BRIDGEPORT -- When Chris Andrews made up the menu for Tautog Tavern, an old-fashioned pub in Black Rock, he decided to swim against the current.
"Everyone tells me I have to have chicken wings," he says. "I say, `Why?' Even if I have chicken wings, so does everyone else in the world."
Andrews, 43, should know. Raised in Cork, Ireland, he spent his early 20s living in Munich. Then he spent a year backpacking through Southeast Asia. Since settling in New York City, he's managed Vietnamese and French restaurants, along with an Australian pub called the "Sunburned Cow."
"We've gone to great lengths to bring the best products," said Andrews, swirling a glass of red wine by candlelight on a cold January night. He nodded toward the bar, a 120-year-old hunk of wood he bought in Hoboken, N.J., and added: "Frank Sinatra drank many times at that bar with his father."
Until January, that was Tautog's only attraction. But after nearly two years, the pub's full kitchen has finally opened. Andrews says the fare reflects the place's true soul: a New England-style tavern, steeped in local lore.
The place feels historic. Its wooden booths and tables are broken in. Its walls have maps and photos of vintage Bridgeport, alongside snapshots of the USS Tautog, a World War II submarine built in Groton that sank more enemy ships than any other.
"I tasted 25 pounds of burger meat till I found the blend I love," said Andrews, by way of introducing his best-selling plate yet: the "Tavern Burger." The menu, which ranges from $4 to $14, also includes a "Park City Chili," fish and chips, pork schnitzel and fried oysters called "Abe Lincolns." The latter is so named because Lincoln may have first sampled that dish while campaigning here in 1860.
"People forget about old Bridgeport and how awesome it was, and how much happened here," Andrews said, before adding: "How much is still going on."
Tautog Tavern, 2926 Fairfield Ave., is open Sunday-Thursday from 3:30 p.m. -- 1 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 3:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
More information at Facebook.com/TautogTavern.
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