M Bar, Mystic
Last time we were roaming around Mystic hunting for the Next Big Thing, we checked out M Bar but it was still under construction. We saw enough to know we’d be back. This restored service station, at the corner of Route 1 and Washington Street, has been reimagined as a go-to for cocktails, wines, and small plates, brought to you by the folks at Stonington’s chic Saltwater Farm Vineyard. And it shows. Behind the glazed garage doors, you’ll find cement block walls freshly painted charcoal gray, floor to ceiling shelves stocked with wines from the Vineyard and all over the world, original cement floors, French metal cafe chairs and vaguely mid-century/industrial chandeliers lighting the lofty space. It’s modern yet spare, just like its sister, Saltwater Farm.
We were ravenous after a day at the beach and ordered a slew of small plates to share. First things first, of course: a tart and light Mojito. Our super-sweet and knowledgeable server did not seem surprised by our hefty order and returned to our table, two plates at a time.
You can’t go wrong with the bacon pops: fat chunks of the salty stuff, dipped in brown sugar and presented on skewers with a sweet and sour maple syrup vinegar sauce. So scrumptious! We assembled a cheese plate of favorites: Cato Corner Womanchego, a goat feta from Beltane Farms, and some creamy Coulommiers (there are plenty more to choose from) and a generous helping arrived. A grapefruit, avocado and crabmeat salad on a bed of lightly dressed arugula hit all the right notes: salty, sour, creamy and spicy, a refreshing combo. The Ahi tuna was prepared exactly the way my husband likes it, black and blue: a quick sear with a fresh, raw interior. We hear the mac & cheese and merguez lamb sliders are over the top. Next time!
The accomplished executive chef, Scott Mickelson, hails from the fancy schmancy Paragon at Foxwoods, and is having fun with homemade sauces (fresh ketchup, sriracha aioli), pretty presentations, and sourcing mainly local and seasonal ingredients. You would think all that cheese and bacon had done us in (and, oh yes, a bowl of crispy fries on the side), but no, we were after a little something sweet. Dessert is not offered yet, but no matter; Sea Swirl for soft serve is just down the street. A perfect ending to a fun summer day.