It has been several years since Chef Dan Kardos was creating his signature dishes in Fairfield County. He worked at many of the best restaurants and bars including Napa & Co., Bar Rosso, Harvest Supper, Le Farm and Local. His creativity and fearlessness in the kitchen was a hallmark of his cuisine. After several years working for Barteca in Atlanta, Virginia, DC and a year in a test kitchen, Kardos returned to his stomping grounds in Milford and with three other locals opened Liberty Rock Tavern last week in the building that formerly housed a neighborhood favorite King’s Court bar.
I asked one of Kardos’ partners, Brian Kearney, how Liberty Rock emerged from King’s Court. Kearney was a bartender at King’s Court for six years when the owner retired from the police force and was looking to sell the bar. Kearney and Kardos were joined by two other residents, purchased the business, gutted and re-invented the interior. The new space is hip, ready for neighbors to come in for a few beers, play a round or foosball, table shuffleboard or metal tip darts, throw some money in the new high-tech juke box, watch football games on one of seven TVs or listen to music and enjoy a night out with friends or family.
There is a long bar along the right wall and tables with forty-two metal backless seats in total. The size of the tables vary to seat couples, a foursome and several community-style tables. There is plenty of room between for conversation with friends who are wandering through the room. The walls are adorned with Revolutionary memorabilia. When I ask Kearney why he changed the name and its significance, he told me that there is a memorial up the street dedicated to Liberty Rock, the highest point in Milford and during the Revolutionary War, it was the watch-point overlooking the Housatonic River.
The group retained many of the traditions of King’s Court. Every Thursday evening, they still host a “steel tip dart league” and many of the beer labels remain from King’s Court. Prices range from $2 for a can of Genesee Cream Ale to $6 for a can of Six Points Resin. There are six beers on tap including Fat Tire, Green Flash West Coast IPA, SeaHag IPA, Victory DirtWolf Double IPA, Guinness, and Mam’s Little Yella Pils.
Kardos invited CTbites into his new bar and kitchen to sample some of his creative comfort food meets bar food.
We started with a little smoked trout spread, not normally considered bar food. Kardos started with a lightly smoke trout, adding a touch of horseradish, topped the dip with goldfish, fresh dill, and served it with Ritz crackers and a bag of Lays potato chips. Now we're talking. The dip was delicious, it could be served at any restaurant in the area with a light smokiness, chunks of trout and creaminess. The crackers and chips made this a perfect partner for a beer.
Next was another item found at few, if any, bars, Burrata. This was no ordinary Burrata dish. It was full of textures from the addition of chunks of mulled apples, acorn squash, and tomato, plus bacon and pistachios. It contained an interesting twist; the apples were spiced with Cayenne pepper. I can't remember the last time there was a spicy component in a Burrata dish and I really liked the adventurous addition to finish with a beer.
Liberty Rock is a bar, and I really wanted some traditional bar food. And two items on the menu immediately caught my eye; Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich and The Burger.
I started with the Chicken. And it does not get better than this sandwich. The thin cutlet was covered in a scant breading, served on white toast with a slice of melted American cheese, B&B pickles, pickled Jalapeno peppers, thick bacon slices, Ranch dressing and crinkled cottage fries. The flavors and balance were perfect, and again Kardos added a spicy component, not just with the Jalapeno peppers, but he added some ground peppers to the breading and the buttermilk that the chicken soaked in prior to frying. The Ranch dressing and B&B pickles were great additions to this unbelievable sandwich. This is a must order.
No visit to a bar is complete without a burger. And The Burger at Liberty Rock was delicious. The large patty was prepared to my requested medium-rare, was topped with melted cheese, a couple of slices of bacon, a swath of spicy mayo and served on griddled Texas Toast. The meat was rich in flavor and when paired with the spicy mayo, the sour pickle and the salty bacon offered a perfect balance. The thick Texas Toast handled all of the ingredients. This was a fantastic burger.
The opening menu is limited to eight items, with Kardos adding Shrimp and Grits this week and wings as the weather turns cooler. He is excited about the freedom of doing his thing in the kitchen, creating dishes that he wants to prepare. If a dish is not selling, he will take it off the menu. Kardos has proven that he has the talent to create incredible dishes, with his own place he will have the freedom to show this talent. If what I sampled is a pre-cursor to the food to come, Liberty Rock Tavern will absolutely rock.
229 Bridgeport ave Milford CT
CTbites and the author were not compensated for this review; the dishes were provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.