Patio Sets

L ike your best friend’s backyard, the patio at The Cellar on Treadwell is intimate and casual, with a do-it-yourself vibe. Unlike your friend’s place, there’s a professional chef in the kitchen and local musicians in the corner.

If you don’t know the name The Cellar, you might recognize its former incarnations: all-ages music venue The Space and, more recently, music bar The Rough Draft. Retaining the music and the bar components, The Cellar opened in May of 2019 and added something new: a full food menu.

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“We have a real passion for this place,” says Shari Vikmanis, who, with her husband, Eric, has been coming to this quirky industrial lot in Hamden for years. The Outer Space—a neighboring craft beer bar and music venue opened by The Space founder Steve Rodgers, which shuttered in 2019—“was our local hangout, and we made so many good friends,” she says. Now the couple, who are also partners in a recording studio in Shelton, are co-owners of The Cellar along with Pete Mould, who previously worked at The Space, The Outer Space and The Rough Draft and has “always been involved in some way or another in the local music scene.”

The Cellar’s indoor stage, bar and dining room have become less appealing to music-lovers since the pandemic. But the opposite is true of its newly expanded outdoor patio. Situated at what was formerly the front entrance of the quirky brick building, set off-kilter in the middle of a parking lot, the patio is more comfortable in the time of COVID.

Chef André Mack is putting food in the spotlight, with a menu that includes four craft burgers ($12.95-$14.95), three chicken sandwiches ($12.95-$13.95), a fish and chips platter ($14.95), a chicken tender platter ($13.95), a selection of small plates and snacks ($5.95-$9.95) and the Cellar Waffle Sundae ($10.95), a concoction that includes vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry. “As much as, yes, we want to be a music venue, we also have a really great culinary program,” Shari says. “We wanted to bring that a little bit more into the forefront, so creating an environment where people can come and just hang out, even if there’s no show” is a priority.

The beer menu is robust, with 12 brews on draft, seven of them from Connecticut, and 23 more in bottles and cans ($3.00-$8.75). The Cellar also mixes up seven specialty cocktails starting at a reasonable $6.50. The priciest, for $9.75, is The Grateful Dead, a mashup of vodka, rum, gin, tequila, blue Curaçao, sour mix and a “Razmatazz Tie Dye drizzle.” You can also order $7 glasses of wine or $20 bottles, with a glass-only pinot noir and sauvignon blanc going for $6.

It was a sunny, burgers-and-beer kind of afternoon when my husband and I visited, and at $35, the Burgers & Beers for 2 looked like a deal. I ordered The Hipster Burger ($14.95), featuring a Beyond Meat vegan patty with a juicy tomato, gooey mozzarella cheese, plenty of sloppy sauce (a truffle aioli) and the pleasant surprise of a bed of sauteed spinach greens with garlic in every bite. My husband went with The Big Kahuna Burger ($13.95), layered with sliced Virginia ham and cheddar cheese topped with barbecue sauce, grilled pineapple and a jalapeño pepper—a sweet and spicy and savory creation that shouldn’t work but somehow does. Both meals came with a generous side of crispy fries.

While we ate, we listened to the soulful acoustic ballads of singer-songwriter Hatfield, the first act on a bill shared with Passing Strange, the last band to play The Cellar before its temporary pandemic shutdown. Seating is close enough to see and hear it all but distant enough for peace of mind. Music gets some respect here, where patrons actually listen and respond. Reserved seats at seven shaded tables, some of them divided by sections of fencing that offer safety and privacy without sacrificing the view, were all taken on the night of our visit. Walk-ins had snatched up two of three high-top tables in the back. As the building cast its late-day shade over the little patio, the setting sun crept along the edge of the fence behind the corner stage.

The Cellar cultivated its audience through the locked-down spring with Dinner and a Show, featuring Friday night takeout and livestreams of five artists to watch from home. That concept continues on the patio, pairing free live shows (some requesting a $5 donation, all with tip jars) with food and drink. Upcoming Dinner and a Show performers include The Lost Weekend, Marisa Mini (from Trashing Violet), Dustin and Tristan (from Shame Penguin), Castle Black, Turkey Vulture, Oil Through the Bones, The Ricochet Effect, CIA, The Slick Tones, Vicki F., Falconeer, The Forest Room, 49 Feet High, Joey Witt and The Definition and JD Wise. The Cellar’s weekly Sunday brunch also boasts musical accompaniment. The actual indoor “cellar” is still the place to be for alternating Trivia Night and Mix Tape Bingo, both run by Digital Tracks Entertainment, on whatever weekend night doesn’t already boast a show. But if you don’t like the great indoors, you can participate remotely from the patio.

Whether inside, outside or online, The Cellar has kept the music playing—and that’s something to applaud.

The Cellar on Treadwell
295 Treadwell St, Hamden (map)
Fri-Sat 5-9pm, Sun 10am-1pm
(203) 390-5815
thecellarontreadwell@gmail.com
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Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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