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.
It?s considered normal for a restaurant to enter a float or banner in a town parade, but in general, these contributions are all made by humans. Corner Pug breaks this tradition each year during West Hartford?s Park Road Parade, gathering local pugs to march down the street with their owners, each pup dressed to the nines in an attempt to win an award for best costume or most flattering hemline.
This annual spectacle is in keeping with the whimsy that surrounds the pub all year long. Framed photos of pugs brought in by devoted owners line the walls to form a canine shrine, and these pups peer enviously at the endless line-up of thick burgers, organic strip steaks, and English pub classics that parade to tables. In between sips of 20-ounce draft beers, visitors should keep their eyes peeled for sightings of Corner Pug?s mascot?Mac, the pug?whose likeness graces everything from the menu to T-shirts, mugs, and bottles of housemade dressing.
Despite the pub?s jocular ambiance, the kitchen staff takes its job seriously?albeit with a wink and a nod, reportedly employing a macaroni technician to make sure each noodle is standing upright. But Corner Pug?s attention to detail (they even serve the fish ?n? chips on London newspaper print) has paid off, earning the eatery a perennial spot on the Hartford Advocate?s Best-Of list.
Craft beers and a list of premium whiskeys. Football, both American and international. Plates of shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and beer-braised corned beef. Though McLadden's asserts its Irish roots in a number of visible ways, the gastropub and whiskey bar also offers a unique craft-beer experience. Ales, stouts, and lagers lace many of the dishes that sail to tables in the pub, which guests can consume in comfortable, laid-back confines.