato and fontina cheese; the organic beef "social burger" topped with caramelized onion, black pepper truffle mayo and Shelburne cheddar; baby iceberg salad with homemade ranch, slow cooked tomato, bacon, herbs and balsamic; and entrees such as pork osso bucco with braised Napa cabbage, wild salmon with Swiss chard and mustard vinaigrette, and a N.Y. strip served with homemade duck fat fries, bone marrow, cherry wheat butter and herb salad. House made desserts include a anilla pot de crème topped with sugar cookies, freshly baked cookies with granola milk and a root beer float with mascarpone ice cream.

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The beverage area at Darien Social features a large granite top bar and leather easy back chairs. Spirits bottles line the exposed brick wall, surrounding 31 draught beer handles that pour a revolving assortment of stouts, ales and lagers. "Skinny" cocktails include a Flaca Margarita made with Don Julio, agave nectar, fresh lime and Combier. Darien Social pays homage to the American classic cocktail as illustrated by the "White Manhattan" comprised of High West Silver Oat Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Luxardo Marachino, and the "Moscow Mule," an aromatic concoction of Tito's vodka, fresh lime, blackberry infused simple syrup and ginger beer. A global and accessible wine list, along with premium scotch and whiskey selections round out the beverage offerings.

Darien Social will be open for lunch and dinner.