In Armory Square, the calm quiet of the day transforms itself into a lively night atmosphere. The same can be said about the Blue Tusk. It’s a dimly lit space with bar stools and booths, seemingly limitless beer choices and refreshingly unique menu options. Early in the day, customers trickle in and out on their lunch hour, returning again to relax and enjoy their surroundings with an ice-cold brew in hand. Set among the bright red brick design that lines the neighboring blocks of Walton Street, the Blue Tusk is not your typical pub.
When to go: Whether you’re going for the beer or the food, the Blue Tusk is open every day of the week except Sunday. The kitchen serves food Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Bar hours are extended on the same days until 2 a.m. During the lunch hour, you can expect to be served within 10 minutes of ordering your food while peering out the window or sitting at the bar. Dinner is busier, as the crowd spreads out into additional seating areas. The bottom line: It can get busy on the weekends, but you will probably be served before you get a chance to sip the latest Mystery Beer.
On Tap: The Blue Tusk considers itself a pub and wine bar. While it does sell a few mainstream beers, such as Bud Light, Labatt Blue and Sam Adams, be prepared to spend a little more for lagers, seasonals, ales, stouts and much more. In addition to the Mystery Beer, which changes every two weeks, the drink selection includes more than 69 beers on tap (ranging from $4.50 a pint to $6 for 20 ounces), and prides itself on the variety of choices. The wine list (also extensive) is divided into two parts. The first two pages offer a list of pricey wines costing up to $175 a bottle, and the third page offers choices of wine by the glass, carafe or bottle. The bottom line: This isn’t your typical college pub. Expect to spend a bit more for the variety of choices.
The Scene: The Blue Tusk fits right in with the trendy, more mature vibe of other Armory Square locales. The place is dimly lit with most of the light streaming in from the street-side windows that line the pub. You’re greeted with a relaxed atmosphere, including casually decorated walls lined with dark, wooden cubbies that serve as a nice alternative to the typical restaurant-style booths. The bottom line: The Blue Tusk is going for a pub feel. Marshall Street college bar, not so much.
Blue Plate Special: The lunch menu, like the beverage menu, is more creative than you’ll see at other pubs. Appetizers ($10 or less) include choices of cheeses, meats and quesadillas filled with prosciutto and Brie. A long list of sandwiches and grilled paninis ($12 or less) lines the menu with a variety of cheeses, meats and condiments that add a twist to the food. Salads and daily specials are also offered and served in a unique way (lobster or Hunter Stew for the adventurous). The bottom line: Casual, comfy pub food with its own flair.
The Crew: Grab a menu, find a seat wherever you please (at the window or in a booth is best) and order at the counter when you’re ready. Quick, efficient and friendly service is the norm. If you have questions about the plethora of beers (trust me, you will), someone will be happy to assist. The bottom line: What’s the rush? Take your time perusing the menu, mosey on up to the counter at your own pace and enjoy your fresh, cold beverage during the brief wait for your order.
The Crowd: The Blue Tusk caters to a slightly high-end crowd, so don’t expect to come in for a cheap pitcher of beer. At lunch, the crowd is a small collection of young to middle-age business types stopping in for a quick bite to eat. On nights and weekends, the crowd trends to young professionals. The bottom line: After a long week, if you’re looking to let loose with a relaxing cold beverage or two, this is your place.
The Deets: Located in Armory Square on Walton Street between Clinton and Franklin streets, the Blue Tusk is in the heart of the downtown social scene. The food is a step up from typical pub food, and the number of beer choices will make your head spin. Check out the Happy Hour specials (discounts on beer and wine) from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. During Big East home basketball games, stop by for $3 Bud Lights before you hop the bus to the game. The bottom line: If you’re looking for a relaxing and enjoyable option for off-campus eating and drinking, make sure to stop by the Blue Tusk.
Reviewed by: Anne Pomeroy