Friday Happy Hour Review: Rizzuto’s Restaurant & Bar In West Hartford

Sizzle … Or Fizzle?! 
Can Rizzuto’s Bring The Heat In This Hotly Competitive Happy Hour Scene?

February 26, 2019

Last Friday (2/25), I set my sights on Rizzuto’s Restaurant & Bar in West Hartford as the next victim … er … subject of my Friday Happy Hour Review. Based on my previous reviews of West Hartford Happy Hours, it’s a hot market with top shelf competition. And if you can’t bring the heat with your Happy Hour, you’ll get left in the cold.

One of Rizzuto’s 3 CT locations (the others are in Bethel and Westport), the one in West Hartford is at 111 Memorial Road in Blue Back Square, where it has some very tough competitors within the Square itself as well as several blocks away on South Main, Farmington and LaSalle. I was about to find out if it was up to the challenge.

THE VIBE:

Sleekly Cool Style Meets
Warm Hospitality


Exterior of Rizzuto’s Restaurant & Bar
111 Memorial Road, West Hartford, CT

With an exterior facade of polished gray stone and glass featuring its name in raised black letters above the doors, Rizzuto’s boldly announces its presence in a distinctive fashion that could be best be described as Classic Contemporary. Inside, the theme continued with lots of black (including staff attire), stainless steel, and milky white marble-like surfaces for an effect that was sleekly cool without being cold.

At the same time, I got a welcoming sense of hospitality from the smiles of the hostesses and the friendly demeanor of the bartender. Later, as the Happy Hour crowd grew in size, there was an increase in the comforting background buzz of laughter and conversation signaling people enjoying themselves, which I find makes any placer feel warmly inviting.

The L-shaped bar offered plenty of room for patrons to sit without feeling overly crowded. The bar stools had backs and were comfortable. However, there were no purse hooks underneath the bar overhang, which I consider an inexcusable omission (and thus cost Rizzuto’s a point in the scoring for this category). Yes, I was able to hang my purse on the back of my bar stool, but the back sloped on both sides making for a precarious perch and constant double-checking to make sure my purse didn’t slide off onto the floor. Additionally, the hooks make it easier to keep large totes (for those coming straight from work) from impeding access to the bar.

Aside from my issue with the lack of purse hooks, the bar area was comfortable with enough space to move freely to the complimentary appetizer station and back to my seat without bumping into anyone or spilling the contents of my plate.

All in all, Rizzuto’s had a nearly perfect Happy Hour Vibe!

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:

Service Is Alive And Well

Matt
My bartender at Rizzuto’s

As regular readers of my reviews can attest, I believe the service at Happy Hour to be critical to success. Assuming at least decent prices and quality for your offerings, excellent service helps make guests happy and brings them back. It also garners recommendations from customers and reviewers like me. Conversely, poor service can kill a Happy Hour faster than running out of alcohol. In either case, the focus is squarely on the bartender.

Fortunately, I’ve yet to run into any in the Happy Hour “killer” category, which again means that my bartender at Rizzuto’s would be measured against some very high standards. Matt, my bartender, proved more than equal to the task. Friendly and attentive from the moment I sat down until I left, he was constantly checking to make sure I always had whatever I needed and that I never waited more than the absolute bare minimum of time for my drinks or my food. I also heard him conversing with other guests at the bar with the same comfortable attitude that made us all feel welcome. 

As far as order efficiency was concerned, the drinks were well-mixed, and my food came out exactly as ordered.

It’s safe to say that the Heartbeat of Happy Hour service at Rizzuto’s was definitely alive and well!

SCORING:
THE HEARTBEAT
(SERVICE
Maximum of 20 Pts.)
Attitude_5_(1-5)
Attentive / Responsive_5_(1-5) 
Helpfulness_5_(1-5)
Efficiency_5_(1-5)
TOTAL HEARTBEAT SCORE _20_

THE SIPS:

Dangerously Delicious Options Abound

Rizzuto’s Specialty Cocktail Happy Hour Menu

Naturally, as a mixologist, the Happy Hour cocktail menu is dear to my heart (and my budget)! Rizzuto’s brought a smile to face as soon as I read their cocktail menu online with House Brand Drinks, i.e. well drinks, for $5 and five specialty cocktails for $6. This classifies as one of the better Happy Hour mixed drink menus because of all the options.

Apart from the number of options, I judge the drink menu based on the variety and inventiveness of the specialty cocktails. Rizzuto’s earned a top score on the strength of one drink alone – The Hot & Cool Margarita! The recipe description (house-infused jalapeno and cucumber tequila, fresh lemon and lime juices, a dash of agave, served on the rocks) intrigued and delighted me with what it had — the mix of jalapeno heat and cucumber cool – and what it didn’t have — no sour mix (which I despise). Hoping for an exciting flavor treat, I made that my first drink order. 

Rizzuto’s Hot & Cool Margarita! (It’s much brighter in person.)
Definitely A Treat! Cheers!

A bright, festive shade of green (the picture above doesn’t do it justice), the drink Matt brought me did not disappoint. As soon as the tingle of fire from the jalapeno started heating up my taste buds, the chill of the cucumber cooled them down to create a wholly pleasant interplay, which also included a nice balancing act of tart and sweet sensations. A perfectly executed drink concept, from the color to final sip, it’s also dangerous because it would be tempting to drink far more of them than would be wise. (I should note here that Friday was National Margarita Day, and while they didn’t have any specials to mark the occasion, I considered Rizzuto’s Hot & Cool Margarita to be an excellent choice to celebrate it!)

After the Hot & Cool Margarita, anything else was going to have trouble measuring up, so I opted to check out a drink that is offered in different variations across Connecticut – a white Cosmo. At Rizzuto’s, it’s called the Winter White Cosmo (featuring white cranberry juice instead of red, along with citrus vodka, triple sec and fresh lime juice). Refreshing and not too sweet, it delivered on expectations as an enjoyable follow up.

For those of you who prefer wine and beer, Rizzuto’s also offers glasses of 8 different wine varieties for $5 each, select draft beers for $5 each and bottled beers for $4 each during their Happy Hour.

It should not come as a surprise that Rizzuto’s Happy Hour Sips poured it on to earn a perfect score!

SCORING:
THE SIPS
(DRINKS
Maximum of 20 Pts.)
Selection_5_(1-5)
Unique Options_5_(1-5) 
Pricing_5_(1-5)
Quality / Taste_5_(1-5)
TOTAL SIP SCORE _20_

THE BITES:

Tempting Selections For
Every Taste And Budget

Rizzuto’s Appetizer Specials Happy Hour Menu

The Happy Hour menu is an excellent way to get a taste for a restaurant’s quality and decide if it’s worth trying for a full meal. The selection (or lack thereof) also tells you how serious the establishment is about drawing guests to their Happy Hour and trying to assure they stay or come back for dinner. Apparently, Rizzuto’s understands how important it is to make a good impression in the hotly competitive West Hartford restaurant and bar scene, where there is a plethora of options. So, their selection and prices cover the broadest range that I can remember since I started doing these reviews last summer!

