Disclosure: I was invited to a media happy hour at Brownstone Cafe, sponsored by them. All photos and opinions remain my own.
When you think of West Hartford, you probably think of one of two places: Blue Back or the downtown area. Both have a variety of dining options, but there’s more to West Hartford. And it’s surprisingly close by.
I was invited to attend a media happy hour at Brownstone Cafe recently to taste some samples from their new summer menu. I wasn’t quite sure where they were located, but I happily accepted, excited to try out somewhere new. What I discovered is that they’re only about 2 minutes off the beaten path–no excuses, people! It’s worth it for good food!
Brownstone Cafe is new to the West Hartford landscape, opening in late March. They occupy a quaint brick building on Oakwood with parking in the back (yes, I stress about parking–don’t worry, there’s plenty!). They’re still fine tuning their menu, after a recent decision to go in a different direction than they originally intended. The atmosphere is cozy and casual, yet classy. The food is upscale bar and affordable. And the bar itself is gorgeous. I would gladly get together there for drinks with friends.
Vin Keola, Executive Chef and Owner, explained that our tasting menu would include some pairings with summer cocktails. While what we were served was plated differently than you’d probably get them as a patron of the restaurant, it gave us more than an ample opportunity to get a taste of what he has to offer–and know that I really liked what I was eating.
I started with a Pyrito because we all need a good beverage to get things moving. The Pyrito is a signature cocktail for Brownstone Cafe, the combination of Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, muddled mint, lime, and ginger ale. Sort of a mojito meets Dark and Stormy, only better. It was well balanced–no syrupy taste like you get from many mojitos–and had gorgeous fresh mint mixed in. I could see myself sipping this all summer long. Wow!
Chef Keola paired his Rice and Corn Margarita Salad with the Pyrito, an appetizer portion of rice, black beans, red onion, tomato, and corn served in endive leaves. I loved the fresh taste with the little bit of acid and cilantro. Ahhhh, cilantro. A light bite for the night!
Next we were served Ultimate Citrus Fizz cocktails. Ultimate Vodka, muddled citrus, and club soda are combined for this lemony, bright drink. No need to worry about it being too sweet, like many summer cocktails are, because there was no sweetness at all. It was refreshing on its own, but I wasn’t a fan of pairing it with the next dish.
Citrus-infused chicken skewers were next on the menu: served with a tequila lime sour cream sauce. Grilled chicken, nice acid, and the sauce accentuated the chicken beautifully. Not heavy at all — a nice change from the usual fried bar appetizers.
Wendy of Connecticut Lifestyles Magazine asked if we could try a few other menu items and we were happily obliged. Out came a tray with more drinks and I discovered a new booze–Pisco Portón. As in, The Portón Mule. As in, Pisco Portón, ginger beer, and lime juice. Another fantastic summer sipper, with a great bite from the ginger beer.
When the Cheddar Biscuits and Sliced Beef with horseradish crème sauce came out, I couldn’t wait to grab one. The biscuits were flavorful and cheesy with just the right consistency–not too dry, but crumbled like they should. Inside, the beef, onion, and horseradish crème sauce played together nicely, a small bite with a lot to love.
Wendy and I fawned over the Patrón XO Café Iced Coffee on the menu and were so pleased when we were served our own to sample. Consisting of Patrón XO Café, Ultimat Vodka, dark creme de cocoa, and half and half, it’s the perfect after-dinner drink. Dessert in a glass, and I quite happily knocked it back.
I swooned reading the description for the Loaded House Chips, certain that this combination of house-made potato chips, crumbled bacon, scallions, and Gorgonzola cheese with a Gorgonzola dipping sauce would be all that…and a bag of chips. Imagine my delight when this plate came out with all that goodness on it! They were a little oily–the temperature of the oil in the fryer probably could have been a little higher–but it wasn’t unpleasant by any means. In fact, I needed the plate taken away from me–they were irresistible.
It was just about time to leave, but Chef Keola sent out an extra surprise–Artichoke Heart Bites with Marinara. They were crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and the marinara was thick enough to make an excellent dipping sauce–no worries about it dripping off your artichoke hearts! Yes, fried food is typical bar food, but I love fried food. And I loved these Artichoke Heart Bites.
We bid Chef Keola goodbye and thanked him and his staff for a wonderful evening. I was impressed! And I will be back.
Brownstone Cafe is open Monday through Friday, 11 AM to 11 PM, and Saturday and Sunday, 9 AM to 11 PM, with brunch from 9 AM to 2 PM on weekends. You can join them for Happy Hour from 4 PM to 7 PM on weekdays.
16 Oakwood Avenue
West Hartford, Connecticut 06119