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The Inside Diner- Top 10 West Hartford (CT) Restaurant List- surprised?

Got my new West Hartford Book and found the following list of top 10 W.H. restaurants. Please add your comments:

Besito (agreed- I love love love this place!)
Bricco (excellent, also)
Elements (haven't been yet)
Harry's Bishops Corner (WTH?)
Hot Basil (OK)
The Fernwood (on par with Besito?! The Inside Diner must have had too much of the "super-cold Stella or house red ($4.95!)" !
Max Oyster (good food, but annoying 20-something customers)
Muraski (haven't been-don't love sushi)
Szechuan Tokyo (agreed, but not great)
Shish Kebob House (good, but not great)

What do y'all think?

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  1. Very surprised Grants was not included.

    2 Replies
      1. re: chowmensch

        Had lunch at Grants last week...somwewhat mediocre...OK...just not at the level of Bricco's...

        PS: whats with the floor...is it supposed to be like that?

      2. What is the "West Hartford Book"?
        What is your top ten for West Hartford (unrelated to this book list)?

        1. I got a big kick out of Inside Diner's frank instructions on what to eat and drink in WH.
          I was surprised that East West Grill wasn't on the list but the list did give me enthusiasm to try places again (Fernwood) and to try new places like Besito.

          1 Reply
          1. re: masha bousha

            This is not on par with Grants, Bricco's or Max's but it does have good Asian food.

            East West Grill
            526 New Park Ave, West Hartford, CT 06110

          2. Why did you put a "WTH?" next to Harry's Bishop's Corner? It's some of the best pizza I've ever eaten.

            1. My favorite West Hartford (CT) restaurants are: Grants, Besito, East West Grill, Bricco, Barcelona (first visit over the w/e was terrific!), Corner Pug, Cocoa, Max's Oyster Bar and a tie between Plan B and The Counter. That said, we regularly visit several other places b/c of certain favorite dishes or kid faves, including The Elbow Room, Front Street Grill and Moe's. I believe all these restaurants use quality ingredients, and prepare several dishes we enjoy. Until I put this list to paper, I was surprised how many of our MOST favorite restaurants are actually in Hartford and (gasp!) Bloomfield- and are much less expensive!

              I don't love pizza, but I like the fresh mozzarella, sauce and thin, crunchy crust at Luna pizza more that Harry's- as well as the light, airy atmosphere. I do like that I can bring home my unfinished bottle of wine from Harry's, though.

              An opinionated list like the one in the West Hartford Book (a slick and surprisingly comprehensive FREE business directory and community guide- www.info@webbooksct.com
              drums up talk about local restaurants, and that's a great thing in an economy like this.

              So bring on the critique Scargod!

              6 Replies
              1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                RE, the book: I am generalizing, but this seems to be all fluff, where the "reviews" are driven by advertising dollars spent. The reviews are not that, they are totally positive endorsements. Good, small, down-scale places like El Sarape will not be mentioned. There will only be sanitized places for the affluent mentioned.
                A "top ten" is a rigged joke. It's also un-Chowish to go by these rags and not get out there and sniff around. Read what is said here and forget about the magazine.
                I really want to try Besito very soon. I'm glad to know about it. It seems to have been in business only a couple of months?
                PS: It's nice to know you think about me!

                1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                  "I do like that I can bring home my unfinished bottle of wine from Harry's, though."
                  Connecticut law permits you to re-cork and bring home wine from any restaurant. Just ask.

                  1. re: FoodieJim

                    I'm not sure what the law is, explicitly, but some restaurants seem to think that you can only take your re-corked unfinished wine away if they further seal it in a plastic bag. I have had at least one restaurant say that I couldn't take the wine away after all, because they didn't have a plastic-bag-sealing facility.

                    1. re: linguist

                      That is complete nonsense. (Not that fact that it happened to you...I believe that. But that the restaurant would use that excuse.) Here is what the law says, verbatim:

                      "Conn. Gen. Stat. § 30-22 (2008)

                      (c) …A restaurant patron may remove one unsealed bottle of wine for off-premises consumption provided the patron has purchased a full course meal and consumed a portion of the bottle of wine with such meal on the restaurant premises. The annual fee for a restaurant permit for wine and beer shall be five hundred sixty dollars.

                      (e) A partially consumed bottle of wine that is to be removed from the premises pursuant to subsection (a) or (c) of this section shall be securely sealed and placed in a bag by the permittee or permittee's agent or employee prior to removal from the premises."

