With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sad City's Guide To Lunch In Hartford

Many people who come into Hartford work in either Downtown or the Industrial Zone down by Brainard Airport. For these day-time Hartfordites  lunch will usually be at Trumbull Kitchen or a food truck on Bushnell Park for downtown folks or one of the many fast food restaurants on Airport Road for those near Brainard. After a while these options just get plain boring and one might want to venture out a bit. You've got some time, but don't feel like sitting down at a restaurant and dropping $20 on lunch. We've always found it so disappointing to waste a precious lunch hour on a crappy unknown place. Now with another handy Sad City Guide To Hartford Sandwiches you will never have that problem. Let's hit the Sad City lunch menu. (Max Rating is a six-pack)

Brown Street

Located just over Franklin Ave, La Rosa's is a blend of deli, bodega, and caterer. Not only can you get your lunch there, but they also have a fine selection of Italian and other European groceries.  There is ample seating,  and if you don't feel like cooking dinner, La Rosa's has a selection of prepared foods you can bring home. In addition to sandwiches La Rosa's offers daily specials for lunch. The same three women have been behind the counter for as long as I can remember so you are assured of quality control. All sandwiches are quality at La Rosa's, but the paninis are especially excellent. Go for the caprese or the prosciutto. The few drawbacks of La Rosa's include a sometimes overcrowded parking lot and if there is a line you're going to wait a few minutes.

Park Street

Cuchilandia is awesome. Located inside El Mercado grocery store, parking is the only drawback. Once inside, Cuchilandia is one of three lunch places in the food court style setting inside. The other places are a fried chicken joint and a Dominican place. The Dominican place looks promising, but honestly we've never tried it because we just can't turn down Cuchilandia. Every lunch item is great. Admittedly we are too scared to order the plate with the entire fried fish on it, but we've had nearly everything else. Cuchilandia also has Mexican Coca-Cola in the glass bottles. At Cuchilandia, you place your order then sit and watch a soccer match and then your food is brought too you. Did I mention the prices are awesome? Want more? Other shops inside include stands selling cool "graffiti" t-shirts, various soccer jerseys (for some unknown reason a Jacksonville Jaguar jersey hangs amongst them) and a Latino DVD store. 

Franklin Avenue

When you first move to Hartford people who haven't spent much time in Hartford lately tell you that you need to go to Franklin Giant Grinder. This leads us to believe that they may have made a good sandwich at one time. That time isn't now. On the positive side, they make a big sandwich and you can get a beer with your sandwich. On the negative, there isn't one thing that makes the sandwich above average. The bread is dull and sometimes tastes old. "Giant" seems to mean piling on shredded iceberg lettuce, which isn't good for much besides getting all over the table and floor. Half the time, the employees seem more focused on bickering than making a good sandwich. With so many better options in the vicinity Franklin Giant is a pass.

Maple Avenue and Adelaide St.

Maple is a sandwich shop that earns the "giant" in their name. The sandwiches are HUGE. You can get the half grinder, eat half of that and bring the rest home for dinner. Parking is always a breeze and there are plenty of seats. The lady who runs it is very friendly. The pictures of her and her family on the walls give it a real down-home feel. The peppers they will put in any sandwich are excellent. It's nice to be able to get a local Hosmer soda. The must have item at Maple Giant is the chicken cutlet grinder. Not only is it huge, but it is the best cutlet in town, bar none. If there are any negative points to Maple Giant it's that the sandwich bread is simply average. With such great sandwiches otherwise, it always is a bit of a disappointment to have such average bread. Don't think. Trust Sad City and go with the cutlet.

Farmington Ave.

Yeah yeah, we know. Tangiers is technically in West Hartford. But it's so close to the line and the weird blinds they have in the windows make it so nondescript and easy to miss that we consider it to be Hartford at heart. Tangiers has a lot more in common with their neighbors East on Farmington at the Half Door or Vegas Boulevard than the neighbors to the West pretending they live in Manhattan.  Covered in Jumper's seminal Grocer Guide, the part-grocery, part-lunch counter has many good offerings. We can attest the gyros are very good. Like Maple Giant though, Tangiers has an item that just stands out. The falelfel is incredible. Just get it. Order the baklava on the way out. Also great. Tight counter space can sometimes be a slight problem.

