A jaunt through Connecticut brought me to New Haven for dinner, which tossed me me back to college briefly. Wow. (My Boston days behind me, I’d totally forgotten the bustle of university traffic—students wandering the streets, meandering parents wavering around for a parking spot… not being able to find a parking spot.) It was a tad grating, but the energy of the city was refreshing and did make me a bit sentimental… and thirsty.

We’d planned to hit up Bru Rm. Bar since a little pre-trip research indicated it was a decent brewpub… but after walking past the hip, industrial windowfront and into the jam-packed entrance, we were told it was almost an hour wait. oof.

Thankfully, as we’d strolled up to the Rm., the smoky aroma of charbroiled burgers had drawn our attention to a visually nondescript (sort of) establishment across the street—none other than burger landmark, Louis’ Lunch. After a (very) brief debate we hopped over there for our dinner instead, ducking into the brick and worn-wood building to a warm welcome from Louis’ great grandson, Jeff, who now runs the dinette.

It doesn’t take long to order at Louis’ Lunch—your options are limited, and have been for 115 years. We went for one “ham works” and one ham with cheese, plus the highly recommended potato salad (served in a styrofoam cup with two plastic forks. Perfect.)

The burgers (a.k.a. “ham”), served on white-bread toast, were juicy and delicious. They were accompanied by well-worn history carved right into the restaurant’s wood and brick interior and by conversation with Jeff and company, who, once they ask your name as you walk in, pepper their conversation with it as if you’d been going there since 1895.

After sufficiently filling ourselves with burgers and friendly conversation we wandered back over to Bru Rm., where those perks seemed a little harder to come by.

We secured a spot at the bar and ordered what turned out to be a stellar sampler (whew! I really wanted to like this place) which included three of their regulars: the Toasted Blonde, Pale Ale, and Damn Good Stout (and it was). Plus two specials: the seasonal Charlie Mopp’s Irish Pale Ale, a crisp reddish ale that balances its dry red flavor with a touch of hop bitterness, and Dobbie’s Double Red, whose deep earthy sweetness is balanced by the red’s bitterness.

As bad a taste as the original wait (and ‘tude) left in my mouth, these beer specials were two unlike anything else I’ve tried and boy am I glad I did—if nothing else they were interesting for their fusion of more familiar styles (pale ale and a double with the red), though the flavor was fantastic in its own right.

Turns out Bru Rm. (once added to the adjoining restaurant space BAR in 1996) was New Haven’s first brewpub, and serving up their creative brews with inventive brick-oven pizzas, it seems they’ve got a deliciously good thing going—just ask the line at the door. The industrial-chic interior and large divided light windows were pretty spectacular while their smattering of brew tanks, raised up on a pedestal, allow the throngs of patrons to breeze by them easily.

Lesson of the day: don’t be put off by attitudes—beer can more than make up for that …and don’t be afraid to look across the street for meal solutions slash take in some local history…yum!

Special thanks to: lenient meter maids, Louis, Jeff, and whoever vacated the bar just in time for us to sneak two barstools in the otherwise at-capacity Rm.

Burger Queen: Read my take on Burgers in Berkshire Living