There are complimentary Happy Hour appetizers (if you make at least a $5 beverage purchase per person in the bar area), usually consisting of pizza, a hot dish and a salad. They also offer individual specialty pizzas for $5 each in addition to the portion of the appetizer menu you see here. Again, it covers a broad spectrum with a lot of tempting choices. However, I was still somewhat full after having a big lunch with my daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law at earlier, so I was only up for one appetizer on Friday. After careful consideration, I decided the Rhode Island Calamari Fritti would give me the best insight into their meal quality.

Rizzuto’s Rhode Island Calamari Fritti
Two Thumbs Up!

While it was the most expensive selection on their Happy Hour appetizer menu at $8 (and the most expensive Happy Hour calamari offering I’ve encountered to date), it was worth the price. As something of a calamari connoisseur, I can tell you that far more places miss the mark than hit it in cooking calamari right. It’s easy to wind up with overdone, rubbery rings buried in batter that’s way too dry and crunchy. However, in this case, Rizzuto’s nailed it. My order arrived in a large bowl filled with a very generous portion of lightly battered and fried-to-perfection rings, tentacles and peppers accompanied by marinara and garlic aioli sauces. I ate until I was literally stuffed, but I couldn’t finish it all!

Needless to say, Rizzuto’s cooked up a top score for its Happy Hour Bites!

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:

Rizzuto’s Sizzles As A Hot
Happy Hour Choice In West Hartford

If the lack of purse hooks under the bar is the only negative thing I could find to say about a Happy Hour, you know they’re doing things right. There was an expression of pride in the restaurant and its staff on the part of Lynn, only the second female restaurant general manager I’ve encountered while doing my reviews, when I spoke with her before I left. That pride obviously filters down to the staff in the high level of service and food quality they deliver. 

Obviously, this will not come as a surprise, but I highly recommend checking out Rizzuto’s Restaurant and Bar in West Hartford for your next Friday Happy Hour outing!

TOTAL SCORE _79_ 
RESULT
• TOP SHELF (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) __X_ (72-80) (Equates to Uniquely Recommended)

• GOOD CHOICE (WELL RECOMMENDED) ___ (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 web site for more information, including hours and menus, then check out Rizzuto’s in West Hartford for yourself!

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: When It Comes To Popping The Cork On Happy Hour, Vinted in West Hartford Takes It Seriously

December 4, 2018

Well, after taking the past 4 Fridays off from the Happy Hour circuit to focus on the Holiday Social & Survival Guide for my blog, I got back into my reviewer mode with a visit to Vinted, a wine bar and kitchen, in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. It came highly recommended from a variety of sources, so I was anxious to see if it would live up to its reputation.

Good Impressions Always Start With A Smile

As regular followers of this blog know, I put a lot of emphasis on the attitude of the bar staff when it comes to my Happy Hour Reviews. And that’s only natural since it’s hard to enjoy a “Happy” Hour when you’re being served by grumpy people. Fortunately, friendly service has been a pleasantly consistent factor in almost all of my Happy Hour visits to this point … and Vinted was no exception.

Victoria, the bartender who took care of me at Vinted, smiled throughout the evening and was a delight!

As I walked in, I was greeted by a smiling hostess who informed me that I could partake of Happy Hour anywhere in the restaurant (a nice touch more places should adopt). Opting for a seat at one of the two bars, I was quickly welcomed by Victoria, the bartender, with menus and a smile. After giving me a few moments to peruse the menu, she returned to take my order.\

When I inquired about special Happy Hour mixed drinks beyond the standard cocktails for $5 (using the specifically listed Happy Hour liquors), she immediately said that she could use these liquors to make a range of more involved drinks, such as a Margarita or Cosmo, for a $2 up charge. Those were the words I wanted to hear! Throughout my time there, Victoria was attentive to my needs and genuinely made me feel like she (and Vinted) appreciated my choosing Vinted for Happy Hour. From the first smile on, Vinted scored perfect marks for service (and attitude)!

Simply Put, It’s All About The Drinks

It kind of goes without saying that the drink menu (and the bartender’s skill at mixing the drinks) can make or break a Happy Hour. Sadly, not every place gets the message as I have discovered. Thankfully, Vinted gets it with quality liquor brands on Happy Hour and the ability to upgrade your drink selection beyond the very basic cocktails. (I should note, of course, that Vinted is primarily a wine bar with an extensive collection. Yet, while I do love good wine, my focus as a mixologist is mixed drinks.)

A Perfect Margarita!

For my first drink, I asked Victoria to make a Margarita ($5 + $2 Upcharge) for me using real lime juice instead of the popular sour mix so many places use. I was thrilled, however, when she informed me that they never use the mix for their Margaritas! That scored points with me right away! What Victoria delivered was an absolute perfect Margarita – refreshing with the tartness of lime and just the ideal touch of sweetness to complement the smooth warmth of the Aztec Azul Silver Tequila (a brand I had not tried before).

An excellent Gin & Tonic!

After savoring every drop of the Margarita, I ordered a Gin & Tonic ($5) to sample the Broker’s Gin. A traditional London Dry Gin done very well, Broker’s embraces the juniper flavor typical of this gin type but with a smoother, more subtle approach that made my Gin & Tonic quite enjoyable,

Apparently, Vinted understands very well that what goes in the glass has a direct correlation to the degree of happiness in Happy Hour.

Not All The Joys of Happy Hour Come From A Glass

Vinted has a fairly extensive Happy Hour Menu with something for everyone!

While it might sound like heresy coming from a mixologist, another major component of Happy Hour enjoyment for many of us is the opportunity to sample a restaurant’s cuisine as well as its attention to the finer details of food preparation. In many instances, I have discovered extraordinary delights, such as the Pork Ribs ($8) on Vinted’s Happy Hour Menu. On the menu, it simply reads Pork Ribs and then underneath … Hot & Sour Sauce/Mango/Lime/Mint.

What actually arrived was nothing short of heaven on a board – four meaty ribs generously coated with the hot & sour sauce, pieces of mango and mint leaves. Victoria advised squirting the lime on the ribs to get the full enjoyment of the sauce, which I did. Fall off the bone tender with just the right amount of surface crunch, these ribs were spicy hot, satisfyingly savory and absolutely fabulous.

Vinted just kept racking up points!

