August 18, 2018
The blog post represents a slight change in format going forward. We’re separating each week’s review into its own blog post to make it a quicker read for you. Any other news or information for the week, such as drink recipes, liquor/liqueur comparisons, new videos and more will be posted to this blog later in the week. Let us know what you think of the new format.
My first introduction to The Cook and The Bear was in an online article listing the “supposedly” best Happy Hours in West Hartford. (I say “supposedly” because I haven’t tried most of them yet to give them my rating, EXCEPT for Max’s Oyster Bar, which earned my top rating 6 weeks ago.) After reading about it, I admit that I was curious to see if it was the real deal, especially since I’m from the South where “barbecue” is a religion unto itself. So, not totally sure what to expect, I made the trip to West Hartford this past week to evaluate their Friday Happy Hour.
The Cook and The Bear Brings
An Uptown Rustic Twist to Happy Hour
Located in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square on the corner of Memorial and
Raymond, The Cook and The Bear is a short walk from the Memorial Parking Garage. (As a useful aside, try downloading the Passport Parking app to your smartphone for an easy, convenient way to pay for your parking.) Somewhat unassuming on the outside, The Cook and The Bear is quite interesting inside. It blends butcher block tops for the bar and tables, with white wood, white tile, and red and white checkered napkins. It feels upscale, but still quite as inviting and comfortable as any place that serves BBQ/barbecue (there are so many arguments about which term to use that I’m using both just to avoid getting into that battle) should be.
with a Relaxed, Friendly Vibe
Since I arrived right at 4 pm when their Friday Happy Hour started, it was quiet at the long bar with only one other person seated near the opposite end. Aaron, the bartender, brought me the menus promptly and gave me a few minutes to decide what I wanted. Throughout my time there, he took good care of me and was quick to respond to a request. Even as it started to get busier around 4:30, he appeared to keep everything comfortably under control. My drinks were well made, and my food was delivered without missing a beat. Plus, Aaron was wearing a tropical shirt that just added to the laid back, welcoming mood.
A Fresh Twist
on Cocktail Thyme
When it comes to Happy Hour, I’m all about the cocktail specials … and The Cook and The Beardelivered. Although the Happy Hour cocktail menu only has 4 mixed drink specials for $7each (which is a little on the pricey side), the two I tried were excellent. Intrigued by the “too much thyme” recipe of tequila, thyme, blackberry and lemon, I had to make that my first choice. It was a wise decision. The drink proved refreshingly different with just enough lemon tartness to balance the sweetness of the blackberry, while the thyme and tequila played nicely together in a uniquely delicious flavor profile. I would have loved to order a second one, but as a reviewer I always have to try other drinks on the menu.
For my second drink, I ordered the “c&b old fashion” made with their private single barrel of Knob Creek bourbon, which turned out to be another smart move. The large twist of orange peel provided a bright aroma that promised good things to come as the orange sweetness blended nicely with the smooth, mellow warmth of the Knob Creek. I would order that drink again in a heartbeat.
It’s not the size of the specialty drink selection, but rather the distinctness of the drinks that I find important. And whether it was the surprising mix of ingredients or the high-end liquor used (which justified the drink prices), The Cook and The Bear deserves recognition for their Happy Hour cocktails. (Of course, you’ll also find wine and beer Happy Hour specials, but as a mixologist I tend to focus on the mixed drinks.)
I Could Have Pigged Out
on Their Pulled Pork Slider
An important part of any Happy Hour menu is the food. Along with the social aspect of sharing good times over both food and drink, it’s also a smart way to test out a restaurant before investing time and money on dinner. The Cook and The Bear offered a nice range of Happy Hour menu options. Naturally, I had to try their pulled pork slider, which consisted of a generous portion of pulled pork topped with slaw on a biscuit. Simply put, it was to die for! The biscuit was the perfect lightness without falling apart from the pulled pork’s juices. The pork itself was moist and flavorful, while the slaw added just the right amount of tangy crispness. Needless to say, it disappeared rather quickly. Fortunately, it was only $3, so I ordered and devoured another one. It’s a standout among Happy Hour food choices that I highly recommend!
You Have To Make Your Own Happiness,
But The Right Venue Helps
When it comes to Friday Happy Hour, you want a place that provides all the elements that make it easy for you get into the right frame of mind to celebrate surviving the week and to look forward to the weekend – excellent drinks, tasty food, superior service and a friendly ambiance. That ambiance can range from a few smiling faces to a large crowd of people laughing and talking. As I mentioned earlier, it was pretty quiet when I arrived at 4, but around 4:30, more people started coming in. They brought a fresh dynamic of laughter and conversation that just made it feel like the right place to be.
There really isn’t any place quite like The Cook and The Bear for Friday Happy Hour. Not your typical BBQ joint, it’s a fusion of rustic country casual and uptown cool that serves intriguing drinks and really good pulled pork in friendly, efficient fashion. It should not come as a surprise then that Friday Happy Hour at The Cook and The Bear earns my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***!
Check them out online at thecookandthebear.com for more information, then try them out.
Tell them The Dark Diva sent you!
As always, we invite your comments and suggestions.