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Best restaurants in Hartford, West Hartford?

I'm new to town and am wondering what are the best restaurants in or around Hartford.
My wife and I like almost any type of cuisine, done right. Thanks!

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  1. Good question!
    Ok, people are sure to add to this list and possibly disagree with me but I was born and raised in West Hartford…and these are my favorites…

    Downtown Hartford:
    Vaughn’s Public House on Pratt Street
    Typical Irish pub with excellent fish and chips (get them with the curry sauce!!) and all good things on tap. Tuesdays they have $2 Irish pints all day and that actually extends to some non Irish brews (Boddingtons for example) as well.

    Agave Grill on Allyn Street
    This place is a little small and sometimes a little loud but I love the food and the margaritas are fantastic (no junky fluorescent mix added…just good stuff).

    Max Downtown and Trumbull Kitchen
    These places are 2 of a number of restaraunts owned by the Max Group. Max Downtown is fancy schmancy but the food is awesome as is the staff. For me this is a special occasion place.
    Trumbull Kitchen is hip, with good eclectic food (also a bit on the pricey side). It’s kind of a see and be seen place.

    West Hartford:
    My favorite place is East West Grille. It’s a Lao-Thai place on New Park Ave (can’t find their website though). They also serve a little Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese stuff too. You really can’t go wrong there. Don’t be turned off by the fact that it’s located in an old (and very spiffy/clean) diner. It’s also BYOB. (Closed Mondays!


    Rather than get into the stuff in West Hartford Center, I’ll let someone else list that all out for you. People love going to and eating in WH center but as a native I am kind of tired of all of those places and the atmosphere (seems like really chatty 20 somethings everywhere).

    On an aside…other non super fancy joints….
    Barbs Pizza on Park Road in West Hartford is great….great style of pizza, great toppings. Harry’s Pizza in WH center is also great!
    Quaker Diner on Park Road is open for breakfast and lunch and they just do everything right as far as I’m concerned.
    Plan B burger bar on Park Road….try the sliders! (I wouldn’t wait for more than 20 minutes on a warm day for a table…it’s so small that you’re likely to be waiting outside).
    Lena’s in Hartford on Park Street has the best calzone.
    Tinker’s Seafood across from Lena’s is like a sea-less clam shack. I recommend the hot lobster roll…butter on the side.

    Good luck! Enjoy!

    2 Replies
    1. re: masha bousha

      Thank you so much for the Vaughn's recommendation. I ate their this afternoon and loved it. Great atmosphere, great beer, and great fish and chips! My friend had the meatloaf sandwich and said it was delicious.

      1. re: RCK6

        Now, go to Wood N Tap, part of this restaurant group. I have yet to try Vaughn's, but will definitely do so.

    2. Max Restaurants are typically good (NOT Trumbull Kitchen, mind you), but you also get "the attitude" with your meals. Agave Grill has terrific food, but it is noisy. If that bothers you, would recommend going on a Sunday night! W. Hartford Center has many restaurants, but most of them are pricey and "attitudinal" -- if you get my gist.

      Here's some good ones to consider:

      Mediza in W. Hartford Center - Mediterranean

      Wood N Tap, Hartford, for great burgers/sandwiches/salads;

      Five Guys, Avon, for Burgers and amazing fries. Don't waste your time at Plan B. We can't figure out what the fuss is all about. Pricey, and frankly, not very good.

      Serena's in Simsbury. Great fish -- fresh from Boston -- and Thai food. It is a joint venture between husband and wife. Menu is 1/2 seafood, 1/2 Thai food. Excellent preparations. It has another name, which escapes me, but if you find Serena's Fish Market, you'll find the restaurant.

      Black Eye'd Sally's has been good, although I haven't been there in awhile...

      Hot Basil, for Thai food

      Tapas, for Greek/Mediterranean

      And, if you want to take a drive -- about 45 minutes -- to Harwinton: try the Landing Zone. You'll feel like you're eating at Pancho's from the Right Stuff. It is, literally, in the middle of nowhere and the crowd is not your typical suburban conspicuous consumer. Food is excellent, exotic and interesting! I'm reluctant to mention it because it is primarily filled with locals and I don't want to ruin a great secret!

      Welcome to the area.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mallomarmom

        Serena's other name is Tom Yum Goong and it is fantastic and cheap. (BYOB) My personal favorite restaurants in Hartford are Peppercorn's, which is upscale Italian, Costa Del Sol, fantatic Spanish, great seafood and paellla, and O'Porto, Portuguese and great seafood on the WH/Hartford line right past Prospect Ave across the street from Lena's on Park, previously mentioned and great.

        In WH Center, I like Briccos the best. Max restaurants are fine and I have never had service problems, but my elderly parents have experienced the "attitude." Either way, Max restaurants would not be my first choice, I've tried all of them and feel there are better options for the price, although they are fine. Have heard great things about Hot Basil but have not been. My husband swears by Tinkers and goes all the time for lunch.

        IMHO, avoid Mediza. Had an absolutely horrible dining experience there, frankly one of my top 5 worst ever. 3 out of four entrees terrible... still regret not sending the food back. The only thing worth eating was the pumpkin bread pudding. Yes, we stayed for dessert, but it is a long story.

        There are lots of fantatic options and great little ethnic spots everywhere in the area as well as something new always coming along. Have fun exploring! JB

      2. To fill in W. H. Center there's Brico's, Grant's and Elbow Room- all great food.

        On the cheaper end try Mo's Midtown for breakfast and a cold cut combo or chicken cutlet grinder at Franklin Giant Grinder both in Hartford. Also try the other Franklin Ave Italian places for traditional fare.

