Friday Happy Hour Review: Elizabeth’s Bar & Restaurant

PLUS … OR MINUS?!
Should You Add Elizabeth’s in East Windsor To Your Happy Hour List
Or Subtract It?

April 3, 2019

For a long list of reasons, I felt like staying close to home for my Happy Hour Review this past Friday, so I decided to check out Elizabeth’s Bar & Restaurant at 4 Prospect Hill Road (Route 5) in East Windsor, CT. A relative newcomer to the area, it opened last year and is the second in a chain of 3 restaurants (the others are in Rocky Hill and Bloomfield). Suggested as a good place to check out by some friends, it proved to be a surprising experience.

THE VIBE:
Decorated With Smiles, It Grows On You

Elizabeth’s Bar & Restaurant
4 Prospect Hill Road, East Windsor, CT

Behind a generic, but attractive exterior, Elizabeth’s still looks and feels fairly new inside. With clean lines, neutral hues and lots of windows, the decor was bright and reasonably cheerful, if stylistically uninspired. The bar itself was a large square with terminals and liquors in the center and plenty of seating. It even had a raised section on one end, which added a new dimension of interest. And, while the décor may have a lacked a definitive identity, there was definitely a warm personality reflected in the smiles of the staff and some of guests who came in while I was there. Over the course of my 90-minute visit, it came to feel quite comfortable and welcoming! And that kind of vibe is hard to beat.

* The only real negative I could find here was the lack of purse hooks underneath the bar, which cost them a point.

A near perfect score on atmosphere is always a good start.

SCORING: THE VIBE 
(ATMOSPHERE –
Maximum of 20 Pts.)
• Style _5_(1-5)
• Layout _4_(1-5) 
• Cleanliness _5_ (1-5)
• Mood _5_ (1-5)
TOTAL VIBE SCORE _19_

THE HEARTBEAT:
Aside From One Skipped Beat,
The Pulse Was Strong

Nicole & Rich
My Bartenders @ Elizabeth’s

As I say every time, I consider the service as the heart and soul of any Happy Hour. Here was a case where it started okay, hit a bump, and then rebounded to finish super strong. I was served by 2 bartenders, Rich and Nicole, who were both very friendly and made me feel very welcome. My first Margarita was delivered promptly by Rich, but as I finished my drink there was an apparent shift change involving closing out a cash drawer and more bartenders coming on duty to deal with a growing number of people at the bar and to make drinks for the service bar. During this transition period my glass was empty, and I waited an unacceptable amount  of time for anyone to notice and ask if I needed a refill. At that point, I was ready to lower their service score considerably, but then Nicole brought these amazing rolls to go along with the to-die-for calamari, which I will write about in glorious detail under THE BITES, and I started mellowing from The Wicked Witch of The West to Mary Poppins. Other than the one blip, the service truly was attentive. Plus, I don’t think I saw anyone not smiling.

In the end, the service finished strong for a nearly perfect score.

SCORING:
THE HEARTBEAT (SERVICE – 
Maximum of 20 Pts.)
• Attitude _5_(1-5)
• Attentive/Responsive _4_(1-5)
• Helpfulness _5_(1-5)
• Efficiency _5_(1-5)
TOTAL HEARTBEAT SCORE _19_

THE DRINKS:
One Cocktail Choice
Does Not Make A Happy Hour

Elizabeth’s Happy Hour Drink Menu

I’ll be blunt … they’re missing the boat at Elizabeth’s by just having a Margarita as the only cocktail on their Happy Hour menu! And, it’s the easiest thing to fix. They need to give the bartenders a chance to showcase their innovative mixology skills in creating several new martinis, mules or other cocktails that will tempt existing customers and attract new ones. Or maybe just add some unique flavors to their Margarita selection like a Razzy ‘Rita or a Mango Tango ‘Rita … anything that’s fun and different. Four different cocktails would be enough to make Elizabeth’s a lot more competitive with Manchester/South Windsor and even West Hartford.

The Margaritas I had were excellent despite being made with a mix. Most sour mixes usually taste awful and give me heartburn, but not this time. So, kudos on the tasty Margaritas and the flexible straws (a nice touch). Now, if you’re into beer, not many places have Peroni (an Italian beer) on draft. I actually used to like Peroni back in the days when I could drink beer. 

Unfortunately, lack of unique or even additional mundane cocktail choices hurt Elizabeth’s scoring in this category.

