By Cassidy Kotyla
[Editor’s Note: Reviews represent the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the We-Ha.com team as a whole.]
The Elbow Room, West Hartford
Food – 4.2/5
Ambiance – 3.75/5
Wait Time – 4.8/5
Overall – 4.25/5
Stepping into the rustic, open-concept restaurant The Elbow Room, a flood of memories washes by me.
Having lived in West Hartford for nearly two decades, I can recall how long the restaurant itself has been standing, even as it has had several changes of management. The neon sign hanging on the window has been glowing for what seems like ages – and has endured in West Hartford Center despite so many new businesses moving in.
Sitting down with head chef Ariel Martinez, it became clear that the intention of the restaurant is to avoid the impression of being exclusive and expensive, unlike some other restaurants in the area. The menu reflects those intentions, highlighting not only the most basic of foods like burgers, salads, and soups – but also Martinez’s creative twist on the traditional American-style restaurant, including items like dry-rub wings that cannot be found anywhere else, a grilled zucchini flatbread ($10.95), or mouth-watering lobster mac-n-cheese ($20.95).
Martinez said he’s seen it all. He’s been member of the West Hartford community for multiple years, is a Conard High School graduate, and was the former chef at Greek restaurant Tapas.
Witnessing firsthand multiple restaurants fall short because of their lack of authenticity to other neighboring restaurants, it was clear to him that the basic menu had to be re-worked after a change in kitchen management. With a gleam in his eye, he explained how much it mattered to him that every customer leaves with a smile on their face, regardless of their age or background.
Geared towards attracting all ages, The Elbow Room prides itself on the utmost respect for flavor and value. In comparison to some of the more expensive restaurants in the area, prices are below the average for what you might expect. Soups are just under $6, whereas a dish with salmon will cost you just under $24. The style of the restaurant could be classified as American, however the kitchen staff brings in flavors from the South, Caribbean, and even Italian cooking secrets.
While in my opinion the interior’s ambiance could be considered just average, the restaurant boasts rooftop seating – the one in the West Hartford area with that availability. It’s definitely quite appealing and a fabulous vantage point for people watching in The Center when the weather is nice.
Inside, however, there is a sharp contradiction between the bar area and the main dining room. The dining room has a wooden rustic feel to it, making it suitable for all ages. However, the bar area – called The Tap Room – is transformed into almost a sports bar.
You will most likely be waiting for a seat, especially on the weekends. Although this is no shock to West Hartford natives, it could be a deciding factor for those who need a quick bite in a short amount of time. However, it is guaranteed that if you do choose to wait, you have full access to the bar along with a great meal when your table becomes available.
One of the most highly recommended items on the menu is the pulled-pork mac-n-cheese, which spans a fine line between adult meals and something kid-friendly. The dish, priced at $19.95, comes with a heaping amount of food, perfect for those who come in famished.
While it might not be the best place for an intimate date night, especially if your goal is fine dining, The Elbow Room is a good choice for happy hour, dinner with the boys (or girls), and a family night out.
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Cassidy Kotyla is a college senior studying journalism, communication and film studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As a West Hartford native of nearly 20 years, she enjoys learning about the happenings and new businesses emerging in the area. She has been a film and food critic for The Massachusetts Daily Collegian in the past. To contact her, please email [email protected].