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


El Sarape - I’ve had some memorable meals at El Sarape, a tiny place where everyone’s a friend. One time, I joined somebody else’s Christmas gathering there. Not that I was invited, but like I said, it’s tiny. And everyone’s a friend. 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. The Carne Enchilada De Puerca, a grilled spicy pork, is tasty, too.
931 Broad St., Frog Hollow,
Hartford, 860-547-1884

HB Seafood - Years ago, my family would spend summer vacations in Maine. The drive (picture a car full of siblings alternately whining and arguing) was torture — but the lobster rolls were awesome. Hot, buttered bread bursting with rich claw meat and lemony mayo. These days, I can get one just around the corner at Elmwood’s HB Seafood. Fact is, all their seafood is incredibly fresh, well prepared, and nicely priced — especially the delicately seasoned fish & chips…their Cajun-blackened salmon burger…the spiced-up R.I. calamari…a generous platter of P.E.I. Mussels…and, of course, the lobster roll.
1142 New Britain Ave., West Hartford, 860-206-9466

Monte Alban Restaurant - With Tex-Mex burrito places pretty common, OK Mexican food isn’t hard to find. But truly authentic Mexican — the kind Monte Alban prepares from original family recipes — is a rarity. The molé is 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,

The Nutshell Tavern - Waaaaay back in my college days, we used to play darts here — downing Guinness with one hand and devouring peanuts with the other, when it wasn’t our turn. These days, I prefer to remain seated for a crisp glass of Vinho Verde and a nice meal. The Bacalhau a Bras (codfish, shredded onions, potatoes and eggs) is always lovely. But then, so is the Fish Stew, or the Pork and Clams. And if you’re over their way at lunchtime, be sure to try the Chouriça — a Portuguese-style sausage sandwich.
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. It’s better than good.
144 Shield St. Plaza, West Hartford,

Primavera Pub - As described by a regular, this is an “authentic, no-frills” kind of place — indeed, a good-spirited Portuguese tavern where it’s fun to sit at the bar watching a soccer match or a baseball game. Last time I was there, I must have looked lost, because an Irish guy ordered all my food for me — and it was 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 these amazing good dishes have amazingly good prices to match. And the wine won’t set you back, either.
271 Newington Ave., Hartford,

Tangiers International - Just over the border in Hartford, Tangiers is the place to go for lunch and some awesome falafel. Made from a generations-old family recipe, it’s uniquely seasoned and served with tangy, herby tzatziki or tahini. (I usually have seconds.) Otherwise, the gyros are authentic and flavorful, the pita is baked daily, the hummus is superb, and the service is always friendly. Their display of imported groceries is an intriguing bonus.
550 Farmington Ave., Hartford,

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Agave Grill - Offering a wonderful selection of especiales, Agave is all about enjoying something different. And from their Antojitos (appetizers) to their Postres (desserts), it’s all good. I love their Guacamole, which is prepared fresh tableside. (Goes well with the Chili-Passion Fruit margarita with house-variety white tequila.) And the Lobster enchiladas — and a Mexicali take on “Ensalada Caesar” (Manchego, roasted corn salsa and homemade Chile-Caesar dressing) — are further proof that sometimes, rules are meant to be broken.
100 Allyn St., Hartford, 860-882-1557

Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ - Everybody’s bullish on Bear’s. (Pun intended.) Even me. Just bring me a full rack of awesome Baby Back Ribs and enough paper napkins to cope, and I’m in my glory. But I’ll take anything. It’s all good — from the chicken and turkey to the brisket and kielbasa. And be sure to give the Burnt Ends a try. Heaven.
Arch St. and Columbus Blvd., Hartford,

Arch Street Tavern - For as long as I can remember, this old tavern — with its brick walls, oak furnishings, and polished brass — has been one of my favorites. The wait staff is terrific. And I usually visit the kitchen or talk directly to the owner when I’m ready to order, and you can do the same. Good people, one and all. And really good food. For lunch, ask for a Reuben. It’s their signature sandwich — and delicious. Or try something new and order a Fried Egg Burger. Even their salads are a treat.
85 Arch St, Hartford, 860-246-7610

Bin 228 - Conveniently across the street from Theaterworks, Bin 228’s classic Vinoteca Toscana — a Northern Italian wine bar — is a perfect place to begin an evening out. 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. Or stop in after a show for dinner. You can’t beat the Bourbon BBQ Bacon Meatloaf — or the Potato Gnocchi, tossed with a Rosemary-scented, Slow-braised Lamb Bolognese. You’ll agree with me on everything.
228 Pearl St., Hartford

