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Decent and/or local chow in downtown Hartford?

I'm going to be in Hartford, CT for the better part of a week (arriving next Tuesday dinnertime, leaving the following Monday lunchtime). I'm attending an event at the arena downtown and staying in that area; I won't have a car, nor will I have a lot of time to take public transit far out of the central area.

Any suggestions on good places to grab a bite -- either lunch or dinner -- *in that area* so I don't have to subsist on chains or arena food? Tips on delis and local markets would also be much appreciated.

I'm from San Francisco, so I'm not looking for anything "exotic" (although when I went to this same event in Reading, PA a couple of years ago a Vietnamese restaurant saved my life!). Good quality basic chow is what I'm after; suggestions for good "East-Coast" pizza and Greek/Middle Eastern food that can be hard to find here would be welcome. I'm a city girl, so don't worry too much about whether the neighborhood is less than nice, as long as the chow is good and I can get there easily. I might have a couple of "fancy" meals -- is there a great brunch place in that area? How about a place for a nice Sunday dinner?

Finally, are there any don't-miss markets (like Reading Terminal market in Philly or Lexington market in Baltimore) that feature local products or local chow?

Thanks in advance for your help -- I promise to report back!

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  1. There are a lot of restaurants within a few blocks of the Civic Center....if that's the "arena" you are talking about.
    here are a few to get you started

    Max's, upscale Chophouse....nice bar area also
    Trumbull Kitchen...younger crowd...varied menu...lively bar
    both are part of the Max group www.maxrestaurantgroup.com

    Black Eyed Sally's....cajun, live music

    Hot Tomatoes...in the train station....Italian

    Bin228....Wine bar with small, good menu...

    Joe Blacks...new place...Irish...a little slow service

    Vito's...on Bushnell Park..Italian

    Mortons Steak House...next to the Old State House

    Peppercorns....Italian...one of my favorites...www.peppercornsgrill.com

    there are a couple of deli type places on Pratt St...across from the Civic Center

    many restaurants in downtown are closed on Sundays...you may have more luck with a hotel

    If you want to take a cab to Franklin Ave there are old school Italian places..Carbones....and many Latin places..Chale Ipenema..Brazilian....La Casona...and others

    1 Reply
    1. re: LenaNE

      I forget a great little place...Tapas on Ann...Greek/Mediterranean...as the name says..its on Ann St...1/2 block from the Civic Center

    2. As for deli's in that area: Max Bibo's on Trumbull right across the street from the Civic Center, and Rose's Gourmet Deli on Pratt Street. Both are good choices.

      You can get middle-eastern at Aladin on Allyn St. which is also relatively close to the Civic Center.

      Agave on Allyn St. is a good choice if you are in the mood for Mexican.

      As for true NY/NewHaven-style Pizza, downtown Hartford will disappoint. You have tons of choices (not just great pizza) if you jumped a train down to New Haven for a day. For instance, if you did that, goto Mahmoons for middle-eastern.

      1. i'd probably split my dinners between bin 228 for light italian fare & great wine, mayor mike's for something hearty and a beer, and vaughan's publick house for great uk pub grub. city steam for lunch or max bibo's delicatessen.

        1. i can vouch for a couple mentioned already...
          trumbull kitchen has great food and a decent wine selection.
          city steam has good food too (their fish and chips is made with salmon and it's wicked tasty) and some decent beer that they brew themselves.
          rose's gourmet deli has a pretty good selection, although it's a bit pricey for what it is.

          1. Let me add a few affordable chowhoundish spots:

            Woody's on Pratt Street for hotdogs and local color

            Aladdin on Allyn St. for good cheap Middle Eastern (try the lamb or the Syrian pizza)

            The Polish American Club near the Charter Oak Cultural Center, a trip back in time, lots of sausage, pierogies, beer, old school vibe.

            1. Pastis is within a block of the Civic Center - upscale bistro. Koji for sushi, yakitori, & a good sake selection. You might think about taking the E bus up to West Hartford Center where there are lost of choices.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Enfielder


                Quick update: Pastis is out of business.

                If you're looking for French/Bistro, I'm not sure there is anything available. For something different, you might consider trying Feng on Asylum (excellent upscale asian bistro menu).

              2. I like Aladdin on Allyn for their Middle Eastern food. Never had the Italian section of the menu. The food is cheap. The kebeh and laham bil ajeen (sort of like lamb pizza) are quite tasty.

                Pastis is closed.

                I second Enfielder's idea of taking the E bus to West Hartford Center. The E bus leaves every ten minutes from downtown.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JudgeMaven

                  Thanks for all the tips so far! What do you recommend at the West Hartford Center that's worth a trip?

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    There are great restaurants in West Hartford center...but probably not anything better than you can get in SF... but here are a few...also..they are all open on Sundays...all within a couple of blocks

                    seafood...Max's Oyster Bar...part of the Max Group also
                    Elbow Room...good neighborhood American...
                    Shish Kebab House of Afganistan

                    stay away from Puerto Vallarta & Osaka

                2. If you want good east coast pizza (kind of an oxymoron) First and Last Tavern is great and an institution. The guy who runs it is always there and always entertaining.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ilmangiatore

                    Gee, Harry's in West Hartford is pretty damn good Neapolitan-style pizza IMHO, although I always make up my own rather than going with the standard "named" pizzas on the menu--those combos do nothing for me.

                    I think it's a nice, comfortable restaurant also.

                    Also, if you do go to First and Last Tavern (it's a bit out of the way if you're not driving) make sure you get the right location. There's another place called Lena's First and Last, which isn't what ilmangiatore is referring to.

                    1. re: smoky

                      harry's hawaiian pizza will convert anyone who thinks hawaiian pizza is a travesty (as i previously did).. i usually make my own too but that one calls out to me on a regular basis..

                  2. I like Agave Grill downtown. Mexican, they make gucamole at your table and the staff is very friendly. Not like those phonies at Trumball Kitchen.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Waquoit

                      Agave is very mediochre..house margaritas are terible..too sweet...

                    2. If you are at the Convention Center there is a shuttle bus which will take you down town (it's only a couple of blocks, but the bus is convenient) Pastis is closed. Feng, on Asylum street, is new, and has gotten some rave reviews--I had dinner there, and I think its sushi stuff (which I didn't have) is probably its best stuff--my halibut steak was nothing special--I've seen you on the San Fran boards--so you might not be impressed with a lot of our stuff. The restaurant at the Marriott convention center (Vivo) isn't bad.
                      There's a nice lunch place, the Russell at Trumball and Pratt

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: lparis

                        I'm at the "Civic Center" don't know if that's the same as the "Convention Center." Yeah, San Francisco is a great food area, and I'm not expecting Hartford to wow me. But every city has some gems, and with your help I hope I'll be able to hit some of them. At the very least, I'll be spending my money at local businesses.

                        Still no tips about markets. Anyone?

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          the Civic Center is the arena...the Convention Center is a different venue a few blocks away...as far as markets downtown....you're kinda out of luck...there are many farm stands in the surrounding areas that have local products but they would require a car to get to...There is a Whole Foods in West Hartford Center though... downtown Hartford is very compact so you can easily walk around and read menus at the places mentioned...

                          Also, The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has a Sunday brunch...on Main St...walking distance from all downtown hotels

                          good luck...you won't go hungry