Ambiance Can Make Any Place Feel Inviting … Or Not

The final piece to determining if a Happy Hour stands out as welcoming or as something to be avoided is the overall atmosphere. Admittedly, I have walked into some places and immediately walked right back out because it was obviously not a place I’d feel comfortable. On the other hand, some aspects of ambiance can only be judged while you’re sitting at the bar. Beyond the attitude of the bartender and the quality of the drinks and food, the style of the bar, its cleanliness level and the overall vibes from the other folks around you can make a bar feel very comfortable or ruin your whole experience.

Again, Vinted has created a very inviting space that’s warm with a modern vibe and just cozy enough to allow for conversation without being confining. While there I happened to meet a wine rep, Alli, and we spent most of my visit chatting about the business and occasionally chatting with Victoria.

Check off ambiance as another winner for Vinted.

***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***

As you may have guessed, Vinted has earned my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***!!! And while many Happy Hours in West Hartford have also earned this distinction, each one has its own unique personality that makes it worth experiencing. Vinted distinguishes itself on a number of levels which combine to create a Happy Hour that stands on its own for superior service, drinks, food, and ambiance.

Learn more about Vinted on their web site at vinted.com then go see Victoria this coming Friday for Happy Hour and tell her The Dark Diva sent you!

The Dark Diva’s Holiday Social & Survival Guide Part 3: Gifts For Drink Lovers Made Easy, Fun & Unique

November 20, 2018

So now we’ve reached the final part of our Holiday Social & Survival Guide with tips on unique gift ideas, including custom cocktails, for your favorite drink lovers, from those who just appreciate drinks and alcohols with new and intriguing flavors to those with discriminating taste for distilling excellence to serious mixologists.

Share The Joy (literally):
Take Them Out To A Craft Distillery
Or A Top Happy Hour

Kelly, our tour & spirit guide at Hartford Flavor Company in Hartford describing the various liqueurs we are about to sample!

What better gift to give than one you can share like a tasting at a local craft distillery or a top reviewed Happy Hour. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love this gift. It’s thoughtful, fun and can be fairly reasonable, especially a distillery tasting.

Craft Distillery Tours & Tastings

The Tasting Bar of Wild Moon(R) Liqueurs that’s part of the tour at Hartford Flavor Company.

If you’re in Connecticut, there are a number of craft distillers across the state, although not all offer tours and/or tastings. You can find a list of craft distillers here with links to more information. Create a nice, formal invitation for the recipient(s) to be your guest(s) for a tour & tasting, as your Christmas gift to them, on a specific date over the holidays (or after).

Melissa, our bartender/spirit guide, pours samples for guests at the Tasting Bar of Waypoint Spirits in Bloomfield, CT!

I have visited and reviewed two of these craft distillers in the greater Hartford area, which I can personally recommend: Hartford Flavor Company in Hartford and Waypoint Spirits in Bloomfield. Both offer affordable Saturday and Sunday afternoon tours

Connor was our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide at Waypoint Spirits.

and tastings, although hours may vary during the holidays. (Click on their respective names to visit their web sites for details and contact information.) It’s a great way to get acquainted with the distiller’s art and try something new. The guides do a great job of engaging guests and conveying a lot of information in an entertaining manner.

Top Reviewed Happy Hours

Grant’s Flirtini

Check through local reviews online (such as Miss Bri’s Fresh & Twisted Blog) to find fresh, interesting Happy Hours, and treat special friends to a visit during the holidays. You’ll find some recommendations for Happy Hours to visit in the greater Hartford area listed here with links to my reviews. Going out for Happy Hour at some place new can be a really nice treat for everyone.

Click on the name to read my review, which also includes a link to the location’s web site:

Bloomfield

The Republic Gastropub

Manchester

Bistro On Main
Plaza Azteca

South Windsor

Burtons Bar & Grill
Mill On The River
Red Heat Tavern
Ted’s Montana Grill

West Hartford

Blue Elephant Trail
Grant’s Restaurant & Bar
Max’s Oyster Bar
Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen

 

Pour On The Thoughtfulness:
Give Them Craft Distilled Liquors & Liqueurs
As Well As Distinctive Barware

 

Want to wrap up your Christmas shopping with a twist? Then surprise your
favorite drink lover with something different – a bottle of liquid goodness from a local craft distiller. Here are just a few suggestions from craft distillers in the greater Hartford area.

The Wild Moon® Liqueurs Variety Pack

Featuring 100ml bottles of six different Wild Moon® liqueurs (Lime, Cucumber, Lavender, Rose, Birch and Chai Spice), this is a great introduction to these all-natural, gluten-free spirits that are crafted in Hartford by the Hartford Flavor Company. The variety pack and a range of other Hartford Flavor Company/Wild Moon® themed products (barware, shirts and more) are available at the Hartford Flavor Company. Visit their web site here for more details.

Waypoint Spirits

Waypoint Spirits Craft Distilled Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey

Show your friends that you are a thoughtful and perceptive person with excellent tastes by giving them one of Waypoint Spirits’ locally crafted liquors (distilled in Bloomfield), such as Labrador Noon Vodka (a very smooth, premium-style vodka), Wintonbury Gin (botanically infused, more in the mold of Hendrick’s with less juniper flavor), and Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey (the spice is right for those who like a little firewater). Visit their web site here for details.

Barware

A set of 4 initialed or monogrammed Old-Fashioned or On-The-Rocks glasses makes a beautifully distinctive and highly appreciated gift for any mixologists. A bar mat for mixing, a good quality shaker and durable bar tools also make nice gifts for your favorite mixologist. You can find them online at Amazon and Bar & Vine as well as locally at places as diverse as Williams Sonoma and Target.

Give A Gift That Is Totally Unique:
Their Own Custom-Crafted Cocktail Recipe
From The Dark Diva

Whether you want a truly one-of-a-kind gift for someone very special or a perfectly themed cocktail to take a special holiday event to the next level, nothing compares to the cocktail crafting wizardry and backstory creativity of The Dark Diva.

Here’s what a recent client said of the three custom-crafted cocktails I created for an event she planned:

“I wanted to let you know that last night was a great success especially with the signature cocktails! The ranks were split between the Velvet Voodoo Martini (… my favorite) and the Purple Magic Martini. I think the Autumn Paradise would have done better but for the literal heat wave that hit us yesterday afternoon (!) which made it hard to get in the groove for fall LOL …”

And her guests concurred:

“What a wonderfully fun evening!  How clever to have a signature cocktail tasting.  That Velvet Voodoo Martini was so sweet and smooth – I wanted to slip into a bathtub full of it!”

“Purple Magic Martini – this was simply scrumptious! Fruity without being too sweet, and I like sweet!

