Do you get tired of the hassle and bustle of dining in the center of West Hartford or in Blue Back Square? What not try the recently opened Brownstone Café West Hartford, located at 14 Oakwood Avenue. We stopped by for their grand opening to see what they had to offer.
Arriving at their location, we noticed it is located in a simple brick building with parking in the back of the building or on the street. If you park in back, they have a back entrance you can use. The simplicity of the decor continues to the interior. One could describe the interior as “industrial decor” due to one wall being bare red brick and cinder block and dark gray exposed “I” beams in the ceiling. The modest and warm decor offers a comfort and relaxing atmosphere. On the right side the 20-seat bar is followed by an open air kitchen. The kitchen is visible from just about every spot in the cafe allowing the inviting aromas to flow throughout the cafe. Owner Vin told us in the near future they are going to commission a local artist to paint a mural on the brick wall.
Brownstone Café West Hartford owners Jen and Vin Keola along with Chef Kelly Ferrisi offer seasonal, rustic, comfort food with a modern twist focusing on quality and freshness using local and organic ingredients. There will be weekly specials centered around the seasonal ingredients.
Brownstone Cafe is open 7 days a week from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm for lunch and dinner. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Brunch will be served from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm every Saturday and Sunday.
Some of the specials and small plates offered during the Weekday Happy Hour will include portabella sliders and three way Satay. In addition to the food specials, all draft beers are $4.00, a glass of wine is $4.00, domestic bottles of beer will be $3.00, and well drinks are $3.00.
While enjoying the food, guests can choose from an assortment of 12 beers on tap, including rotating local options from Two Roads and Broadbrook Brewing companies. Brownstone Café has also partnered with one of the state’s premier wineries, Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington, CT, and will feature the vineyard’s petite syrah, zinfandel and chardonnay. Brownstone Café has a full bar where mixologist Mike offers his specialty cocktails such as French Martini, Raspberry Mojito, or White Chocolate Martini.
Jen and Vin Keola, who also own and operate Pintore Catering, has combined it with the Brownstone Café West Hartford. Pintore offers corporate and private catering options. “It’s always been a dream of mine to build on Pintore and open a local restaurant”, said long time local and small business owner Vin Keola. “There aren’t enough options for folks who want something outside of the Center and we were very excited to find our building and work through the SBA process to bring such a unique space alive in West Hartford.”
The opening day menu included such cuisine as: spring pappardelle with chicken or shrimp, braciole stuffed lamb, and roasted turkey breast with sautéed baby spinach.
We started the meal off with drinks; Raspberry Mojito and Worker’s Comp from Two Roads Brewery.
The refreshing Raspberry Mojito (bottom left photo below) featured muddled fresh raspberries and mint nicely combined with white rum, sugar, lime juice, and sparkling water. If you love mojitos you don’t be disappointed with their version. Worker’s Comp is made with traditional saison yeast that produces tropical fruit, wheaty, and spice flavors and aromatics.
Later we tried the French Martini (shown in the first photo below), which was a smooth blend of Stoli vanilla vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord. Definitely ask for this cocktail. We thoroughly enjoyed ours.
As we were chatting with Vin and Beverage Manager Joe, they decided to treat us to two other of their cocktails: Bloody Mary and traditional vodka martini. The Bloody Mary was a slightly spicy blend of vodka, tomato juice, and the usual spices of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, horseradish, and lemon juice among them. It came garnished with a baby carrot, lemon slice, and a blue cheese stuffed olive. What set apart the traditional vodka martini from others was that when poured by mixologist Mike into a martini glass it formed a thin layer of fine ice on top of the drink adding a fine chill to the vodka.
We started our meal with the Three Way Satay from the appetizer menu. The satay (seasoned, skewered , and grilled meat accompanied by a dipping sauce) was duck with a berry compote, lamb with Tzatziki, and pork with a slightly hot jerk sauce. Each piece of meat was juicy and tender and appropriately matched with its sauce, so that the sauce accented the flavor of the meat.
For entrees, we choose the Spring Pappardelle Pasta with Scallops and Braciole Stuffed Lamb. Mixed into the Pappardella pasta were artichoke hearts, zucchini, leeks, parmesan cheese, pea greens. The sweet scallops were perfectly grilled to a beautiful golden brown with a slight crust on the edges. The pasta was cooked to a nice al dente with the mixture of vegetables adding a nice lightness to the dish.
The Braciole Stuffed Lamb came with Swiss chard, Merguez, smashed potatoes, and a demi-glace. The medium rare savory lamb had a nice crispness to the other edges leading to a tender and juicy center. The Swiss chard was sautéed with bits of fresh chopped garlic. The Merguez added depth to the dish with its spiciness. The smashed potatoes were creamy with bits of potatoes present. Completing the dish was a flavorful demi-glace.
We closed out this delectable meal with a Cappuccino Mousse and Chocolate torte topped with fresh whipped cream. The mousse and whipped were both smooth and light with the mousse being very flavorful. The tart was “very” chocolaty and dense that was a little too thick for out taste. The dessert was quite good and is actually enough for up to four people to share. Accompanying this rich dessert was one of the largest cups of coffee we have ever seen.
As word gets out about Brownstone Cafe, we believe this will become a local favorite because from our first experience, they serve good drinks and delicious seasonal foods. The customer service was exceptional and pleasant. While you are there, try their house roasted spiced mixed nuts and spicy popcorn while you wait for your dinner.