The first thought I had when I walked into the South End (which took over the space formerly occupied by the Pine Social at 36 Pine Street in New Canaan) is 'I'm at home' – except maybe a little better than home.
The service treated me as if they’d known me forever. The decor was definitely comfy-chic, with dark colors, wood, and soft antique lights to brighten the decor. The tables were not mashed together as in so many New Canaan restaurants; they were spread out in a normal, civilized manner – the way you might spread them out at home.
One of the things that make the South End stand out in New Canaan is its menu. Each section (such as ‘from the sea’, ‘from the range’, ‘ruffage’, etc) holds a dish that makes you say “hmm, maybe I’ll have that. Wait a minute, maybe I’ll have THAT.” When will one run across Peppermint Tea Crusted Duck on a menu again? Also, you must try the grilled bacon -- and this is coming from someone who (I know, I'm crazy) doesn't like bacon. But this is about as far away from the Oscar Meyer bacon at the Food Emporium as a Ferrari from a Honda Civic.
I had so many questions about the place that I reached out to General Manager/Partner Keith Siskind.
-I noticed the decor is unique, with unique finished touches. What was the message you were trying to convey?
All the reclaimed wood that we display in the dining room is authentic taken from a barn in New Jersey. We wanted to create an environment of approachability and comfort. We felt that lightening up the interior and opening up the space was crucial in achieving our goal. From the reclaimed wood and modern lighting to the raw butcher block tables and long, comfortable banquettes we are very pleased with the finished product.
-The menu is not divided in a typical appetizer/pasta/entree fashion. Do you think there is an advantage to dividing it by food types?
If you look at the top of our menu, you will see appetizers written on the top of the page on the left and entrees written on the top of the page on the right. I don't believe we would call it an advantage as much as we would call it unique and different. We wanted the layout to be easy-going while serving an affordable, fresh product at the same time. We also wanted something that our guests would find interesting and be a conversation piece.
-There is a New Canaan brewed beer on tap. Will there be other locally-grown or -made items?
We began our relationship with Charter Oak Brewing Co. right around the time we began this project. Scott Vallely (owner of Charter Oak Brewing Co.) has done a tremendous job promoting his local craft beers. We are actually 1 of 3 restaurants in Fairfield county fortunate enough to carry the Charter Oak Brown Ale on draft. We feel that supporting local products is vital and are proud to carry it. We also feature tequila called Paqui which is made by New Canaan resident, John Chappel. In the very near future, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy more of the local fare.
-What are your personal favorites on the menu?
I can't speak for my partner Nick [Martschenko], but I would have to say the Bolognese is the best I have ever tasted. We make our pasta fresh in house every morning and it shines in Nick's dishes. The Pork Saltimbocca as well as the Diver Scallops with Cream-less Creamed Spinach are phenomenal. The wonderful thing about our menu is that it is constantly being updated. Every day, Chef Martschenko is bringing unique and delicious seasonal items to the table (pardon the pun) and really giving the guest something new and exciting upon each visit. As of Friday, our website is up and running and is updated daily with new menu items. Guests will always have the most current version of our menu at their fingertips.
After three visits to the restaurant (and tasting as much as I could on the menu) just writing this article makes me hungry. I can hardly wait to go back – and you should go too.