“Autumn Paradise Martini – As someone who hates Autumn, I wasn’t even going to try this one between the pumpkin and butterscotch, BUT, the flavors blended well, and it truly was a treat, not a trick!”

Created for a party of stressed out executive assistants, these colorfully named custom-crafted cocktails also included a short story with them. (I don’t share the recipe specifics publicly, however, since they now belong to the client which assures they will remain unique.)

The Velvet Voodoo Martini
(AKA The Karma’s A Bitch Martini)

Sometimes when you’re at the end of your rope, all you want to do is make a noose out of it and hang your boss. For anyone who is overworked and underappreciated by a ridiculously demanding boss, The Velvet Voodoo Martini is made with dark magic (Irish spirits, exotic spices and sneakily irresistible flavors) that will give you sweet velvet dreams of the moment when you just walk out and leave your boss completely helpless. And, just maybe, your boss will have the same dream. If it doesn’t scare him/her to death, it should at least scare them into showing more appreciation for all you do. (Just for fun, look up poisons on Google frequently so your boss can see it. Later, tell him/her you have to meet the exterminator at your house about poisoning some rats and ask if he/she wants you to pick up lunch for them – be very insistent. That should give them pause. Haha!)

The Diva’s Purple Magic Martini
(AKA “Beam Me Up Scotty,
There’s No Intelligent Life down Here!” Martini)

This concoction is made for those days when everyone you have deal with is an ill-tempered, impatient moron who couldn’t find their butt with both hands and directions. No matter how simply and patiently you try to explain to them that what they want is not what they need, not reasonable or just simply impossible, they have all the comprehension of a two-year-old, so they pitch a fit. While you can’t do what you feel like doing to them (unless you have lots of money, access to the dark web to hire a hitman, and an ironclad alibi), you can make them all magically disappear for a while with this deliciously sweet escape that will let you boldly go where no where no boss can find you!

The Autumn Paradise Martini
(AKA “The Leaf Me Alone, I’m Having A Moment” Martini)

Like a walk through the woods on a glorious autumn afternoon, with the fresh crispness of a cool fall breeze as the bright sunshine brings nature’s spectacular palette of scarlet, gold, yellow, green and rust to vivid life, this is a moment to savor in a New England paradise. No demanding bosses. No uncooperative co-workers. No screaming kids. No annoying spouse. Now that moment is yours in a glass with The Autumn Paradise Martini. Just forget everything and chill with every sip, after warning everyone that they might encounter the Grim Reaper if they disturb your moment (or moments) in Autumn Paradise!

Learn more about my custom-crafted cocktails for events and gifts here. You can also email me: MissBri@thedarkdivarules.com.

Act now! Don’t wait, because I expect to get booked out fast!

Hopefully, you’ve found some ideas here that will make your holiday gift-giving experience easy and fun!

Hope you have a wonderfully enjoyable and safe holiday season!

The Dark Diva’s Holiday Social & Survival Guide Part 1: Make The Season More Fun Without The Stress

November 12, 2018

(Note: We’re actually a day ahead of our usual Tuesday posting for a change. Can’t guarantee it will happen again anytime soon. Haha)

Wow! It’s hard to believe that next Thursday is Thanksgiving already! How is it that the holiday season seems to take us by surprise every year? I think there are a couple of dynamics involved starting with the fact that Christmas gets promoted earlier and earlier to the point that we try to ignore it out of contempt until it’s suddenly upon us and we go into panic mode. At the same time, our lives are so busy we can’t seem to find the time to prepare too far in advance for anything beyond getting through tomorrow.

Whatever the case, it doesn’t really matter how we got here, since we are here. The key is how to cope with the holidays and make the most of them. And the first step is to rethink your expectations.

#1) The Holidays Are Perfectly Enjoyable
When You Don’t Strive For Perfection

Still life of large blue Christmas ornaments and strings of red beads.

Say what? Think about it. We spend so much time trying to create perfect holiday moments that we’re too stressed out to enjoy ourselves. In fact, we can end up making the holiday memorable for all the wrong reasons. So, change your mantra to “let’s have fun without obsessing about it” this year. And part of that is recognizing that there are limits on your time, your budget and your mental/emotional stamina. The first two are fairly obvious, but also remember that we all have limits to how much we can plan, prep and socialize before we start to overload. And we all have different limits. The key is to plan fewer things and enjoy each one more or plan more things while making them all simpler.

Watching your budget is pretty important, because it is ridiculously easy to

Christmas wreath on door.

overspend on social events during the holidays. And that can lead to a holiday financial hangover as well as relationship issues. Allow yourself one social event “splurge” without going overboard. This will make staying within budget feel less constraining. Plus, follow my tips for having more affordable holiday fun.

The same idea applies to not overscheduling your time. Allow for one or two major parties/events, while spreading out other events over the whole season and making them smaller and simpler.

#2) Celebrate Holiday Happy Hours
As An Alternative To Parties/Dinners

Bistro on Main in Manchester captures the spirit of French bistro — warmly intimate atmosphere and some very tasty treats.

Meeting friends or co-workers at Happy Hour during the holidays is a good way to socialize and celebrate the season without spending a lot of time or money. If you stick with the Happy Hour food and drink specials, you can get by for an average of $15 – $30 per person (before tip) for 2 drinks and 1 – 2 food items from the Happy Hour Menu.

Compared to dinner out with friends, Happy Hour allows you to explore different venues and try more interesting cocktails and foods for l

The Lamb Cigars ($2 each) at Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen in West Hartford offer a deliciously fresh perspective on Happy hour foods!

ess money without having to worry about making reservations (which can be difficult to get in the first place) around schedule conflicts and having to cancel/re-schedule reservations due to last-minute emergencies. Plus, you have time to shop afterwards or go home and just relax.

Compared to hosting parties, there’s no cleanup (before or after) when you meet friends at a

The “too much thyme” cocktail at The Cook and The Bear in West Hartford is a deliciously surprising blend of tequila, thyme, blackberry and lemon!

Happy Hour. You also don’t have to plan a menu and drink options, worry about spending for a lot of food that will go to waste, or deal with intoxicated guests or guests who won’t leave. You can show up for Happy Hour, share some holiday cheer and leave when you’re ready. (Also, most Happy Hours only last 2 to 3 hours, so that’s always a great excuse to leave.)

For those of you in the greater Hartford area of Connecticut, the following Happy Hour venues have earned my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***!.

Click on the name to read my review, which also includes a link to the location’s web site:

Bloomfield

The Republic Gastropub

Manchester

Bistro On Main
Plaza Azteca

South Windsor

Burtons Bar & Grill
Mill On The River
Red Heat Tavern
Ted’s Montana Grill

West Hartford

Blue Elephant Trail
Grant’s Restaurant & Bar
Max’s Oyster Bar
Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen

Another nice thing about the Holiday Happy Hours is you can get started right now with your get-togethers!

