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Carson's--formerly Hops--on the Pike (Newington, CT)

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Stopped in for our first lunch today since Hops transitioned to Carson's. If you're going for beer, hold out a few more weeks--they're not making their own yet, but it's coming soon!

According to their menu, they grind their own angus chuck daily. Knowing that, I had to try a burger--the melt. I asked if it could be done rare, our server assured me it could. Now, while it wasn't rare, I understood why when my order arrived. Since it's a patty melt, the two patties are on the thin side, so that's tough to cook rare; HOWEVER, as much as I'm rarin' to go (so to speak), this was a FAB burger! In fairness, it was probably as rare as one could make a burger that thin--it certainly wasn't overcooked. Served on sourdough (excellent!) with mushrooms, cheese and carmelized onions, it was truly a delicious sandwich. I can only guess how a regular (not thin patty style) burger would be and intend to find out on a future visit.

My companion is a fish 'n chips fan and loved his. I'm not a fish 'n chipper, but he said the fish was light and flaky and not heavily battered.

Each of our meals came with a choice of fries or garlic fries, served in a generous heap. The Italian in me didn't hesistate and went straight for the garlic. I enjoyed them though am also sure there will be no vampires in a 5-mile radius of my ZIP code for the remainder of the evening. ;) They look to be hand-cut fries with garlic, oil and parsley over the top. Some were soggy because of this, but every bite was quite tasty.

They sex up their ketchup somehow.--I'm guessing Worcestershire. It made for an interesting variation.

Can't wait till their own beer is here. If I remember correctly, there will be five to choose from.

Anyone else been yet?

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  1. I went this afternoon with a friend. I had a burger - I liked that you can choose 3 toppings with the basic burger. I chose cheddar, applewood bacon, and BBQ sauce on the side. I also ordered the garlic fries.

    The burger was very good, cooked exactly as I liked, medium well. (Steak I like rare, but I usually have burgers done a bit more) I also ordered the garlic fries, and they were indeed potent! I was glad that it was only garlic oil, I don't care to bite into a big piece of garlic.

    My friend had a chicken burrito. It was only OK - there was no salsa, and he said the chicken was rather bland. Maybe he should have ordered the fish & chips!

    While I understand that they don't have their license to brew yet, a bigger bottle selection would have been nice. The only non-horror they had was Guinness, and I might have had a Killian's. I went without, but my friend ordered the Killian's and the receipt indicated "Guinness - $5.25." We asked the waitress about this, thinking it was impossible for a Killian's bottle to cost $5.25. It was indicated as Guinness because they charge the same for the Killian's. Sigh.

    My only other nitpick is the tables. I never liked the thick poly that Hops used to coat the tables, it always feels sticky. That hasn't changed.

    That said, when they start brewing, I'll give it another whirl.

    1. Went a second time for lunch today. Would you believe we missed beer brewed on site by JUST ONE DAY? :) So, if what they told us at the door is correct, I look forward to beer reports from some of you very soon.

      I loved the pulled pork sandwich...moist, tender and piled high on a big potato roll with crispy onions on top. And, once again, there will be no vampires anywhere near my ZIP code, having had the garlic fries! The sandwich was so huge, I cut it in half and will have the rest for lunch tomorrow.

      My companion enjoyed the fish and chips...two for two on that count. A casual glance around seemed to confirm everyone else was enjoying lunch, too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: kattyeyes

        "Would you believe we missed beer brewed on site by JUST ONE DAY?"

        Already? They should be brewing as often as possible to meet demand. The few times I went when it was Hops there surely didn't seem like enough people drinking house beer to warrant a shortage of any kind.

        I'll have to take a visit soon...when I hear they have beer flowing.

        Cheers!

        1. re: LorenV

          OOPS, let me clarify. Apparently, they needed a permit (or something) before they could begin producing on site, and were not able to brew prior to...TODAY...so if anyone goes today and has the first batch, hit us back!

          Cheers right back atcha! I hope they'll have sampler flights. Those are always fun.

          1. re: kattyeyes

            the brewery permit is separate from any other and came from the Feds I understand. Plus it takes 21 days to brew a batch of beer, so that's what the delay was about. They couldn't start the brew before receiving the permit.

            Lookin' forward to some suds!!

      2. Went there last week. Had the coconut shrimps appetizer, and the panko-crusted Mahi. This version is different from the old Hops Mahi entree; it cooked with capers, diced tomato and onion, and basil. A little Mediterranean flavor.

        It was very good, good enough that we will keep Carson's on our regular rotation. They didn't have the brewery running yet; looking forward to it when we visit again soon.