                      A paper bag that has been "sealed" with packaging tape is sufficient. (I've even seen it sealed with masking tape.) There is no such thing as "special equipment" designed for this purpose. If you frequently find yourself wanting to tote wine home, I would advise bringing a suitable bag and some tape and insisting that they use that. And bring out a copy of the law to carry with you. No mention of "plastic bag sealing" devices there whatsoever. Probably a bunch of workers who want to down your leftovers.

                      1. re: FoodieJim

                        the key is to seal the package...and a small piece of tape does the job and meets the rule..Max does it with a small pices with their name ...

                        Now that so many restaurants are selling wine half off...I'm getting some good doggie bags to take home...

                      2. re: linguist

                        Last two places just gave me a plastic bag; nothing more. No tape or seal of any kind. One did suggest I put it in the trunk. One BYOB place did nothing because I brought it in in a soft carrier. Perhaps they were not liable since they did not have a wine/liquor license. The sold only beer.

                  2. Grants? Corner Pug? Agree maybe the ID had too many Stellas!

                    1. Besito's was very salty two out of the three times that I went. Be sue to ask for a low salt meal--whether you like salt or not.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: aldente1

                        This might or might not be possible. Tamales are not made one at a time as you order them. Often enchiladas and chile rellenos aren't either or the filling is made ahead. Good luck with that. I like salt so I will chance it the first time. I agree it can be a problem, even for old farts with diminished taste...

                      2. Where's the Corner Pug? We like Bricco, but the staff can get a bit snobby. They need to mellow out a little.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: Dana1949

                          The Corner Pug is on the corner of New Britain Avenue and New Park Avenue...in the Elmwood section of West Hartford. I love the Pug. It's owned by the same folks who own Tapas.
                          They have a nice menu (something for everyone) and good beers on tap.


                          1. re: Dana1949

                            Need a break from Bricco? Get out of West Hartford and roll with different Italians...Luce in Middletown or La Tavola in Waterbury--two of my favorite restaurants in our state for Italian. No attitudes, just excellent food.

                            No offense to the West Hartford crowd. I went to school up there back when, but struggle to find anywhere close to 10 restaurants I find listworthy in WH proper.

                            Where is Pond House on this list? I only ate there once, so maybe I just had a lucky experience--but I sure would rate Pond House above, say, Szechuan Tokyo (which I think of more as a place to go hear jazz and have a drink and maybe a snack than a top 10 dining destination) or Murasaki. Gotta say, if I'm in a sushi mood, I have no reason whatsoever to head to West Hartford.

                            I'm with Scargod--this "Inside Diner" publication smacks of paid advertising...much like Connecticut Magazine's readers' poll. Pay no attention to the shill behind the dollar signs...

                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              Agreed. I think Pond House is actually in Hartford. On a nice evening, it is wonderful- especially if you walk around and see the flowers... Speaking of Middletown, I passed thru there on the way to Bishop's Orchards yesterday and I noticed the restaurant on the left at the light on Route 9 (the seafood place on the river) and it seems to have "turned around" a bit in the past few years. What's the story? Middletown is closer to W.H. than I thought. Can you recommend a good all-around restaurant that I can visit by myself for dinner on a weeknight? I've never been to Middletown before and would like to find new places.

                              1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                I thought the same--that Pond House must be in Hartford, therefore not list-eligible--but their physical addy is WH. So go figure. ;)

                                I would steer clear of Harbor Park, the place you mentioned on the river. The food has never been great and it floods just about every spring. Nuff said there.

                                However, my hometown is full of good eating. My first pick for you for a good all-around restaurant is Luce. Yes--Italian, but not just Italian--steaks, seafood (my favorite appetizer!), pasta--they have it all. I've been several times recently and love it. It's on the corner of Main St. and Washington St. (Rt. 66). There's a parking lot, too, so during the week you should be able to find a space without issue. For details, see:

                                Here are some other Middletown favorites of mine, but more specific to certain types of food. Without hesitation, Luce is the best all-around restaurant in my town. Hope you enjoy!

                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                  The Pond House is indeed on the West Hartford "side" of Prospect Avenue. If you're familiar with the area it's existence was a bit of a controversy in WH as to whether they'd be able to get a liquor license...I think I just heard that they've finally gotten the go ahead.
                                  Ah West Hartford...what would you be without your quirky uptight rules? It also took forever to be able to dine al-fresco in West Hartford....I think we think of our town as progressive but it's really not compared to others. We're getting there though...slowly.

                                2. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                  P.S. Just curious, what brought you all the way down to Bishop's Orchards when Belltown (in Glastonbury) is a) gorgeous and b) much closer to your own backyard?

