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Bargains - Asian - Comfort Food - Contemporary - Pizza - Downtown/Hartford

 

El Sarape - I’ve had some memorable meals at El Sarape, a tiny place that likes to ask everybody to their party. One time, I joined somebody else’s Christmas gathering there. Not that I was invited, but like I said, it’s tiny. It’s got this funky Mexican look, with bright orange walls and pictures hung this way and that. I had the Snapper Veracruz with the molé sauce (the molés are good) — and the best chicken soup in this part of town, mi amigo.
931 Broad St., Frog Hollow,
Hartford, 860-547-1884

HB Seafood - Years ago, my family would take summer vacations to a little seaside town in Maine. After hours of torture among my several siblings in the car, some in tears — and some whining about the heat, I’d often wonder why we’d decided to go in the first place. But the lobster rolls – they made it all worthwhile. Hot, buttered bread bursting with rich claw meat and lemony mayo. Well, now that I’m a loner, I can get a better one by myself, without the road trip, just around the corner at Elmwood’s HB Seafood. Hey, I have to tell you, all their seafood is incredibly fresh and well prepared - delicately seasoned fish & chips ($11), a Cajun-blackened salmon burger ($12), spiced-up R.I. calamari ($8), and P.E.I. Mussels (also $8) in generous portions, $16 for the lobster roll.
1142 New Britain Ave., West Hartford, 860-206-9466

Monte Alban Restaurant - It’s not hard to find average Mexican food in this area — Tex-Mex burrito places are pretty common — but a truly authentic, welcoming Mexican restaurant with handed-down, original family recipes is a rarity. Monte Alban is just that. The molé is proof: luscious, but not overpowering, with just the right amount of spice. Fish tacos and tortilla soup are equally good, best enjoyed with a cold cerveza.
531 Farmington Ave., Hartford,
860-523-7423

The Nutshell Tavern - Way back in my college days they used to drink Guinness, play darts and eat peanuts here, but not anymore. Good for me. I have a crisp glass of Vinho Verde with the Bacalhau a Bras (codfish, shredded onions, potatoes and eggs), order the pork and clams, or try the killer roast pork loin sandwich with onions on a fresh Portuguese roll. They all bring me back for this zesty Portuguese cuisine on gray winter days.
229 White St., Hartford, 860-956-2836

Pho Boston Restaurant - There’s nothing faux about this place. Have the Shrimp Salad (Vietnamese coleslaw) for your appetizer — and load it up with the fish sauce dressing. It’s enough for two, and a feast for one. Follow it with a steaming bowl of chicken pho, a whole quart of noodles, shoots and shredded chicken. ($7.95) Adventurous? Drink a Durian fruit shake. The smell is incredibly strong, but the regulars love it. I do too.
144 Shield St. Plaza, West Hartford,
860-953-8678

Primavera Pub - This is a down-home, good-spirited Portuguese tavern where I like to sit at the bar, either watching a soccer match with the guys — or a baseball game by myself. Last time I was there, I must have looked lost, because an Irish guy ordered all my food for me. And he ordered great stuff. I’m a sucker for roasted Bacalhau on the bone with broccoli or a hefty portion of shrimp, clams and pork. Chef Joe Moreira also has wild boar, braised rabbit and grilled octopus to keep me happy. And all at these amazingly low prices $13.50 - $16.50 for dinner. What about a $2 glass or a $7 carafe of red jug wine!
271 Newington Ave., Hartford,
860-953-7411

Tangiers International - They’ve moved a little ways down Farmington Avenue and over the border into Hartford, but we’re glad that nothing else has changed. Go in for lunch and order the falafel. It’s made from a generations-old family recipe, uniquely seasoned and served with tangy, herby tzatziki or tahini. You may want to return for a second. Otherwise, the gyros are authentic and flavorful, pita is baked daily, the hummus is superb, and the service always friendly. Browse their intriguing selection of imported groceries while you wait.
550 Farmington Ave., Hartford,
860-233-8168

