Monday, October 6, 2008

West Hartford restaurant round-up: fast and furious edition

For the few readers wondering, the answer is "no." I haven't visited The Corner Pug yet, even though it won the inaugural "where should Ben eat next?" poll on this very site. This is not due to a lack of effort, I assure you. In fact, I tried to go about a week ago, in the rain, but couldn't find parking. And, since I am made of sugar, walking in the rain causes me to melt. But, I will visit the Pug. Soon. I promise.

Now that that's out of the way, I figured I'd devote this round-up to quick meal establishments and take-out. Thus, the "fast and furious" title. And, for today's scorekeeping duties, we'll be using floating Vin Diesel heads. 

Two areas will be covered today: Park Road/Street and Blue Back Square.

Okay, let's get started.

BLUE BACK SQUARE

Moe's Southwest Grill - 54 Memorial Rd. West Hartford, CT - For a quick meal, Moe's is one of the few choices in the Square. The chorus of "Welcome to Moe's!" that greets patrons as they enter is nice, but can be annoying as one sits and eats, especially when it's shouted each time the door opens, even when people are leaving the restaurant. 

Besides the noise, the food is pretty good. Primarily a burrito joint, the quality of one's meal really depends on who is preparing it behind the counter, as some employees seem to care more than others when it comes to equal ingredient distribution. This means that one is often left wondering if there is any sour cream in their burrito right up to the point when it explodes into their mouth in one globby, sour bite. 

Burritos come with free tortilla chips, though the chips are kind of bland. There is also a salsa station that offers plenty of dipping options.

Overall, for a burrito place, Moe's does a decent job. They don't offer anything you haven't found in a burrito before, but what they lack in originality, they make up in portion and decent ingredients. Moe's gets 2 1/2 Vins (out of 4):
The Counter Custom Built Burgers - 50 Memorial Rd. West Hartford, CT - Literally next door to Moe's stands The Counter. This is the newest addition to BBS, having now only been in operation about three weeks. Not as "fast" an establishment as Moe's, The Counter is really a restaurant one needs to visit when they have more than 15 minutes for lunch. That being said, it still sells itself as a kind of hip diner, and food is delivered very quickly to patrons.

The gimmick at The Counter is their "build your own burger" option, which allows one to choose everything from patty size to cheese and toppings, sometimes to dizzying results. And, one really nice thing is that the burgers come cooked medium unless otherwise requested (something Plan B still needs to work on).

The burger I had was tasty and juicy. The beef had a nice flavor and the patty wasn't a thin hockey puck. All of the ingredients were fresh, as well, from the lettuce medley to the tomato. The french fries that I ordered were pretty standard shoestrings, but they were crisp and I didn't find a soggy stick in the bunch.

Plan B is still a better option for a burger in town, but The Counter offers a bit of a quicker twist on a similar formula of mouth-watering, interesting burgers. The Counter gets 3 Vins: 
Au Bon Pain - 51 Isham St. West Hartford, CT - I don't like Au Bon Pain. Never have. To me, Au Bon Pain is the kind of place that thinks it is "better" than other fast food places. And, because it is "better," it charges you more for less. I always got an elitist vibe from the place, which actually makes it a good fit for BBS. I don't really have anything else to say about this place. If you like Au Bon Pain, then this one is exactly like every other one you've ever been to.

PARK ROAD/STREET

Quaker Diner - 319 Park Rd. West Hartford, CT - A West Hartford institution, the Quaker Diner is pretty much exactly what a diner should be: simple, friendly, inexpensive, and tasty. It's a place where you can spot the regulars very easily. And there are a lot of regulars.

Offering basic diner "greasy spoon" fare, the Quaker doesn't go out too far on any culinary limbs, but what they make are good, simple, comfort meals. This spot gets 3 Vins:
Barb's Pizza - 353 Park Rd. West Hartford, CT
Lena's Pizza - 2053 Park St. Hartford, CT
In the mood for thin crust pizza? Don't mind dropping a bit of money? Then head on over to Barb's for some take-out. Want some better pizza? Then head on over the border to Lena's.

Overall, the crust at Barb's is good, but not great. I love thin crust, but the dough here isn't very special, which is disappointing. Plus, the cost of a pie is a little steep. I don't want to bash the place completely, though, as the pizzas I've had from Barb's were enjoyable. They just looked better than they tasted.

The pizza from Lena's, on the other hand, both looked AND tasted great. Though I've heard from some locals that the quality of the pies have diminished at Lena's over the past years, the small amount of food that I've had from the restaurant was quite good. Generous toppings, chewy-crunchy crust, and delicious sauce make for a terrific pizza, and Lena's serves on all fronts.

Barb's gets 2 1/2 Vins. And Lena's gets 3:

A.C. Petersen Farms - 240 Park Rd. West Hartford, CT - I really want to like this place. I really do. The service is great. The atmosphere is fun and retro (it reminded me of what Friendly's was before it went insane in the early 90s). And the place makes their own ice cream.

But, now having been to A.C. Petersen's twice, I just can't recommend it for a meal. There really isn't anything here that you can't find at another lunch joint, and probably prepared a little better. Everything is pretty standard, deep-fried fare, though the club sandwich wasn't bad. It just feels like you're eating boxed, frozen foods. 

I'll go back to A.C. Petersen for dessert, but I'll skip the meal. Sadly, this restaurant only gets 2 Vins:

Agree with me? Disagree? Let me know. Leave a comment.

5 comments:

AmyBergquist said...

Completely agree on A.C. Petersen. We go there about once a month for ice cream. We've been for food twice. It was just average, to say the least. I want it to be better, it just isn't.

I also feel the same way about the Gold Roc diner. We've been there a few times. The food is just "eh." And they serve crinkly fries. Not a big fan of the crinkles.

Have you found a favorite Indian restaurant yet? We like India Oven.

Ben said...

Haven't found an Indian place quite yet, though I do see India Oven often while out on runs.

whforums said...

Gold Roc is my comfort food. I perhaps too often need comfort!

Think your review of Moe's is right on. It's not that it's not good, it's just that, after trying it, I've never felt compelled to return.

Anonymous said...

Breakfast at ACP is great with many choices. And, the food for other meals is good too. It's not "fine dining" with decorated plates or foreign food - it's good ol' American food. An institution for many years. Time to start supporting the local businesses rather than the chains like Cheesecake Factory and Moes. It's the locals that help pay for a safe prom and the little league team.

Ben said...

You lost me there, Anonymous. I'm not sure where you got the Cheesecake Factory from, but I agree that there are too many local places to eat to bother wasting time and money at most of the chain restaurants around town.