        1. Also in WH center is
          Barcelona...tucked in parking lot behind Toy Chest...
          the understated Arugula Cafe on Farm. Ave (Mediterranean)
          Shish Kebab house of Afghanistan on LaSalle Rd
          also...I've eaten at most "MAX" restaurants multiple times and have never gotten "the attitude"... I would try them...
          head down Farmington Ave into Hartford and you'll find

          Tisane..tea, coffee and light eats..
          across the street is Japanese rest ..the name escapes me right now...great octopus salad and sushi/sashimi
          also..mexican, vegetarian Jamaican..and many others on my list to try..

          1. I have not been in many W. Hartford restaurants, but really liked Barcelona (tapas) and Puerto Vallarta (Mexican).

            1 Reply
            1. re: DonShirer

              I have to disagree strongly about Puerto Vallarta...the only good thing there are the tortilla chips...

            2. Thanks for the replies. That's a great start for us. Anyone else have any suggestions for special occasion dining, when price is no object? Somewhere with a great wine list? Thanks again, everyone. Look forward to trying these places out.

              3 Replies
              1. re: mnester

                in Hartford, MAX Downtown, Mortons or Emperor at the Linden...food is supposed to be excellent and pricey.. and BIN 228 - wine bar

                in Manchester, Caveys - French (20 min)

                in New Haven, Ibiza - Spanish (40 min)

                1. re: LenaNE

                  I second Cavey's. Amazing wine list. Bin 228 is great, but not fancy, more in line with your previous choices. I know Feng has gotten mixed reviews on chowhound, but our experience was awesome, especially the sushi. Meal presentation and service are outstanding.

                  1. re: LenaNE

                    Agree with Max Downtown and Morton's. Emperor at the Linden has closed. Cavey's French (downstairs) is excellent. Cavey's Italian (upstairs) is fine but not very inventive or creative. Piccolo Arnacio (sister restaurant of Peppercorn's) in Farmington is my favorite Itailian.

                2. I don't agree with the all Max Restaurants. Years ago they were awesome, I think they have lots some of there edge. Trumbull Kitchen? Not so pleased the last time I went. The food was kind of blah, however the sushi was nice and fresh. It looks great but, where is the quality. I enjoyed a breakfast place in Elizabeth Park. On the Pond or Pond House or something like this. The Brazilian place was interesting as well. Braza?

                  1. You may want to travel to Sturbridge area to get out of town. We have great restaurants like Cedar Street - eclectic & vegetarian, Rovezi's - upscale Italian and Perienals - an America/Grill. Down the street is the Publick house -- Historic & quaint and a little further is the Vienna in Southbridge - A German & upscale Historic restaurant & Inn. The area has much less traffic then the city and might be just what you need. Worcester also has many great upscale places. I hope it's not too far.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: spicykitten

                      I went to a wedding at the publick house in sturbridge and was pleasantly surprised. Even for wedding food they made some delicious accomodations for me, a vegetarian (as I was a last minute invite.... new friend). Lovely setting, with historic charm and class

                    2. Max Restaurants are solid/consistent, but they are not great. I have yet to be blown away by one. I don't recall eating anything that was bad, but I don't recall anything spectacular either. If you aren't used to fine dining, they may seem like fine dining, and taste, perhaps, like fine dining. But when you know the difference, you see that it is more of a well executed mid-tier operation that looks nice.

                      If you really want to go for it - I'd recommend two places. The first, is in Hartford overlooking the CT River. It is near Constitution Plaza. It's called the Polytechnic Club. They are open for lunches during the weekdays, and also they have seasonal wine dinners every so often. If you check their website, you will see when the next one is.
                      The other is down to the south in Ivoryton, called the Copper Beech Inn. It too is a more formal place, and you won't be disappointed. Copper Beech is open for dinners. They too have a website that you can peruse.

                      Both have excellent wine lists.

                      Good luck. Under the top tier restaurants, there are tons of cool ethnic places scattered about.

                      1. Tapas (Greek/Med) in West Hartford (Elmwood) is always delicious and consistent. I love their gyros, never left there unhappy. Bricco's (Italian) has amazing fusilli bolognese as well as almost everything else. Tom Yum Goong/Serena's (seafood/asian) restaurant in Simsbury, which I live down the street from, is extremely mediocre and not favoured by the locals. For Vietnamese Food there's Bamboo Grill, Canton, CT. Try their shrimp rolls or lobster asparagus soup, everything is delish. Pop's (small luncheonette), corner Sedgewick Rd and S. Main has amazing corned beef on rye. Its the best I've eaten in CT.

                        1. Why hasn't anyone mentioned Peppercorns Grill on Main Street??? They have by far the best food in greater hartford! It is billed as contemporary italian cuisine - and they always have unique specials. I have a few friends who are vegetarians and they love it - the chef's will conform to any dietary restrictions you have. if you havent tried it - you need to check it out!

                          1. First post for a long-time lurker! Maybe I just have a soft spot in my heart (stomach!) for the ‘off the beaten path’ eateries around the area. The independent, low key places are sometimes just SO good :P

                            Pho 206 – Hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese place on Park Rd. in WH. Absolutely amazing food. The place is tiny & unassuming, the waitstaff is a bit surly, but the fresh, tasty food makes it all worth it. There’s nothing like a massive steaming bowl of pho (for $7!) on a cold day to make everything just dandy.

                            Lemongrass in WH Center – Fantastic thai food, and I won’t eat thai anywhere else. The staff is friendly and good at recognizing repeat customers. A quiet place, even during the dinner rush. Definitely not a typical WH Center restaurant.

