Across from the train station, Center Station Pub & Grill’s sizzling sandwiches, burgers, and wings call to the hungry stomachs of travelers and locals alike. Berlin’s Biggest Burger weighs down the menu with its melted american cheese, sautéed onions, and two half-pound patties that, when smacked together, have led many a lifeguard to close the pool due to thunder. The cooks also ladle nine different sauces over signature wings, sling chicken-parm grinders, and bedeck homemade tortilla chips in nacho cheese. Under new management since November 2010, the classic pub fare pairs nicely with the 15 microbrews on tap, poured in a restaurant that serves as an exciting gathering place for Berlin residents. Center Station schedules karaoke on Fridays and bands to perform on weekends, filling the gaps in live entertainment with an in-house pool table, video games, and dartboards.
Bluto's Bar and Grill's flame masters sizzle up a menu brimming with hearty appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, and salads within an activity-abundant nosh haven. Avoid gabbing about presidential candidates at the dinner table and instead argue about the electability of thin-crust pizza toppings, such as roasted red pepper, meatball, mushroom, or the inarticulate yet photogenic eggplant ($12.99 for a small with 4 toppings). Or create your own 100% Angus beef burger ($8.99 for a half pound), which flaunts your choice of cheese and sauce—such as honey mustard, garlic parmesan, or teriyaki— and nestles up to a side of sweet-potato fries. Cooks submerge bare or breaded chicken wings ($9.95 for 12) into a dunk tank of teriyaki, garlic parmesan, honey mustard, or barbecue before setting them free to roam the esophageal plains.
At City Steam Brewery Cafe, the owners concoct some of the area’s finest beers, scoring “best of” awards from Hartford magazine and Connecticut Magazine. They also brew potent batches of laughter inside their 200-seat comedy show-room theater. Ensconced in the historic Brown Thomson and Co. building, which was the state’s largest department store in 1877, Brew Ha Ha once was known as the Last Laugh Comedy Club, where fledgling unknowns such as Ray Romano and Kevin James vied for laughs in the smoky rathskeller of a restaurant.
Reborn in 1997 under a new moniker, the standup speakeasy keeps its calendar packed with nationally touring comics and local joke slingers. During shows, guests can toast with mugs of handcrafted beer and make edible sculptures of their favorite comedian using menu’s custom burgers, pizzas, and omelets.
Thirty high-definition TVs airing sports games make Black Bear Saloon a destination for fans, who fuel up for fist pumps with a menu of American pub favorites. Beef, chicken, and salmon sliders, paired with crispy onion rings, are a pintsize alternative to burgers topped with a selection of gourmet ingredients such as roasted red peppers or avocado. Homemade marinara crowns flatbread pizzas and also serves as a sauce in which to slam-dunk deep-fried nuggets of mac 'n' cheese.
Hosted events are still another reason to visit: on Tuesday nights, the voices of karaoke singers wash over the bar's exposed-brick walls, and Wednesday trivia challenges guests to unearth factoids from their cerebral nooks and crannies. On the weekends, live DJs spin records as guests tap toes and shout requests for favorite Raffi songs from the pub's deep-brown booths.
Step into Angry Bull Saloon, and you might just start seeing red?literally. Besides its exposed brick walls, the country-themed establishment is often aglow in atmospheric red lighting, and a red plastic bull's head overlooks the bar. Luckily, the bull's stern demeanor doesn't spill over into the kitchen, where a dedicated culinary team crafts a menu of pub favorites. They top beer-battered-whitefish tacos with carrot slaw and avocado pur?e, and they complement homemade mac-and-cheese bites with bacon aioli.
As chefs man the griddle until 1 a.m. nightly, Angry Bull's bartenders keep brews flowing in both draft and bottle form. They even mix cocktails with Western inspirations such as the Smoking Bull, a spicy blend of tequila, orange juice, and hibiscus syrup.
The Russian Lady's two locations, one in Hartford and one in New Haven, straddle the line between tradition and modernity. In the midst of Victorian wall sconces, orthodox church windows, heavy wooden doors, and neoclassical gilded gratings, guests dance to live music under the glow of neon lights. At both locations, a stone sculpture of Catherine the Great watches over the entrance and checks IDs as revelers peruse an extensive menu of red wines, single-malt scotches, and dozens of variations on a Russian staple: vodka. At the New Haven outpost, small plates from an internationally inspired tapas menu are paired with 40 draft beers, including eight local Connecticut brews.