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Downton

Agave Grill - I love the Guacamole, prepared tableside; the Chili-Passion Fruit margarita with house-variety white tequila. Lobster enchiladas and a Mexicali take on “Ensalada Caesar” (Manchego, roasted corn salsa and homemade Chile-Caesar dressing) are further proof that sometimes the rules are meant to be broken.
100 Allyn St., Hartford, 860-882-1557

Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ - Everybody’s bullish on Bear’s. Even me. I stick to the full rack of Baby Back Ribs, which, at $22.99 is a bargain, because the half rack is $16.99. Either way their ribs are the only game in town. They’ve recently moved to a much bigger space on Front Street. Kansas City (BBQ) here I come!
Arch St. and Columbus Blvd., Hartford,
860-724-3100

Arch Street Tavern- For about 30 years, this classic old-city style tavern with its brick walls, oak furnishings, polished brass and consistently great lunches has been one of my favorites. It’s very personal. As you may know, I usually visit the kitchen or talk directly to the owner when I’m ready to order. I’d suggest you do the same. I love all the waitresses who are all incredibly happy all the time. Say hello to Jerry Collins, the owner, for me.
85 Arch St, Hartford, 860-246-7610

Bin 228 - If it’s been a while since you took in a compelling performance at Theaterworks, do it soon. But before you go, stop in across the street at Bin 228. It’s a classic Vinoteca Toscana — a Northern Italian wine bar. Whet your appetite with the carpaccio, or try the fig jam and prosciutto bruschetta, adding lots of bread to these small plates. Any of their reds by the glass are outstanding, or drink a bottle of Le Volte Super Tuscan. You’ll agree with me on everything.
228 Pearl St., Hartford
860-244-9463

City Steam Brewery Café & Restaurant - The building seems to exist in an odd, post-industrial time warp, with old brick and wood paneling speaking of early New England heritage, while other layers of renovation say twenty-first century. Bright colors juxtaposed against mahogany, art deco paintings against the brick walls. The distinctive character of the place comes through to the beer itself. Their most famous is the “Naughty Nurse,” uniquely spicy with a nice, smooth finish. The dinner menu features some standout burgers and brew-inspired entrées though I like the Beer-Braised Pot Roast best. Must admit too, I’m a regular at the Brew-Ha-Ha Comedy Club —Fridays or Saturdays.
942 Main St., Hartford, 860-525-1600

Costa del Sol - As you well know, when I’m out on this gig checking out restaurants, one thing is perfectly clear, I go here and I go there. But, to be perfectly honest, I always end up back here. And why is that? They’ve got all my favorites. In summer I have a plate of my favorite: padrón peppers grilled with some sea salt, some fruity olive oil, and a glass of rioja. Perfect. In winter, the Mariscada, a seafood stew in either red (tomato-based) or green (parsley-rich) sauce — wonderful. In fall, the house paella with a bottle of robust San Roman, Toro. In spring, like a swallow to capistrano, I religiously return to my favorite spot at the end of the bar for a feast of my favorite tapas paired with Pepe’s suggested wines.
901 Wethersfield Ave., Hartford South End
860-296-1714

Firebox - What you have here is farm-to-table gourmet fare that’s served in a renovated factory located in an adventurous, urban-chic setting on the fringe of downtown — the kind of place you might otherwise expect in a Litchfield County hamlet. Mussels ($4), the cheeseburger with bacon ($16), or a blackboard special are my picks. A crisp glass from among their nice selection of white wines or bottle of New Zealand MoMo ($29) is the perfect complement. Dinner’s price trajectory is toward the high end, with plates like the grass fed NY strip ($38) and the Lobster and Chickpea Gnocchi ($31).
539 Broad St., Hartford
860-246-1222

