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, June 29, 2011

Hartford Business: The Half Door

Long time Sad City readers might get the impression that we aren't fans of The Half Door.  We've anointed one of their bathrooms The Most Awkward Bathroom In Hartford.  We've complained that our aging has rendered us unable to tolerate visiting their on Wednesday night when there is not only live music, but $2 drafts on Harp and Guinness.  That impression would be wrong.  The Half Door is without a doubt one of the best bars in Hartford.  In fact, the list of bars in Hartford that we have been to more than the Half Door is a short one.

The Half Door bills itself as an Irish pub.  Like all other stateside bars that we have visited (and be assured that this is no small amount) none are really Irish pubs. They are American-Irish pubs and the Half Door is an excellent version of these American incarnations.

Initially when we first noticed that the Half Door had branded itself a "gastropub" we kind of rolled our eyes.  These days nearly every time you turn on some type of restaurant rehab or create a restaurant type show, someone is putting together a gastropub.  So when we noticed the Half Door had suddenly branded itself a gastropub we were a bit skeptical.  We were wrong.

Despite dozens and dozens of visits we had only ate at the Half Door maybe once or twice until recently and even then it was usually just a quick burger.  Since then we have made a few more trips to eat there and have to say, the Half Door has hands down the best bar food in town.  While we won't bother to go through the menu item by item, you should probably order the scotch eggs and portobello sandwich.  While we aren't huge brunch people, we have had brunch once at the Half Door, enjoyed it and can tell you that people love it.

What is also commendable is the The Half Door is attempting to establish a menu that consists of mostly items from local farms.  While again, this is a trendy thing to do right now, it is a good trend and we are happy to see The Half Door making an effort to be local.

 It's like the beginning of a Star Wars movie.

The Half Door has an incredible beer selection.  If you like beer, they are going to have something for you.  A personal favorite is Carlsberg on tap, a great Danish lager that can be difficult to find bottled in the States, and very hard to find on tap.   The Half Door has a chalkboard on which they list what beers they have, occasionally they have special brews on tap.

Besides the food and beer, the outdoor patio is a highlight.   Patrons and eat, drink and best of all generally observe the goings-on in the surrounding area.  Being located at the corner of Sisson and Farmington, it is always fun to sit on the porch during happy hour and watch cars navigate the maddening intersection and other local happenings.

Inside there are roomy booths and though a bit outdated version with a loose trackball, a Golden Tee machine. (We are huge Golden Tee fans.  If you ever liked golf video games and haven't tried it, do so. From what we can tell The Half Dooe, Spigot and Pig's Eye are the only bars left in town with Golden Tee).   The Half Door does also have Hartford's Most Awkward Bathroom, which leads to amusing situations, but does have a less awkward bathroom for those not up for it.

Live music is also popular at The Half Door.  While we know our old age is partially to blame, we feel that The Half Door and most other bars allow their live acts to play WAY too loud.  Way too loud.  It's not the Meadows, it's a bar. Anyway, despite the volume, The music at The Half Door is generally good (we usually enjoy it on the porch).

So that clears it up.  Lest anyone think we don't enjoy the Half Door; Golden Tee, nice big booths, great staff, incredible beer selection, great porch, and hands down the best bar food in town.  Heck, even that bathroom can be kind of amusing if you're in the right mood.


  1. a good time was had by all at The Half Door!

  2. At some point, live music became my Kryptonite. I bolt as soon as it starts and actively avoid places that have live acts, no matter how good the food & beer is. Definitely a sign of old age setting in, but I can't even imagine what the appeal is anymore.

  3. Great brunch if you ever get a chance!

  4. Just an FYI, if you like to drink American brewed, craft, microbrews, this IS NOT your place. Not to take away from it being a cool bar and scene, its just that their beer selection is highly European in feel and flavor, both bottle and draft. As it should be... but just be wary, you won't have much choice if you want to drink a nice hoppy, I.P.A.

  5. I'm curious to get some people's opinions. Of the 3 irish pubs in Hartford; Vaughn's, Mckinnon's, and The Half Door how would you rank them from best to worst.

  6. Half door is my favorite bar in ct. I've been to Dublin and this is as close as a person can get. Food is as good as any restaurant around and them you add over 100 beers and it's a match made in heaven. I personally drive 20 minutes to get there and it's worth it. Long live half door!!!

  7. half door sucks and i wish it weren't so close to the law school so i could avoid going there completely. it's overpriced, the service sucks, the crowd is fratty, and yes, when they have live music it's excruciating. thank god for the spigot.

  8. To rank the Irish pubs in Hartford, the Half Door is undoubtedly the best. The service is good, the food is excellent and well-priced, and the deals are a value (especially $2 Irish drafts all day on Wednesdays).

    In my opinion, Vaughan's is a very close second. The food is comparable to the Half Door (the lamb stew and Glenkerry potatoes are awesome), and the service is decent enough. From 2:00 to 7:00 PM you can get any draft beer for $3, which is a great deal. If you're an American beer fan like BWP, Vaughan's is the place to go: they have Harpoon I.P.A., Tenpenny Ale, and Sierra Nevada Seasonal on tap.

    McKinnon's is a far, far third. It's a cool place to go and booze, but the food is terrible. I ordered a grilled cheese there about a year ago, and it was served on soggy Wonder Bread that'd been saturated with some kind of butter substitute (I think it was Country Crock). It wasn't crispy at all, but the $0.75 bag of Utz potato chips that served as the sole side dish were delicious. McKinnon's seemed like it'd be fun if you just want to drink, though.

  9. Whenever The Truck Stop Troubadours are at The Half Door It's The Only Bar That Matters ! Fantastic Variety Of Beer Combined with Those Troubadour Drinking Songs makes for a perfect Lost Weekend. I'll be seeing double Sat July 19th when The Troubadours pull in The Half Door to Re-Fuel....Come on down & get yer Drink On Yee-Ha