As a young scribe 30 years ago there was the Ocean Sea Grill downtown and a few other eateries that came and went. And oh yeah, we had the bars. For reporters working the night shift churning out The Telegram, predecessor of the Connecticut Post (The Tele was the morning paper and the Post the afternoon) Sol’s Cafe on Fairfield Avenue was the sanctuary for cocktails all night and into the early morning and after hours. Shoot, if the cops raided the place, who was going to write about it?
Bare Tapas & Vino is the latest to fill the location of Sol’s Cafe and it’s quite a step up from the sleepy, dark, jukebox joint we knew. (What’s a jukebox?) Cool stuff is going on downtown and Joe Tiago, young proprietor of a construction company, is part of the emerging brighter face. A few years ago he opened Tiago’s on State Street, a pub across McLevy Green. On Thursday Joe hosted the grand opening of his second restaurant Bare Tapas & Vino, part of Phil Kuchma’s Bijou Square development on Fairfield Avenue. Running a restaurant is a tricky thing in the best of times. Joe has plugged a nice hole after Cafe Roma closed more than a year ago.
In a space of a few blocks downtown there’s Joe’s two restaurants, Épernay Bistro, Two Boots, Joseph’s, a steak house that rivals any in New York City, Ralph & Rich’s, Metric Bar & Grill, Amici Miei Cafe and several other culinary opportunities. The city did not have these choices several years ago. Complementing the restaurants are venues hosting theater, concerts and sports: ballpark at Habor Yard, Webster Bank Arena, Bijou Theatre, Downtown Cabaret Theatre, Klein Memorial, art galleries at Housatonic Community College and City Lights.
When my stepdaughters asked about housing options in the city I recommended downtown. Both of them are now downtown residents, enjoying highway access, train line and emerging cultural and social activities.
If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, check out downtown.