You should know by now that your two humble narrators, Hans and Mendez, are not your legal type of fellows. You know, Moet drinking, marijuana smoking street dwellers. We take more than one lollipop when at the bank. We take the shoelaces out of our Addidas sneakers. We strut around New Haven with spitballs ready. We have visited The Heirloom, a sleek bar found in the grotesque building known as The Study on more than one occasion. You don't need the giant pair of glasses cemented to the steps to see this soulless restaurant is for Stepford Wives and Pompous Pops who need a lil' luxury when in our classy city. Like roaches we crawl to the open hotel doors.
Our fascination peaked with their 9 dollar happy hour special. Five dollars for a burger, four for a Stella Artois. Sounds appetizing on their chalkboard, even their doorman recommended it as "the best happy hour in town." Their bar is as sexy as a hardware catalog. ESPN flickered silently on the television while Hans and Mendez waited for the bartender. An employee eventually appeared behind the bar, took the orders, and then dashed off. Hans, Mendez, and a friend who wishes to remain unnamed (he was playing hooky from work) sat in the ghostly bar, music playing softly in the background. A manager, most likely the bartender's mom, came over twenty minutes later. The long awaited burgers were carried by our spectral bartender, ten minutes after the den mother checked in on us. He promptly disappeared. Outside a tumbleweed drifted by. The burgers are nothing to rave about. The bun is from McDonalds steamed like McDonalds and lightly sweated on the plate. The lettuce and tomato were chewy like dog toys. The meat squeaked. Mendez used half of the ketchup bottle to drown the taste. Mendez claims to be a ketchup fan when confronted about this incident.
The french fries (do we make mention they are unhealthy again?) sucked. Drown the chef in ketchup, not the food. For nine dollars, one can turn off their mind and taste buds and enjoy the experience for what it is; sub par and memorable for lacking any gaudy flair The Study's edifice wishes to exhibit. You may find yourself asking "Why would anyone go back?" To this we shrug our shoulders. Nothing better to do, we guess. It's a stone throw away from the blogcave garage, so we visit, expecting our low expectations to disappear, as if our first visit was a fluke. Our view is reaffirmed each time.
We have been to Heirloom, the restaurant in the Study Hotel, several times. Several times we have tried to blog about it, to give you, the New Haven diner, the truth and hopefully a few laughs about the newest hotel restaurant in the city. The hotel restaurant: the thing of Film Noir and Frank Sinatra sex scandals: a place to spy on political opponents and to shred the evidence of afterward. In the glorious pre-prohibition and later days of pre-rock ‘n’ roll, the hotel restaurant was the forefront of mixology and the place to be seen by stars, writers, the moneyed and who ever else could wear a double breasted or three piece suit while keeping up in martinis and gags with William Powell.
While in theory the Heirloom has the makings of New Haven’s return to the glamorous hotel restaurant/bar scene, (Johnny Davenport is lonely while the ever changing restaurant at the foot of the Taft has always been consistent in low quality) in practice it fails horribly. Mendez was the first the fall victim to the Heirloom. His first trip was harmless enough: Half-priced martinis for happy hour and a cute, friendly waitress named Michelle. She is the only appeal other than the glorious bathrooms to ever visit the Heirloom (more on the men’s room later). This first visit was the worst of all because it gained the trust of a food lover and blogger. This trust would later be abused several times in the following weeks.
The second time the Heirloom was visited it gave us the hot and cold treatment. Mendez’s reaction to the happy hour was fairly warm, while Hans' was cold, leaving us lukewarm about the whole experience. We tried for over a week to compose a decent post about our experience, but all we could come up with was a write up about the men’s room, which is as follows:
The bathrooms in the Heirloom are immaculate. Immaculate is an over used word, which of course denotes the Immaculate Conception, but really this bathroom is worthy of the word, and for the conception and birthing of the Son of God. I will spare you the theology, but not of a description of this rest stop which is in actuality the destination of any informed traveler who steps foot into the Study Hotel. The restroom has no paper towels, instead freshly laundered and rolled towels are stacked by the sink for hand drying. The urinals are futuristic eggs in which no odors call home. The mirror encompasses the entire wall that it is mounted and is free of any dirt, blemish or smudge. It is as if no one has ever been reflected flossing or popping a zit yet. The cherry on the whipped cream; brand new tiles and a vase of ever changing fresh flowers, perfect for any guest’s lapel. When leaving or entering the rest room one can view a giant intentionally blurred mural of John Trumbull’s "Declaration of Independence." Interpret this as you will.
Other than Michelle the service at The Heirloom is literally the worst in town. You will sit at the bar regardless of the time of your visit for upwards of ten minutes without interaction from a member of the waitstaff or the illusive bartender himself. Breakfast, lunch, and happy hour customers are ignored equally. What is puzzling is that there is no shortage of uniformed employees walking around the restaurant or convening in the enormous wait station. Many of the employees, the plain clothed ones, are merely standing at attention waiting to open doors for guests, which is redundant entirely because there are always two door man on at a time. When a serviceman does finally arrive, they will either not know where popular liquors are behind the bar, or will hand you a menu, disappearing for another ten minutes. You place your order and the food arrives in a manner equally as untimely as the waiter. Upon our second visit Hans ordered a burger with cheddar while Mendez ordered his with American. The burgers came and were reversed. Because of Mendez’s affection for ketchup and big ol’ sloppy burger bitin’ the error could not be corrected.
Because of its location in the center of Chapel street’s restaurant district, we were fooled twice more into ordering drinks at The Heirloom, always rationalizing our present experience cannot be as bad as our past ones. The last time must have been a fluke, an off day. We all have them. It’s not impossible that every one from the General Manager down to the expo to the busboy’s personal shoeshine were not all on the same “off day” schedule. So we try the Heirloom again: same lousy service, same beautiful bathroom. In the back of our collective mind maybe we just keep going back because of Michelle. Our collective hearts do not have a crush on her, but oftentimes an exceptional bartender will have that effect on the clientele: Erin at The Blue Pearl, Eric at The Anchor,... and there's always that bathroom.
You walk by the Heirloom; this is your game plan:
If Michelle is working and the happy hour special sounds appetizing to you, whether it is the burger special or discounted drinks, take a seat at the bar. You are in good hands and your wallet is safe. If there are no specials going on, your wallet is not safe. Last time we went there we ordered two coffees, one with Disaronno, the other with Bailey’s. The bill came to twenty-one dollars. If our favorite bartender is not working, or if there are no specials, if one of these factors is off, there is no chance you will be treated judiciously. Head straight to the bathroom. If you are ever walking by, and in need of relief, head to the bathroom. The weird, oftentimes Stepford Wives-type staff has no idea as to who is staying the hotel and who is not. If you are wearing a jacket with a buttonhole in the lapel, help yourself to a flower, but hide it in your pocket before leaving the restaurant/hotel. Some things are to be taken advantage of, not abused.
To add insult to injury, one of the nights we stepped in solely to use the men’s room, the bar was hosting a sausage fest; not a single woman in the place.
So the Heirloom is not the great return of the hotel restaurant, but that's okay, we can wait for the possibilities the future will always bring. In the meantime there are plenty of excellent cozy drinking establishments in the city where one can super Film Noir their cocktails up by adding bitters to it, don a fedora or trench coat and if one is so inclined can plot to murder a lover’s husband for the insurance money.
Here’s looking at you kid.