Front Street Bistro, W Hartford - excellent
5A LaSalle Road
West Hartford, CT 06107
Just had dinner at this excellent addition to the W Hartford town center. Formerly Front Street Sweets, they took over the knitting shop next door and expanded into their current concept.
This is exactly what WH town center needs -- another family-friendly, basic American non-pizza restaurant. Until now the Elbow Room was about the only choice and a declining one at that for me (I've had some poor experiences there recently).
The new Front Street Bistro is full table service, serving beer and wine. They offer American fare done superbly. We started with a cannelini bean and sun dried tomato dip with crudite, plus a chopped salad. The dip was terrific and not garlicky, flecked with sun drieds, served with various crudite sticking in it like porcupine quills plus a generous portion of fresh-grilled white bread toasts. The salad was likewise generous with a pleasant light vinaigrette, not overly-dressed or serving as a base for a half pound of cheese as you'll see so often nowadays.
For dinner we felt like burgers -- wifey a veggie burger, and a turkey burger for myself, both served on a "pretzel roll" with oven fries. My turkey burger was simply delicious -- freshly made, nicely seasoned, and perfectly grilled and juicy -- the scallions mixed in were a nice touch. Getting a turkey burger to satisfy in place of a beef burger is a good feat. Wifey's veggie burger was a homemade patty based of wild rice and black beans, seasoned and grilled, topped with a chopped veggie mix (looked like tomatoes with maybe cukes and carrots in there?) and finished with avocado slices.
I found prices very reasonable for a town center restaurant. Burger entrees are $11. Apps were around $5-7 if I remember correctly. Entrees ranged from $10-20.
Service was enthusiastic and attentive vs. the mayhem of inexperienced college kid help at some other places in town. Decor is classy booths and tables: burgundy walls with european ad posters. Black linen tablecloths and white linen napkins. There's also outdoor seating and some indoor solo seats along the front windows.
I didn't have dessert, but I've had their sweets back when they were a bakery/cafe and I know they're very strong bakers -- it's their roots. I'm a big carrot cake/cream cheese frosting fan, and they have a great one there.
There's a dozen or so entrees on the dinner menu -- from simple meatloaf, mac & cheese to the more complex. (A trio of gents sitting outside each had the mac & cheese and were raving about it -- it's served baked in a porcelain dish with toasted bread crumbs atop, and smelled divine).
I find it a wonderful new option in town and the kind of concept and menu that could win my frequent business.
No need to ever go here, I've given it plenty of chances. Was taken by a friend the first time and was treated to lousy food, terrible service, and a VERY rude and annoying owner who makes herself very present. The second visit was because all of the other restaurants in WH center were over-packed and it was the only place that wasn't...for good reason. Still, despite not being busy, my food took forever and was disgusting. They were horribly understaffed and the night manager was doing most of the serving. From talking to the employees, it appears the owner doesn't allow them to staff sufficiently so she can save on payroll. Not a good compromise. My 3rd and FINAL visit came when my friend wanted to stop by for a chocolate chip cookie while we walked around the center, and the terribly rude and annoying owner berated me for carrying my personal coffee mug into her shop, even though I was just standing with my friend while he purchased a cookie. AVOID THIS PLACE.