12 Best Restaurants in Hartford, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Hartford, Connecticut may be small in size but it packs a powerful punch when it comes to its food scene. Known for its delicious New England cuisine, Hartford offers some of the best dining experiences in Connecticut. From fancy fine dining restaurants to hidden gem eateries serving mouthwatering comfort foods, there is something for every palate and budget.

The growing food culture in the city means new restaurants are constantly popping up, but there are establishments that have stood the test of time and remain popular with both locals as well as those visiting Hartford. Here is a list of 12 such restaurants that you must visit on your next trip to Hartford for a delightful and memorable epicurean experience you’ll want to repeat.

Max Downtown

Type of Cuisine: New American

Standout Dishes: Truffle Fries, Bone-In Ribeye

Max Downtown is often cited as one of the best restaurants in Hartford and once you step inside and glance at their menu, you’ll see why. Known for serving impeccably prepared New American cuisine, some of Max Downtown’s standout dishes include their truffle fries and melt-in-your-mouth bone-in ribeye steaks. Their extensive wine list features over 175 varieties. If you want fine dining in a chic and sophisticated ambiance, Max Downtown is your place.

ON20

Type of Cuisine: French-American Fusion

Standout Dishes: Tuna Tartare, Duck Risotto

For a truly memorable dining experience with unmatched views, head to ON20 located on the 20th floor penthouse of the Hartford Steam Boiler building. Chef Jeffrey Lizotte puts his creative spin on French-American offerings like tuna tartare and duck risotto while you soak in gorgeous views of the city skyline through floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s the perfect spot for a special celebratory meal in Hartford.

Trumbull Kitchen

Type of Cuisine: Farm-to-Table New American

Standout Dishes: Crispy Chicken Thigh, Mac and Cheese

Focusing on serving New American comfort food made from locally-sourced ingredients, Trumbull Kitchen has quickly become a favorite for delicious farm-to-table fare since its opening in 2009. Customer favorites include their crispy chicken thigh and five cheese mac and cheese with caramelized onions. Their ever-changing menu also features many gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Oyster Club

Type of Cuisine: Seafood

Standout Dishes: Lobster Roll, Oyster Sampler

For exceptionally fresh seafood, Hartford locals head to the no-frills Oyster Club near the harbor. Raw bar offerings include lobster rolls overflowing with sweet meat and their mixed oyster sampler platters. Entrees like pan roasted Atlantic cod and diver scallops showcase the day’s catches perfectly. Their tiered raw bar bar area makes a fun spot at which to dine while watching the game.

Carbone’s Ristorante

Type of Cuisine: Italian

Standout Dishes: Veal Parmigiana, Cannoli

Open since 1938, family-owned Carbone’s is an Italian-American institution known for serving Hartford’s most authentic red sauce joint fare like chicken marsala and veal parmigiana. Save room for dessert here. Their giant cannoli filled with sweet ricotta on-site and dipped in pistachios and chocolate chips are legendary. Carbone’s old world charm and wonderful food explain its longevity.

Firebox

Type of Cuisine: Farm-to-Table New American

Standout Dishes: Korean Fried Chicken, House Burger

Focusing on sourcing ingredients from local farmers and food artisans, Firebox serves creative fare showcasing the region’s bounty. Menu standouts include their sweet and spicy Korean fried chicken with house pickles and goat cheese fondue burger loaded with caramelized onions and arugula. Their rustic and homey atmosphere makes lingering over lunch or dinner comfortable.

Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ

Type of Cuisine: Barbecue

Standout Dishes: Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork Sandwich

For finger-licking barbecue in Hartford, Bear’s Smokehouse is the local favorite. Tender smoked brisket, fall-off-the-bone ribs, and hearty pulled pork sandwiches smothered in their signature sauce satisfy any barbecue craving. Sides like chipotle slaw, pit beans, and cornbread round out the quintessential barbecue meal.

Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen

Type of Cuisine: Mediterranean

Standout Dishes: Falafel, Moroccan Chicken

Authentic Mediterranean cuisine shines at Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen where standout dishes include crispy falafel and tender moroccan chicken with couscous. Their menu takes you on an epicurean journey through the flavors of Greece, Lebanon, Morocco, and Egypt with starters like hummus, baba ghanoush and shakshuka sure to delight.

Salute

Type of Cuisine: Italian

Standout Dishes: Hazelnut Gnocchi, Tiramisu

For a more upscale Italian dining experience in downtown Hartford, Salute charms diners with its chic and inviting ambiance. Housemade pastas like hazelnut gnocchi in a brown sage butter sauce shine while wood-fired pizzas, pan seared scallops, and veal osso buco entrees also satisfy. Save room for their picture perfect tiramisu. Salute offers an extensive Italian wine list too.

Agave Grill

Type of Cuisine: Mexican

Standout Dishes: Jalisco Tacos, Skirt Steak Fajitas

With its colorful tiles, festive decor and energetic vibe, walking into Agave Grill is like taking an impromptu trip to Mexico. They serve all the Mexican cuisine favorites from enchiladas and burritos to chimichangas and flautas, prepared authentically. The spit-roasted pork in their Jalisco tacos and sizzling fajitas overflowing with grilled steak and vegetables make for fun and flavorful meals.

Bin 228 Wine Bar

Type of Cuisine: Wine Bar

Standout Dishes: Cheese Board, Panini Sandwiches

For a more casual but still upscale dining and drinking experience, Bin 228 in downtown Hartford offers an extensive wine list along with artisanal cheese boards and small plates perfect for sharing. Unique panini sandwiches, charcuterie plates, and flatbreads round out their menu if you’re looking for something heartier to eat. Bin 228’s rustic chic decor coupled with their friendly service makes it a popular neighborhood spot.

Vaughan’s Public House

Type of Cuisine: Irish Pub Grub

Standout Dishes: Fish and Chips, Shepherd’s Pie

Get a real taste of Ireland without leaving Hartford at Vaughan’s Public House. This popular Irish pub and restaurant imports ingredients directly from Ireland and boasts all the comfort food classics like fish and chips, bangers and mash, cottage pie and their signature beer-battered fish tacos. Of course, you can enjoy it all while sipping on the perfect pint of Guinness. The atmosphere here is always buzzing, especially on weekends, when live Irish bands play.

Conclusion


This roundup includes just a sample of all that Hartford has to offer foodies and gourmands. From local institutions like Carbone’s that have been serving customers for over 80 years to relative newcomers like Firebox and Trumbull Kitchen putting innovative spins on New American cuisine with their farm-to-table approach, the variety is astounding.

Hartford’s dining scene encompasses authentic ethnic eateries like Zohara and Agave Grill to fancy fine dining at Max Downtown and ON20 with gorgeous views.

Food truly brings people together in Hartford. Whether gathering over hearty barbecue brisket platters and craft brews at Bear’s Smokehouse or laughing over Italian wines and handmade pastas at Salute, the city’s best dining venues become home away from home. On your next visit to Hartford, take your time exploring its diverse culinary landscape – your tastebuds will thank you.

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