BAR - New Haven

BAR: A Unique Twist on New Haven Style With a Familiar Feel

A look at the Red Pie with Mozzarella cheese from BAR in New Haven, CT.
After visiting Frank Pepe's Pizza Napoletana in stop one of four of our Taste of New Haven Pizza Lover's Tour, we walked across the city and learned about its history, architecture, and heritage along the route.  As it turns out our tour guide, Colin is the resident New Haven historian and pizza expert who has dedicated his life's work to the city.  After burning off a few calories during the journey from the first stop, we arrived at BAR, which we quickly learned is a very different type of establishment from some of the more historic pizzerias in town.  BAR is a more of a modern industrial brewery/night club hybrid looking facility with an open air dining area that included views onto the historic streets of the town.  The interior included a multi level dining room and open views into the pizza production area which I enjoyed observing.

Colin, Owner of Taste of New Haven and our Pizza Tour Guide displays and discusses Bar's critically acclaimed mashed potato pizza.
As with each stop on the Taste of New Haven tour, we tried three different pizzas at BAR: a red pie, a red pie with mozzarella, and a mashed potato and bacon specialty pizza.  As the pizzas were delivered to us, we were treated to a trio of beers including a house brewed toasted blonde and a Cafe con Leche beer that literally tasted like a Cafe con Leche!  I'm not a craft beer guy, so perhaps I'm easily impressed when a craft beer is actually tolerable to me, but this was downright delicious!  As we sipped our beers and the pizzas were delivered, we learned that the pizza at BAR shared some New Haven Style Apizza roots with a little bit of a twist to it.  Established in 1991, BAR started out as a bar and dance club then expanded to brewing English style beer and began making pizzas in 1996.  The architects of the pizza took some of their knowledge and experience with Sally's Apizza and combined and tweaked it with some concepts they wanted to achieve.  Part of the process includes hand stretching the dough and then passing a rolling pin over it to achieve a razor thin and uniform crust.  

Two slices of tomato pie pizza - one with mozzarella and one without.
Typically, when I hear that a crust is rolled out with a rolling pin, my mind thinks tough, uniform with no bubble pattern, and boring.  The crust on all three pizzas we tried was nothing of the sort.  It was among the thinnest pizzas I've ever had while still maintaining the structural integrity to hold sauce, cheese, and toppings without becoming soggy.  It was also impossibly tender and had plenty of variation from some air pockets and charring.  The thin dough still had some density to it, which is characteristic of New Haven pizza, but it chewed more like a New York style pie.  It felt very familiar and for those who might have never tried New Haven Apizza, this would provide a wonderful crossover and entry into the style.  For me, the crust was very consistent across all three pies, and was absolutely my favorite part of each one of them.  With that out of the way, let's talk a little about each pizza.

BAR of New Haven's tomato pie.
First, the red pie was the majority of my family's collective favorite pizza of all the 12 pizzas we tasted that day with the First Lady, Pizza Princess, and Pizza Prince (who absolutely crushed an entire slice) all voting for this saucy pie sprinkled with fresh garlic and a few herbs and seasonings on top.  I also very much enjoyed it, but had a different overall favorite pie (See my Frank Pepe's review)!  I preferred the red pie with mozzarella which more liberally applied the cheese than other places and was cooked in a gas fired oven with more even heat, presumably at a lower temperature than coal which resulted in less charring and an ability to taste and experience the cheese flavors.  I make this distinction because some of the New Haven coal oven pizzas which frequently used very simple sauces and super light cheese tend to derive their flavors from the oven's charring and seasoning blend, rather than the heartier sauces and more liberally applied cheeses that are found in other regions of the country.

The Pizza Prince Crushing a BAR Tomato Pie while sporting his NEPA Pizza Review Bib!
The last pie we tried was a mashed potato pie with bacon which is something that Chris Crowley describes as what can be called "a New Haven staple."  In Northeast Pennsylvania, we have what is called Pagash Pizza, which is super popular particularly during the Lenten season and amounts to mashed potatoes and cheese (sometimes onions or other toppings).  Now, I've done some articles and videos about Pagash and how to make it, but I have to be honest I don't actually care for it and rarely eat it.  The concept of carbs on carbs just doesn't work for me and I never have the desire to eat something so hearty.  This is probably why I didn't dive right into the specialty pie, despite it looking quite terrific and utilizing less mashed potatoes than many that I see in NEPA.  Needless to say, I wouldn't call this a Pagash pizza, so I shouldn't even compare the two but when potatoes are plopped on a crust, there is an undeniable connection!  Anyway, the more sparingly applied mashed potatoes that were sporadically dolloped on the crust actually provided a really nice flavor profile and varied textures.  The smokiness from the oven and bacon set the tone for the pie and was supplemented by some cheese and a dusting of seasonings.  Overall, this was a pretty tasty pie that I'm glad I tried but was more of a novelty for me and likely not something I'd order again.  Don't get me wrong, it was the best potato pizza I've ever had, but as I indicated I haven't had many of them for a reason!

BAR may not boast the rich and lengthy history that some of the other New Haven heavyweight might have, but they do provide an excellent pizza in a very cool environment.  It's a little bit unique for New Haven and a little bit familiar for those who are into a more New York style pie.  This place may not get as much national attention as those other places, but I would contend this is a MUST STOP on a visit to New Haven.  And for my money, the ONLY way to try multiple pizzas on a visit to "Apizza Town" is on a Taste of New Haven tour!

A profile view of BAR's mashed potato pizza reveals its signature razor thin crust.

See also:

My review of Sally's Apizza
My review of Frank Pepe's Pizza
My Review of Modern Apizza

A close up view of the mashed potato pie at BAR.



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