Max Downtown - If you closed the big deal, grab a martini. If not, soothe those frayed sensibilities with a Pappy Van Winkle on the rocks — and be glad you still have the liquidity. It’s happened to me once or twice, and, to be honest, the liquid has always kept me in good spirits. So relax. Get a steak — the Ribeye or NY Strip with smoked blue cheese. The Wedge Salad goes along nicely.
185 Asylum St., Hartford, 860-522-2530

ON20 - During my short career in international finance, when largesse often meant something others couldn’t afford to eat, Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” elicited a knowing chuckle from those of us who regularly dined at one of the many temples of haute cuisine in the cities that counted — like New York’s Four Seasons and Lutèce or Taillevent in Paris. Hartford has only one such place, and this is it. With hot new chef Jeffery Lizzotte, it’s dusted off some of its lingering corporate formality while, at the same time, elevating the entire dining experience. It’s my kind of place. Off the bar menu: The Sleeping Monk. A very difficult drink to put down, originating at the amazing pegu club in NYC. Chamomile-infused scotch, blended with yellow chartreuse and benedictine, then finished with kisses of honey and lemon. Off the dinner menu: Always the 8- course chef’s tasting offering. Go to the On20 menus on their web site, the Pegu Club’s too. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
400 Columbus Blvd., Hartford
860-722-5161

Salute - Growing up home-schooled in the Greek classics, like Orpheus and Eurydice — as well as Iowa’s own fundamentalist Christianity, I developed a nose for lusty Italian cuisine. The crowd at Salute is usually young and hot. The food is hot, too. The only issue I have with the place is when the weather gets hot, the hot crowd moves outside, and I’m left alone with my homemade Meatball Salad with cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella; my robust Shrimp fra Diablo over linguine; or a lovely sweet potato. California’s Spellbound Petite Sirah is perfect with everything. The owners — who created Hot Tomato’s back in the day — have brought the same warm, welcoming spirit here.
100 Trumbull St., Hartford
860-899-1350

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Asian

Top 10 WinnerEast-West Grille - Though this may sound a bit odd, I order at least three meals each time I go to EWG. That’s because once I get started eating the food, it’s hard for me to stop. And I always enjoy having some to take home. Is Chef/owner Manola Sidara’s food that good? Yes it is, my friends. Last Tuesday, late in the afternoon, I ordered the chicken curry puff and satay appetizers, a wonderful squid salad, the Lao stew with pungent dill just picked from Manola’s garden outside, Lao tom yum hot and sour soup, wild ginger stir fry with pork, and absolutely superb grilled wild salmon with mango and coconut milk curry —all accompanied by a frosty Singha (Thai beer). I’ve got to say she’s at the very top of her game.
526 New Park Ave, West Hartford,
860-236-3287

Ichiban - As I say, “When in Rome eat as the Romans do.” So it is with Ichiban. They cater primarily to an Asian crowd — Korean and Japanese. What tipped me off, as it should you, is that people who really know the best Korean and Japanese foods make this their choice. Sam, one of the twin brothers who works behind the sushi bar, constructs fantastic fresh rolls with just about any ingredients you choose. Indeed, both Sam and his sushi are very engaging. Korean food tends to be assertive and spicy, so I would suggest that some Korean dishes (like the kimchi jjigae, a pickled cabbage stew) are for “advanced eaters” only. Either stick with what you know or discuss the options with Sam. I listen to Sam. He’s an absolutely great guy.
530 Farmington Ave., Hartford,
860-236-5599

Top 10 WinnerMurasaki Japanese Restaurant - I slide into the sushi bar and order the specials with an extra dry Hendricks martini with a fresh cucumber twist. No fluff to spoil the taste of the fine sliced fresh fish and perfect rice. Four orders usually does it. Maybe some hot tea, too. For years it’s been the favorite of local sushi connoisseurs (like me). Bravo Murasaki!
23 LaSalle Rd., West Hartford Center
860-236-7622

