How's the buzz about Bank & Bridge Brewing in Mystic?
First impressions can be wrong. That was the case for us after visiting Bank & Bridge Brewing in downtown Mystic.
The brew pub opened in late June in the former Bank of America branch next door to Mystic Pizza. The building makes a statement. The impressive granite structure was built in 1931, with four massive columns at the entryway, and two side wings.
Since they opened, we had read and heard good things about Bank & Bridge, and we were anxious to visit. So we made a plan, and on a recent Sunday evening, six of us met there. Unfortunately, we were all underwhelmed.
The food was satisfactory, but the interior was cold and the music so loud it was impossible to talk to the person sitting beside you, never mind those across the table. Also, although it’s pretty much self-serve, we felt ignored by the waitstaff. They seemed to begrudge us when we asked for a knife and a couple of forks, and just stared back with no response when we asked if the music could be turned down a bit.
But the buzz about the place has been so good, we decided to go back. This time, two of us went for lunch on a Wednesday, and I’m so glad we did. The food was terrific, the service excellent, and the music just right.
It was a sunny afternoon, and the former bank lobby was bright and airy, with its oversized windows, high ceilings, old chandeliers, and palm trees. While we were there, the brew master was checking on the dozen or so stainless-steel brewing tanks that are located right in the restaurant.
You pick your own seat, from high tops, the bar or tables, and find the menu by scanning a QR code. Once you decide what you want, head up to the bar to place your order. There’s a yellow neon “order here” sign to direct you. Both times we visited, no one greeted us or told us we had to fend for ourselves, but we figured it out quickly.
A couple things you should know beforehand. The sandwiches are messy, so you will need a lot of the flimsy little napkins they offer in table-top dispensers, and they don’t have ketchup, unless you specifically ask for it. The friendly waitress on our second visit told us the chef prides himself on making sandwiches that ooze cheese, sauces, pickles and all the other good stuff they pile between the bread.
The Bank Burger, $14, is very, very good. It’s two 4-ounce patties with Vermont cheddar, Maple Porter Bacon Jam, Bank sauce, lettuce and pickles. Our waitress told us the chef who makes the messy sandwiches is not a fan of ketchup and substitutes “Bank sauce” instead. The sauce, which is served with fries and onion rings and is liberally slathered on some sandwiches, appears to be ketchup doctored up with mayonnaise or sour cream, spices and pickle juice. It’s good. She did say if we wanted ketchup, she would go and get it.
We also tried The Gobbler ($14), a special Thanksgiving-on-a-bun sandwich. It was two 4-ounce turkey patties, cranberry sauce, turkey maple gravy, stuffing, Vermont cheddar, and coriander Dijon aioli. It was a behemoth that required two hands to hoist and received big applause.
For sides, we tried the French fries ($6), which can be ordered plain or dusted with vinegar or Old Bay, and the beer-battered onion rings ($8). They were good and big enough to share.
We also got the fried potato salad, $6, a concoction of fried potatoes, pork belly, red and green peppers, scallions, and confit garlic lemon aioli. The potatoes could have been crisper. There are others choices, too, like fried banana peppers, $10, and street corn or a Bavarian pretzel, both $8.
On our first visit, we tried the beer-battered cod sandwich, $18, that was fixed with lettuce, pickles and Old Bay tartar sauce. It was OK, but the cod was overcooked and could have been more flavorful.
There was a similar comment about the fried chicken sandwich, $13. The chicken was dry and we suspect also overcooked. Someone else tried the truffle honey fried chicken sandwich, $14, which was thoroughly enjoyed but a gooey mess. The chicken sandwich was dressed with truffle honey, whipped goat cheese, fig jam, lettuce and pickles. It would have been even better if the sandwich — in fact, if all the sandwiches — arrived with a pre-packed wet wipe.
Bank & Bridge is the sister brewery to Snow Republic in West Dover, VT. According to published reports, Walt Bansley, a former Marine who later became a lawyer, is the owner. A native of California, Bansley opened Snow Republic in 2019 and now has added Bank & Bridge.
The brewery is a great addition to downtown Mystic, providing another choice to an already impressive group of places to eat and drink. And it is a very creative use of the former bank branch. In good weather, there is ample seating out front, offering a curbside view of passing pedestrians and traffic. And then there are the innovative specials, like The Chili Joel, $14, on last week’s menu. It was billed as an 8-ounce burger, with cheddar, Manatee Porter chili, lime scallion sour cream and an onion ring. Next time, we will have to try that.
54 West Main St., Mystic
Search on their name to find their website and to locate them on social media.
Atmosphere: They are housed in the cavernous old bank building at West Main and Water streets in downtown Mystic. The interior is bright, with white walls, tables and chairs and big windows that flood the dining room with light on a sunny day.
Alcohol: It’s a brew pub so there’s beer, including their own, like Mystic IPA, Shock-Hop-Alypse, and Celestial Navigation, as well as guest taps — Von Trapp, My Love Lies Patiently, Lupified, and others. They also offer a limited but fine selection of wines. Hard liquor is served but only neat or on the rocks.
Hours: Open seven days a week, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The only days they close are Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Prices: Sandwiches run $14 to $18 and starters $6 to $13.
Credit cards: Yes
Outdoor seating: Yes
Handicapped access: From the back entrance