Caseus Closing; Successor Planned

Thomas Breen photoMore 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,

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posted by: new havener on July 12, 2018  8:47pm

he’s right, change is good, it’s inevitable….as long as the truck keeps doing its thing, I’m good with it.

posted by: RobotShlomo on July 12, 2018  9:52pm

While we’re at it, anyone know anything about what’s happening with Trinity / O’Toole’s or if anything is going into the former Anna Liffey’s space?

posted by: cellardoor on July 12, 2018  10:10pm

so glad the Sobocinskis are sticking around! they are becoming a great New Haven institution.

posted by: robn on July 13, 2018  6:00am

Arrrgh! Good luck Jason!

posted by: metalmaiden on July 13, 2018  9:16am

Not just vegan/vegetarian but paleo and keto!
How about someone opening a paleo (and completely gluten free)  restaurant in New Haven? This is a niche completely unfilled here.

posted by: RetiredGuy on July 13, 2018  9:25am

“Vegetables are the future.”—Craig Hutchinson

Oh, God, anything but that.  Sorry, but I can’t swallow a lima bean without gagging.

posted by: hartman on July 13, 2018  10:01am

Once, at Caseus, a kid threw a lump of cheddar at me. I thought ‘that’s not mature’

posted by: hartman on July 13, 2018  10:03am

Some time ago, I recall asking New Haven cheesemonger Jason Sobocinski why he stood lopsided? Turns out he only had one Stilton.

posted by: cellardoor on July 13, 2018  1:09pm

Hartman, you have made my day.

posted by: robn on July 13, 2018  2:35pm

Enough with the cheesy jokes.

posted by: Stylo on July 14, 2018  1:53pm

A paleo/keto eatery would be cool.

I am bummed about Caseus. It’s at a level that few restaurants in New Haven achieve. And there weren’t many like it. But I respect his decision and understand the need to change.

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on July 16, 2018  9:40am

Such a bummer; Caseus was one of my favorite places to go. I understand his reasons for closing and the need to adapt over time, but this place also was a unique one here and did what it does well.
I hope the new establishment is similarly unique and worthwhile… there have been a few too many cool places that have closed over the years only to be replaced by something totally underwhelming. I think these folks know what they’re doing though, so I look forward to what comes next. In the meantime, viva la Cheese Truck.

posted by: Cordalie on July 17, 2018  9:32am

Sorry to see such a great place close.  I do love vegetables, but I have to say with the skyrocketing taxes, if the cheese truck goes, I am out of here!  Thanks for the wonderful years with us.

posted by: Teachergal on July 18, 2018  8:44am

Where is the cheese truck?