Pick & Mix - Admit it. Chinese takeout and pizza delivery can get a little repetitive. On nights when you know cooking isn’t an option but you want something fresh, healthy, and flavorful, give this place a try. The concept is simple: pick your base (sweet potato noodles, white or brown rice), as many vegetables as you’d like (from mushrooms to bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, radish and so on) add an egg, and a protein (beef, chicken, tofu) if you choose. Finish off with a sauce (hot paste, teriyaki, soy lemon, sesame). The name of the dish — Bibimbap, a signature Korean entrée — is perhaps less simple, but the result is always delicious.
1234 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, 860-521-1521

Sweet Chilli - You’ll find this worthy little place right down the road from J. Rene, in an area of Park Road where it sits in a block with some interesting shops like a topsy-turvy rugs and vintage furniture store, an antique store and a vintage book shop. This spot offers reliable Thai standards elevated to well above expectations. They don’t skimp on the portions here either. I love the beef sauté, the Pad Thai. I always order the outstanding papaya salad.
312 Park Rd., West Hartford,
860-233-7780

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Contemporary

Arugula Bistro - The warm lighting, brightly-colored French posters and prints, a rustic touch here and there, whisked with a pinch of panache give me great pleasure as I sit at my special table near the window and observe the tables of smart people who carefully study the menu, pointing and whispering to their friends and the quiet young couples in the early stages of dating, their eyes fixed on the other’s until the arrival of their entrees abruptly tears them apart. Only love can do that. Well, I loved the grilled tuna “filet mignon”, the moule frites with nice spicy tomato and curry broth, the beet salad, crisp bottle of Domaine Chiroulet. Les Terres Blanches. Couldn’t be better.
953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford Center
860-561-4888

Top 10 WinnerÁvert Brasserie - Well, here I am eager for the joie de vive I deserve. Voila! Light, bright and polished, the interior setup and décor blends old-time Parisian with a sophisticated, modern facade. The menu follows suit, with traditional French entrées including Croque Monsieur (fresh, thick-sliced bread lavished with Gruyere cheese, smoked ham, and a luxurious Mornay sauce), coq au vin slowly stewed in herbed red wine, and a roasted duck breast elevated by fresh sweet corn and honey-thyme sauce. Allons enfants de la Patrie – it’s happening.
35A LaSalle Rd., West Hartford,
860-904-6240

Barcelona Restaurant - Let me tell you something… Centuries ago in Andalusian taverns, a “tapa” referred to a bit of bread or slice of meat used to cover one’s glass of sherry, preventing fruit flies from descending upon the sweet wine. Practical — and a handy snack, too. While their tapas dishes may not serve to protect one’s drink, all are prepared with beverage in mind: salty chorizo to balance acidity, or a fresh, tangy sheep’s cheese to tone down a sweeter varietal. I like the Hamachi Crudo (hearts of palm, orange, chive) and the Trout a la Plancha, a glass of Verdejo alongside.
971 Farmington Ave., West Hartford,
860-218-2100

Top 10 WinnerBesito Mexican Restaurant - The first time I had a shot of Tequila, I was between 17 and 21. The next time it was a few decades later, right here, on my birthday. It’s always a special occasion for me when I come here. There’s so much love coming out of this Mexican kitchen. I seldom get excited about the way food looks, but at Besito, I make an exception. The complex combination of earthy colors and flavors, like smoky citrus and nutty, spicy pumpkin seed pipian, gets seriously sensual. I’d steer you toward Salmon Manchamanteles, Enchiladas Suizas, Pescado Veracruzana, or Tamales de Elote. And here’s something else you’ve got to try: ask for the guacamole and you’ll see it handmade from scratch right at your table by a lovely, very talented young senorita.
46 South Main St., Blue Back Square, West Hartford
860-233-2500

Top 10 WinnerGrants Restaurant & Bar - I can always find a quiet corner at Grants — even on a busy Friday at 6:30, the bar area packed and the patio buzzing. Tonight I alight at a candlelit booth near the back with freshly buttered Parker House rolls, a bottle of Cabernet, a center-cut NY Strip, perfectly cooked to medium-rare, day-boat scallops, lightly seared atop sweet, succulent fresh corn polenta with sugar snap peas and marbled bacon lardons. Hard to tell what’s better.
977 Farmington Ave., West Hartford,
860-236-1930

