12 Best Restaurants in Bristol, Connecticut (Updated July 2024)

Bristol is a small city in Hartford County, Connecticut with a population of around 60,000 residents. Though not a huge metropolitan area, Bristol has developed a thriving foodie scene over the past decade, with chef-driven restaurants, hip cafés, and cozy neighborhood eateries attracting visitors and locals alike.

From contemporary American cuisine to classic Italian joints to tasty Latino spots, Bristol offers diverse and delicious dining options to suit all tastes and budgets. The restaurants take advantage of fresh ingredients from local farms and purveyors, crafting creative dishes and artisanal specialties you’d expect to find in the dining meccas of New York or Boston.

So whether you’re a Bristol native or just passing through, make sure to check out these 12 best restaurants that capture the flavors, ingredients and culinary talent that this charming Connecticut city has to offer.

The Rockwell Tavern – Contemporary American Cuisine

If you ask Bristol locals to name the city’s top restaurant for elevated dining, most would point to The Rockwell Tavern without hesitation. Located downtown in a impeccably restored historic building, the kitchen churns out contemporary American cuisine focusing on seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients.

Start your meal with the goat cheese bruschetta with prosciutto and fig jam or pan-roasted Cajun scallops with corn and bacon succotash.

For mains, popular options include the coffee chili-rubbed filet mignon with blue cheese potatoes gratin or the parmesan crusted chicken served with truffle mac and cheese. Don’t forget to save room for homemade desserts like the warm vanilla bean creme brûlée or salted chocolate caramel tart. With its creative cuisine, charming atmosphere and top-notch service, it’s no surprise The Rockwell Tavern tops many best restaurant lists.

Pizzetta – Authentic Neapolitan Pizza

For authentic Neapolitan pizza made from scratch in a wood-burning oven, Pizzetta serves the best pie in town. Owned by two childhood friends from Naples, the casual but cozy pizzeria imports Caputo “00” flour from Italy to craft their slightly charred and perfectly chewy pizzas by the pie or by the slice.

Best sellers include the Margherita made with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and basil. Meat lovers flock to the Quattro Carni with spicy soppressata, prosciutto, sausage and pepperoni or try a pie topped with burrata cheese for an extra creamy bite.

Pizzetta also offers panuozzos, panini-like sandwiches pressed and filled with pizza toppings. Wash it all down with a Moretti beer or a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. With hearty portions and reasonable prices, this Neapolitan pizzeria should be on every food lovers must-try list.

Tarragon – French Bistro Cuisine

Housed in a charming Victorian building along Bristol’s Restaurant Row, Tarragon brings a taste of provincial France to Connecticut. Veteran Chef Jean-Pierre Nespoli spent years cooking in Lyon, France which influences his from-scratch French bistro classics using modern techniques and seasonal ingredients. Start with crisp chilled white asparagus drizzled with hollandaise or rich French onion soup topped with gruyere cheese.

For main plates, favorites include steak frites topped with bearnaise and crispy pommes frites, cassoulet made with confit duck leg, roasted chicken topped with mustard tarragon jus and mushroom risotto baked with truffle cheese. Save room for the Grand Marnier souffle or chocolate pot de creme to end your meal on the sweetest note.

The cozy two-story dining room filled with fresh flowers makes Tarragon feel like you’ve been transported straight to a romantic French cafe. For one of the best and most authentic French dining experiences in the city, make a reservation at Tarragon.

Da Legna – Hip Italian Kitchen + Pizzeria

For a high-energy ambiance paired with contemporary Italian cuisine and craft cocktails, check out Da Legna along Bristol’s bustling Downtown District. The hip dining room decorated with wooden pizza peels has communal and full-service seating where guests can watch pizzaiolos stretching and cooking pizzas in the beautiful wood-fired oven as flames roar.

Tradition meets innovation on Da Legna’s menu which features items like meat and cheese boards, Caesars salads, short rib ravioli, chicken parm, and cacio e pepe alongside creative wood-fired pies like the Breakfast Pizza with bacon, potatoes, scrambled eggs and cheddar or the Shishito Pepper Pizza with garlic, red chilis, lemon and burrata. Save room for Nutella pizza for dessert and pair your meal with beer on draft or bottles of Italian wine. The laid-back but lively ambiance makes Da Legna a great dining spot to share thin-crust pizzas and contemporary takes on Italian comfort food for a fun night out.

