The opening-night crowd filed into the postcard-worthy red building that was once a railroad station but had just officially become Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery. Eight-hundred pints of beer were poured as people thronged around tables, overflowing into the aisles and then outside onto a patio area.
Many, like me, were intrigued that a new brewery had opened in the Greater Danbury area. But that wasn’t the only reason we left work early and endured long lines and unintentional, mosh pit-like jostling.
We were there for the burritos.
Co-owner Paul Mannion is well known in the Danbury area as the owner of the Green Grunion food truck. Since 2013, when the truck opened, he has amassed a legion of fans who are drawn by the siren song of his crave-inducing, San Diego-style burritos.
The brewery offers the burritos along with new menu items, and I am happy to report that after multiple visits (for fear of embarrassment I won’t say how many) they deliver the same California sunray’s worth of flavor fans of the truck have grown to love/become addicted to. The burritos are joined by an assortment of Mexico-via-San Diego-inspired items. All the food is served in a brewery with a relaxed, seat-yourself-and-order-at-the-counter, beer-hall vibe.
Broken Symmetry is owned by Mannion, brewers Christopher Sanzeni and Kevin Arrington, and Lisa Tassone, who also owns popular Bethel restaurants La Zingara and Ecco Rooftop.
Sanzeni heads up the brewing with assistance from Arrington, Mannion runs the kitchen, and Tassone helps manage it all.
“It’s nice because all of us have areas of expertise,” Tassone says.
From the beginning the owners wanted a brewpub-style establishment, but one with a new-school style, a place that had the feel of a production brewery, where there were no reservations or assigned seats, and patrons could grab chairs and make the space their own.
Visitors order at the bar and servers bring food and silverware. They can watch the commuter train go by a few feet away as they sip beers and eat.
“It’s a very social environment. We wanted that European-beer-hall style,” Sanzeni says. He adds, early American breweries were the “social media” of their day and “strategy during the Revolutionary War was in the pubs.”
The focus on the brewing side is Belgian beer. A Belgian dubbel and a saison were among the brewery’s early offerings. “Everyone just kind of loves that style. It’s not super hoppy; last couple of years there was the big trend going heavy hops. This is kind of a departure from that,” Arrington says.
The establishment’s name was inspired by Sanzeni’s background as a physics major and the concept of symmetry breaking. “It’s a system that is in place, then there’s outside influences that come into that system and that changes the system around, and that creates a broken symmetry, it creates something brand new,” Sanzeni explains. “So, in a way, the three of us combining all those talents creates a whole new identity, creates a whole new structure.”
As to what exactly a San Diego burrito is, Mannion explains that they are burritos that forego the rice in the San Francisco-style burrito found at Chipotle and elsewhere and instead focus on precision ingredients designed to complement one another. “It’s a component-based burrito,” says Mannion, who learned to make them while living for several years in San Diego. “It’s more like the meats, the cheeses, the fresh veggies, the pico de gallo, the fresh guacamole. The stuff you want, in my opinion, more.”
Another difference between the San Diego and San Francisco styles is the tortillas used in San Diego burritos are not steamed. Mannion says that his tortillas are thrown on the grill, then placed back on the grill after they’re rolled and filled with ingredients, creating a warm burrito that is bursting with flavor.
Mannion’s Cali burrito is a perfect example of what he’s talking about. Stuffed with carne asada, shredded cheese, guacamole, crema and french fries, it is a showstopper and perfect for meat eaters. Another winning option is the pollo, a pulled chicken burrito, with cheese, crema and pico de gallo. The meatless veggie is made with a garden’s worth of vegetables — onions, peppers, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower — but instead of being overpowering, they unite in triumph for each flavorful bite. It’s every bit the equal of others on the menu.
Beyond the burritos, there is an assortment of appetizers, from the fresh and delicious ceviche to the Jalapeño Happiness (cheese-filled, bacon-wrapped jalapeños) and the fish tacos. Though not listed on the menu, another favorite is the plantain nachos. (Ask to substitute plantain chips when you order the griddle nachos; there will be a small upcharge but it is worth it.) You can also get the burrito-bowl version of each burrito.
In addition to the house-made food and drink, there are guest beers and soda from Connecticut-based Hosmer Mountain Soda as well as kombucha from Danbury’s Cross Culture Kombucha brewery. There is no dessert as of yet, but there will ultimately be some rotating specials. Among the options currently being discussed are bacon churros and tres leches.
In the meantime, the combination of burritos and beers is a hard one to beat, and whether you think of Broken Symmetry as a brewery with a restaurant or a restaurant with a brewery around it, it’s a premier new dining destination with, yes, plenty of symmetry.