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse - In the US, great steak makes a statement, and it’s at Fleming’s that you hear it loud and clear. The steaks are prime, straightforward in presentation, and cooked perfectly. The service is professional and high-spirited, and the ambience recalls the warmth and clubyness of the wood-paneled era, without all the pretense. Nice, big, comfortable bar where they make adult drinks for people like us.
44 S. Main St., West Hartford, 860-676-9463

Max Burger - How do you know when a burger is truly exceptional? Some say it depends on personal preference. Some say it’s about the quality of the meat; where it came from, the way it’s cooked. Some focus on bread or on toppings. Personally, I think it needs just the right blend of everything — and a little bit of intrigue. Max has figured this out. Whatever your criteria for the perfect burger, you’ll find it here. Delicious, unexpected bites result from even the most basic of offerings, like the 8oz Max Classic on a just-baked artisan roll with a secret sauce that I can’t quite figure out (I haven’t asked, either). They have top-notch onion rings, big, fresh salads, and an extensive beer list, too.
124 LaSalle Rd., West Hartford,
860-232-3300

Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen - Order a bottle at the sommelier’s recommendation, or go by the glass, with 1oz., 3oz., and 6oz. portions available. It’s not uncommon to see couples conversing at the sleek, marble-top bar over a flight of a dozen tasting glasses. Small plates complement your choice, listed categorically according to main ingredient. Again, you’ll need to order a few of these. Start with risotto balls and seared sea scallops (lobster, scallions, ginger vinegar). From there, work with the wine (or beer, or cocktail). Proper pairing, as you know, is key.
63 Memorial Rd., Blue Back Square,
West Hartford, 860-206-4648

Top 10 WinnerTreva Restaurant and Bar- I usually go later in the evening since the happy hour is always crowded and reservations are a must for prime time dining and, as you well know, I never make a reservation. That leaves me a rather small window of opportunity for my lovely repast. But I take full advantage of the opening. I start with the quail appetizer, followed by the caprese salad, then the swordfish medallions with clams and cauliflower. I like wine, but I never drink it with a late evening meal, so I just have a nice digestivo, usually Amaro no ice, to settle down and slip off to sleep (when I get home).
980 Farmington Ave, West Hartford,
860-232-0407

Top 10 WinnerMax’s Oyster Bar - Whenever I want to escape the present and embrace the past and the future I head over to this Max. It exudes confidence and doesn’t hold back. And, it delivers. The dimly lit urbane atmosphere with the high ceilings, big booths, well-heeled crowd, white aproned waitstaff, a half dozen oysters with the recommended wine, plump sea scallops, the halibut special, the blueberry cake from East Hampton, CT (I thought they only exported witch hazel), clam chowder, tuna tartar, the 964 gin and tonic with the house made tonic and, of course, my ever engaging personal waitress Tina. You get what you pay for.
964 Farmington Ave., West Hartford,
860-236-6299

Ruth's Chris Steak House - In an era where steakhouses stand decidedly outside the trend, Ruth’s Chris continues to buck those trends. It delivers its signature prime beef with no frills, with just a confident aplomb that comes from years of being the best in this business. What about the perfectly marbled, perfectly cooked rib-eye, the tender Porterhouse for two, and the full-bodied New York Strip? You’re getting the message, right? There is something special going on with the beef here. However you want to read it (or cut it), it’s spelled luscious.
964 Farmington Ave., West Hartford,
860-236-6299

 

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Classics

Bombay Olive - I love the service here — immediate and unwaveringly attentive (could it be because it was formerly an IHOP?) And the food. Persian/ Indian/ Nepalese cuisine. I order the lamb kebab masala that comes with Nepalese fluffy Basmati rice or a Persian Polow with charcoal-grilled veggies, nuts, and chicken or lamb. I expect the food to be spicy. To have a nice kick. It is. And it does. There’s an all-you-can-eat buffet every day.
450 S. Main St., West Hartford,
860-561-3000