                            Schezuan Tokyo – Corner of New Britain Ave and South Main Street, WH. Expansive menu with both Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Everything I’ve had there was great – sushi, miso soup, seaweed salad, various entrees, etc. Get the scorpion bowls :)

                            First & Last Tavern in Avon – I’ve been here multiple times for business lunches and once for dinner. Great Italian and wood-grilled pizzas. Definitely worth a try.

                            I don’t particularly like the majority of WH Center restaurants. I’ve found that the food is mediocre, expensive and the snobbery is a complete turnoff. However, I’ve yet to decide for myself who has the best pizza: Luna or Harry’s.

                            J. Gilberts in Glastonbury – I’m not a big fan of trendy new places (like Glas too). Avoid weekends here at all costs, because it was deafeningly loud. We got a drink at the packed bar while waiting for our table and the pompous suburbanites couldn’t have been ruder. Don’t get me started on the couple who brought in their screaming newborn at 9pm. I’ll give it to the waitstaff for really knowing their menu, though. The group I was with said the steaks were delish – I had the grilled vegetable entree and it was quite nice. Try the homemade potato chip with melted cheese appetizer – yum! Desserts and wine list were standard. I probably wouldn’t go back just due to the atmosphere.

                            Max a Mia (Avon), Max Amore (Glastonbury) – consistent and good but not astounding. I once ordered a local Simsbury wine at Max a Mia (can’t remember the name) and nobody really knew anything about it. I’m not overly impressed with the cookie-cutter ‘Max’ restaurants.

                            Mo’s Midtown (Hartford) – fantastic breakfast, cheap & fast. The coffee is hot, the hash browns are crispy and the potato pancakes are to die for.

                            It’s Only Natural – vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Middletown. I love this place and have liked everything I’ve gotten here. Creative, delicious and the waitstaff is very knowledgeable and friendly.

                            Park Road Deli – by far the best grilled veggie sub I’ve ever had in my life.

                            Kebra Nagast? on Sisson Ave. I haven’t been down that way in awhile, but it used to be a really good vegan Jamaican restaurant. Is it still there?

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: hypertomatoes

                              Please post more often hypertomatoes! I don't agree with everything you posted, but do with 90%. I think Kebra Nagast is gone, but there is another Jamaican place there on Sission, and around the corner on Farnington Ave, there is an Ethiopian/Eritrean place between Monte Alban and Tisane you might want to try.

                              1. re: hypertomatoes

                                "Mo’s Midtown (Hartford) – fantastic breakfast, cheap & fast. The coffee is hot, the hash browns are crispy and the potato pancakes are to die for."

                                I would probably rather die than eat those hockey pucks again. They were greasy, and had the texture of compacted couscous. Easily the worst potato pancakes I've ever had, and I've had plenty.

                                The hash browns (I think you mean home fries? Didn't know they had hash browns at Mo's) were never crispy when I got them, just big mushy chunks of alternately overseasoned and underseasoned potato.

                                Skip that place, there's better options out there.

                                I do agree on most of the WH center places, a few "hidden" gems are out there though. Max's Oyster bar makes a great bacon cheeseburger, Grant's has the best calamari in the center, Barcelona makes a mean cuban sandwich, and as you said, Lemon Grass has some of the best Thai around. Probably the best restaurant in WH center is Arugula. The owner is one of the cooks, and they make some great food with a relaxed atmosphere. It doesn't tend to attract the same annoying suburb yuppies that the other places do, and the flatbreads really ARE to die for.

                                You mention Luna vs Harrys, but the real winner in that race is Harry's Bishop's Corner. I haven't tried it since Harry sold to one of his employees, though. In the center, Harry's beats Luna hands down. Luna is overpriced and the pies often leave a bleachy taste on your lips. I used to work there and paid 50%, even then I stopped eating it after a few days.

                                1. re: ratbuddy

                                  My experiences are the same as RatBuddy. Mo's homefries have the texture of smashed baked potatoes - not cripsy. In fact, you sorta need a bunch of drink or ketchup to throw them all back without dying.
                                  As for pizza - Ive never been at Harry BC, but Harrys in the center I found to be much better than Luna.

                                2. re: hypertomatoes

                                  Lemon Grass is the worst Thai restaurant I have ever been to. East West Lao Thai on New Park is amazing. there is also another Thai place on Shield that is awesome and has boba tea!

                                  I'm from Los Angeles - and if you come from a place that has amazing restaurants all over the place, prepare to be disappointed. There are good restaurants and then there are restaurants that are good for Hartford.

                                  1. re: bizarro_ami

                                    It's been too many years, but I agree with your assessment of Lemon Grass--it does suck and I won't go back. On the other hand, I'm very much looking forward to trying Thai Room in Shield St. Plaza--believe that's the place you're referencing above.

                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                      Tried Thai Room recently--King & I remains my top pick in Hartford/W. Hartford proper. It's been a couple of years, but that was our go-to spot for Thai in that area for as long as I can remember (throughout all the name changes, even, King & I being the most recent iteration).

                                3. Everybody's tastes are different, but I don't like Lemongrass at all. I went once, and 4 out of 4 were lousy. Even the Pad Thai was bad. I was talked into going a second time, and it wasn't any better. Up until just recently, Thai Garden in Middletown has been my favorite Thai haunt. 2 weeks ago I was introduced to a place in Canton called The Green Papaya, which was excellent. I'm told that there is a family connection between this place and East-West Grill in W. Hartford, but I can't confirm that.

