Sunday, December 7, 2008

West Hartford Restaurant Round-Up: Local Favorites

Been a bit since my last mouth-watering, taste bud-snapping, heart-racing list of local eatery reviews, so I figured I should get another one started. This time, we're focusing on local favorites, places recommended by new acquaintances in the area.

I'm going to keep it simple this time, so no floating Vin Diesel heads for scores. Instead, we're going to go Great, Good, and Meh.

Great

Grants Restaurant and Bar - 977 Farmington Avenue, West Hartford - Grant's has been on my list of "places to try" since first moving to West Hartford. However, it being a tad pricey, the Professor and I decided to postpone our visit until Restaurant Week. Needless to say, it was well worth the wait. Dishes were all served very elegantly. Entrees were superb. Scallops were seared to perfection, plump and juicy. Short ribs were moist and tender, with just enough sweetness. Sides all complimented their entrees and were attended to with obvious care. 

Starter salads were well portioned and not overly-dressed. Desserts, apple crisp and peanut butter pie, pleased the taste buds and incorporated local fruit.

The only drawback to Grant's is, sadly, the decor. Faux-Roman columns sit in the middle of the dining area, creating an artificial space that just feels a little odd. It certainly wasn't what I expected, and didn't convey the warmth that the cuisine encouraged.

Good

The Corner Pug - 1046 New Britain Avenue, West Hartford - This has been the one place I've been urged to visit more than any other. So, it must hold a near and dear place in many local hearts. And, it must also mean it has great food, right?

Well, mostly. I've actually been here a couple of times now and have had two wildly different dining experiences. The first did not leave me impressed and a bit disappointed. The second not only made up for those disappointments, but made me wonder if I had somehow stumbled into a different restaurant on my first visit.

When dining at the Pug, it seems that the lounge room is the place to sit. Cozy, intimate, and covered with framed photos of tiny dogs, one instantly feels comfortable in this area. It's fun, it's hip, and it provides great people-watching and plate-surveying. Comparatively, the dining room section is far more lifeless and really feels like a different establishment. The energy doesn't trickle into this room, and that lack really affects the dining experience.

Food-wise, the burgers at the Pug are absolutely amazing. Cooked to order, where pink actually IS pink, one can't go wrong with any of these choices. Add in the fact that any burger can also be made with chicken, and the average carnivore is set for a very long time. These may have been the best burgers I've had since moving to West Hartford, and that says a lot, since we have both Plan B and The Counter in town. Outside of burgers, starters like the Kettle Chips and Beer Batter Onion Rings are golden goodness. However, when I ordered the meatloaf as my entree during my first visit, I was left wondering why it was considered one of the house specialties.

Park Lane Pizza - 337 Park Road, West Hartford - I've been to Barb's. I've been to Lena's. Both, in their own way, make a decent slice of pizza. But, when it comes to old-school, Greek-style pies, I can't say enough about Park Lane Pizza. One look at the place tells you what to expect: traditional, straight-up, without too many bells and whistles. It isn't Italian, thin crust pizza. It isn't gourmet pizza. And, it isn't trying to be. 

Add in the fact that the place makes some tasty grinders AND has working tableside jukeboxes, and you have a nostalgic winner.

Meh

Tapas Mediterranean Cafe - Multiple Locations: West Hartford, Bloomfield, Hartford - I visited the Bloomfield location of Tapas and was underwhelmed by the food I was served. To begin, I didn't realize Tapas' definition of what a "tapas" was until I was presented a menu. I was expecting some sort of Spanish tapas, which, to me, has always meant small portions of various meats, seafood, and cheeses. But, at Tapas, the plates in question are essentially pizzas. It's as if they have taken the "origin story" of the dish (bread used to cover wine glasses) far too seriously and turned it into generic food. Though many of the options seemed appetizing (I ended up with the Basque: sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, mushooms, and ricotta), when they end up baked onto a pita, they lose most of their appeal. Sorry, but these tapas aren't tapas.

Decor at the Bloomfield location was very nice, however. And, our waitress that evening was dutiful and attentive. Too bad the food wasn't what I had expected. I have not been back for a second go-around to Tapas, but, from what I hear, the Greek dishes are supposed to be good. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stay away from the tapas at Tapas. I'm not a fan of the Bloomfield location... I feel like the food is better at the Elmwood location.

Emily said...

I love Tapas on Ann. The Greek salad is the best, especially with chicken... I agree that their "tapas" aren't what you would expect, but their Greek dishes are definitely good.

Steve said...

Yeah, man, stick with the Tapas in Elmwood - it's just better somehow. And you are right, those little tapas pizza things kinda suck... the gyros are great though.

Anonymous said...

tapas is so unauthentic. The tapas are on Boboli bread. What is that all about? The desserts are frozen. The Gyros are fake too. Stay away