As carrot cake rises in the oven, its sweet scent wafts from the kitchen to mingle with Louis Armstrong’s timeless trumpet trickling from the dining room's speakers, enveloping Mike's Tortoise & Hare Cafe & Catering in a homelike feel. The eatery's namesake Mike Clawson—a Connecticut transplant from North Carolina—strolls past the dining room’s fireplace on nights like this, greeting his crews of regulars and stopping off to introduce himself to new faces. Mike opened his restaurant in January 2011 to bring the slow-cooked tastes of his beloved home state to locals. The only thing that makes him happier than whipping up soul-warming plates of southern comfort food is the personal connections he makes with patrons who come in each day to tuck into hearty plates of his catfish, collard greens, and other family recipes. His passion for food began early in the kitchens of his grandmothers, whose recipes grace all 12 of the café's mouthwatering desserts, from rich banana pudding to a decadent chocolate layer cake. Since the café is BYOB, Mike encourages patrons to bring along a favorite brew or chocolate fountain to accompany their meals, and invites all to attend his increasingly popular wine dinners starring quaffs of locally made wines.
Serving the Hartford area with American bistro cuisine, Michael Christophers spruces up standard dishes with stylish preparations and singular sets of flavors. Thrill taste buds and tongues with starters such as grilled cheese sliders ($6.95), chicken parmesan spring rolls ($8.95), or loaded garlic bread, a savory strongman of a plate that hefts artichoke hearts, tomatoes, garlic butter, and four types of cheese with ease ($5.95). Then sink teeth into mouthwatering sandwich-styled main courses, such as the signature Michael Christophers burger topped with crispy onions and Vermont cheddar cheese ($9.95), and the genoa and pepperoni-stuffed grilled hot Italian ($9.95). Other platters include Cajun-spiced blackened salmon, expertly backfloating amidst watermelon salsa ($18.95). Fridays bring an all-you-can-eat fish fry, served with a choice of fries, baked potato, or cole slaw ($15; available during Lent). The bistro also plays home to a full-service bar stirring up a large selection of cocktails, and frequently hosts events, such as beer-paired dinners and readings of Shakespeare’s surf 'n' turf themed sonnets.
Specializing in American Continental and Italian cuisine, chef Oscar Monterroso immerses taste buds into gourmet meals packed with emerging trends and flavors. With nearly a decade of restaurant experience tucked into his apron, Chef Oscar has doled out dishes across the United States. Today, having planted his fork-emblem flag on the East Coast, he showcases his talents by travelling to clients' homes and preparing three- to five-course gourmet meals. Chef Oscar also leads interactive dinner parties, enabling groups of students to chop, dice, and whisk their way to becoming better cooks.
Within Hana Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar, groups can watch hibachi chefs add dollops of teriyaki sauce to chicken and veggies on the grill in front of them. As flames rise over the tableside grill, the air fills with meaty aromas and applause from diners watching chefs’ virtuoso performances. Dishes include crispy duck with chili sauce, traditional udon noodles, and 11 house-specialty rolls filled with eel, lobster, and other ingredients sourced from the ocean's teriyaki-filled depths.
True to its name, San Gennaro Wood Fired Brick Oven Pizza & Ristorante churns out crispy, bubbly, Old World–style pies from a brick-lined, wood-fired kiln. Guests gather at wraparound communal benches surrounded by rustic, bare-brick walls, watching chefs toss disks of dough high into the air and cover pizzas in Italian tomatoes, chicken, and shaved prosciutto. Like the Roman empire, San Gennaro's culinary authority extends beyond Italy. Diners can opt for chicken wings with inventive sauces such as buffalo blue, a blend of buffalo sauce and blue cheese.
The chefs and wine experts of 1249 Wine Bar teamed up to present a modern take on the age-old European concept of gathering around a table of good food and drinking great wine. The result was a bistro-style dinner menu that catalogs such upscale cuisine as duck confit and seared, tuna-grade yellowfin tuna. The wine list allows visitors to swill a taste of many varietals before ordering a glass, bottle, or vineyard. Large windows surround the dark, wooden dining room, and an ample outdoor patio offers diners the option of eating al-fresco during warmer months.