1. Max Downtown
Shortly after arriving in Hartford, you’ll notice that the name “Max” graces many an establishment, all part of the same chain. Max Downtown is the most upscale of the bunch, perfect for sophisticated wine connoisseurs (or those who want to pretend they know their wine), while pairing liquors nicely with their classic Pan Seared Sea Scallops and Grilled New York Strip Steak. Since Hartford is a college town, you’ll always see soon-to-be grads taking mom and dad to Max’s, having a juicy steak. At mom and dad’s expense, of course.
185 Asylum St, Hartford, CT 06103
2. Pig’s Eye Pub
Pub food lovers, rejoice! Pig’s Eye offers $4 mixed drink specials and $5 pitchers on a daily basis, while keeping “the good shit” list consistent and interesting. I’d go for the Long Trail Limbo or the Stone Sublimely Righteous Ale. The Muckies Spicy Sausage is an excellent beer buddy.
356 Asylum St, Hartford, CT 06103
3. Vito’s by the Park
Vito’s is a go-to Italian restaurant right across from Bushnell Park. You get a lot of personal attention put into your meal here, as the chef happens to own the restaurant. Do a quick Google search of “Rob Mafucci” and you’ll see him do his magic on the Food Network. Warning: it’s very hard to choose your meal at Vito’s, because everything is ridiculously good. Try the Fried Calamari for an appetizer and the Stuffed Meat Pizza for your main course.
26 Trumbull Street, Hartford CT 06103
4. Black Eyed Sally’s Barbecue and Blues
When you are in the mood for some straight up southern cookin’, Black Eyed Sally has you covered. This place specializes in ribs, pulled pork, jambalaya and blackened catfish, but the coolest thing about this bar are the live blues & jazz performances. Check out their lineup, which includes Danny Pease & the Regulators’ “Dirty Punk Reggae” and Charles Neville’s funky New Orleans tunes.
350 Asylum St, Hartford, CT 06103
Firebox is a hip, but not yet pretentious, farm-to-table restaurant located in the middle of Frog Hollow, where you feast on the fresh catch of the day while feeling good about supporting local farmers. Get the Connecticut Cheese Plate and the fresh seafood special. Oh, and that’s right, locals know that your Firebox Burger comes not only with hand-cut fries, but also with a side of good karma!
539 Broad Street Hartford CT 06106
6. Trumbull Kitchen
Right in the heart of downtown, Trumbull Kitchen is a local favorite. Undoubtedly, the stone pie is the king of the menu, but their Seafood Pad Thai and Sautéed Spinach and Artichoke Dip are definitely worthy as well.
150 Trumbull St, Hartford, CT 06103
7. Agave Grill
Agave takes the prize for best guacamole in town, hands down. Pair up their Spicy Chorizo Sausage enchilada with a cold Corona and you’ll be golden.
100 Allyn St, Hartford, CT 06103
8. Aladdin Halal Restaurant
Calling all Mediterranean lovers! From hummus and falafel baklava, to hearty lentil soup, Aladdin’s got you covered. Definitely check out the fantastic Lamb Kebab Combo and don’t be surprised if you whittle the afternoon away chatting with the friendly guys who run the restaurant.
121 Allyn St, Hartford, CT 06103
9. Dish Bar & Grill
Dish takes comfort food to a whole new level, by putting a chic twist on your grandma’s beloved, old-fashioned recipe. Go for the Chicken ‘N Waffles with Sriracha Maple or the Allen Bros. Short Rib Pot Roast. You’re welcome.
900 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103
10. City Steam Brewery
Though City Steam’s grilled chicken skewers and steamed shrimp dumplings are finger licking goodness, their huge selection of draft beers is what truly draws local bar enthusiasts. Naughty Nurse, anyone?
942 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103
11. J Restaurant/Bar
Located right by Trinity College’s campus, J is a cute little Mediterranean restaurant, perfect to take mom and dad out to lunch when they pass through Hartford. The gyro and pasta Alla Vodka are the winners here.
297 WASHINGTON St, Hartford, CT 06106
12. First and Last Bakery Café
The name says it all – this is the only place you need to have on your radar if you’re a baked goods aficionado. Pop in and grab a quick gourmet Pastrami sandwich and perhaps a scone to go.
920 Maple Ave, Hartford, CT
13. Hot Tomato’s
Got an hour to kill while passing through the city? You’re in luck! Hot Tomato’s is located right behind the train station. Best sellers include the garlic bread and the Brooklyn Ragu. Be careful though, the food is so good, you may get carried away and miss your train (speaking from experience).
1 Union Pl, Hartford, CT 06103
14. The Corner Pug
If you love seeing cute pugs everywhere (who doesn’t?), come hang out at the Corner Pug. The combination of awesome American bar food and puppy-eyed photographs coming at you from every corner is actually irresistible.
1046 New Britain Ave, West Hartford, CT 06110
15. Feng Asian Bistro
The nice thing about Feng is that it doesn’t specialize just in Japanese, Chinese or Thai. In fact, it’s an eclectic fusion of all good things Asian, from sushi and Korean Style Calamari, to Traditional Peking Duck and XO Ginger Scallion Maine Lobster. Feng’s modern, stainless steel interior makes for a hip, urban atmosphere, while the chefs still keep recipes authentic.
93 Asylum Street, Hartford CT 06103
16. Tamarind Grill & Bar
I’ve always had a special place for Tamarind in my heart. From my vegetarian days, when I ordered their Phatt Ruom Mitt every Friday, to my ascent back to the top of the food chain, Tamarind had me covered. Try the Bangkok Pepper Shrimp and the Pla Jean.
77 Pratt St, Hartford CT 06103
This restaurant is a Hartford landmark. It’s been at the top of the One State Street building downtown since 1983 and is still very popular for a simple reason: delicious food and great service. The awesome location adds a fabulous view of the city to your dining experience. Some favorites at On20 are Muscovy Duck.
One State Street, Hartford CT
Did you do a year abroad in Barcelona and really miss “pa amb tom àquet?” Go check out Majorca, which has its own version of this Spanish delight, listed as “Pan Catalan,” and while you’re at that, order the Papas Fritas, made with Manchego cheese and the Croquetas de Arroz. If you’re feeling adventurous, go dance it out at their Wednesday Salsa class.
2074 Park St, Hartford CT 06106
19. The Half Door
The Half Door deems itself a “Gastro Pub,” taking its menu a step further than your typical dark, Irish pub, while still offering menu staples such as Cobblestones and Shephard’s Pie. Cozy up with a beer at one of the tables tucked by the wall and watch some good soccer with the locals.
270 Sisson Ave, Hartford 06105
Salute — or “cheers,” indeed! Order a glass of vino (check out the Happy Hour $4 house wines) and pair it up with the Shrimp Fra Diablo. While you’re there, give your diet a break for a minute and don’t go home until you’ve treated yourself to a piece of their scrumptious Lava Cake.
100 Trumbull Street, Hartford 06103