Hope you’ve found Part 1 of our Holiday Social & Survival Guide to be helpful in making it easier to enjoy the season this year. Coming up in Part 2 on Friday, I’ll offer recommendations for stocking your holiday bar as well as some general drink recommendations to make entertaining easier. And in Part 3 next week, we’ll present some gift ideas for those in your life who appreciate spirits with a twist!

Be Safe, Happy and Relaxed This Holiday Season!

Friday Happy hour Review: Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen in West Hartford Spices Up Happy Hour With Unexpected Pleasures

October 30, 2018

This past Friday, we had the opportunity to explore another fresh adventure on our international Friday Happy Hour tour with a visit to Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen in West Hartford. According to their website, they offer “… an innovative menu drawing influence and inspiration from North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Turkey and Greece…” which was solidly evidenced during our Happy Hour experience. It is also a reminder that enjoying food and drink from other cultures is part of appreciating those cultures and the world we live in. If we can break bread together and toast each other, then we can share friendship and respect.

The Influence of Mediterranean Hospitality
Shines In The Warm Welcome And Friendly Service

With lots of windows opening toward Farmington Avenue and an uncluttered, contemporary interior design. Zohara has a surprisingly bright, open feeling that defies traditional stereotypes of what a Mediterranean restaurant should look like. On the other hand, the service exemplifies the strong emphasis on hospitality across cultures throughout the region.

Zohara hospitality — bartenders Stephanie (L) and Victoria (R) were all smiles and attentiveness.

Stephanie, who was thebartender when I arrived, was all smiles and patience as she answered my questions about the drinks and the food. One of the first questions she asked me was if I had any food allergies or issues before making any recommendations. A simple but important question, especially when the menu featured a lot of unfamiliar terms. (I’m still trying to master my native English and have just enough exposure to some of the romance languages –Spanish, French, Italian — to get myself in trouble, but beyond that I’m totally lost.)

As Happy Hour started to pick up, Stephanie was joined behind the bar by Victoria. Both were attentive, delightfully friendly and constantly smiling as if they really enjoyed what they were doing. It left me with a good feeling about Zohara and a desire to come back again. And that’s how hospitality is done right!

Surprising Cocktail Ingredients Reward The Adventurous
With Unexpected Enjoyment

While I constantly look for Happy Hour cocktails that are unique, the cocktails at Zohara featured some ingredients that gave me pause, such as carrot juice and especially beet juice. I confess that the carrot juice was an easier choice for me to accept than the beet juice. Growing up, I hated it when my mother cooked beets. I simply couldn’t stand them. However, a mixologist and reviewer must make sacrifices for her work, so I bit the proverbial bullet and was totally surprised.

The 24 Carrot was delicious surprise! Gotta love that carrot juice!

My first drink was the 24 Carrot (Vodka, Cardamom, Carrot Juice, Honey & Lemon) for $6. It was refreshingly bright with a lively tartness that was tempered perfectly by the underlying sweetness. It’s the kind of drink that can change your perspective on even a terrible Friday and lighten your mood. It is a apparently very popular with Zohara’s customers and definitely a must try!

The Root Down was quite amazing! Who knew you could make a tasty cocktail with beet juice!?

My second drink was ordered with a bit of trepidation. In fact, I postponed the decision longer than usual, but in the end said, “Let’s do it!” The drink in question was the Root Down (Bourbon, Dry Curacao, Beet Juice, Star Anise, Lemon Juice & Turmeric) also for $6. Befitting the name, there was an initial earthiness to the taste which slowly grew into a pleasing warmth. I was totally amazed at how the combination worked so well together and actually recommend it!

This is a Happy Hour where you can live adventurously and taste new worlds! Go for it!

A Satisfying Journey Into Intriguing Flavors
Awaits Those Who Ditch Wings And Really Fly

The Happy Hour menu at Zohara is quite extraordinary!

Wings have become ubiquitous at American Happy Hours. And while I do enjoy wings sometimes, I crave more interesting fare to go with my drinks. Fortunately, Zohara goes to great lengths to be different with foods that will wake up your taste buds. It’s a fresh approach to spices and textures as well as main ingredients that may be individually familiar but presented in an unexpected fashion.

My second order of Lamb Cigars! Very tasty!

As part of that unexpected fashion, I was fascinated by their Famous Moroccan Lamb Cigars on the menu. I will confess that I love lamb just about any way you can fix it, so I simply had to try a Moroccan Lamb Cigar. Essentially, it’s spiced ground lamb wrapped in phyllo dough that resembles a long cigar. It comes out crispy and is served with a cucumber yogurt dipping sauce. The lamb was simply delicious with a hint of cinnamon and its texture worked nicely with the crunch of the phyllo shell while the cucumber yogurt added a cooling freshness to the mix. The first one was so good, I had to order two more. And at only $2 each, you’ll want to order several yourself.

For my second appetizer, I opted for the Lamb Kofta for $5. Essentially a lamb kabob, it featured two pieces of grilled lamb with tomato, onion and a hot pepper plus a pita pocket to make a sandwich. Again, another wonderful mix of flavor and texture that made eating exciting … and fun. (Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the picture I took of the Lamb Kofta didn’t turn out until after I had eaten it. Oops.)

When you’re ready to treat your taste buds to something fresh, start here!

***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***

I’m sure by now you have no doubt about my rating for Friday Happy Hour at Zohara. From the atmosphere and service to the drinks and food, Zohara delivers its own unique and extremely enjoyable combination of Mediterranean hospitality and flavors that you won’t find anywhere else. As a result, it has earned my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***!

Visit their website at zohara.com for more information and then check them out for yourself this Friday and let us know what you think!

Tell them the Dark Diva sent you!

Friday Happy Hour Review: Bistro On Main In Manchester Gives Happy Hour A Delightful French Twist

October 23, 2018

The international part of our Happy Hour Tour continues this week with a review of Bistro On Main in Manchester. As you might infer, it features a French influence. It’s also unique from the standpoint that it’s actually “a social enterprise owned and operated by the Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC).” In addition to striving to create a unique guest experience, Bistro on Main also supports MACC Charities through its profits and helps at-risk individuals break the cycle of poverty “through transitional employment and work readiness training.” In fact, its theme is “Eat Good. Do Good.”

We applaud their efforts, but we don’t give anyone a free pass as far our Friday Happy Hour Review is concerned. Fortunately, as you may have gathered from the headline, they didn’t need one!

“Joie de vivre” May Not Be Listed On The Menu,
But It Was Served With Everything We Ordered

The wall behind the bar offers a unique welcome!

