Gay Nightlife in Hartford: Best Bars, Clubs, & More

Hartford skyline at dawn
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While Hartford, Connecticut is not exactly a gay destination, there are some great things to do, a few places to go to partake of gay nightlife, and some gay-friendly restaurants.

Connecticut's state capital, Hartford, is a 30- to 40-minute drive north of New Haven, about two hours from New York City and a little less from Boston. Known for years as the heart of America's insurance industry (a dull legacy if ever there was one), Hartford has more than 300 years of historic and distinctive architecture, ranging from 17th-century Colonial house-museums to the 1919 Art Deco 527-foot Travelers Insurance Tower, which looms over downtown—you can tour the observation deck for free by reservation.

Must-sees here include the Wadsworth Atheneum, an immense repository of art and artifacts spanning five millennia that brings in some of the best traveling art shows in the northeast, and the grandiose 1879 State Capitol Building. Also, be sure to visit the Mark Twain House & Museum and Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, which are around the corner from each other in the city's historic West End, a neighborhood where quite a few lesbians and gay men live.

Like New Haven, Hartford also has a fine arts scene, with several good spaces for music, dance, and performing arts, including the acclaimed Hartford Stage. Real Art Ways shows cutting-edge art films, many of them gay-themed, as does Cine Studio on the campus of Trinity College. Real Art Ways also has a gay happy hour, GAZE, on the first Friday of every month.

Gay Bars and Dance Clubs

Hartford's only full-time gay bar, Chez Est, is in the city's South End, also known for having one of New England's most colorful Little Italy neighborhoods. It is a popular video bar with a great jukebox that draws a diverse crowd for many of its parties, including regular drag shows and karaoke on Wednesdays.

Favela Rooftop on Newfield Avenue is a second-floor bar and dance club (climb the outside stairs to get there) owned by Ephraim Adamz, a DJ, filmmaker, musician, and LGBT Pride Festival coordinator playing a range of music and offering an inclusive environment. The lounge is only open on Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and is available for private parties at other times.

Gay-Friendly Restaurants and Cafes

Although it's not an explicitly gay bar, the hip and friendly Tisane Euro-Asian Cafe on Farmington Avenue in the city's trendy West End (near the Mark Twain house and close to the border of the attractive neighboring community of West Hartford) has a substantial gay following and sometimes has GLBT events including a Tuesday "Boyz Night" and karaoke on Thursdays. The Sunday brunches are also well-attended in the community. Anytime, this is a good spot for tasty Pan-Asian food, tea, coffee, and colorful cocktails and martinis.

For lunch or delicious fresh baked goods, stop by the Kitchen on Broad Street, part of a downtown historic complex of buildings that includes a Thursday year-round farmers market, a community space with regular event programming, and about 100 apartments.

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The charming Pond House Cafe at Prospect and Asylum Streets in leafy Elizabeth Park, has seats overlooking one of the most breathtaking rose gardens in the country; it's popular for lunch, brunch, and dinner.

Just a few miles outside of downtown Hartford, the dapper and attractive suburb of West Hartford, known for its handsome early-20th-century residential architecture, has a lively downtown filled with sophisticated, gay-friendly eateries and coffeehouses.

Community favorites include:

  • Restaurant Bricco on LaSalle Road and its sister establishment Grants Restaurant & Bar on Farmington Avenue, a gay-date favorite, are known to be gay-friendly.
  • Arugula Bistro on Farmington Avenue is ideal for great Mediterranean fare.
  • The artisan-coffee roaster, J. René Coffee Roasters on Park Road, boasts a handsome storefront and is known for brewing top-notch java.

About a 25-minute drive south of Hartford and home to the progressive liberal arts college Wesleyan University, the small city of Middletown has a number of downtown hangouts with a discernible gay following including:

  • Elegant Luce Restaurant on Washington Street is popular for modern American and Tuscan fare.
  • Long-running bar and restaurant Eli Cannon's Tap Room on Main Street, which has 36 beers on tap (a good, rotating list), and tasty pub fare is good for lunch or dinner.
  • Sweet Harmony Cafe & Bakery, also on Main Street, is a nice option for lunch, serving terrific sandwiches and desserts.
  • Klekolo World Coffee on Court Street is a source of fine coffee and has a strong following in the LGBT community.

Tips for Going Out in Hartford

  • As you can see, there aren't many gay-specific night clubs or bars in Hartford so gay-friendly restaurants also serve as evening gathering spots.
  • 2 a.m. is about the latest you'll find any nightlife available in Hartford so plan an early evening.
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