City Steam Brewery Café & Restaurant - Old brick and wood paneling make City Steam’s historic digs warm and welcoming, while twenty-first century touches, including bright colors and art deco paintings — and their award-winning brewery — give it a truly distinctive character. Their most famous beer is the “Naughty Nurse,” thanks to its uniquely spicy taste and nice, smooth finish. Meals are casual. The dinner menu features some standout burgers and brew-inspired entrées, though I am still partial to the Beer-Braised Pot Roast. If you’re there on a Friday or Saturday, do not miss a performance at their Brew-Ha-Ha Comedy Club. And if you find yourself with nothing to do on Sunday morning, head here. The brunch is as simple as it is satisfying.
942 Main St., Hartford, 860-525-1600

Costa del Sol - As The Inside Diner, I go here and I go there. But, to be perfectly honest, I always end up coming back here. After all, they’ve got all my favorites. In the summer, it’s a plate of padrón peppers grilled with some sea salt, some fruity olive oil, and a glass of rioja. In winter, the Mariscada — a seafood stew in either red (tomato-based) or green (parsley-rich) sauce (and wonderful). Fall finds me craving the house paella with a bottle of robust San Roman, Toro. And in the springtime, 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 — just like a swallow to Capistrano. Find your favorites here.
901 Wethersfield Ave., Hartford South End

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 — and it’s very good, with ingredients from farms listed right on their menus. The seasonally inspired soup is always a good bet, as are the Tavern Burger or Seared Tuna Tacos served at lunch. For dinner, try the Cast Iron Duck, with goat feta polenta roasted corn, mushrooms, and a cherry-demi glace. An entrée called The Plate, featuring spicy tempura cauliflower, lentil and quinoa fried “rice,” charred carrots, marcona almonds, and kimchi aioli, hints at how creative their entrées can be. And there’s a Tavern menu, as well, with more casual fare. A nice selection of white wines or a bottle of New Zealand MoMo will go well.
539 Broad St., Hartford

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. (It’s happened to us all, once or twice.) Then move on — literally and figuratively — to a dinner of Roasted Atlantic Halibut, with Spanish chorizo, fingerling potatoes, fava beans, snap peas, and white asparagus soubise. Need something more earthy? Order a Chop House classic, for steaks exactly as they should be. The Wedge Salad goes along nicely. And order dessert. They’re too good to miss.
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 Jesse Powers, 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 dinner menu: Always the 8-course chef’s tasting offering. Go to the ON20 menus on their website, www.ontwenty.com. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
400 Columbus Blvd., Hartford

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

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Top 10 WinnerEast-West Grille - Confession: I order at least three meals each time I go to EWG. Seems odd, I know. But once I get start eating their food, it’s hard for me to stop (yes, it’s that good) — plus I always enjoy taking some home. My favorites include the chicken curry puff and satay appetizers, their 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). You’ll find yours.
526 New Park Ave, West Hartford,

Ichiban - Since those who really know the best Korean and Japanese foods make this their choice, it’s also mine. Sam, one of the twin brothers who works behind the sushi bar, constructs fantastic fresh rolls with just about any ingredients you choose. (And both Sam and his sushi are very engaging.) And here’s a tip: Korean foods tend to be assertive and spicy, with some (like kimchi jjigae, a pickled cabbage stew) for “advanced eaters” only. So either stick with what you know or take Sam’s advice. He’s absolutely terrific. And so is the food.
530 Farmington Ave., Hartford,

Pick & Mix - Admit it — on nights when you know cooking isn’t an option but you want something fresh, healthy, and flavorful, good Chinese take out fills the bill. And this is good Chinese take out. 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 up with a sauce (hot paste, teriyaki, soy lemon, sesame). The name of this signature Korean dish — Bibimbap — is not quite as simple, but the result is always delicious.
1234 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, 860-521-1521

Sweet Chilli - You’ll find this worthy little place in a section of Park Road with some interesting shops, like a topsy-turvy rug and vintage furniture store, an antique store and a vintage bookshop. Sweet Chilli Thai is good Thai — with standards elevated to well above expectations. They don’t skimp on the portions here, either. I love the beef sauté, the Pad Thai, most of the curries, and all of the sautéed dishes. I always order the outstanding Papaya Pok Pok salad.
312 Park Rd., West Hartford,

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Arugula Bistro - The warm lighting, brightly-colored French artwork, and 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. From here, I can observe the couples in the springtime of their lives (and still in the early stages of dating) — their eyes fixed on each until the arrival of their entrees abruptly tears them apart. Only young love can do that. (Sigh.) But then, I am in love, too — a favorite entrée. The grilled tuna “filet mignon,” moule frites with nice spicy tomato and curry broth, a beet salad, and a crisp bottle of Domaine Chiroulet — though sometimes I stray to the Butternut Squash and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli, tossed with arugula, toasted Hazelnuts in a brown-butter and sage sauce. (An understandable attraction.)
953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford Center