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Belltown? I admit that I still visit the same farm stores that I frequented when we lived in Ridgefield, and Bishops has a better selection of local meats and local cheeses than any other place around. Not to mention locally grown produce. But Glastonbury is closer- I've never heard of Belltown!. I especially like the regional cheese selection at Bishops, as well as the grass-fed beef (although I admit, as of yesterday, they didn't have much of a selection AT ALL!). The Northeast Farms choices were limited to one package of pre-cut (small) chunks of "stew meat". Bleech! Thanks for the Middletown recommendations; AND the corn bread mound recipe !

                                    1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                      Forgive me. I thought you were looking to buy or pick fruit. That's all Belltown is...Orchards. :) For local meats and cheeses, hmmmmm...I can't think of an all-in-one like that.

                                      If you come to Middletown on the weekend, bring a cooler and go to Public Market for sausage--(it's also on Main St., just about across from Luce). Their chicken sausage is one of my favorites. If you come on a weeknight, you'd be outta luck as they close at 6 p.m. You are very welcome!

                                3. re: kattyeyes

                                  In defense of the objectivity of "Inside Diner:" our restaurant (one of their "Top 10" but CH rules dictate that I can't tell you which one) has never advertised in "The West Hartford Book" and has never been involved with anyone from the "Inside Diner." We must've gotten their attention some other way.

                                  In a peculiar coincidence, we were named "Best of 2009" in one of our classifications by Connecticut Magazine. Again, I'm pretty sure I'm forbidden, as one associated with the restaurant, to tell you *which* classification. Just like above, we've never seen fit to advertise in Connecticut Magazine. Just sayin'.

                                  1. re: shaogo

                                    No offense to you, shaogo. I long ago figured out your affiliation with one of the Top 10.

                                    And not all Connecticut Magazine "bests" are bunk, but take, for example, The Cuckoo's Nest in Old Saybrook. That is, without a doubt, among the worst Mexican restaurants in the state, yet yearly, they're a favorite and they take out giant billboards to proclaim this "best" to unsuspecting people who read it. So I hear ya, but I'm "just sayin'," too...

                                    1. re: shaogo

                                      Actually our rules do allow you, even encourage you, to be forthright about which restaurant you are associated with. You can review those guidelines at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760...

                                      1. re: shaogo

                                        Interesting. You apparently don't have to advertise in the West Hartford Book to be in the running for the Inside Diner's top 10. According to the guide, the Inside Diner is/are several diners who dine alone in the town's restuarants- without a reservation. Oddly, they also state that the Inside Diner never eats outside because it affects their opinions. I'm not really sure what they mean, but I don't take all this very seriously- in fact I don't take any of these Top 10 Lists very seriously. I like the talk that's been generated, though- it's good for restaurants. Congratulations on your surprise wins.

                                        1. re: shaogo

                                          We stopped in for a quick “sushi snack” and a couple of glasses of wine at Szechuan Tokyo today on the way home from the mall. I hadn't been since attending a jazz performance by our friends there several years back.

                                          1. I understand why other posters on the board have gone out of their way to mention the bar.
                                          a. It's got a great neighborhood vibe, and though we didn't know anyone there, other "regulars" were very friendly and welcoming, as were the owner and bartender.
                                          b. When the menu reads "a generous pour" of wine, it's no exaggeration.

                                          2. Paul Lewis, the proprietor, is the consummate host and is eager to make customers feel right at home--imagine!--we ended up chatting about what we were making for dinner while we waited for our sashimi! :) This guy is every bit as into food as we are! When I told him we were looking for a sushi appetizer, he offered to make a special tuna sashimi plate for us, with a squeeze of fresh lime over the top and a special sauce the chef made. The tuna was simply fresh and delicious—and was quickly gone from our plates!

                                          Anyway, I wanted to post because I've always thought of Szechuan Tokyo primarily as a jazz venue. In fact, a recent Hartford Courant article mentioned they were voted "Best Live Jazz" in Connecticut Magazine's readers poll, so congrats there. But based on our sushi and the friendly service we experienced, I'm convinced there's more than just jazz on the menu that deserves our attention, and we’ll definitely be back for more.

                                          Szechuan Tokyo
                                          1245 New Britain Ave, West Hartford, CT 06110

                                    2. Bricco - went tonight and LOVED the food. Would have given it a 5-star rating if not for the service and ambiance, both of which I find better at Luce and La Tavola. Service was friendly (maybe we got lucky), but timing was kind of drawn out and not smooth. And the place is LOUD AS ALL GET OUT, which doesn't make having a conversation easy or enjoyable. I see why this place would make West Hartford's Top 10 list.