                                  I'm shocked that nobody has mentioned The Cottage in Plainville for fine dining yet. The chef, Patty, is New Orleans trained, and it shows in her creations. Different menu every night, so check the web site before going if you're particular. Conservative but well thought out wine list.

                                  I totally agree with everyone who recommended Cavey's. 2 restaurants in one. One floor is swank french, and is excellent. The lower level is slightly more mainstream, italian, and is my preference of the two.

                                  I've always found the Max restaurants to be upscale generic. Lotta attitude, no character. But that's just me.

                                  1. Hi, someone touched on Vietnamese... and the best I've had in hartford are 1. Pho 501 for authentic as can be beef noodle soup...there's not much else on the menu, and customers have been coming back for almost 20 yrs..

                                    Pho 88,(used to be Pho Legal) at 1999 Park is also very authentic with broader menu options. Lots of vermicelli and rice dishes as well as desserts and weekend specials.

                                    1. I can't stress how great Grant's is...I've been there at least 3 dozen times and never had one complaint, bad meal, or bad experience. Probably the best filet & best desserts I've ever had. Every other place listed is pretty good too though.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Teraesa22

                                        i really enjoy Grant's. I'm a sucker for a bistro that moves against tradition and evolves. The best thing about Grant's is that we have a different experience everytime. All positive.

                                        1. re: ElizabethHenton

                                          I also love Grant's and totally second The Cottage. Patty Queen is an amazing talent and she her prices are quite reasonable given the quality of her cooking. I also like and recommend Metro Bis in Simsbury, Piccolo Arancio in Farmington and in Hartford, Morton's and Vito's on the Park.

                                          1. re: chowmensch

                                            My "Northern CT" top 10 (in no particular order) Metro Bis (Simsbury), The Cottage (Plainville), Cavey's (Manchester) upstairs or especially down, Bin 228, Peppercorns, Max Downtown (all Hartford) what attitude?, Bricco, Grant's, Max's Oyster Bar West Hartford). And for pizza- Pepe's (Manchester) or Harry's (West Hartford). (OK I counted wrong). I also agree with many of the other suggestions above, but must say Elbow Room needs serious upgrades - they are slipping.

                                            1. re: thos

                                              Sadly, with Jeff's passing, Elbow Room is nothing like it used to be. Benny has taken the place from greatness to mediocrity over the past few years. Skip it unless you just want drinks on the roof for the view, the food is quite poor these days.

                                      2. I have been part of a wine-tasting group for over a year, and we've been to a lot of Hartford Area restaurants.
                                        Tapas - (Mediterranean/Greek) this place is by far my all time favorite. The food is always fresh, tasty and you can't beat the prices. The wine list is decent. I love the salmon kabobs but only available at downtown location and they have the BEST greek salad I've ever had. I especially love their apple bread pudding. My friend and I always go out here for each of our birthdays.
                                        Bin 228 - Great wine list. The space is small but I've always gotten reservations. Nice place to just have a glass or meet a group and eat tapas style. The food is prettily presented and they have 1/2 priced Bottle nights on Mondays!!
                                        O'Porto (Portuguese) - I just went here recently during the Taste of Hartford. This place does seafood right. Absolutely beautiful food, ambiance and service. Would do this place again in a heartbeat.
                                        Burton's (American Fusion) - located in Evergreen Walk in Manchester, this is worth the drive. The times I've eaten here, I've had great food but I'd stay away from the burgers. Always overcooked and sit really heavy in the stomach.
                                        Plan B - Burger joint. Always slammed but AWESOME burgers. I especially loved their salmon burgers.
                                        Mikado's (Sushi) - Middletown. I've been going here for years. The sushi is good, the teriyaki is really good. Love the atmosphere.
                                        Mulberry Street Pizza - Main Street Manchester- just opened 3 weeks ago and went this past Sunday night. GREAT pizza probably better than Pepe's.
                                        BAR (Pizza) - New Haven - great restaurant, bar and night club. I love their New Haven style thin-crust pizza especially with sundried tomatoes.

                                        Bon appetit!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: luvthemdogs

                                          Totally agree on Joe Pizza and Joey Garlic burgers. Plan B and Five Guys are not even close.

                                          1. re: chowmensch

                                            I agree completely with luvthemdogs and chowmensch's recommendations that Joe Pizza and/or Joey Garlic is where one should go to get a burger - delicious and customizable. With regard to Plan B and Five Guys, I have only one thing to say -- how DARE either of these places tout themselves as a burger haven when the only temperature options (sorry, no, this is not a joke) are "pink or no pink" (Plan B) or "well done only" (Five Guys). Sacrilege!

                                            1. re: FoodDevotee

                                              Five Guys uses fatty enough meat that even well done is juicy. They serve some of the best burgers around.

                                              I just tried Joe Garlic's last night, we got chicken parm, eggplant parm, and a (HUGE) side of the eggplant fries. Very good for what it is, generic red sauce Italian executed well and with huge portions. We'll be going back.

                                        2. Puerto Vallarta has wonderful Mexican. Agave Grill for tequila and fun noisy mexican atmosphere. Tapas cannot be beat for super fresh, economical eats (their greek salad is to die for). Bin 228 is a nice cozy wine bar with tapas style noshes. Koji's has a great happy hour special with half priced appetizers from 4-6pm (japanese food) and Feng is another place that has an amazing Happy hour 4-6 on Fridays. Feng has very good sushi.

