When we first found out about Darien Social opening, we were excited at the prospects of having a great hangout nearby that featured a wide selection of beer and elevated bar food served as small plates. Especially since it was created by Nick Biello who was originally behind Burger Bar & Bistro in Norwalk, and once at Habana and Ocean Drive.
As the reviews began to roll in, we were seeing a little of everything–the good, the bad, and the ugly. People talked about how great the food was, how bad the food was, how the service was great, and how the service wasn’t so great. Now, we’ve always been the kind of people that take reviews with a grain of salt, so we went in with an open mind so that we could help you guys, our awesome readers, set realistic expectations.
When we sat down to our seats, we were immediately recognized by the General Manager, Baird Van Beever. This is when it hit me that with my flaming red hair, it’s virtually impossible to dine incognito. Danny, being a “hata” is getting fed up with me being the one to always be recognized, so he’s working on a gimmick to make himself more noticeable. We’re thinking perhaps his Space Invaders Converse shoes or his use of fun hats like his Spider-man hat, his Fidel Castro, or his Sinatra. Well, come to find out he remembered us from our review on Red Lulu, which he also use to manage so no gimmicks needed.
Ok, I digress, onto our experience….
Because we were recognized we really can’t fairly judge the service. For us, the service was good, for others we understand it to be an area for improvement. The one issue we did have was that they brought all our dishes out at once, which is a HUGE pet peeve and drives us crazy! When we order a series of small plates, we much prefer to get them in courses so nothing gets cold and we can enjoy each one at a nice pace.
The drink menu here is pretty exciting whether you like wine, mixed drinks, or beer. They even have a local beer selection that changes out weekly. Love that! Just ask your server or check the bar wall to see what brews are available. Danny asked about the Blue Point (from Long Island) beer of the week that turned out to be the RastafaRye, an award winning copper ale packed full of rye and hops flavor.
Baird was nice enough to bring us out a complimentary plate of cheeses including Gore-Dawn-Zola paired with elderflower honey, Cloud 9 Camembert paired with sour cherries, and Tarentaise paired with cumquat jam. The cheeses were fresh and were accompanied perfectly with the jams and honey. A very nice start to the meal.
They also give you bread to start off your meal. The bread was ok, but the honey butter seemed like it had ben melted then was refrigerated again for storage causing it to separate and become grainy in texture.
One of the nicest things about this menu is you can choose from so many small plates. We wanted to try lots of things, so we went with a variety, some of which were great, some of which were so, so…
Lobster Sliders: Holy crap they LOAD the lobster on these bad boys. YAY! The roll was nice and soft and the drawn butter served as a fantastic dip. The cream sauce, however, was a bit much and probably not needed – oh, and we would’ve loved a side of lemon to squeeze on ’em to complement the heaviness of the butter and sauce. This dish also came with a side of German style potato salad that was nice and tangy.
BLT Sliders: This was a fun twist on the BLT, that fell just a little short. The downfall was the dish came out cold (boo) and the arugula was a little too dry to really replace a romaine type lettuce. The pluses were the pork belly was cooked nicely with a slight crispiness and the aioli on top was creamy and tasty.
Dry Rubbed Chicken Wings: The wings had just the right amount of meat and breading. We hate when wings are either too skinny or too plump with meat, and we hate even more when the yumminess is drowned in a mass of breading. Theirs was right in the sweet spot. The flavor, however, was a little bland which can sometimes be the case with dry rubs. But, we found if you dip them in the hot sauce they put on the side, they end up being tastier.
Mac & Cheese: In case you don’t know, I’m a mac & cheese fanatic. And while I like mac & cheese in any way, shape or form it’s served to me, I have to say this was a pretty darn good mac & cheese. The gruyere, bacon and english peas were the PERFECT combo of creamy and tangy with smokey and chunky and crispy and sweet. Then you top it off with some crunchy bread crumbs and you have mac & cheese heaven. Best dish of the night.
Dessert: Danny and I somehow reversed roles for dessert because he ordered the bread pudding, which is what I ALWAYS order for dessert. I think I was just too full, so I ordered the creme brulee which was not that great. It came out freezing cold all the way through, even though the top was caramelized like it was supposed to be. The brioche bread pudding was only slightly better though. The bread was not rich and creamy like a bread pudding should be, but rather kind of dry and heavy. The rum raisin sauce and caramelized bananas on top, however, were quite yummy!
Darien Social has some good dishes and some “meh” dishes. Nothing mind-blowing (though the Mac & Cheese rocked) and nothing awful (though dessert was a let down). And although decent for us, the service is known to be spotty. If ordering small plates, you should ask for them to be staggered so you have a chance to enjoy them, plate by plate. If you’re coming here expecting an amazing dining experience, you probably need to set your expectations more realistically. What you can expect is some decent food and some great drinks if you play your cards right and order the right things. For now, we have to put Darien Social right down the middle with 3 Noms, but are open to trying it again in the future to see how they’re progressing.
Address: 10 Center Street, Darien, CT 06820
Phone: (203) 614 – 8183