The very confusing V at Farmington and Asylum

In order to even eat at Capitol Deli you need to know that you can park in the lot behind the Capitol View Apartments where the Deli is located. The lot is a tight fit and expect to practice some parking maneuvers. With plenty of seating. Capitol Deli is a solid lunch choice. They feature daily sandwich specials and you can sometimes find an excellent sandwich among them. The daily selection is solid yet unspectacular. Capitol features lots of sides and other goodies like cookies, but they are so overpriced it's absurd. Capitol deserves an occasional visit but not to be in the regular rotation. If you happen to work at The Hartford, you can tack on a solid point due to the proximity.

Get there from either Main St. or Pratt St.

Woody's is in downtown so parking is already annoying. Despite being featured on the Food Network, Woody's remains something of a hidden gem in Hartford. First things first; forget about your healthy lunch if your going to Woody's. Woody's does hot dogs; and it does serious hot dogs. We are currently eating our way through the menu and each one and has been great. The superstar of the menu is the Deputy Dog; smothered in cheese, ketchup and pulled pork. Yes, pulled pork on a dog. You can't eat here every day but it's an awesome treat. Great hangover food also. Woody's sells beer, but we usually wash down our dog and curly fries with a Boylan's Black Cherry soda. A Hartford must.

Sisson Ave

If you aren't in the West End you can hop right on 84 and find Akropolis Deli right of Exit 46. Akropolis has ample parking and seating. Being a Greek Deli we almost always go with a chicken or lamb gyro and it has never disappointed. That said there isn't anything really about Akropolis that has ever blown us away. Like Capitol Deli, a back end of the rotation option.

Corner of Albany and Woodland

The first trick to know is that you can park in the lot behind the bakery. That makes parking easy. Take note that there is no seating though. The Golden Krust offers a full Jamaican menu, but our strategy is is pretty straightforward; beef or chicken patty and some coco bread. This is an awesome cheap meal as the the most expensive patty is still under $2.50. Buy a .60 cent coco bread to wrap your patty in and you have yourself quite a deal.

Franklin Ave

Parrilla is a Colombian restaurant with a dinner menu we have yet to try. Parrilla also has a full service bar and even a karaoke night. While Parrilla's location on Franklin makes parking a bit of a hassle, it could be worse.  Walk right up to the counter and place a take out order. While there isn't a lunch menu Sad City has found a way to make Parrilla an excellent cheap lunch option; how about a couple warm empanadas at $1.25 apiece? Either beef or chicken are available and served with a great sauce. The empanadas come out warm and are the best we have had. Another great hidden gem.


  1. How could you forget about Tinker's Seafood (2074 Park Street)? Whenever I'm in that part of the city, I always stop in for lunch. You can order a beer, but I usually go for the soda (free refills, I take a cup with me).

    Prices are fair, portions are generous, parking is dead simple, and around lunchtime, it's usually pretty quiet.

    Definitely one of my favorites.

  2. These guides to the City are awesome!

  3. Franklin Giant used to be great! I lived around the corner from there when i was a kid. They gave me slices of provolone cheese and i would sit in the window and just eat it!
    Now... there food has gone down hill since then... There meatball grinder... oh I wish i could have one of the original meat ball grinders once more...

    1. The major league teams like Yankees the Dodger's red Sox I saw many team players even lasorda its called little Italy when you call ahead the owners sons show up its the same I live in Lawrenceville Georgia I give it a thumbs up any day I planning to drive up to Hartford conn and plan to eat there its our History never talk bad about moms cooking once its gone you'll miss it...

    2. Franklin Giant Grinder Restaurant (Sub's/Hero's) for southerns we call them Grinders...love to open a Restaurant like that on west pike st near Langley Dr the federal court house in Lawrenceville Georgia 30046

  4. Am I the only one who prefers Scott's Jamaican bakery to Golden Crust? They're only a block apart yet informal surveys always mention the Crust and Scott's gets nary a mention.