                                          17 Replies
                                          1. re: divainjeans

                                            I'd say "wonderful" is a big word for Puerto Vallarta. I haven't been to their location on the Pike in a while, but we ate at their Middletown location last night. It's OK enough, but there are much better Mexican options in the Hartford/West Hartford area. Monte Alban in Hartford is one. And from what I've read on good authority from two people I know personally and trust implicitly on Mexican food, El Sarape is another--I have yet to go myself yet.

                                            Feng was my favorite sushi spot when I worked downtown a couple of years ago, but I haven't been recently. And I enjoyed Agave in the same time period--it wasn't so noisy at lunch. ;)

                                            I agree with your vote above for Mikado in Middletown and since they renovated last summer, it's not just delicious, but also gorgeous now. Too bad that odd musty smell still lingers, but is very Manhattanesque now with lots of creative rolls, too.

                                            Edit: Forgot to add Pond House in Elizabeth Park. We went recently for lunch and really enjoyed it.

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              I think you are being too kind. I'd rather eat at OTB than Puerto Vallarta. Blech.

                                              1. re: ratbuddy

                                                I do like Puerto Vallarta's chorizo (they make their own) and their habanero mushroom salsa (you have to ask for it) is beyond the ordinary for sure. I haven't eaten at OTB so long, I can't even use it as a relevant reference point, but I hear you--there's a lot of cheese and glop going on at PV that gets in the way of good eating. Again, there are far better Mexican options in the area. Here's one more: Coyote Flaco.

                                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                                  So many people rave about Monte Alban I might have to try it again. We went once and the food was not very good, especially considering their prices. I live about 500 feet away, so if it turns out they were just having an off night last time, yay for me.

                                                  Anyone know if Braza is still open? Every time I see the place, it's empty.

                                                  1. re: ratbuddy

                                                    Try their mole. Though my usual order there is the enchilada y burrito combo. If you go back and find it's not to your liking, maybe El Sarape will be. My two trusted sources LOVE that place.

                                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                                      I love El Sarape (Broad Street in Hartford). The neighborhood is questionable but the food never disappoints. The place has zero atmosphere and only a handful of tables but their food is fantastic. Always fresh and fast and not cheese overloaded Tex-Mex.

                                                      I have to throw my two cents in about Puerto Vallarta. I find it to be mediocre Tex-Mex, on par with Margaritas. Eating there won't kill me but I can think on many other places I'd rather spend my money.

                                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                                        I haven't been to Monte Alban in a few years, but their corncakes were, to my memory, amazing. My friends and I used to order big side orders of them and go just for a snack.

                                                    2. re: kattyeyes

                                                      Correction: PV doesn't make their own chorizo. Now that this thread was bumped, I'll chime in. I needed chorizo for a recipe the other day and actually called (hoping to be able to buy some) and when I asked, "You make your own, right," I learned otherwise. But Iguanas Ranas in Middletown DOES make their own chorizo and it's mighty tasty, too.

                                                    3. re: ratbuddy

                                                      I don't think I would want to eat at On The Border any more than Chili's, but I don't even remember when or if I've eaten there. They are both Brinker International Mexican chains.

                                                      After spending the first fifty-three years of my life in Texas and being well-traveled in the Southwest, I feel you are doing a disservice to Puerto Vallarta by dissing them so strongly.
                                                      They are what they are, a fair to good representation of Tex-Mex.
                                                      Yes, it has a lot of cheese on it. The salsa is some of the wimpiest I've encountered, but when you get to the habanero, mushroom and onion salsa fresca, LOOK OUT!
                                                      It packs some heat. I didn't like combining the tomato-based salsa with the habanero salsa to bring the heat up. To me it ruined the salsa fresca, which was too hot for most at the table. I asked for jalapeños (since there was not a hotter regular salsa), and there were none! Instead our Hiispanic waiter personally fixed me a plate of flame roasted Serranos on a bed of chopped lettuce with salt and lime. This was free and they were delicious.
                                                      I enjoyed the pulled beef enchilada, tamale and chile relleno. I found them tasty, fresh and well prepared. SO's chicken salad had some nice grill char and was flavorful. All the other food looked fresh and well prepared.

                                                      The margarita with orange slices (last margarita on the list), was very tasty, but I thought it slightly weak on alcohol. At $5..., it was not bad for the price.
                                                      Overall, a very pleasant experience from a small "CT chain restaurant". I think there are four in the Central CT area. The interior was nicely done and festive and not trashy-cheap (like a real Mexican dive restaurant).
                                                      I think this Puerto ValIarta surpasses any psuedo-Tex-Mex I have had in the New Haven area (and I've tried them all, believe me).

                                                      I want very much to try Coyote Blue, in Middletown on 154. It's actually closer to Higganum than downtown Middletown. They are supposed to have the "real deal" Tex-Mex. They had so long a wait that we went to Puerta Vallarta.

                                                      1. re: Scargod

                                                        One that I'm having trouble uploading. My meal of Chile relleno, tamale and pulled beef enchilada.

                                                        1. re: Scargod

                                                          I've only eaten at the West Hartford center location, which I believe is now closed. I probably ate there over 30 times, simply because we had a barter agreement with the owner. There are only two items I found on the menu that are worth ordering, the enchiladas rio bravo, and the relleno. I don't know what's in that gravy but it's tasty.

                                                          The drinks are (were) notorious for being watered down.

                                                          The last straw for me was walking in to pick up my order and seeing flies everywhere. The only couple seated (during lunch hour) were swatting madly above their food. I can only imagine what the kitchen was like.

                                                          All that said, I never tried the other locations. They might be much better.

