You know you are in a foodie town when the co-mingling of tantalizing aromas drifts through the streets as sous chefs are busy prepping for the evening’s service. The afternoon wafts of sauteed garlic and onions replace the early morning aromas of yeasty breads and grilled bacon that tickle your nostrils.
Finding a great spot to dine in West Hartford, Connecticut, is not an issue. The difficulty comes when trying to decide which restaurant is the one. With over several dozen wonderful establishments, whittling down your favorite will take some delicious research.
Many West Hartford restaurants offer seasonal outside patio seating adding to the festive getaway feel. The restaurants listed below are organized in no particular order.
Note: Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
Offering a chef-driven menu that highlights gorgeous seasonal and local ingredients, you will enjoy dishes like the Connecticut river trout cioppino with chorizo, mussels, and other gifts from the sea; the Scottish salmon a la plancha served with a silky morel mushroom cream; or the ricotta gnocchi primavera with spring vegetables.
When it comes to dessert, the creme brûlée is perfection on a plate. Sharing it with your dining partner is a wonderful way to end a fabulous meal.
Pro Tip: Ask for a seat on the patio near the chef’s garden. When it is lush with plants, the garden is an enjoyable backdrop for your dinner.
2. Hartford Baking Company
If you love bread, then the Hartford Baking Company should be at the top of your list. Their artisanal-crafted baked goods have the hmm factor — when you bite into something and hmm out loud.
For breakfast, try the avocado toast, served on a thick slab of whole grain bread and crowned with a beautiful egg; it is simply delicious. Another fabulous option is their sourdough toast slathered in creamy butter — crispy and softly chewy at the same time — hmm. They also offer a wide assortment of luncheon options.
Grab a loaf or two when you get home. Try the olive ciabatta or a loaf of the caraway rye.
Pro Tip: The upstairs seating area is a quiet spot to enjoy your meal, coffee, and digital nomadic work time.
3. Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen
Zohara offers guests an exceptional restaurant experience focused on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. They specialize in small-plate-style dining. I enjoy sharing plates with my friends, it encourages foodie-focused conversation while creating a dining adventure with your compatriots. Another advantage to small-plate dining — you don’t have to commit to one dish. Order five to seven small plates for two people and expand your culinary knowledge one delicious bite at a time.
My favorite dish at Zohara is the lamb meatballs with yogurt and Aleppo oil. The silky smooth yogurt combines with the tender meatball to melt in your mouth. Try it on the freshly-baked pita bread for a mini meatball sandwich. Their pita bread is amazing, puffy, and fresh from the oven; you can’t buy anything like this at the grocery store.
Other great options from the small-plate menu are the shishito peppers with tzatziki, the fried halloumi with greens, and the whole roasted cauliflower with pine nuts and pomegranate.
Pro Tip: The patio dining at Zohara is adorned with a jungle of plants including palms, hibiscus, and a mass of perennials. It is like dining in a beautiful garden.
4. World Of Beer
Stopping by World of Beer for a fresh draft and great bar food is a fun way to meet up with friends and enjoy a lively chat with your besties. The interior is warm and cozy on a chilly day and cool and comforting when the summer sun heats up.
Grab a stool at the bar and order your favorite beer; you will certainly find one or two you love out of their 100-plus offerings. If you can’t decide, you can order up a flight and sample several. When you need a little bite, the beer cheese nachos are the perfect bar-food snack. Other great options include the mac & cheese bites and the buffalo cauliflower. They also offer classic pub grub like tacos, burgers, and sandwiches along with select plated entrees like beer battered fish & chips and IPA salmon.
Pro Tip: World of Beer is a national chain, but feels like a local pub hangout spot.
5. Max’s Oyster Bar
Wildly popular, Max’s Oyster Bar offers guests fantastic seafood in a chic, urban atmosphere. Not only just a spot for a pretty handcrafted cocktail like these espresso and lemon blossom martini’s, Max’s offers all the expected oyster bar options and more. Their Skyscraper Tower — loaded with shellfish, lobster, oysters, clams, and shrimp — is only rivaled by their Hot Seafood Tower, replete with baked stuffed shrimp, grilled lobster, fried calamari, clams casino, oysters Rockefeller, and crab cakes. Both are a seafood lover’s dream starters.
The entree selections run the gamut between amazing seafood and rich beef dishes. It’s a tough choice between the furikake-crusted ahi tuna, the seafood bouillabaisse, and the filet mignon.
Pro Tip: Max’s is always busy; reservations are a must for prime time dining.
6. Restaurant Bricco
Restaurant Bricco is one of those spots where you need to take time deciding on your options. When you pick up a menu, there are so many tantalizing choices. You will need to order a glass of wine and an antipasti just so you can peruse the menu and ponder your dinner desires. Start with the peppered beef carpaccio with arugula, shiitake mushrooms, and parmesan cheese, or a shared antipasto — there are two options — with assorted meats, cheeses, and acoutremon.
When it comes to entrees, I highly recommend the potato pie if you love pizza. The carmelized onions, roasted potatoes, and rich cheeses make this a go-to favorite. The classic pizza comes with a brick oven crust that is crispy and flavorful. For a plated entree, either the eggplant or chicken parmigiana is so delicious, it’s like dining at nonna’s house.
Pro Tip: Bricco’s is always busy at dinner time. Go early (dinner service starts at 4 p.m.) or secure reservations for prime time dining.
7. Vinted Wine Bar
Vinted Wine Bar is a wonderful stop where you can order over 70 different wines by the glass. For a wine connoisseur, the breadth of options is exciting. You can order a 1-ounce, 3-ounce, or a full 6-ounce glass, giving you a multidimensional wine experience.
Stop in for a glass of wine and small plate to get the evening started. Happy hour runs from 2:30 –5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Alternatively, they have a large selection of ryes, bourbons, and whiskeys for an after dinner night cap and a sweet treat.
Pro Tip: Vinted is located in the Blue Back Square section of West Hartford, a few blocks away from the busy town center.
8. Ben And Jerry’s
An after dinner ice cream treat from Ben and Jerry’s is a fun way to finish off your meal adventure. A perfectly portable dessert, you can take your cone or cup over to one of the many benches along West Hartford Center to enjoy your ice cream and people watch. There is limited seating, so plan your order for ease of stroll-ability.
There is something quintessentially vacation about a scoop (or a tub) of premium ice cream in your favorite flavor. The classics like Cherry Garcia, Chubby Hubby, and Phish Food have found new rivals including Netflix & Chilll’d, The Tonight Dough, and Whisky Biz. Served up in a chocolate-dipped cone, it is a sweet treat that’s hard to beat.
Pro Tip: If you have your pup with you, they can enjoy a mini cup of doggie dessert like Pontch’s Mix with peanut butter and pretzels, or Rosie’s Batch of pumpkin and mini cookies.
9. Sally And Bob’s
Sally and Bob’s is one of those hometown establishments where you know you will get handcrafted meals created with personal attention to detail. They have been a fixture in West Hartford for decades, so you know they are doing it right.
Open for breakfast and lunch, you will love the classic offerings. Omelettes, pancakes, French toast, and breakfast sandwiches round out the traditional morning fare. At lunchtime, consider a classic deli or club sandwich, tuna melt, reuben, or burger.
Pro Tip: Order your sandwich to-go for a picnic in Elizabeth Park Conservancy, where you can dine on a park bench while enjoying the beautiful gardens.
Dining In Beautiful West Hartford
You can explore an array of cuisine from a wide selection of dining establishments throughout West Hartford. Depending on whether you are in the mood for Middle Eastern, Italian, American seafood, or simply looking for an adult beverage break, you will discover your own little gem.
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