Norwalk has become something of a gastropub haven over the past couple of years. Cask Republic, Harlan Publick and The Blind Rhino are within walking distance of each other in SoNo’s North Main and Washington Street area, in addition to such other new eateries as the Chinese-themed Ch’i Public House and Mexican eatery Zapata.
So how does the man behind a new gastropub compete? If you’re Greg Pettinella, you go about creating sky-high burgers, offering a pair of bourbon-based cocktails that are maple-smoked at the customer’s table and continuing the tradition of gargantuan milkshakes that have helped make Johnny Utah’s — within whose space at 80 Washington St. the new dining spot, Killer B, resides — renowned.
The twist is that you add bacon to nearly everything.
“Who doesn’t like bacon?” asked Pettinella, while supervising the finishing touches of construction that began about six weeks prior to Killer B’s Dec. 7 opening. “And burgers. And bourbon and beer.”
Those four b’s underscore the latest addition to SoNo’s gastropub scene. With two partners, Pettinella maintains an equity interest in both Johnny Utah’s and Killer B, which is set up as a separate 2,000-square-foot space inside Utah’s 6,500 square feet. Though the new restaurant’s patrons may indulge themselves with a ride on Johnny Utah’s famed mechanical bull, one gets the sense that Killer B is mainly about the menu.
“I came up with the concept while I was in Charleston,” Pettinella said. “When things didn’t work out there, I moved back up here and decided to try it out at Utah’s,” bringing the craft burger “out of the shadows. We tripled our food sales in a couple of months.”
With gastropubs booming in the area, the restaurateur came up with the concept of adding not only sampler flights of beers and bourbons, but also flights of bacon. There are five flavors to choose from – bourbon, butterscotch, fire, honey, and orange — priced at $7 for three pieces or $21 for 10 pieces, or two of each kind. The bacon flights are served up on miniature clotheslines.
There are also bacon-wrapped baked potatoes, bacon-wrapped mozzarella, lobster mac and cheese – served in a cast-iron skillet with bacon – and the Queen B burger, consisting of a pork patty and beef patty seasoned with two kinds of bourbon, provolone and various condiments and served with bourbon-candied bacon on a bacon-toasted brioche bun. Should one’s arteries allow, the Queen B can be bumped up to a Killer B, which drops the bun in favor of two bacon grilled-cheese sandwiches.
And for dessert, one can order fried bacon-covered Oreos, chocolate-covered bacon or a gargantuan $10 milkshake.
“You’ve gotta come with an appetite,” Pettinella said with a grin.
The menu does include some less red-meat-heavy options. Any burger can be substituted with a Portobello mushroom, ground chicken, vegetable patty or, for the true gourmand, with Wagyu beef, and there are several salads featured — including a bacon burger salad, complete with creamy bourbon bacon dressing..
In addition to a rotating cast of bourbons and beers, Killer B also offers 10 wines for $30 a bottle and another 10 for $40 per bottle, as well as a long list of specialty cocktails.
“We decided we wanted to promote having a killer burger, a killer bourbon selection and so on,” Pettinella said of the new spot’s name. “All those B’s worked really well together. But we didn’t want to go overboard and get too whimsical by naming every burger after a type of bee or something.”
Ultimately, he said he hoped that Killer B would become not just a popular restaurant but also a late-night hangout for those seeking special desserts or a nightcap.