                                                          1. re: ratbuddy

                                                            HA! Scargod's first picture is MY enchiladas rio bravo ("Popeye-approved"). Agree it's a tasty choice at PV. Would be even better without so much sour cream on top.

                                                            You should definitely try Monte Alban or El Sarape and report back. Oh, and if you want some kick in your drink, get down to Coyote Blue at the edge of Middletown (by Pratt & Whitney, just before Higganum). Those drinks NEVER disappoint and they will ONLY serve you two--they're in 16 oz. Mason jars. Good luck WANTING more than two. As to the food, it's Tex-Mex, but I seriously love their red chili enchiladas. Their salsa could be better, but their red, white and blue chips are made on premises and are thin and tasty.

                                                            Coyote Blue Tex Mex Cafe
                                                            1960 Saybrook Rd, Middletown, CT 06457

                                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                                              hmmmmm el sarape, eh? I'll have to give it a try.... I love mexican food, and have been severely lacking in it since I moved back to SE CT

                                                              1. re: kubasd

                                                                I have yet to go to El Sarape (it's on my list), but two people I know and trust implicitly for food (esp. Mex) swear by it. Two locations--one in Hartford and one in Enfield. Somebody please help me out if the Enfield location goes by a different name. Gracias!

                                                                1. re: kubasd

                                                                  This is not Tex-Mex or New England style Mexican. It's good.

                                                          2. re: ratbuddy

                                                            More pictures of Puerta Vallarta meal in Middletown, CT

                                                        2. re: divainjeans

                                                          I love their tortilla chips, but their food is barely mediocre. They DO NOT clean their shrimp consistently. Nothing more disgusting than shrimp that is not deveined. Can't tolerate it. Would love to find good mexican in the area, please enlighten me!

                                                          Puerto Vallarta Restaurant
                                                          15 W Avon Rd, Avon, CT 06001

                                                        3. Oh! And I want to add O'Porto is amazing! Great seafood and then there is Hot Basil Thai is wonderful Thai food. Both in west end of Hartford. Plan B is really good for burgers.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: divainjeans

                                                            I really like O'Porto. Restaurant week is coming up at the end of July. A good time to try O'Porto and other Hartford places. Twenty bucks for what you get is a steal.

                                                          2. My friend just went to Cuvee in West hartford this past Saturday night and said it was VERY nice...do they have a web site?

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: divainjeans

                                                              I have been to Cuvee 3 times since they opened with my wife and it is great. Very South Beach kind of feeling & all 3 times we have been the place has been pretty busy. They do have a website it is


                                                              The last time we were there was for happy hour and they do 2 for 1 sparkling wine and $5 food items. Hope that helps.

                                                            2. While it was our first time, and it was for a quiet lunch at 1PM, SO and I had a great lunch at Peppercorn Grill. The downside: My special of salmon topped with crab was quite overcooked. Not to the point of being dried out, but there was no "pink" or juicy unctuousness in sight. The tacconi di pollo, homemade rough-cut pasta squares tossed with a sauce of chicken, vegetables, herbs and roasted peppers was fine. Nice selection of wine by the glass and the restaurant and bar is beautiful.
                                                              http://www.culinarymenus.com/restaura... Don't let the pictures turn you off. It looks nothing like what they have pictured. There is nice art on the walls and it has sedate colors. Very upscale, plush.

                                                              1. Just wanted to clarify that the restaurant's proper name is Peppercorn's Grill. It is at 357 Main Street, Hartford, CT, (860) 547-1714. Seems we all messed up the name, one way or another.

                                                                Also, I failed to elaborate on the entrees. I had an Asian fusion dish that consisted of salmon with crab (in a stuffing-like mixture, piled on top), two potstickers and stir-fried vegetables. There was a nice wasabi sauce trail across the plate. Everything was overcooked and may have been under the heat lamps for a while. The stir-fry was particularly overcooked; the veggies highly carmelized, blackened and almost unrecognizable. I'd be surprised if they intentionally did it to this level. Very much had that "wok hei" thing... gone overboard.
                                                                SO said her entree was not as freshly cooked and à point as it should have been. Still we liked the restaurant and might give it another chance.

                                                                1. Who knew there were so many foodies in/near West Hartford?! Maybe I need to change my name from "Stuck in Hartford County" to "Lucky To Be Here!" Thanks for all the restaurant tips.

                                                                  I only want to say now that I don't really like Tapas- I expected some really classy Spanish tapas, but all I got was oily salad and so-so Mediterranean food. I live near Tinkers, and I've never been- so I'll check it out. My personal favorite is Grants, but there are a lot of good places here.

                                                                  I went to Scott's on Albany Avenue on a Chowhoud tip and found out I must have been switched at birth or something- Jamacian food is really very good- those coco bread things are tasty, and now my kids are addicted to the "heavy dough bread" they sell at the Hartford Super Stop and Shop on New Park Rd. So I guess I am lucky to be stuck here! Now if I could only find a supper club...

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                    How about Dulce? http://www.dulcerestaurant.com/
                                                                    Marinellis' Supper Club is not far away: http://www.marinellissupperclub.com/e...
                                                                    I was thinking there was a seafood place that had entertainment and/or showed old movies?

                                                                    1. re: Scargod

                                                                      Thanks for the tips- I think you were my Scotts connection. Needless to say, I appreciate your info.

                                                                      1. re: Scargod

                                                                        Marinelli'e suppler club in Burlington is now closed.

                                                                      2. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                        You want good tapas, try Barcelona. It's right behind Grant's in that back parking lot.

