By Anna and Andrey Vdovenko
Nightlife in the Farmington Valley sounds like an incongruous misnomer, as if those two things couldn’t possibly live within the confines of one sentence. We think that nightlife in our area only exists in other towns such as West Hartford or Hartford. Not necessarily true…the Farmington Valley has plenty of action if you know where to go look for it. In speaking with local night owls, we discovered that there are many fun options for those who don’t want to go over the mountain into the uber-chic areas we already know and love.
In polling those we know who partake of evenings out on the town, we concluded that nightlife is defined in our region as going to a place that stays open late for drinks. Very few places serve food past 10 p.m. (11 p.m. tops) in the Valley, but we do have quite a few spots that stay open until midnight, and even 1:00 a.m. in some cases, proffering social opportunities and an open bar.
Nightlife for all ages
The Lime Bar and Grill in Avon for one is a great entry level spot for those just turning 21 and wanting to meet up with their friends to have a first drink and begin their evening socializing as a bonafide adult. Older adults tend to meet up there too because it is centrally located and feels unintimidating. Summer after summer, you can find people of all ages there, including dapper gentlemen and attractive older women as well as boys wearing golf shirts and their freshly minted graduate gal pals taking the next social steps beyond fraternity and sorority life. White wine in marble coolers, prime pop burgers and beer glass margaritas all can be found under the dim yellow lights of their beer garden patio. Servers from 18 to 42 calmly and consistently move about the terrain being politely accommodating and non-intrusive. Nevertheless, come winter, this place takes a cozy turn as host to flocks of men in cohorts of three to seven dressed in flannel shirts and Timberlands crowding the back corner of the bar. The inside seating with its more tavern-like feel glows with ski jackets and Barbers. The daily usuals drink a round of beers while the more hungry enjoy the bourbon steak tips, split wings or quesadilla. Something of note is the premier location of this institution. Got friends over the hill? Got pals in Avon? This bar and grill will forever be the crossroads of a good time.
When Apricots closed after being a Unionville institution, it was hard to imagine that anything else could go into that spot that would be comparable or even better. But according to one local who boycotted the place for a while, a great round of golf put him in a jolly mood to welcome in this heretofore nine-headed beast of nine popular locations he’d been avoiding. His jaw dropped as he entered the newly remodeled edifice beaming bright white under the setting Connecticut sun. Wood n’ Tap has brought their “A” game to the Farmington Valley with its riverside location, outdoor seating in the warmer months, and servers that beam with hospitality and good looks. The “holy grail” of chicken sandwiches will pass by you as it is proffered to another customer by a server, so who cares waiting 40 minutes for a table while taking in the scene and watching the stunning river roll by? Thousands of full converts now frequent Wood n’ Tap and never look back too wistfully anymore on the golden days of its previous incarnation. Nearby, you’ve also got the Olive Bar, which is pretty busy every night, a place that is part of George’s Pizza. It has caught on big time and seems to be another crowd pleaser.
Being cool in Collinsville
When you mention nightlife, Collinsville instantly gets brought up by those in the know. A few places get honorable mention right out of the gate. What first comes to mind is the Grindstone, receiving an A+ from the locals that we spoke to. One person explained that it is somewhere between a very nice bar and a dive bar, a quality that gives it charm and ambiance. People come to play music and it feels like a free for all of musicians that play reggae, jazz, soft rock and Grateful Dead jams, or whatever else they are into that week. They have beer, pool tables, great wings and burgers, and lots of conversation along with a comforting, cool hostess who knows how to welcome in the crowds with plenty of personality and good drinks.
Grindstone seems to be everyone’s favorite place to reconnoiter for future dates, sizing up the local catch with verbal repartee while bolstered by camaraderie amongst those friends who have known each other since high school and still come to enjoy this warm-hearted watering hole. The Crown and Hammer is also a very popular spot in Collinsville with a bar that stays open late. Upscale music proffered in all genres gives a sophisticated sense of the nightlife that is quintessentially Collinsville cool including country, jazz and easy listening.
More Farmington Valley meeting spots
Whether you are looking for drinking and talking together at a bar, meeting new people, or gathering with friends, listening to music and sometimes playing some games—pool being most notable—Farmington Valley has some other interesting options that you can consider before trekking over the mountain into WEHA. It isn’t the most sophisticated region of the state, but it has its appeal. Locals often take to the mic for open mic night or scheduled gigs at places like The Maple Tree Café on Hopmeadow in Simsbury or at the La Salle Market on weekends in Collinsville.
For Granby to the Northern region of the Valley, there’s Hoops and Hops—you might just say the Simsbury/Granby meeting point. They have great sports, good games to play and hearty food plus they stay open late. There you’ll find mostly locals: the salt of the earth Connecticut types who work hard and like to meet up to search for dates while tossing a few brews down with old pals. Speaking of Granby, the Cambridge House Pub has become one other very popular hangout in recent years under new ownership. With a great menu and a varied selection of good beer and ale, you can’t go wrong spending a few hours there when looking for good conversation and fine company.
Towards Simsbury, the down-to-earth Old Well Tavern, occasionally hired out for a movie set, can be hopping busy or quiet, depending upon the mood of the denizens of Simsbury/Granby who rely on finding good company there on weekends. There is plenty of good food and live music, so you can count on having a nice time no matter what age you are.
Noshing the next day
Nightlife isn’t also just the night out; it is also about the morning after. And just in case you’ve had a little too much the night before and need something to really cut through the pain of the hangover, Brookside Bagels is by far and away the best place for that. When do you admit you’re addicted to Brookside? Whether you choose to frequent the cushier restaurants or bars at popular places like Millwrights, Abigail’s or Metro Biz—not to mention Max-a-Mia—you cannot deny the certain inherent glory of the Brookside Bagel after a night out on the town. A bagel connoisseur wouldn’t suggest that “Brooks” is the greatest bagel pick in the Northeast. But regardless, you’ll find this local alma mater rife with diehard Farmington Valley fans lined up out the door.
College kids assert that now only after 20 years of living in the “860” (area code) do they firmly reserve the right to profess the ultimate superiority of the Brookside Bagel. This isn’t your New York bagel. This isn’t your Jersey or Montreal. This is New England, and our bagels are built different, just like our people. Dense and spongy with great stretch, you will not regret a single religious bite (unless you are gluten-intolerant). After your nightlife experience, we implore that you attend this communion and drink the “Kool Aid” of the Brookside Bagel. We doff our cap to the Nova Scotia Lox scooped and toasted well on an everything bagel; the sausage, egg and cheese; and The Brookside, which is the reimagined version of the hot dog. For most, this Hopmeadow Street haven has the highest beer can scale of 4.9 out of five because it’s just such a great place to go after a long night out in the Valley.
So just when you thought it was appropriate to call your town Simsboring, think again and quite possibly consider what adventures might await you at the Valley’s numerous nightlife extravaganzas.