Bleu Squid Bistro – Fresh Seafood Spot

For the freshest seafood in downtown Bristol, locals swear by Bleu Squid Bistro. The nautically-themed restaurant owned by Chef Eduardo Nevarez serves coastal cuisine featuring the day’s catches from regional fisheries and shellfish purveyors.

Dietary restrictions are happily accommodated but for the full experience, opt for the Chef Eduardo’s Tasting Menu to sample the kitchen’s favorites like Rhode Island-style calamari, sea scallops with cauliflower puree, miso glazed salmon and lobster mac and cheese.

Not in the mood for surf? Turf options like filet mignon with truffle butter also dazzle thanks to Chef Eduardo’s culinary prowess. Designed to emulate the intimacy of dining on a friend’s boat, Bleu Squid Bistro offers a relaxed and funky fine dining experience unique to Bristol. With its dedication to dish provenance and chef-driven execution, this seafood-centric spot floats to the top of many best restaurant lists.

Umami Asian Bistro – Contemporary Pan-Asian Flavors

Asian cuisine reaches new heights at Umami Asian Bistro where traditional Japanese, Chinese and Thai staples get modern makeovers. The contemporary space dotted with colorful origami folds focuses on shared plates like short rib potstickers, Peking duck buns, sweet and spicy calamari and heavenly duck fried rice cooked in beer, ginger and garlic.

Yet customization is happily accommodated—vegan, gluten free or just no cilantro—so all food lovers can appreciate Umami’s bold Asian-fusion flavors. Don’t miss cocktails which artfully incorporate ingredients like lemongrass, cucumber and ginger along with Japanese whiskey, Chinese baijiu liquor and Thai rum. With a welcoming staff eager to guide guests through the innovative menu, Umami Asian Bistro expands horizons for Bristol diners through its seamless blend of classic and cutting-edge Pan-Asian cuisine.

Zaragoza Mexican Kitchen + Bar – Vibrant Latin Flavors

For vibrant and zesty Latin cuisine, Zaragoza Mexican Kitchen + Bar consistently impresses Bristol diners with its traditional dishes prepared with contemporary flair. You’ll find all the classics like tacos al pastor, carne asada and mole poblano chicken alongside more adventurous bites like Mexican street corn risotto, carne asada fries piled high with guacamole and queso fresco or achiote shrimp tacos topped with avocado salsa.

To accompany the bold and complex flavors, Zaragoza offers over 100 tequilas which pairs perfectly with another house specialty—table-side guacamole, freshly made right at your table complete with hand-ground molcajetes and tortilla chips warm from the fryer. The colorful, high-energy space makes Zaragoza a local favorite for big groups and celebrations where guests can continue the fiesta over pitchers of margaritas rimmed with hibiscus and salted with roasted worms. ¡Salud!

The Federal – Upscale Steakhouse

Carnivores unanimously agree that the best steak in Bristol comes from The Federal. Often listed among the best steakhouses in Connecticut, the clubby and masculine restaurant serves premium hand-cut beef alongside an extensive list of fine wines and craft cocktails. USDA Prime steaks arrive expertly cooked— choose your cut (filet mignon, New York strip, ribeye, porterhouse) size and temperature preparation which is precisely monitored thanks to an infrared broiler system.

While steaks are undoubtedly the star attraction, seafood like lobster tail and sides like creamed spinach, truffle mac and cheese and au gratin potatoes give red meat enthusiasts delicious, decadent accompaniments. Dim lighting, dark leather and touches of chrome and wood make the vibe sophisticated yet relaxed—jackets are optional but reservations strongly recommended at this popular local steakhouse beloved for special occasions and corporate dinners. Carnivorous cravings find their happy place at The Federal.