                                                                        1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                          It's really interesting to me how one's expectations can color one's opinions of a place. I've been to Tapas several times over the past few years and have taken friends there two or three times. Obviously I wouldn't do that or go back if I didn't think the food was delicious, well-prepared and on the money. Love their hummus appetizer platter, anything with lamb, and often the specials are really that. Desserts are varied and beautifully served. So, to each his own, as usual!! But, yeah, it's not a Spanish place and you won't get "little plates" of anything.

                                                                          1. re: philbkr

                                                                            Their spanakopita is excellent as is their cream of roasted tomato (or is it roasted vegetable? I think they make both as specials). Tasty gyros and tzatziki, too.

                                                                            Agree with your statement re one's expectations can color one's opinions of a place--really same with anything--movies, for example.

                                                                        2. Trumbull Kitchen for late lunch with SO. Really good Tuna sashimi was really good. A great lunch!

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Scargod

                                                                            I didn't really have any expectations re: Tapas, although, as the name implies, I expected tapas- a variety of small hot/cold appetizers or small plates of Spanish food. The menu did have several appetizers, but I don't recall that they were particularly "Spanish". My conclusion, after perusing the menu, was that the food items were more reflective of Mediterranean food selections- not tapas. I expected a certain lilt to menu, and was disappointed to find another type of cuisine represented. That's all. I had no preconcieved notions re:the taste or presentation of the food- or anything else for that matter. BTW, my parents were visiting and they were not thrilled with the restaurant, either. I thought the food wasn't particularly tasty, but I know everybody has different tastes (for example, I LOVE POPEYES- the chicken, the mashies and the red beans and rice-go figure!!!).

                                                                            Has anyone been to the Firebox? What did you think of it? Worth the foray into Hartford? I might have the name wrong, but I was listening in the teacher's lounge the other day and it sounds really nice.

                                                                            1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                              Laura, I don't know why you replied to me on the Trumbull Kitchens post ... but, while I'm here: Mashies? Where are you from?

                                                                              You said, "I didn't really have any expectations re: Tapas, although, as the name implies, I expected tapas- ". Then again you say, "I had no preconcieved notions". Post before last: "I expected some really classy Spanish tapas".

                                                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                                                So sue me- what's wrong with expecting good tapas from a restaurant called Tapas? I had just moved here and several friends suggested that restaurant. I took my parents and nobody liked their meal, or the menu.

                                                                                I'm from Maryland, but I've traveled extensively and lived in other countries. In fact, Barcelona is one of my favorite places to eat around. I want to get to Johannesburg, next.

                                                                                Trumbull kitchen is terrific BTW, but the posting on your thread was an accident. Sorry.

                                                                            2. re: Scargod

                                                                              Here are photos from lunch. Note aioli and arugula on a very good chicken sandwich using really good bread. Arugula seems to be the "in" raw greens right now. This came with a strange potato salad, where there were half a potato chunks in it. Too large for a bite! It was good and freshly made but the extreme lack of uniformity in the size of potato chunks was weird. How do you get enough seasoning on half a potato? No mashies...
                                                                              My cajun white bean soup was good, but not special. The tuna sashimi on the other hand was as good as I have had anywhere.
                                                                              Nice wine by the glass selection.
                                                                              Room upstairs is intriguing. They have special parties up there. If no parties are happening you can ask to sit there.

                                                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                                                Went to TK last weekend. Besides having a bit of cold, still was able to enjoy the food / wine and have a good time. We had the Grilled Filet appetizer with truffled tater tots and frisee as well as the tartar of pacific tombo for starters.

                                                                                The filet was cooked to order (med. rare) however the tater tots were a bit too greasy -- real truffle oil has a heavy flavor to begin with and these just had too much. It sort of made the blue cheese fondue a bit of an afterthought, along with the frisee. The tartar was amazingly well-balanced by itself, no need for the wonton chips (which although puffed still had a bit too much oil).

                                                                                For the main course we had the sauteed Hawaiian Snapper (Opakapaka) with the cucumber-red onion salad and basmati rice, and the Grilled Marinated Hanger Steak with shiitake mushrooms, soy caramel sauce, and asparagus (I opted for garlic whipped instead of french fries).

                                                                                The snapper flavor is definitely there, but they went a bit overboard with the sautee in terms of oil. Luckily the citrus in the cucumber-red onion salad cut through most of it and balanced it out. The basmati rice was cooked well and neither greasy nor dry, no stuck rice at all. The steak was cooked to order (medium rare, see the pattern here), and interestingly enough, the cut on the hanger steak was more along the lines of a medallion, so a thicker diagonal cut which I felt was done very well. The marinade and accompanying sauce was sweet enough without going overboard, and the asparagus was well cooked. The garlic mashed potatoes although well flavored came out a bit too greasy...just too much butter guys.

                                                                                We went with a Pinot Noir this time due to our selections, and I thought the Cab list was a bit over the top, with a lot of high-priced names but really not much decent under $60. (Stag's Leap / Cakebread Cab for over $100??). However, there were some really good value wines in the Spain and Italy department, and some solid buys in Chardonnay for the $60-$80 range.

                                                                                No room for dessert, but the espresso was great. I'm giving them 4 stars because 3.5 was not available.

                                                                                Trumbull Kitchen
                                                                                150 Trumbull St., Hartford, CT 06103

                                                                            3. The Fernwood in West Hartford. It is a neighborhood restaurant. A lot of locals go there. Friendly pub atmosphere. Friendly waitstaff. The soups are WONDERFUL! Great food.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: judyd

                                                                                Firebox is wonderful. Definately give it a try. They use a lot of locally sourced ingredients.! The pre fixe specials are a great opton that keeps me coming back.