    I'm not sure about Golden Crust but Scott's also offers vegetable, spinach and broccoli patties, which helps when you're vegetarian.

  5. Great posting - several places to try. Keep up the great work

  6. What about Arch Street Tavern?

  7. What used to be Tinkers on Main fused with some spanish restaurant, now they serve BOTH puerto rican food as well as fried seafood delights. You can have a quiet lunch in the basement, although there's only a view of the highway and a fishtank. Another personal favorite is the grinders from the Sigourney market on Ashley. They have quite the collection of mysterious deli meats whose main ingredient is pork snouts.

  8. Arch Street Tavern has the best wings in town.

    The food at Tinkers on Main is not good but the bartenders are pretty, so it's a good place to have a few.

    If your hungry there's a subway next door or the Arch Street Tavern is within walking distnce.

    Also, the Wadsworth puts on a pretty good feedbag during lunch.

  9. Another great guide to Hartford. Keep it up!

    I live in the apartment building above Capitol Deli, my god that parking lot is terrible. Just imagine having to maneuver through it every day. I agree about the Deli overall too. Perhaps its a good thing that there's not an amazing deli where I live.

    I'd say I prefer Max Bibo's downtown for a deli sandwich. They're not cheap either, but I think they're better. Also, gotta love Cornerstone Deli on Main St. across from the Hartford Public Library on Thursdays for Buffalo chicken. Just be prepared to wait in line.

    Also, checked out Cuchilandia today. I went safe (with what I could read) and ordered two tacos. I'll be back to explore more soon I'm sure.

    Fan appreciation photo: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7250846/100_6184.JPG

  10. @ Brian - Glad you liked it and awesome pic! But what's up with that random pair or ladies shoes in the middle of you entertainment center?

  11. @Hakaan - They're white? Those are headphones actually haha

  12. don't know why Cornerstone wasn't mentioned. huge overstuffed sandwiches, and it feels like they've never raised their prices. you can easily take a cute coworker out for lunch, and spend under 15 for a feast. then, go somewhere fancy and expensive, like tk or hot tomato's when she insists on buying. i did this last week. which is why this comment is anonymous. cause this is a sad little city.

  13. @ anonymous - I applaud that move!!! Did you get a nice cocktail to boot?

  14. @Brian - oh headphones!!!

    They aren't white? Man I can't see colors at all! I'm using your pic in my youtube upload of that call. Thanks man!

  15. @Hakaan - They are white, I just wasn't sure the headphones were what you thought might be random ladies shoes. What's the YouTube channel/video?

  16. Hey Brian - Our channel is SadCityHartford. I just posted the clip on the blog.

  17. No mention of D'April's Market on Franklin? Easily the best sandwiches in town, a must check-out if you haven't already.

  18. I must recommend the lamb gyros at DD's on Temple Street (just off Main, downtown). These guys are super-friendly and the lamb (and chicken) is carved off the spit and served up hot.

  19. as a long time southend resident,D&D Market is the most overated italian market in town,over priced over priced over priced,friendly butchers but that doesnt justify over paying for a pound of turkey.

  20. A few more places: The Cornerstone on Main St.,D.D's Gyros & Spuds on Temple St. and The Royal Masala at Capitol and Main ($9.99 Indian Buffet from 11:30 until 3:00)

  21. LMHtfd said...

    "Am I the only one who prefers Scott's Jamaican bakery to Golden Crust?"

    I agree; Scott's is the best I have found in Hartford.

  22. You need to go to the Polish National Home. Good beer, cheap prices, great food and you can still smoke there! Try the perogies!

  23. Is the Keg still there on Prospect? I love there PIZZA's I lived in Hartford until 1984 and I still miss it!!!

  24. bring back the chicken coop....

  25. Bring back the Chicken Coop!!!, I second that emotion.

  26. Bring back the Chicken Coop!!!, I second that emotion.