I waited one month to write this review and I hope all the crybabies in the Central Connecticut food community can appreciate my restraint for wanting to write a stellar review for a restaurant that NOBODY thought would be anything but excellent. For anyone that’s been living under a rock or hiding your head in the sand like a lil’ ostrich with no taste for good food, I am here to inform you of the newest restaurant to grace West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. The Cook and The Bear, if you didn’t know, started as a pop-up in the Tavern at Millwright’s every Monday night. The Tavern is a bar that is downstairs from the actual restaurant. The Cook and The Bear is the culinary offering of Millwright’s Chef Tyler Anderson and Bears BBQ Jamie McDonald’s with Chef Ed Bethlum, formerly of Firebox, at the helm. I have never seen such a powerful food trifecta before, sometimes you see two chefs partnering up, but the top three, in the same area!? I ate here twice in one week, once for the friends and family soft opening and a week later for Meg’s birthday. We brought her mother and stepfather, who don’t have the most exotic palettes, they left very happy and ate everything, that speaks volumes to the diversity of this menu. Food elitist or mac and cheese lover, all can partake. So… SHALL WE???
I ate close to 20 dishes so please bear with me. I opened the meal with something that I did not expect to see on the menu, carrots, roast carrots with farroand pistachio, this plate was VEGAN! I got this both times I went and it is my favorite non-meat dish. Next were the smoked beets with mystic frost cheese, orange and almond. Yet again another non-meat dish that was absolutely perfect. Next were the deviled eggs, Meg ate them all, I don’t care who made them, I hate deviled eggs, LOL! Once Meggie-Pie was done with her eggs we moved onto the cabbage and fennel slaw, no meat yet and I was absolutely loving every bite, but it wasn’t over! These damn biscuits! I knew a place like this would have some banging biscuits but my only hope is that they pair it with some sausage gravy for their brunch menu. Ok, I smell meat coming. This crispy pork rillette with fried green tomatoes and sauce choron was to die for, they gave me a double-decker because they know I’m a fat piece of garbage and I would appreciate it but lets back it up just one second. Sauce choron, just what is that? I have the answer. Named for the French chef who created it, Choron sauce is a hollandaise or béarnaise sauce that has been tinted pink with tomato purée. It can be served with poultry, meat or fish, there, moving on. I couldn’t get the full experience without trying the chicken, served as a half chicken it’s perfect for two people to share. The following item is Meg’s favorite and we got it both times we went, the mac and cheese. It is some of the best mac and cheese around and it is vegetarian.
Now it was time to get into some meat. We got the Niman Ranch St. Louis spare ribs, regular. I say regular because you have a choice of a dry rub or sticky, and I would assume that meant covered or tossed in barbeque sauce. These were exactly as I would expect, very similar to Bear’s and just like they were when Cook and the Bear was a pop up in the Tavern at Millwright’s. We also got the brisket and it was on point just as it is at Bear’s. I like to just lay it out and put all the different barbecue sauces on it, I think they offer an assortment of four. Finally, my favorite thing on the whole menu, I would get piles of these. The burnt end sliders with flavors of onion soup are like small sandwiches that are thin, pressed into almost a Panini like texture. Burnt cheese crisps out of the sides and gets browned by the pan. So damn good. You could be decadent like me and dip it in any other wet thing that you have on the table.
We jumped into dessert immediately, at any given time Cook and the Bear offers three desserts, that is not to say they can’t have a special during any given service. You know that I got all three so… First was banana pudding with smoked chocolate. Second was shoofly pie made with dates, molasses and cinnamon. Third and finally was the panna cotta served with berry compote and spiced oats on top. All were excellent and gone within a matter of a few minutes.
There is something for everyone here not to mention an array of cocktails, mocktails and craft beer. Meg got something called a Zombie that when I put it to my nose, it smelled exactly like apple pie filling. It comes in a pint glass so it’s a hefty cocktail but one is all you need. On your next night out or lunch, stop in to Blue Back Square's best new restaurant.