Best of Connecticut 2010: Nightlife
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Brew Ha Ha at City Steam Brewery Café
Hartford, (860) 525-1600 (citysteambrewerycafe.com)
Brew Ha Ha Comedy Club opened in 1987 with a performance by a then-unknown comic, Denis Leary. The club has been packing in audiences in search of a few laughs ever since. Nationally known comics and up-and-comers crack up the crowd every Thursday through Saturday night. And they claim the jokes are even funnier if you have a few of the 12 ales and lagers brewed on-site at the 15-barrel brewhouse.
Thomas Hooker Brewing
Bloomfield, (860) 242-3111 (hookerbeer.com)
Stroll into the Hooker Brewery in Bloomfield during a Friday night open house, and you will soon understand why it makes our list. These weekly events are crowded with convivial beer drinkers (both expert and novice) quaffing different styles of Hooker beer, from year-round brews like their Blonde and Munich lagers to seasonal selections such as Watermelon Ale (summer) and Octoberfest (fall). Hooker has been awarded prizes nationally and internationally at beer competitions, and it’s increasingly available at package stores around the state.
Shelton, (203) 929-8425 (jonesfamilyfarms.com)
After successfully farming the land for 150 years and six generations, the Jones family made the foray into winemaking only a decade ago, and like a fine bottle of wine, the long wait has been well worth it. Under the guidance of Jamie Jones, Jones Winery offers rosé, fruit, dessert, red and white wines, including its award-winning Pinot Gris, which is made from Pinot Gris grapes grown in Shelton. Jones Winery wine is available in Shelton-area liquor stores, or stop by the winery to purchase a bottle.
New Haven, (203) 776-1014 (partnerscafe.com)
Bars on two floors plus drink specials, live entertainment and events most nights (like the “Love Potion Party” on Thursdays and karaoke on Sundays) make Partners Café one of the liveliest bars around. More importantly, deejays spin the latest in hip hop, house, techno and Top 40, so there’s almost always a beat and plenty of dancing. The atmosphere is fun, the crowd energetic and the scene one of the best anywhere.
New Haven, (203) 776-8835 (christophermartins.com)
A Monday-through-Friday tradition for 20 years at Christopher Martin’s pub, Happy Hour features discounted drinks and never-the-same-two-days-in-a-row munchies. Monday through Wednesday is Chef’s Choice (with wings, pasta, crudités and/or a build-your-own taco station), Thursday’s offerings include a carving station (with porchetta and top round) and Friday is the kick-out-the-jams raw bar night. Sit back, enjoy the 50-inch flat-screen TVs and forget about dinner.
Greenwich, (203) 661-4600 (lescalerestaurant.com)
L’Escale’s Lounge is one of our favorite places—elegant but unpretentious, sexy but not in-your-face, with an appealing offhand chic. There’s a pewter-topped bar, Louis VI-style chairs covered in bright linens, Parisian music wafting from the speakers, French doors looking out on the water. The menu features Gallic specialties like croque monsieur and pissaladiere, along with great burgers and light fare such as crispy fried oysters, duck pot stickers and petite Maryland crab cakes. Wash it all down with one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues, cocktails named Charity, Fortitude, Hope and—Temperance, which involves fresh raspberries, mint and a blend of light and dark rums. We’ll drink to that!
McKinnon’s Irish Pub
Hartford, (860) 524-8174 (mckinnonsirishpub.com)
Each March, revelers flock to the heart of Hartford to observe St. Patrick’s Day at McKinnon’s, but the Emerald Isle is celebrated year-round here. Like a true Irish pub, this is a cozy, casual, neighborly place where the regulars all seem to know one another and are content to enjoy live Irish music (on Wednesday nights), authentic Irish fare—like lamb stew, corned beef or cottage pie (beef layered with corn and mashed potatoes)—and, of course, plenty of Guinness. That’ll keep your Irish eyes a-smilin’.
Black Duck Café
Westport, (203) 227-7978
Attention, all secret shower singers—there’s no longer a reason to hide. You and your friends are welcome to come strut your stuff every Monday and Tuesday evening from 9:30 until closing at this barge-turned-riverside-café, a Westport institution that’s short on glitz and long on that neighborhood bar atmosphere. What better place to croon a few classic tunes or belt out a showstopper or two than in front of a crowd that’s there to have as much fun as you are? So pick out a song, grab that mic and let it go—at the Black Duck, no one will ‘quack’ up if you do.