When I decided to visit the new Rudy’s I knew not to expect much familiarity. After all, Rudy’s owner said last spring that they were not trying to recreate the beloved dive bar’s ambiance with their new location on 1227 Chapel St.
Whatever: new Rudy’s should consider a name change.
I first attempted to go the Sunday after hurricane Irene blew through New Haven — apparently, the rest of Yale had the same bright idea. The 1.5-hour wait was unappealing at best, and we departed without our frites and beer. Clearly, attracting customers was not an issue.
This past Wednesday, I returned with two friends in tow, longtime regulars of the Rudy’s of yore.
But there is little that resembles the old institution. The patrons are of a different sort altogether, the kind that drives into New Haven for a night out on the town (what my friend lovingly called “Nouveau” Haven visitors). Though maybe they were just grad students? In any case, the locals that used to drink at Rudy’s are still where they were left — at the new Elm Bar, drinking cheap beers and enjoying hand-cut frites.
At the new Rudy’s, the ambiance is a little more (and pardon my language) bougie, with most surfaces covered in dark wood and the walls decorated with shiny beer pendants. Sadly, the layout suggests more restaurant than bar; the majority of the front space is devoted to sit-down tables.
At least the beers did not disappoint.
This is where Rudy’s continues to shine: The selection of draft beers is still one of the best within walking distance of campus. Out of a possible 19 draft lines, we ordered the three most popular as well as the special of the evening. The Bavik, a Belgian pilsner, was quite similar to Stella Artois in taste and depth, while the special of the evening, Mama’s Little Yella Pils, a Czech pilsner, was a lighter, crisper beer. Both were decent, but fairly standard. It was the Hennepin Farmhouse and Summertier IPA that really stood out. The former was bright, golden and extremely drinkable ale.
The winner of the night was the Summertier IPA, fruity and hoppy.
Naturally, we could not patronize Rudy’s without ordering the Belgian frites. While the accompanying dipping sauces, “Samurai” and blue cheese, were as good as ever, the fries let us down. Our batch was cold, without any of the crispy double-fried deliciousness that we were expecting.
The rest of the food we had, a Classic Burger and the wild mushroom flatbread pizza, was unremarkable, though above average.
All in all, the new Rudy’s is a fantastic addition to the bar scene around Yale, and certainly a welcome presence for the Howe and Chapel Street neighborhood. In fact, there is huge potential for Rudy’s to become a regular stop on a night-out; already it draws crowds, even on the weekdays.
But one can’t but draw (unflattering) comparisons if they keep the name.
My friend put it best: “Elm Bar is not Rudy’s, and new Rudy’s is not Rudy’s.” That being said, the beers are still tasty, the selection varied, the dips almost drinkable.”
Just make sure to ask if the frites are fresh.