        1. No suds for this Super Sunday! The wait continues. Crossed paths and had the opportunity to speak with a very informed, courteous, and enthusiastic key at Carsons and was told that they're now roughly looking at next week instead for their own beer. With that, they're expecting to initially start with only their Lager then the four others as soon as they can offer them(Brewhouse Porter, a Seasonal, an Amber Ale, and a Red). Same brewmaster(as in the one before the 'Hops' closing) but I'd be encouraged with new ownership and an all around focus on quality that they can produce better beer than what was served under corporate constraints.

          While the departure times for sampler "flights" has thus been delayed...do enjoy the Bowl!

          Raising a gametime Muffuleta with Big Easy beverages/Crescent City cocktails to the most deserving city and team:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyLjbM...

          The Carson brew kettles say: "Someone better slap me before I start to rust":
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ain70A...

          1. Went for lunch yesterday. 2 days away from serving beer on site. Dammit!

            Food was OK though. Wife and I shared crab cakes sliders that were tasty although the buns were dry. Dipping sauce was good although I'm avulsed by mayo versions. Kids dishes were large and enjoyed with no qualms. Wife had mashed potato and bacon pizza that she enjoyed but also said was no BruRm @ BAR. Which is to be expected. I had an Angus french dip hoagie that was huge. Overall solid food, although the fries were a bit greasy. Will revisit when Matt's beers are up. He said a hoppy American Amber and Porter are due up this week. He was brewing the Light Lager yesterday. Glad to see this place stick with the brewpub theme after escaping from the Hops corporate claw.

            Cheers!

            1. Beer here! I finally had one--but please don't judge by me, I'm a lightweight in the beer department and had a light beer, which the menu says is a wheat beer. I was too focused on my burger to take mental notes on the beer. :)

              Onto two more burgers--both fantastic! I had the chop house burger. You can choose three toppings...I went for applewood smoked bacon, avo and Vermont cheddar. It also came with lettuce and tomato on a grilled potato bun. It was impossible to get my mouth around the whole sandwich (I did try!), so I ended up eating it open face. Served rare, just as I had ordered it, with yummy garlic fries and a side of mayo I requested for the fries. It was a fabulous burger and you already know I love those no-vampires fries!

              My dining companion had the chili cheddar burger, also on a potato bun. Equally impossible to eat or get one's mouth around, but perfect for eating open faced (hey, who needs to eat the whole bun anyway, even though it really is a tasty bun?!). I liked the chili with beans, generously piled atop the burger. I only had a bite, but did enjoy it.

              I highly recommend ANY of their burgers--I've now had four in total and am a fan of all of them. Carson's burgers are right up there with CT's best burgers for me along with Plan B. I'll drink to that!

              1. Get the complete review at http://burgersandbrews.blogspot.com

                Carson's, unlike it's predecessor Hops, is not a chain. This shows most obviously in the food menu, which is much more eclectic and diverse. The food quality was very good, my burger was cooked almost illegally medium rare and my wife's turkey club was on some top notch, handmade bread.

                The garlic fries were stupidly good. "Evil" is what my wife dubbed them. They are epically garlicky. You will wake up the next morning and repel vampires up to 30 miles away.

                All in all, Carson's is a solid, if not outstanding place. The food is very good, American fair, and the beers are very...well, safe. I can't see any imperial barrel aged sour IPAs coming out of this place any time soon, but one can hope. Perhaps when things have settled down, and the owners are less worried about the bottom line, they'll give the brewer a little more free reign. Then we could see some really interesting things coming out of this pub in the future.

                Until then it seems like they are shooting for the middle of the road beer drinker, much the same way Hops did. Perhaps they can succeed in weening them off the light lagers and lead them further into the world of beer. I will wait at the bar and see.

                -----
                Carson's Brewhouse
                3260 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, CT 06111

                1 Reply
                1. re: MikeRLynch

                  Matt, the brewer, told me when we visited they would be offering growlers to go so there's your solution to drinking the Porter at a better temperature. Kept a couple days in the fridge before opening could lessen the carbonation before consuming as well.

                  BTW, anything beats HOPS so I'm willing to give Matt and Carson's some time to come into their own.

                  Cheers!

                2. Has anyone tried the pizza yet? What style/size/etc?

                  1. Carson's has closed, sad to report--lights out, uh-huh! :( Headed there tonight for a burger only to find the whole place in the dark with a sign that read, "CLOSED" and "THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATRONAGE" hanging on the door. Their burgers were among my favorites in the area...too bad.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kattyeyes

                      Oh, that's a real bummer- the burgers were great, but the garlic fries made the hike from Milford worth it!