While I always hope for a good experience, I honestly have no idea what to expect when I visit a new Friday Happy Hour. Usually, my first impression comes from a quick scan of the environment and the bartender’s initial expression. The two combine to give a pretty accurate read of what the Happy Hour experience will be like. At Bistro on Main, the one thing that consistently came through, from first glance until I left, was what the French call “joie de vivre” or “the joy of living.”

Mary (L) and Amanda (R) lit up the bar with genuine smiles.

Perfectly aligned with my mental image of a bistro, it felt cozy and inviting with a nice wooden bar and open kitchen. That image extended to the radiant smile that Mary (my initial bartender) greeted me with as I sat down at the bar. Later, Amanda took over the bartending duties with just as big of a smile. (Sadly, we live in an increasingly angry world, so I truly appreciate smiling faces, especially when they may be the first smiles I’ve seen all day.)

I spent a good deal of time chatting with Mary about mixology before my friend Suzanne arrived to join me. Mary, and later Amanda, was extremely attentive and took exceptionally good care of us. Executive Chef Ben Dubow even came out and talked with us for bit. The whole time, they all gave the impression that they really liked being there and doing exactly what they were doing. That made Bistro On Main one of the most welcoming establishments I have visited.

A Good Selection Of “L’heura de l’apéro” Drink Deals
Deserves A Toast – “á ta santé!”

It was hot hot in the bar and my Chocolate Martini evaporated before I could take a picture. (I also have some swamp land for sale … haha)

Normally, I would have tacked on my usual toast of “Cheers!” However, that is bad luck in France, where the preferred toast is the informal “á ta santé!” which means “to your health!” And, in reality, that’s what you get when you have a relaxing drink that won’t unduly stress your budget. At Bistro On Main, Happy Hour well drinks are $5 as are select wines and the cocktail du jour, which in our case was a Chocolate Martini (made with New Amsterdam vodka, Crème de Cacao and milk). Of course, it was delicious (c’mon, it’s chocolate!)!

My friend’s Naughty Nurse IPA!

Suzanne and I had one Chocolate Martini each before diverging in our drink choices. She opted for the Naughty Nurse IPA ($5), which she rated highly, and I chose a well bourbon (Four Roses) and water (a 50/50 mix since I planned on having a glass of the Happy Hour red wine as well). Both drinks, as well as my wine, were enjoyable. I would, however, like to see Bistro On Main feature a few more special cocktails for Happy Hour, since they have some very intriguing options on the regular menu. It would be a great opportunity to further display their mixology creativity as well as complement their extraordinary Happy Hour food offerings.

 

“Délicieux plats de bar“ Is French For Delicious Bar Food,
But Rich Flavor Speaks A Universal Language

Escargot & Truffle Fries! YUM!

Under normal circumstances, I look at the drinks as the stars of Happy Hour, although good Happy Hour food is also important. At Bistro On Main, the Happy Hour menu selections were the main attraction! My friend Suzanne and I started off by sharing the $8 Escargot (Roasted snails with garlic herb butter) and the $6 Truffle Fries. Both were simply outstanding. While I had tried snail salad (and liked it) many years ago, this was the first time I had tried Escargot, and it was amazing with an interesting texture and an irresistible flavor. At the same time, the seemingly endless Truffle Fries were light and oh so addicting.

So we were hungry! At least I got a picture of one salmon roll!

Since everything was so good (and as a reviewer I like to be thorough), we tried two more selections from the Happy Hour menu – Salmon Rolls ($8) plus Mussels & Fries ($6). The three Salmon Rolls consisted of pieces of smoked salmon rolled up with arugula, microgreens and a rouille sauce. They disappeared very quickly.

The Mussels & Fries was basically a meal in itself!

The Mussels & Fries came in a large iron skillet with meaty mussels in a rich coconut red curry sauce that was to die for and topped with a huge mound of light, flavorful French fries. Together with the drinks, they provided the perfect accompaniment for spending quality time with a dear friend.

According to their web site, Bistro On Main is committed to using the freshest, highest quality ingredients from local, sustainable sources. From what we ate, I have no reason at all to doubt the veracity of that commitment. Based on my Happy Hour experience, I definitely want to return to Bistro On Main sometime soon for dinner. (As an aside, French bistros are noted for serving their version of comfort food. If this is French comfort food, then all I can say is “Viva la France!”)

***UNIQUEMENT RECOMMANDÉ***

Okay, so pardon my French, literally, but it seemed appropriate as a way of saying that Bistro on Main has easily earned my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***! The atmosphere, service, drink menu and fabulous food, as well as its unique mission, elevate Bistro On Main to a unique level for Friday Happy Hour.

I totally recommend that you visit their web site at bistro-on-main.com to learn more and then check them out this coming Friday for Happy Hour to judge for yourself!

Tell them The Dark Diva sent you!

Friday Happy Hour Review: Plaza Azteca in Manchester Is The Perfect Venue To Make Your Own End Of The Week Fiesta

October 16, 2018

Traditionally, America has been a great melting pot of diverse cultures and their influences. And, from the Kosher deli to the sushi bar to the taco stand, food and drink are at the forefront of this melding to the point of being almost ubiquitous. They add variety to our lives and culture … and that includes Friday Happy Hour. Two weeks ago, I reviewed The Blue Elephant Trail in West Hartford (***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***), a Thai place, which offered a fresh Friday Happy Hour experience. This week, I went Mexican, for another refreshing departure, with my review of Plaza Azteca in Manchester.

*Fiesta – (Spanish for “festival” or “party”) … a celebration!

A Smiling Face Is Inviting
In Any Language

very friendly and very efficient!, Luis (my bartender at Plaza Azteca) was always smiling!

At the end of a long week, there’s nothing quite as inviting as a warm smile. It can put you in the right mood to celebrate the beginning of the weekend. Luis, my bartender at Plaza Azteca, was all smiles and made me feel welcome from the moment I sat down at the bar. Never intrusive, but always attentive, he kept a close eye out to see what I needed, was very responsive in answering question,s and made sure I got what I wanted. Luis was everything a really good bartender should be to get your fiesta started –- friendly and efficient.

Rating: Excellent (Excelente)!

Liquid Happiness That’s Easy to Understand
And Hard to Resist

Made with tequila, rum, passion fruit juice, orange juice and grenadine, the $5 Mexican Hurricane is a at least a Category 4 on the flavor scale. Just be careful not to overindulge and get blown away.

Potent and delicious, the $5 Happy Hour cocktails at Plaza Azteca in Manchester let the good times roll, Mexican style. I started with the Mexican Hurricane (tequila, rum, passionfruit juice, orange juice, grenadine), which was just sweet enough to be irresistibly tasty while also strong enough to blow away all the past week’s problems.