Cheesecake Factory - Why do they call this a factory? To me, it’s more like the lobby of an international hotel — maybe de Crillon in Paris, Sheraton Abu Dhabi, or the Plaza Central Park. The spunky staff is old-age friendly. The bar server thought I was her father. I like that. The crowd is a lovely palette of global hues. I like that, too. When it comes to the menu, I go with the flow and try food from all over: Thai Lettuce Wraps, Jamaican Black Pepper Shrimp, the Americana Cheeseburger, or Cajun Jambalaya Pasta, to name a few. No matter what, I always enjoy their Original Cheesecake. Now, if I could only get a room…
71 Isham Rd., Blue Back Square,
West Hartford, 860-233-5588

Top 10 WinnerCora Cora - Occasionally, I get delivery or take out and watch a movie that complements the vast, traditional Peruvian menu. Something like The Last Train to Lima. But it’s far better inside this welcoming, colorful dining area (you’d never guess it was a former McDonalds). I go for a beautiful appetizer like a fresh fish and shrimp ceviche marinated in Peruvian spicy sauce. Then I move to a classic beef dish like lomo saltado, followed by the Cau Cau de Pollo — a yellow pepper and chicken stew. I very slowly drink a glass of chicha morada, followed by a glass of red wine and a glass of white wine. The desserts are so beautiful I often hesitate to eat them. About the wine: There are no prices on the wine list, something I’ve never encountered before. But it’s novel. So it’s OK.
162 Shield St., West Hartford,
860-953-2672

Effie's Place - For breakfast, don’t bother looking at the menu. Just have the Hungry John. It has everything you could possibly want and you don’t have to worry about food for the rest of the day. My dinner favorite is a meatloaf — small, with a side of liver and onions, hold the mashed. It’s comfort food heaven.
91 Park Rd., West Hartford
860-233-9653

Fernwood Restaurant - It’s retro, it’s old-fashioned, it’s real food folks! I always furtively slide inside through the backdoor which is, for all intents and purposes, the front door anyway. Then I slide into a dimly lit booth at the back of the dark dining room and order the super-cold Stella or house red ($5.95). Enjoy it for a few minutes — then order the fisherman’s special with fries and coleslaw. Or a hefty slice of meatloaf with mashed and gravy, a side of carrots, some fresh bread. Pea soup and clam chowder were both outstanding the other night, too. The apple pie, slightly tart, with thin-sliced apples and a perfect crust, was the best I can remember. Sometimes I have the lemon merengue pie or bread pudding with lots of whipped cream. Then I’m in heaven. Just remember: when you leave, go out the back door, the same way you came in, but in the opposite direction.
1113 New Britain Ave., West Hartford,
860-233-6662

Top 10 WinnerShish Kebab House of Afghanistan - Lovely Najia. I still have visions of her selling those beautiful rugs and spices on Chicken Street in Kabul. Here, I think I see her same radiant smile in the face of my young waitress, and the déjà vu strikes all over again. She offers me a drink: understandably, I always start with the house infused vodka drinks like the Persian Princess or Blue Monk. Last week, I followed them (yes, both) with pea soup, sautéed catfish with fragrant spicing, pumpkin puree, and spinach rice. And even though the nostalgia for Najia nags, causing my heart to sink, SKHA makes my taste buds swim and my global spirit fly. Simply put, I love the drinks, the food, the people — and occasionally a little Hookah.
36 LaSalle Rd., West Hartford Center
860-231-8400