SCORING: THE SIPS 
(DRINKS – 
Maximum of 20 Pts.)
• Selection _2_(1-5) 
• Unique Options _1_(1-5)
• Pricing _5_(1-5)
• Quality/Taste _5_(1-5)
TOTAL SIPS SCORE _13_

THE BITES:
My Taste Buds Were In Heaven

Elizabeth’s Happy Hour Food Menu

Forgive me if I gush over the food part of Elizabeth’s Happy Hour menu, but the selection set an impressively high standard that’s easily on par with many of the more metropolitan Happy Hours, like those in Manchester/South Windsor and West Hartford. The items on this menu were intriguing (Mussels Fra Diavolo) and substantial (judging by my calamari). Speaking of the calamari, Elizabeth’s was as good as it gets with a very generous portion of lightly coated and lightly-fried-to-perfection rings and tentacles. Tender with a high proportion of rings to tentacles and accompanied by an excellent marinara sauce, it equaled any I have had (and I am a calamari connoisseur)! I have high expectations for the calamari in any place that stresses Italian cuisine and Elizabeth’s did not disappoint.

Elizabeth;s Calamari
A generous portion that was perfectly prepared!

I also have to rave about the rolls that Nicole brought me. It was a basket of three freshly baked rolls with a tray of 3 accompaniments/toppings/dipping oil that transcended the ordinary. Oh, how I love good bread/rolls (even if my scale doesn’t the next day) and Elizabeth’s had my taste buds smiling with joy.

Elizabeth’s Delicious Freshly-Baked Rolls

There is no question that Elizabeth’s Happy Hour food menu deserves a perfect score!

SCORING: THE BITES 
(FOOD – 

Maximum of 20 Pts.)
• Selection _5_(1-5)
• Unique Options _5_(1-5)
• Pricing _5_(1-5)
• Quality/Taste _5_(1-5)
TOTAL BITES SCORE _20_

OVERALL IMPRESSION:
Elizabeth’s Happy Hour Is A Definite Plus 
And Should Be Added To Your
List Of Places To Check Out

This review presented me with a bit of a conundrum in that I really wanted to give them a Top Shelf rating even though the numeric rating came in a point shy of that, which is one of the reasons I went to this system. It sets the criteria that I need to follow in order to assure that every Happy Hour is held to the same standard. With that said, Elizabeth’s rates as a Good Choice that is Well Recommended, which is the second highest rating. However, because I was so impressed with the staff and the food, I’m going to interject here that it’s a “VERY” Good Choice, assuming that you like Margaritas, and you should definitely check out Elizabeth’s in East Windsor for yourself!

TOTAL SCORE _71_ 
RESULT

TOP SHELF (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) ___ (72-80) 
GOOD CHOICE (WELL RECOMMENDED) _X__ (64-71) 
• DECENT (STANDARD) ___ (52-63) 
AVERAGE (LAST RESORT) ___ (48-51)
AVOID (THE BOTTOM) ___ (<48) 

If you’d like to check out Elizabeth’s Bar & Restaurant in East Windsor and judge for yourself, you can visit their website for hours and more information!

As always, I welcome your comments about this review or any of my blog posts, especially your own experiences at Happy Hours I have reviewed and suggestions about which Happy Hours I should check out next.

Friday Happy Hour Review: Roberto’s Real American Tavern

Roberto’s Real American Tavern is located on U.S. Route 5 in East Windsor, CT

Worth a Stop … or Not
on the Happy Hour Circuit?

Situated on Route 5 in East Windsor, Roberto’s Real American Tavern has limited competition as a local destination for those who work or live in the general area. At the same time, if you’re heading south, it’s only about 15 minutes more time to reach Evergreen Walk in South Windsor and The Shops at Buckland Hills in Manchester, where there is some serious Happy Hour competition. Or, if you’re willing to drive an additional 30 minutes to West Hartford, the Happy Hour competition reaches its zenith. So, the question to ask is whether Roberto’s is worth a stop to check it out or should you keep on going to Manchester/South Windsor or West Hartford? As you’ll see, it depends.

“Essence of Real American”

According its web site, Roberto’s Real American Tavern’s “approach to food and drink is inspired by our country’s oldest tradition—the Early American Melting Pot Society.”  In keeping with that approach, the site states that they are “proud to bring together a whole new world of cultural influences, tastes and textures.” It’s an interesting concept, but the proof as I say is in the Happy Hour!

THE VIBE:

Questionable Style, But Still Comfortable


While I do not claim to be the definitive expert on style, my first reaction on seeing the attempted fusion of urban industrial galvanized steel with the existing colonial interior from the place’s days as Pasco’s was to ask why? I found it kind of funky (and not in an appealing way). I can understand the rationale, perhaps, but the execution leaves me unimpressed. It detracts from the atmosphere and keeps the bar from feeling as welcoming as it could, while raising concerns about how well the melting pot concept is executed in the food and drink options. 