The $5 Small Skinny Margarita is my idea of the perfect Margarita – tequila, agave and lime juice and nothing else! (The sour mix that’s often used in Margaritas gives me instant heartburn.)

For my second drink, I went with the Small Skinny Margarita (tequila, agave, lime juice), which was the essence of what a Margarita should be in my opinion (which, since this is my blog, rules). I’ve never been fond of the Margarita or sour mix that most places use because it’s too sweet and gives me heartburn. This Margarita was simply “perfecto!”

One word of caution. Like many of the mixed drinks at most of the Happy Hours I’ve visited, these cocktails are as potent as they are delicious. *Please use caution – getting arrested for DUI or having an accident will ruin your fiesta pronto.

Rating: Excellent (Excelente)!

Feed The Need And Spice Up Your Fiesta Mood
With A Range Of Temptations

With selections at multiple price points (from $3 to $6), the Happy Hour food menu at Plaza Azteca offers a lot of variety, which really is the spice of life (especially in Mexican cuisine). I opted for the Taquitos (with chicken filling and no cheese per my request). Mildly spicy with tender chicken, the Taquitos were very tasty. Normally, I order two appetizers, but this one was satisfying filling. Definitely a good choice for your own personal fiesta!

Rating: Excellent (Excelente)!

 The Ambiance Is Comfortable
And Says “Welcome (Bienvenido)!”

Sure, the interior has the expected faux adobe and wood look that permeates the typical American version of a Mexican restaurant, but it’s done reasonably well here. The bar area is nice with dark wood and tile-look bar top that gives a cozy, inviting feel. It’s as authentic as it needs to be to create the illusion in Manchester that we’re enjoying a bit of Mexico and set the right mood for a little Friday Happy Hour celebration!

Rating: Good (Bueno)!

***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***

Plaza Azteca carves out its own niche in a crowded market with its well-done Mexican theme that has excellent consistency from the décor to the drinks to the food to the hospitality. Luis, the bartender, was the epitome of a gracious host with a warm smile and exceptional service. Friday Happy Hour had all the makings of my own little fiesta, so I give it my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***!

Check out them out online for location and other information, then visit them in person and let me know what you think.

Tell them the Dark Diva sent you.

What’s on your mind? We welcome your comments and suggestions. Like the review? Agree? Disagree? Got a Friday Happy Hour you want us to review? Let us know.

Friday Happy Hour Bar Review: The Blue Elephant Trail Raises The Bar Thai-High In Bringing A Fresh Twist To Happy Hour!

October 2, 2018

This past Friday I experienced a new and very enjoyable Friday Happy Hour experience in West Hartford when I ventured into The Blue Elephant Trail at 7 S. Main Street. Not exactly sure what to expect, I arrived at the start (4 PM) of Happy Hour to find a nice little bar tucked into the long narrow confines of the restaurant. There was a couple in discussion at the near end of the bar, so I selected a seat (they get a plus for some of the most comfortable bar stools I’ve run across) at the far (a relative term in this case) end of the bar. Just as soon as I appeared situated, Sean the bartender came over with the Happy Hour menu and a very nice smile.

Adventure By The Glass:
Putting The Happy In Happy Hour

The Happy Hour cocktail menu features some intriguing options!

The Asian Pear martini was quite enjoyable and even inspired me to create my own Silk Pear martini.

The cocktails section of the menu offered a list of intriguing possibilities (all at only $5 each) to tempt me, especially the Asian Pear martini, which I ordered for my first libation. (I love pear-flavored martinis.) Noticing that Sean tested my drink with a short straw to make sure it was right before serving it was a good indication that this Happy Hour experience was going to be a bit different.

Sean, the bartender at The Blue Elephant Trail, was an engaging young man with an outgoing personality and obvious pride in his craft!

After sampling the Asian Pear martini (which consists of Ginger Vodka, Pear Vodka and White Cranberry) and finding it to be a taste-tempting treat that was spot on for smoothness and flavor, I engaged Sean in conversation about the brand of pear vodka he used. This led into a very interesting exchange after I mentioned I was a mixologist and he explained about his bartender training (apparently, he had an excellent teacher). It is always a pleasure to meet a bartender who truly takes pride in the mixology aspect of their craft.

The Spiked Thai Iced Tea featured an international cast of ingredients that created an amazing flavor that was irresistible!

Although I would have thoroughly enjoyed having a second Asian Pear, my work as a reviewer requires that I experiment with as much of the menu as possible. Since several of the other drinks looked to be quite interesting, I asked Sean for his suggestion. He immediately recommended the Spiked Thai Iced Tea (made with an international list of ingredients: Thai Iced Tea, Spiced Rum, Bourbon and Irish Cream), so I agreed to give it a try.  It was amazing! A creamy delight that I can only describe as unexpectedly tasting a bit like an Asian eggnog, it proved to be totally irresistible.

Their drink offerings definitely brought an enjoyable sense of adventure to Happy Hour!

Food Earns Good F’s:
Fast, Fun and Flavorful

As you can see, the Satay Chicken was so good that I finished it before realizing I hadn’t taken a picture of it.

The Blue Elephant Trail Happy Hour food menu Thai’s together (a bad pun, but it’s fun) familiar aspects of Asian appetizers with a Thai twist, which makes it all the more enjoyable. While Sean highly recommended the Thai wings and wraps, which I’m sure were delicious, I opted for something a little less messy to eat, starting with the Satay Chicken ($3). It consisted of two decent-sized skewers of grilled marinated chicken served with a peanut curry sauce and cucumber relish. I have had variations of this at other places before and it has often been dry and chewy. Fortunately, however, this was moist, tender and very tasty with just the right amount of spice to tingle the taste buds.

This time I remembered to take the picture BEFORE I devoured them!

For my second choice, I picked the Spring Rolls ($2). Small, but packed with flavor, these crisp rolls had a nice crunch and a delicious vegetable filling.

I can easily recommend both the Satay Chicken and Spring Rolls as perfect choices that arrived quickly and tasted great. And you definitely can’t argue with the prices! One other food-related note: you can stop by Happy Hour and also get take-out for dinner.

A Decidedly Different Ambiance:
Intimately Inviting yet Comfortably Exotic

Here In Connecticut, as most places in America, Asian restaurants run the gamut from hole-in-the-wall takeout places to fine (and expensive) dining establishments. The Blue Elephant Trail has carved out an interesting niche with a tastefully done interior featuring an attractive, modern bar with just enough Asian touches to make it feel a bit out of the ordinary and just small enough to feel warmly welcoming. They also have a sidewalk patio that should offer a beautiful view of the fall leaves on the trees lining South Main Street.

***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***

By now, I’m sure you’ve already figured out that The Blue Elephant Trail has earned my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED*** for Friday Happy Hour! The ambiance, the drink selection, and the food choices together with Sean’s friendly, outgoing personality and pride in his craft behind the bar make The Blue Elephant Trail worth a try.

