More vegetables. Less cheese. And more take out.
Jason Sobocinski is banking on that formula as he prepares to close his popular decade-old Trumbull Street restaurant and fromagerie Caseus and reopen under a new name, ownership, and menu.
On Thursday morning, Sobocinski announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page that he plans to close Caseus on July 21 to pursue new restaurant projects and to spend more time with his three children, who will be turning 3, 5 and 7 this year.
“People like change,” he said. “Even if they say they don’t. Change is a great thing.”
As diners started filling up the Trumbull Street restaurant’s sidewalk patio for lunch just before noon, Sobocinski told the Independent that Caseus may be closing, but another restaurant project that he will be involved with will soon take its place.
Sobocinski, who also co-owns the Chapel Street bar Ordinary, the Oxford brewery Black Hog, and a new BBQ and brewery in the works at the emerging DISTRICT tech hub, said he and his 25-person staff plan on completely remodeling the restaurant’s current Trumbull Street space in August.
One Word: Vegetables
In early September, he plans to open the new restaurant along with Alex Lishchynsky and Craig Hutchinson, who are currently chefs at Caseus. They will co-own the new venture along with Sobocinski.
“I want to pull back from the cheese,” Sobocinski said about one of his goals for the new restaurant. “I want to pull back from the Caseus classics that I’ve sort of felt stuck in: the mac and cheese, the grilled cheese, the big heavy portions. And I really want to concentrate on fresher food.”
He said he wants to further Caseus’s current experimentations with homemade pastas and freshly baked, whole grain breads.
“Let’s face it,” Hutchinson said, “vegetables are the future.”
He and Lishchynsky have worked as chefs at Caseus for the past three years, and ran a brunch pop-up called [oink] at the Trumbull Street restaurant in 2016. He said more and more people are vegetarians and vegans. More and more of Caseus’s customers come in requesting vegetables in their dishes.
Bringing Back The Bagels
Since first opening on Jan. 2, 2008, Caseus has prided itself on its extensive cheese offerings. Its current dinner menu lists primarily meat-and-cheese intensive dishes like cheese boards, poutine, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cheeseburgers. The menu also thanks eight different local Connecticut farms for helping supply Caseus’s kitchen with its current offerings of meat, cheese and produce.
Lishchynsky said the new restaurant will also focus on breakfast and brunch, and on catering and more affordable take out.
“We’re going to bring housemade bagels back to New Haven,” he said. He and Sobocinski said they plan on scaling back the restaurant’s current cheese shop, which sits just below street level at the restaurant’s Trumbull Street location, and build that space out instead as a take out spot for prepared salads and sandwiches.
“The restaurant industry is changing quickly,” he said. “It’s morphing into something where people are looking for food that they can take home. They’re not hanging out nearly as much. They want to be able to enjoy a great meal at home.”
Sobocinski said Caseus was not set up to cater to that type of take out need. He said this new venture will.
Cheese Truck Rides On
Sobocinski said this change will not affect the current workings of the mobile Cheese Truck, which serves grilled cheese sandwiches throughout the city. Nor will it affect the restaurant’s current wholesale arrangements with local bars like the Owl Shop that sell Caseus cheese.
“I didn’t want Caseus to become a place that was starting to go downhill because my passion for what we were doing was starting to wane at all or because I felt like I was chained to it,” he said.
Sobocinski said that, unlike the bevy of other downtown and Ninth Square restaurants that have closed in recent months, he is not shutting down Caseus because of financial troubles.
Caseus was around for 10 years, he said. “I’ve never done anything that long.” He said the time is right to try something new,