Top 10 WinnerÁvert Brasserie - Well, here I am eager for the joie de vive I crave, when voila! I find myself sitting in what could for all the world be a vintage Parisian brasserie with a sophisticated, modern facade. The menu follows suit, with traditional French entrées, such as Trout Almondine, with Haricot verts (OK, green beans), roasted red pepper, and amaretto brown butter — or a Braised Short Rib Hourguignon, with button mushrooms, pomme purée (a very rich version of mashed potatoes), bacon, pearl onions, and Burgundy veal jus. Allons enfants de la Patrie! It’s happening!
35A LaSalle Rd., West Hartford,

Top 10 WinnerBarcelona Restaurant - Centuries ago, Andalusian taverns served a “tapa” — a bit of bread or slice of meat — to cover one’s glass of sherry so the fruit flies wouldn’t find their way in. Practical. But a handy snack, too. And while Barcelona’s tapas dishes may not serve to protect one’s drink, all are prepared with a beverage in mind: salty chorizo to balance acidity, or a fresh and tangy sheep’s cheese to tone down a sweeter varietal. I order an Ensalada Mixta with olives, onions, and tomatoes, Paella Mariscos with prawns, clams, mussels, and squid, and a glass of Verdejo. I am happy.
971 Farmington Ave., West Hartford,

Top 10 WinnerGrants Restaurant & Bar - While Grants bar is packed — and the patio buzzing — most nights, in season, I can always find a quiet corner, even on a busy Friday. Tonight’s fare: 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 I like best.
977 Farmington Ave., West Hartford,

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse - A great steak makes a real statement, and at Fleming’s, you can hear it loud and clear. The steaks are prime, straightforward in presentation, and cooked perfectly. The service is professional and high-spirited. The ambience recalls the warmth and clubbiness of the wood-paneled era — without all the pretense. And there’s a nice, big, comfortable bar.
44 S. Main St., West Hartford, 860-676-9463

Restaurant Bricco - Drawing from memories of all the foods and divertimento (fun) at their family’s big Sunday dinners, the Grant brothers (a.k.a. Mike, Tony, and Chef Billy) have made Restaurant Bricco the place to go whenever the craving for “genuine Italian” strikes. Indeed, from the warmth of its sit-and-stay-a-while atmosphere to the tried-and-true generations-old recipes, everything here is simple — and simply wonderful. Appetizers include everything from a generously sized “Antipasto for the Table” to their “Aunt Josie’s Meatballs.” The salads, always fresh and crispy, are creatively varied. (Try the one featuring warm pistachio-crusted goat cheese.) Wood-fired brick-oven pizzas range from delightfully traditional to wildly imaginative. (The “Bianco Pie” is amazing.) Pastas like “My Mom’s” Spaghetti Carbonara” and “Grandma’s Ravioli” promise an authenticity you won’t soon forget. Entrées, such as the “Day Boat Georges Bank Scallops” and the “Spice Glazed Long Island Duck Breast,” go well beyond Sunday dinner fare to something truly special. And never leave without dessert. They make their own ice cream and sorbets — and the pistachio créme brulée is superb.
78 LaSalle Rd., West Hartford, 860-233-0220

Top 10 WinnerZohara Mediterranean Kitchen - The most recent addition to DORO Restaurant Group — already well-known for Treva and Àvert here in West Hartford, as well as Artisanal Burger Company in Manchester, this contemporary newcomer to West Hartford Center is another winner. Zohara, which means “brilliant” in Hebrew, offers an innovative Mediterranean- and Israel-inspired menu, featuring wholesome fresh vegetables, grains, fish, and lean meats transformed into mouth-watering meals before your very eyes. Literally. And that’s because it’s kitchen — spacious and bustling — is surrounded by comfortable booth seating, where diners can watch it all happen. Try their Moroccan Seafood Stew, the Lamb Kofta with cucumber and mint, or the Chicken Tanginem with cauliflower, lemon, and saffron. It’s zohara.
991 Farmington Ave., West Hartford,

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, plus 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 8-ounce Max Classic on a just-baked artisan roll with a secret sauce that I can’t quite figure out. They have top-notch onion rings, big, fresh salads, and an extensive beer list, too.
124 LaSalle Rd., West Hartford,

Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen - A unique place. 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 cornmeal-dusted fired oysters with egg salad, truffle pearl, and truffle butter. The Crab Tartine, with grilled asparagus, avocado, radishes, hard boiled egg, hazelnut, piquillo pepper aioli, and sour dough bread. Or the Jamaican “jerk” chicken wings, with scallion and lime. 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- Treva’s a place 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 light and fresh Caprese salad. For the main course, it’s the Pollo — or herbed chicken with root vegetables, squash, and natural jus. And while I like wine, I never drink it with a late evening meal, so I just have a nice digestive — usually Amaro (no ice) to settle down and, when I get home, slip off to sleep.
980 Farmington Ave, West Hartford,

Top 10 WinnerMax’s Oyster Bar - When I’m feeling the need for a little validation, I head over to this Max. It exudes confidence and doesn’t hold back, with its dimly lit urbane atmosphere, with the high ceilings and big booths, its well-heeled crowd, its white- aproned wait staff. A half dozen oysters with the recommended wine, plump sea scallops, the halibut special, and a slice of blueberry cake from nearby East Hampton usually sends me home optimistic — and ready to take on the world. But then, so does the clam chowder, shaved kale and Brussels sprout salad, Paella with fresh shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, chorizo, and chicken on saffron rice, the 964 gin and tonic (with the house made tonic), and the Key Lime pie.
964 Farmington Ave., West Hartford,

Ruth's Chris Steak House - In an era where steakhouses are not considered trendy, Ruth’s Chris continues to be incredibly popular, delivering its signature prime beef with no frills — just a confident aplomb that comes from years of being the best in this business. And that’s to say nothing of 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. And it’s not a trend. It’s a talent.
2513 Berlin Tpke., Newington,


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Bombay Olive - While I love the service here — immediate and unwaveringly attentive, it’s the food that’s got me hooked. 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, and it all has the spicy kick I expect (and look forward to). And there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet every day.
450 S. Main St., West Hartford,

Cheesecake Factory - I’m not sure why they call this place a factory, when it looks more like the lobby of an international hotel. The spunky staff is old-age friendly. (The bar server thought I was her father and I liked that.) And 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. But frankly, I’d be happy with just about any one of their 37 different cheesecakes. Because cheesecake rocks.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 — and when I do, I enjoy ordering from this wonderful Peruvian restaurant. That said, dining in at this welcoming, colorful little spot is even better. To start, I opt for the 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. A glass of chicha morada followed by wine is perfect. And the desserts are so beautiful I often hesitate to eat them.
162 Shield St., West Hartford,

Effie's Place - This place is comfort food heaven. There 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. But if lunch rolls around and you’re hungry, try the Spinach Apple Salad, a Triple Decker Club — or Build Your Own Burger. My dinner favorites are a meatloaf (from the Just Like Mom’s section), maybe the Liver and onions, or the Baked Stuffed Shrimp.
91 Park Rd., West Hartford

Fernwood Restaurant - Call it old-fashioned. Or simply retro. Either way, this place serves good food. I always sneak in 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. And when I’ve had a few minutes to unwind, I have a little pea soup and clam chowder — both excellent, before moving on to the fisherman’s special with fries and coleslaw or some Veal Parmagiana. The apple pie is one of the best I’ve ever had — though 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,

Top 10 WinnerShish Kebab House of Afghanistan - I met Najia on a trip to Kabul — and I still have visions of her selling those beautiful rugs and spices on Chicken Street. Indeed, déjà vu strikes whenever I see her same radiant smile in the face of one of the young waitresses who offer me a drink at this authentic Afghan restaurant. Understandably, I always start with the house infused vodka drinks, such as the Persian Princess or Blue Monk. Their pea soup is thick and rich. The sautéed catfish is fragrant with spices. And even though I always seem to find myself missing Najia, SKHA pleases my taste buds — and soothes my spirit. Simply put, I love the drinks, the food, the people — and occasionally a little Hookah.
36 LaSalle Rd., West Hartford Center

The Corner Pug - Why am I not surprised that this place was voted Best Pub for the 11th straight year by Hartford Magazine readers? Just thinking of going there brightens my mood. And not just because I love the name (though I do) but because The Corner Pug lives up to its claim of serving up honest, hearty pub grub. Everything is just the way pub fare should be, with just the right kind of old style pub décor — including a lot of Pug pictures. I mostly have the Shepherd’s Pie with a Sea Hag or two. But it’s hard to pass up their great meatloaf, the Yankee Pot Roast, a good hefty Reuben, or the Ribeye steak — and sooner than later, I intend to try the Irish Nacho Burger. I always have a good time here.
1046 New Britain Ave, West Hartford,

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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, which usually feature local produce. Sip the wine. And eat slowly, savoring each bite. And don’t ever forget the complimentary lemon ice. It’s good. Just 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,

Luna Pizza - 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

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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. 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 could 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 - According to The Inside Diner, 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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