Check them out online at blueelephanttrail.com for hours, directions and more.

Tell them the Dark Diva sent you!

AS ALWAYS, WE INVITE YOUR COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS.

Friday Happy Hour Bar Review: Tripped Up By Inadequate Cocktail Specials, Market Grille In Manchester Falls Well Short Of Stand Out Rating.

September 25, 2018

When I set out to review a Friday Happy Hour, I really want to like the bar and give it a good rating. At the same time, I also must be honest in my evaluations or the review becomes meaningless to my readers. So even though I may give a bar my highest rating, I will still call out minor things that I think could be improved. Unfortunately, my biggest fault with Market Grillein Manchester was not a minor one.

A Disappointing Start
Makes A Stellar Finish Difficult

Readily apparent from the start, this transgression immediately dropped the bar from consideration for my highest rating. What could have been so terrible? It was their absolutely ridiculous notion that one Bartender’s Featured Cocktail for $5.50 was sufficient for a Happy Hour offering. As a mixologist, I found it a very sad way to start a Happy Hour.

Note that the only mixed drink is the Bartender’s Featured Cocktail! Surely they could offer more than one!

While it is true that a number of bars offer a limited selection of cocktail specials, I had not experienced any that limited it to one. I like to have at least a few mixed drink options. So, Market Grille was starting out behind the proverbial eight-ball in my review.

Service Rose To The Occasion
And Kept The Bar From Dropping More

Ty and Emily (not pictured) took excellent care of me and made service the one positive standout.

In many cases, good service can compensate for a multitude of sins. Both Ty, my primary bartender, and Emily, one of the other bartenders, took good care of me during my visit. Tygreeted me promptly after I sat down at the bar, explained the Bartender’s Featured Cocktailin satisfying detail and kept good track of needs throughout. And if he missed anything, Emilyhad it covered. Both were friendly and efficient. In addition, the folks who brought my Happy Hour food orders out were very polite.

While Tyand Emilycouldn’t pull Market Grilleout of the deep hole the lack of drink selection put it in, they did manage to halt the descent.

The Drinks Weren’t Bad,
Which Is Another Way Of Criticizing The Limited Selection

The Apple Ginger Tea was the Bartender’s Special Cocktail. While not bad, it wasn’t something to get excited about.

The Bartender’s Specialwas an Apple Ginger Tea, which I tried. I’m always interested in trying new mixed drinks and this one was decent with a nice blend of apple and ginger flavors without too much sweetness (thankfully they use unsweetened tea). At the same time, it just didn’t resonate with me as anything special worth ordering again.

The Ruby Red Pinot Noir Sangria! They poured a full glass and it was good by my sangria standards, but I would have preferred something else. Sadly, I had no other options for Happy Hour.

For my second drink, I opted for the $6.50Ruby Red Pinot Noir Sangriamore out of desperation than choice, since I can’t drink beer and I didn’t feel like wine. It was a generous serving and not bad, which is actually a compliment since I’m not a huge sangria fan.

There was nothing really wrong with either drink except that they are probably not what I would have ordered if I had other cocktail options from which to choose.

The Food Was More Satisfying,
Though Hardly Rave Worthy

While the Happy Hour food options were certainly more numerous than the drink choices, the menu felt somewhat uninspired by my standards. Nothing jumped out as a really unique or signature offering. For my first selection, I picked the $4 Lobster Salad Slider, which was good, but a bit on the bland side.

The very generous serving of perfectly fried Crisp Rhode Island Clam Strips was a good deal at $5.

Next, I ordered the $5 Crisp Rhode Island Clam Strips. What I got was a seemingly bottomless bucket of delicious, perfectly fried clam strips with a quite tasty tartar sauce. I can definitely say I enjoyed the clam strips with no caveats.

The Ambiance Was Friendly,
But Not Necessarily Inviting

Although it is apparently a popular spot for Friday Happy Hour, judging by the crowd, the Market Grille’sbar area lacks a definitive identity. The dark wood décor is attractive, and upscale, but lacks a certain warmth. In fact, it comes across as nice place, but nothing extraordinary.

And under pet peeves, I hate that their bar stools have no backs, especially when there are no hooks under the bar to hang your purse on.

***RECOMMENDED WITH CAVEATS***

While I was impressed with the service I received and the prices, the food and drinks generally failed to rise above the ordinary while the availability of only one mixed drink special was unacceptable if you prefer mixed drinks for your Happy Hour libations as I do. At the same time, if wine and beer are your adult beverages of choice, then you may find it to your liking. As a result, I can only give Market Grillea rating of ***RECOMMENDED WITH CAVEATS***.

Check them out for yourself online at marketgrillct.com for more information.

As always, we invite your comments and suggestions.

Don’t Make A Sad Mistake! Check Out These Friday Happy Hour Reviews Before Making Plans for Tomorrow … Plus The Queen Puts A Sizzlin’ Twist On Hot Apple Pie … And The Diva Jazzes Up Royal Street!

August 20, 2018

As part of our new blog format, here’s part two of this week’s blog to get you primed for the weekend.

Give Your Happy Hour Plans A Fresh Twist This Friday

Get out of the usual Friday Happy Hour rut and try someplace new tomorrow. Check out my past reviews for recommendations!

Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford

Ted’s Montana Grill in South Windsor

Mill On the River in South Windsor

Burtons Grill & Bar in South Windsor

The Republic in Bloomfield

The Cook and The Bear in West Hartford

Queen Cayenne’s “RED🔥HOT” Apple Pie Martini

Just when you thought it was safe, The Dark Diva’s alter ego has gone wild in the “la-bar-atory” to createthis spicy fall concoction!
It ain’t your mama’s hot apple pie!

In a glass with ice, combine:

• 1.5 oz. Full Moonshine Apple Pie
• 1.0 oz. Waypoint Spirits Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey
• 0.5 oz. Cruzan®Vanilla Rum
• 0.25 oz. La Belle Orange Gran Orange Liqueur
• 2 Dashes Tabasco®Original Pepper Sauce

Stir well, strain into a chilled martini glass and toast the sweet heat!

The Royal Street Jazz
AKA King’s Twisted Blues!

The Dark Diva’s at it again with another recipe celebrating #NOLA and #NCISNewOrleans. This lethal cocktail consists of:

• 1.0 oz. Sazerac®Rye Straight Rye Whiskey
• 0.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
• 0.25 oz. La Belle Orange Gran Orange Liqueur
• 6 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Mix ingredients together in an 8 oz. glass with ice, stir and jazz up the moment with a toast to Royal Street!

 

Have a great weekend!