                                                                              2. We are California foodies who lived in W. Hartford for a year. Here are my favorite places to recommend: Get indian take out at the tiny little indian food grocery on Farmington. BEST Chinese Food is at Cheng Du on Park, great little wine shop in downtown West Hartford called Toast. They have a nice little rating system - we liked almost everything we tried from there. Skip downtown Hartford (as of 2006). I give Grants on Farmington in downtown West Hartford a mixed review. The food is outstanding, but the service is snooty and mixed. I reserved for my husband's 50th birthday and they made us wait forever for our table even though the restaurant was empty. Then, they didn't have what we wanted even though it was on the menu. Also, they had a hard time accomodating our 8 year old son.

                                                                                1. We always enjoy The Corner Pub. They have a friendly atmosphere, great food, and reasonable prices.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Dana1949

                                                                                    Agreed. The Corner Pug (I think this is a cheesy name, but then again, our dog is a lab) has a nice atmosphere and pretty good food. The bill is always a bit more than I think it should be, though.

                                                                                    I have had the same delay for a special occasion table and service with (thinly veiled) attitude at Grants, but the food was so terrific! I think my 11 yo had meat, potatoes and veggies (all plain) for some high price...

                                                                                    Chinese is a tough one in West Hartford. I don't like Butterfly- no matter what you order, it's brown(ish). Even the shrimp and lobster sauce is light brown. Yuck. Chengdu was my favorite until I migrated with the masses to P.F. Changs. I know it's too expensive and the menu is not "authentic" Chinese, but my kids just love it and the shrimp and honeydew is pretty good (but a little too sweet) and we all like the won ton soup. None of these places deliver, so one night I ordered delivery from New Asia and the food was very good. So now, that's where I order from. I'm going to try the new Feng in Canton when it opens.

                                                                                    1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                                      For Chinese I recommend Green Tea in Famington/Simsbury.

                                                                                      IMO, best restaurant in WH is Flemings. Very expensive, but VERY good.

                                                                                      1. re: thebets

                                                                                        I live near Green Tea in Simsbury and have eatten at both locations several times. Don't recommend, bland, never had a good meal, their won ton soup is pretty good but that's all i recommend. Rice Fields in Canton i give mixed reviews, the things i love there are the wonton soup, excellent thin dough, volcano roll, amazing also, have tried other dishes and prefer the sushi. Must try wonton soup and volcano roll, won't be disappointed! Skip the rest. Char Koon recently moved to canton. They have some amazing dishes, the shrimp rolls to die for. My only complaint about Char Koon is that their menu is very limited and most dishes are very hot and spicy. enJoy!

                                                                                        Rice Field Restaurant
                                                                                        220 Albany Tpke, Canton, CT 06019

                                                                                        Green Tea Restaurant
                                                                                        2 Beacon St, Framingham, MA 01701

                                                                                        1. re: thebets

                                                                                          I'll second Green Tea in Farmington. Old thread, I know, but have to put my 2 cents in. Very friendly...ask for SeeYu, she's a doll. Very good food.

                                                                                    2. the baked wood oven baked rigatoni in cream sauce at Bricco is one of my favorite dishes EVER, so I gotta chime in with that place

                                                                                      1. I just came across this board after commenting on a bad experience I had last night at the Uncorked Restaurant in Blue Back Square. I found this particular string of replies very interesting. My wife of 50 years and I eat out quite often at many of the restaurants mentioned in this string of recommendations. I often use the term, "Vanilla and chocolate” with my grandchildren to express the difference of opinions that reasonable people have. Many of the restaurants named in these suggestions I would not even take my dog to, if I had a dog. Others I totally agree with as being fantastic places to eat. I usually try a place a couple of times before making a judgement. many of the responses to the original question are dated and out of business. I am always open to new more up to date suggestions. Please reply by giving me your latest ideas about great places to eat in this area. I am not a lover of eggs but adore pancakes, waffles and crepes for Sunday breakfast. What are your suggestions???? :)

                                                                                        1. Costa del Sol on Wethersfield Avenue - a really lovely dining experience. Can you say paella?
                                                                                          O'Porto in Hartford - amazing Portuguese food and wine.
                                                                                          First and Last Tavern - the Hartford location only - old school and delicious. The tossed salad alone
                                                                                          is worth the trip.

                                                                                          1. Barcelona is excellent - I love tapas and Spanish food generally, and this is place has great food, nice "hole in the wall" vibe, warm but modern-feeling room, and large but comfy patio walled off from the outside. This is excellent Spanish food without the Flamenco dancing. When we visit WH from Toronto to see friends, we've started on insisting that we go there.

                                                                                            Highly recommended.

                                                                                            1. Feb. 2014: A little place called Hearty Kitchen just opened in Hartford. Nothing fancy, order at the counter, but some of the best buttermilk fried chicken I think I've ever had. Granted I was hungry but they clearly care about their ingredients and the chef is a deep-fry master. They made an effort to put some hustle into it when we told them we had a movie at CineStudio to get to.

                                                                                              I agree about the East-West Grille too- very special place. Get the Sai Ghock (Sausage) ● Housemade sausages, stuffed with ground pork,
                                                                                              lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, served with steamed vegetables, pepper and Lao salsa...

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: JGLASS

                                                                                                Just had dinner at the East West Grill thanks to Chowhound - we were driving up 91 on the way to NH and looking for dinner on the way. Great food - Lao side of menu very similar to Thai, to my untutored eye - and very inexpensive. Loved the wine and beer selections also.