The Hidden Still is "Connecticut's first restaurant and moonshine bar," its staff says. It's a bold claim, but even fanatic mixologists would be hard-pressed to name another bar with more than 10 moonshine varietals on its shelves. Culled from across the nation, and made from genuine moon rocks' first pressings, these moonshines are savored neat, infused in-house, and poured into signature cocktails. Of course, many diners come for the food. Executive chef Sean Martin offers polished interpretations of pub classics, such as flatbread pulled-pork sandwiches and fish tacos.
The 32 taps give Pub 32 its name, with the stocky pint shape of the Guinness tap and the crimson oval of Stella Artois set off against the backlit rows of bottle. The rotating selection of brews has included options from Magic Hat, Magners, Opa Opa, and Dogfish Head. Seven high-definition televisions blast sporting events such as Monday-night football, UConn games, and beard-growing contests. During events, karaoke singers launch the strains of pop anthems up toward the caramel-hued whorls of the wooden ceiling. During open-mic nights, live music fills the bar with the sounds of jangling guitars.
Entertainment is important in Hartford Road Cafe. Weekly events include jazz open-mic nights on Sundays, trivia on Tuesdays, and performances from local bands on Thursdays and Fridays. To accompany these feasts for the ears, the caf? offers a full menu of casual American cuisine, which includes bacon-wrapped scallops baked in a sherry-maple-butter sauce and pesto-topped salmon served over seasoned risotto and asparagus.
Inspired by the "North of Little Italy" neighborhood of Manhattan?which is lined with quaint and authentic family-owned restaurants?Nolita Ristorante serves up classic Italian cuisine alongside an extensive craft beer selection at a contemporary bar, featuring 24 taps and a myriad of specialty cocktails. The impressive menu lists off a plethora of dishes, each composed with a nod toward sustainability, such as fresh produce and meats that are locally sourced whenever possible. Tender shrimp ravioli are tossed in a saffron cream sauce, while a bone-in pork chop is plated alongside a crispy polenta cake and sweet grilled peaches.
The chefs at Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina aim to cook authentic Mexican dishes unaltered by any Tex-Mex influence. Their recipes reach back generations within the owners' family and several miles into their underground tortilla vaults. Spanish-speaking servers deliver simple combinations of protein or veggies, topped with vibrant sauces: carne asada steak dressed in green pepper and guacamole, tender pork loin in tomatillo sauce, chicken in chocolate mole. The chefs' adherence to tradition doesn't preclude experimentation. Case in point: the dessert burrito, a lightly fried tortilla wrapped around apple-cinnamon or creamy cheesecake filling.
Both the menu and the decor change slightly from location to location?a painting of Mexico here, a tiled mosaic there. Each one, however, has a full bar where bartenders mix margaritas and flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports overhead.
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.