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.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Night In The Life Of

Pic courtesy of Mike Trojanowski

Most of our out of town friends live in towns like Glastonbury and Colchester down the Route 2 corridor of the "Red Sox side" of the Connecticut River. Often these friends will ask, "what is it that you do for fun in Hartford?" The answer typically is sometimes along the line of "oh you know, meet up with some friends to eat and get some drinks." While this is technically an accurate answer, it is also what almost everyone in the world does when they go out and certainly doesn't do anything to convey why we choose to live in Hartford. This dawned on us on a recent Friday night in the West End, a night that pretty much sums up why we like to in an urban area.

Three of us walked to dinner at Abyssinian, the Ethiopian restaurant on Farmington Ave next to Monte Alban. Though it has gotten mentioned on this and other blogs, Abyssinian doesn't really get the proper recognition for the Hartford gem it is. We are as guilty as any. Though we do eat there, we should more often. We don't know the story of the owners of Abyssinian, but it goes without saying that to open an Ethiopian restaurant in Hartford is taking a huge risk and the owners should be commended for taking that type of risk and bringing a unique type of food to the area.

As we arrived at Abyssinian we noticed Sad City friend Chion Wolf from The Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR finishing up dinner on the outside patio of Monte Alban. Another thing we enjoy about living in Hartford is that it is relatively small and it isn't uncommon at all to run into people you know while out and about. After exchanging some pleasantries it was on to eat dinner.

The menu at Abyssinian consists of different chicken, lamb and beef dishes. The food is served in a bowl on the side, while a large plate covered by a piece of spongy bread called legere with a few garnishes  around the edge is placed in the middle of the table. You are then served a plate with a couple more folded pieces of legere. There are no utensils (well there is a spoon in the dish that the meat is served in to spoon it out onto the legere). While for many this will seem unnatural, it quickly becomes easy and the lack utensils is forgotten.

The main idea is that you put some meat onto the piece of legere in the middle of the table, then tear a piece of the legere on the side and then pick the meat up with the bread and eat it. After eating there a couple times we can highly recommend Abyssinian. The meat is always tender and well seasoned and the legere is nothing short of delicious. It's a great and unique experience and Hartford is lucky to have Abyssinian.

After dinner two of us journeyed next door to Tisane for a drink. Tisane has a great outdoor porch and of course we sat out there. We ran into an old family friend we hadn't seen in awhile and caught up. It was then time to get a drink. One Jameson neat was ordered. The waitress then recommended a martini based on a bloody mary. We aren't regular martini drinkers but it sure seems to us that Tisane is doing martinis like no one else in the area. We've tried a couple and they are always very good. The waitress got her sale on the bloody mary martini, and yes, it was also very good. We then met up with a couple more friends and soon decided to continue the tour of the area.

Next up was the short walk to the Half Door. The Half Door is a great place and has been featured extensively on this blog. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays the Half Door is always packed. For whatever reason (maybe the musical acts?) the crowd size seems to fluctuate on Friday and Saturdays. This night was a more moderate crowd, which was fine; the Half Door can have nights when they are so busy it's tough to get a drink. After a couple rounds of finely poured pints, we decided it was time to move on for one last stop at hit up Vegas Blvd.

Vegas Blvd could probably be described as exactly the opposite of Tisane. While you can select from over 20 extremely fancy martinis at Tisane, you can order a can of Schaefer at Vegas. Where Tisane has a wide and cultured menu, Vegas has pizza, albeit damn good pizza. The two are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Vegas wouldn't be the first place you'd bring your parents or an out of town friend to show them Hartford, but it's still a fun little bar. It's actually an old house and the ceiling in the bar is pretty amazing.

Vegas also has an outside patio, a major plus for any bar in the summer. Sometimes Vegas can get totally overrun by the hipster crowd, but tonight wasn't one of those nights. Instead a good size, but not overwhelming crowd that was a good mix of people. The highlight of the night was when one male from our group and a female from another group decided they wanted to hang out despite the fact that one only spoke English and one only spoke Spanish. The end result was pretty much free entertainment for the members of both groups and some of the worst Spanish spoken in the history of mankind.

So what do we do for fun in Hartford? Well not much. Just have a unique dinner, run into some friends and acquaintances, get drinks at three very different but very fun bars and meet some new people and have a few laughs. The best part? All of this was done in an area that can be walked in five minutes. Then it was time for the short walk home, a half an hour of XBox and then bed. Not all that bad for a city that has nothing to do.


  1. This is one of the most affectionate pieces of writing towards Hartford I have read. Not only do I raise my glass in agreement, but I'm thrilled the city can be aptly recognized for its own specific charm, and receive the overdue respect it deserves. Reading this made me reflect on recently passed, thoroughly enjoyed, nights out downtown and feel proud to have originated from 'the capital county.'

    The city stands stunning and triumphant in your photograph.

  2. Awesome! The West End is so much fun. You forgot to mention Sisson Pizza too. After all those places close and you wanna go for some food, Sisson Pizza is the place to go. Only pizza place in the area that is open until 4:00 am or so...

  3. Love your blog! But who on earth has cocktails and beer AFTER the food?