Republic at the Linden – Gastropub Fare

For gastropub fare paired with local craft beers on tap, Republic at the Linden sates appetites with quality elevated versions of classic bar food. Wings are brined then fried to crispy perfection and drenched in flavors like ginger hoisin BBQ or Jamaican jerk sauce. Handmade pretzel sticks arrive airy on the inside yet crispy outside thanks to the lye-dipping process while dips like smoked gouda fondue take these salty bites to new levels.

Even veggies shine thanks to preparations like shishito peppers blistered with lemon and sea salt or kale and quinoa salad topped with green goddess dressing, avocado and sunflower seeds for extra crunch. Locally-made sausages, tacos, flatbreads and mini desserts round out the innovative menu best enjoyed on the dog-friendly patio during warmer months. With its laid-back atmosphere and dedication to bold flavors, Republic at the Linden brings a youthful and craveable energy to Bristol’s bar dining scene.

Sunset Grille – New American Comfort Food

Ask locals for their go-to spot for unfussy but tasty American comfort food and most will point you towards Sunset Grille. Family-owned for over 35 years, the unassuming restaurant serves generous portions of classics like pot roast, chicken cordon bleu, burgers and fries alongside daily seafood specials and Americanized riffs on Mexican and Italian cuisine—all at wallet-friendly prices.

Diners can sidle up to the old-school U-shaped counter on squeaky red stools for an old timey diner vibe or slide into vinyl booths made cozy with crocheted blankets. Don’t skip dessert like the massive mudpie overflowing with fudge and Oreo crumbles and coated in more chocolate fudge. With its vintage atmosphere and stick-to-your-ribs cooking, Sunset Grille offers big flavors without big city price tags.

Flavours of India – Authentic Indian Cuisine

For authentic Indian flavors served with small town charm, Flavours of India consistently earns high praise from Bristol diners. Owned by Shilpi Singh, guests enjoy Northern Indian specialties like crispy samosas, rich curries and fragrant biryani rice along with gluten-free and vegan options—all benefiting from the extensive use of spices and made completely from scratch.

Local produce makes appearances in dishes like saag paneer where creamy spinach pairs beautifully with soft cubes of housemade cheese.

Traditional desserts like sweet rose milk balls called gulab jamun or versions of rice pudding infused with cardamom and raisins end meals on the perfect sweet note. Flavours of India brings diners true Indian home cooking made with care by friendly staff happy to guide guests through this rich and complex cuisine. Expect big flavors—but leave the hot spices to your tolerance level so the complex layers of these fragrant dishes can shine.

Eli’s Tavern – Gourmet Brick Oven Pizzeria

With acclaimed pie slinger Billy Grant manning the kitchen, Eli’s Tavern has perfected the elusive combination of crisp, chewy and slightly charred crust with imaginative and craveable gourmet toppings cooked in a hickory wood-fired brick oven. Build your own pie or opt for signature specialty pies to sample Billy’s latest inspired flavor combinations like The Greek with spinach, feta, kalamata olives, red onion and tzatziki drizzle or The Angeelo loaded up with prosciutto, arugula, shaved parmesan and white truffle oil.

Non pizza eaters find plenty of shareable starters, fresh salads and oven-baked pastas made from scratch to satisfy. A local landmark for over 40 years, Eli’s maintains an old school charm and welcoming atmosphere matched by its dedication to impeccable service—the Grant family circulates the bustling dining room to personally ensure diners leave happy, well-fed and eagar to return. For friendly neighborhood vibes paired with some of the best gourmet brick oven pizza around, Eli’s Tavern is a must-visit Bristol restaurant.


From New American cuisine focusing on seasonal ingredients to classic Italian comforts, contemporary Asian flavors to authentic Indian curries, the Bristol dining scene offers eclectic and tempting options for food lovers. Longtime spots focus on heritage recipes and warm hospitality while recent additions bring acclaimed chefs and hip dining concepts to this charming Connecticut town.

So next time your travels take you to Bristol or you find yourself looking for restaurants beyond the typical national chains, consider discovering these 12 best eateries showcasing the ingredients, talent and flavors that make dining in Bristol such an appetizing experience. Your tastebuds with thank you—just be sure to bring your appetite!

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