                                      Restaurant Bricco
                                      78 Lasalle Rd, West Hartford, CT 06107

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        Glad you liked Bricco-we do too. Sometimes I think that Billy Grant (and other supervising staff) like that it's loud b/c it makes it more "homey and relaxed"- something many West Hartford restaurants want to achieve to appeal to the type of customers they generally see in West Hartford. I think the same restaurant in, for example, Greenwich, might be designed to be quieter. But then again, maybe I'm off base here (it HAS been known to happen...).

                                        1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                          I think you are way off-base. No offense. Homey, to me, is relaxed and quiet.

                                          Recently read an article (NYT's), about a study where they found people drank more if it was noisy (including loud music). I guess liquor sales are a big profit margin item.

                                          1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                            I'm with Scargod--no hard feelings, Laura. If the vibe in Bricco (and other loud restaurants) is "homey and relaxed" to Billy Grant and his staff--what is wrong with their homes? :) Last night was anything but relaxing; however, the food was excellent and I enjoyed my leftovers for lunch. I'm not saying it has to be church when we dine out, but ability to carry on a conversation (as I would at home without raising my voice) is key.

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              Maybe rather than "homey" I could say "cosmopolitan" or "bustling" which is an atmosphere that I think many restauratnts in this area are trying to be. Sort of like a "local-gathering" place- and that's the kind of "homey" I mean. Sort of like a big, busy kitchen gathering place (and yes, my childhood kitchen was loud and bustling, as is my own now). Co-incidentally, we also consume lots of wine! Anyway, I think it's a recipe that works in this area. It's OK to tell me you disagree with something I've said-I'm pretty opinionated, but I'm not always right.

                                              1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                OK, the other adjectives you chose make sense to me. And, yes, doesn't everyone get louder with wine (ME, TOO!)? ;)

                                                Would you describe Besito as having that same bustling vibe? I ask because I've been wanting to try it since it opened, and if it's loud, I'd probably prefer to check it out at lunch rather than dinner. What are some of your favorites there?

                                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                                  I definately did not find Besito to be very loud. I was there on a Monday night but it was still busy and the atmosphere lent itself to intimate conversation betwen our dining party of 4.

                                                2. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                  I think there are rare places where you can have the "neighborhood corner pub" feel without it being egregiously loud. Lots of partying =loud people. Lots of drinking usually means mediocre food. Sometimes that is not true. Crave is a watering hole for Ansonians and probably the only upscale bar in town. It's unfortunate (AFAIAC), that the food is very good, but the acoustics are horrible. If you ran off the rowdies the place would probably die. Thus it is a place where a certain crowd goes who doesn't care about hearing loss. :)

                                          2. I just wanted to give a little love to Elements in Elmwood from a nice meal I had there last night. The last two times I've been there I was not wowed by the menu or the service but I hit it again (I keep getting gift cards for the place otherwise I'd have not returned) and it was really good.
                                            Pretty dead last night (being a Monday I wasn't surprised). We had the artichoke heart appetizer which was quite good and I had the Paella Pasta which I thought was pretty excellent. It was quite a large portion and chock full of mussels, chorizo and chicken. I would've preferred more shrimp but there were at least 5 in the dish. I would definitely order that again oh and I dug that they used orzo as the pasta. Nice. My dining companion kind of cheaped out on me (It was my treat) by only getting a veggie quesedilla which she loved (and lamented a previous favorite of that dish no longer part of the menu at Citysteam Brewery).
                                            Unfortunately we were too full for desserts or coffee but I'm glad I went back and will definitely hit it again.
                                            One thin that was surprising is I know they have Monday night drink specials but I was surprised that my smaller than a Pint of Guinness wasn't on special. Oh well---it was still delicious.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: masha bousha

                                              I don't find myself Elmwood too often, but the kids go to Rita's often. We've never been to Elements, but I've heard it's good. Maybe we'll give it a try. Thanks for the update!

                                            2. I don't care for top 10 lists for any reason, however, I have been to the Counter Burger restaurant in Blue Back about 12 times since they opened last year, in fact, they just celebrated one year there. This is a fantastic, high quality burger and they are consistently excellent. They have uncomfortable, modern type chairs, but I sit at the bar and enjoy the vibe. They have a perfectly cooked burger, and very good sides. The staff is very welcoming and the place has a relaxed vibe. The prices are good for the quality.

                                              Blue Back Cafe
                                              51 Isham Rd, West Hartford, CT 06107