The Corner Pug - Even after a day of incredibly difficult interactions with bulldogish colleagues, when I think of going to the Corner Pug, my mood brightens. That’s because I love the name. It shows the owner has a puggish sense of humor. So much for that. The Pug lives up to its claim of serving up honest, hearty pub grub. Just the way classic pub fare should be, with just the right kind of old style pub décor and with a big bunch of pug pictures. You may remember Rocco and Romeo or Diego or Maxwell who got lost, but Mac is the new boss. (I think he may be involved with Molli). I mostly have the shephards pie with a Sea Hag or two. But it’s hard to pass up the great meatloaf, hefty Reuben, hangar steak or prime rib. I always have a good time here.
1046 New Britain Ave, West Hartford,
860-231-0241

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Pizza

Backstage Pizza - Some say this is a “best kept secret.” If it were, why are there always so many people here? I’d rather be here by myself. One hot day, I sat here for 1.5 hours under an umbrella savoring a Peroni or two and una vera pizza Napolitana with a perfectly charred, blistered crust. The oven reaches 900 degrees, popping out pies in 3 minutes. The waitress looks like a Madonna (still). You can find this piazzetta (that could be in Positano) down an alluring, narrow, tree-lined alley next to the Central — and behind it, an ample parking lot where, of course, they have live music. Don’t forget to take the Peroni glass. It’s a nice glass.
968 ½ Farmington Ave., West Hartford
860-232-2228

Top 10 WinnerHarry's Bishops Corner - Go on a Tuesday night around 7:30 when there’s no line. Order a bottle of $12 Cabernet. Have a glass before you order that pizza. And don’t look at the whole menu. Just order one of the 3 specials, usually featuring local produce. Sip the wine and eat slowly until it sinks in completely. Don’t ever forget the complimentary lemon ice. And remember to give owner Kevin Plaut a round of applause. I always do, even though I’m alone. He’s right there in front of you in the kitchen.
732 North Main St., West Hartford, Bishops Corner next to Big Y
860-236-0400

Luna - Pizza and kids are only as good as their ingredients. You know — good ingredients make good results, better ingredients make better results, and so on and so forth. At Luna, they use excellent ingredients, so they have excellent pizza and they have had for years. Enough said.
999 Farmington Ave., West Hartford Center
860-233-1625

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About The Inside Diner

Being something of a regular at almost all of the restaurants he comments on, The Inside Diner provides important insights into the operation of the many establishments he frequents, then offers a no-nonsense assessment or two about what to go for before getting on your way. The key is that management has no idea he’s The Inside Diner. He keeps that to himself. And he regularly changes identity, often becoming someone else. So if you hear rumors about who The Inside Diner really is, you may be right. But you also may be wrong. Rest assured, however, that he or she or they is, or are, never wrong. If The Inside Diner likes a place, go. If The Inside Diner enjoys a dish, try it. And if you agree, or don’t, let him know.

Territory - The Inside Diner sticks to the West Hartford/Hartford area, so you won’t find his commentary in our other books. He refuses to cover the shoreline for obvious reasons: too much al fresco and salt air that spoils the taste of good food. And Glastonbury? Well, it’s across the river.

Approach -
The Inside Diner always:
• Eats inside. Eating outside taints the true taste of good food and wine, he says. (Besides, he is The Inside Diner)
• Believes food is either good or bad. He’ll tell you about the good. He says you can find the bad stuff without his help.
• Eats alone. It’s too hard to savor and talk at the same time.
• Finishes all that he orders. He has a good appetite.
• Suggests: If you want to know what to expect at a restaurant read the menu.
The Inside Diner never:
• Eats at the same table twice
• Makes reservations
• Orders menu items that are spelled wrong

Rankings - The Inside Diner says this: a dinner of mashed potatoes and meatloaf can be every bit as good as one of steak frites with truffle butter. After all, both are meat and potatoes. Bottom line? Trendy spots get no special consideration for being trendy. He’s just looking for excellent food served well. Also, the rankings are in random order, so the first is not necessarily number 1 — and so on.

Contact - You can contact The Inside Diner with questions, ideas, or opinions by emailing insidediner@webbooksct.com. He is always open to what you think and he will get back to you within 24 hours. Or as soon as he can.

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