Otherwise, the seating at the bar was comfortable and the mood was relaxed.

SCORING: THE VIBE (ATMOSPHERE – Maximum of 20 Pts.)
Style _2.5_ (1-5)
Layout _5_ (1-5) 
Cleanliness _5_ (1-5)
Mood _5_ (1-5)
TOTAL VIBE SCORE _17.5_

THE HEARTBEAT:

Generally Strong and Positive
with Only One Skip

Victoria, my bartender, was all smiles

As my regular followers know, I believe service is the heartbeat of any Happy Hour. Great drinks and food don’t matter if you can’t what you want when you want it. Fortunately, other than a long lag between bringing me my first drink order and checking back to see if I wanted to order food, Victoria, the bartender on duty, was friendly, attentive and very efficient. (Truthfully, I could easily have gotten her attention to order food, but I like to see how long it takes to be asked and I wasn’t in a hurry to be somewhere else.)

SCORING: THE HEARTBEAT(SERVICE – Maximum of 20 Pts.)
• Attitude _5_(1-5)
• Attentive/Responsive _3_(1-5)
• Helpfulness _5_(1-5)
• Efficiency _5_(1-5)
TOTAL HEARTBEAT SCORE _18_

THE SIPS:

The Good, The Bad and The Limited

Roberto’s Happy Hour Drink Menu

As the “focus” of Happy Hour, the importance of the drink menu cannot be overstated! And while priced is certainly a major factor, what you get for that price is even more critical. In evaluating the mixed drinks on Roberto’s Happy Hour Menu, I found the selection to be limited with only four Happy Hour cocktails offered and a two of them featuring coconut. 

Roberto’s Mediterranean Mule

Being an aficionado of mules, I opted to start with the Mediterranean Mule which was excellent. The European fig vodka added a refreshingly different twist to make this drink easily drinkable and quite enjoyable.

Roberto’s Coconut Gimlet

My second drink was the Coconut Gimlet and it did not go down well. In fact, it was so bad I could only drink about half of it. The New Amsterdam Coconut Vodka was harsh and not the least bit tempered by the lime juice. (In online research, this vodka supposed got excellent reviews. I don’t see how.)

At the same time, if you prefer wine, you’ll find a good selection of types to choose from.

SCORING: THE SIPS (DRINKS – Maximum of 20 Pts.)
• Selection _3.5_ (1-5)
• Unique Options _4_ (1-5)
• Pricing _5_ (1-5)
• Quality/Taste _2.5_ (1-5)
TOTAL SIPS SCORE _15_

THE BITES:

Variety is the Spice of Life, But …

Roberto’s Happy Hour Food Menu

True to its American melting pot concept, the food portion of Roberto’s Happy Hour Menu offered a diverse selection of foods from various cultures as well as some traditional Happy Hour staples like wings at very affordable prices.

Roberto’s Blackened Dry Rubbed Boneless Wings

For a number of reasons, I started (and ended) with the Blackened Dry Rubbed Boneless Wings. I received four generous-sized wings covered with a thick, crunchy coating that differed from my expectations for blackened dry rubbed. However, once I managed to get to the actual chicken underneath, it was moist and seasoned with plenty of heat (just the way I like). 

SCORING: THE BITES (FOOD – Maximum of 20 Pts.)
• Selection _5_ (1-5)
• Unique Options _5_ (1-5)
• Pricing _5_ (1-5)
• Quality/Taste _4_ (1-5)
TOTAL SIPS SCORE _19_

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

Not Quite Top Shelf,
But Worth a Stop

While it came up just a bit short of the competitive Happy Hour standards in West Hartford or, in most cases, Manchester/South Windsor, Roberto’s Real American Tavern still rates high when judged on its own merits and justifies a stop to check out the Happy Hour if you’re in the area.

TOTAL SCORE _70_ 
RESULT

• TOP SHELF (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) ___ (72-80) (Equates to Uniquely Recommended)
• GOOD CHOICE (WELL RECOMMENDED) _X__ (64-71) (Equates to Recommended W/O Reservations)
• DECENT (STANDARD) ___ (52-63) (Equates to Recommended W/Caveats)
• AVERAGE (LAST RESORT) ___ (48-51) (NEW RATING)
• AVOID (THE BOTTOM) ___ (<48) (Equates to Not Recommended)

Visit their website for more info, then check them out for yourself

Tell them The Dark Diva sent you!