Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for a really mean burger. The kind that makes you a little upset when it’s over because it was just so perfect. When that mood strikes, I know exactly where to send you: Engine Room. This highly anticipated sister restaurant to the successful Oyster Club has officially opened its doors. Touting itself as a refuge for artisan beer, burger, and bourbon lovers, it is exactly that. Owners Dan Meiser and James Wayman honored the rich history of the building, originally the J.W. Lathrop Marine Engine Company – which dates all the way back to 1897 – by leaving the original brick, wood, and beam-work intact while incorporating other impressive details.
Standing just inside the entrance, to your left you will find an open concept kitchen with an expansive reclaimed wood counter and stools for the curious diner. If you’re the type of person who loves the sights and sounds of a working line (like I do), this is the spot for you. The harmonious rhythm of a kitchen crew is something everyone should have the opportunity to witness; it is an intense multi-sensory experience that will indefinitely work up your appetite. Or maybe I’m just a bit of a food voyeur?
On the left flank of the kitchen is a massive, hand-painted, textual ode to its maritime history and I’ve been told we’ll soon see a Lathrop vintage engine on display. Touches like this bring so much interest and character to a space, they really make you feel like you’re part of something special.
At the center of the house is a large dining area with lofty booths and long, wooden, family-style tables, perfect for gatherings large and small. Some of my favorite features here (and throughout) are the sophisticated light fixtures, and of course the furnishings. Each table even has small, elegant touches including chic, glass jar blooms by local florist Hana Floral Design.
To the right of the entrance is where you will find the over-sized U-shaped bar. The rustic burlap drink menu boasts sixteen rotating artisan beers on draught and a dizzying array of bourbons, cocktails, and other adult libations. Make sure you ask the bartender about the piece featured in the middle of the bar where they pull their draught beers from. Hint: it’s an old drill press.
With a packed house, my husband and I were greeted by one of their knowledgeable bartenders who was able to give me suggestions based on beers I knew I liked, and even let me try a few before I made my decision. With the night off to a great start, we decided to order the bacon fat caramel corn… had to. And if bacon is your thing, you need it too. The popcorn has bits of smoky, salty bacon and is drizzled with fresh caramel.
Next we ordered the cornbread with the maple butter, which by the way was just as good as a hug from Grandma. I mean, it warmed my soul… how do they do that? And the mac and cheese? Creamy pasta topped with a light crunch and baked in a mini cast iron skillet. It doesn’t get any better.
Finally, my favorite dish of the night: the Hot Fire burger! This was just the right amount of heat to create a little upper lip sweat but not enough to throw you into a stop-drop-and-roll. I don’t mind getting a little dewy over a good burger.
I’m a fry girl, theirs are hand cut and darn good. Double fried and sprinkled with plenty of kosher salt, I’d stop in just for a big plate of them. My only advice: make sure you have a frosty beer nearby.
Here is what makes my husband and I such a great team: while I (obviously) enjoy the savory, my husband goes for the sweet stuff. I don’t have to slap his hand away from my French fried potatoes, and he knows he’s got his peanut butter and chocolate mousse cup all to himself.
Visit Engine Room downtown Mystic at 14 Holmes Street. Reservations are recommended.
Hope to see you there!
Cheers to another great spot to add to the list (and hugs from Grandma),