Thursday, March 13, 2008

Caribe Restaurant : Hartford

After driving through Park St in downtown Hartford numerous times on our way elsewhere and seeing the numerous Latin American restaurants and shops, I knew I wanted to explore the neighborhood a bit. I was told that it's not an especially safe neighborhood; however, after seeing some of the scary neighborhoods in Phili, I didn't really feel like it was that bad. Plus, on some level, I feel like we, online foodies, tend to be sheltered middle-class folk, who stick to "safe" middle-classed areas and restaurants and felt that it was about time to explore unknown areas a little.

So today, I walked over to Park St. While I knew that I would stand out from the crowd, I figured that the bright and sunny weather might make the locals slightly more receptive to the idea of an outsider. Even so, the area didn't feel completely comfortable, especially the section of Park St between Main St and Washington St which is devoid of stores. After walking down Park St. a bit, I ended up choosing Caribe Restaurant, based on its large windows without any gating over it, seeing a couple of women eating inside and seeing a group of 6 Spanish-speaking construction workers head inside. I later found out that it serves Dominican food.

Inside, it feels like a neighborhood diner. There's six or so tables, a counter with stools that you can sit at and several refridgerators, full of American and non-American juices, sodas and what looks to be home-made puddings. Everyone is of course speaking Spanish and besides a small chalk-board with some specials, there are no menus.

I initally got a semi-frosty reception, until I busted out my rusty/broken Spanish, after which the waitress/cook warmed up a bit and listed what they served in English. I ended up ordering the baked chicken, fried green plantains and yellow rice and beans. The baked chicken was pretty darn tasty, very juicy and tasting slightly of garlic. The rice and beans was moist and passable. The one thing I didn't really like were the fried green plantains, which were rather dry. In any case, the portions were quite large - it was half a chicken, and a whole plateful of rice and plantains each.

All in all, I definitely wouldn't feel comfortable bringing friends to this section of town and I'm not quite sure when I'll return to try another restaurant. However, as my waittress said after I had finished my meal, "It's nice to try out new things."

Caribe Restaurant
686 Park St
Hartford, CT 06106
(860) 548-0776
($Connecticut, $Hartford, $South / Latin American)

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