When we grew up in our New York towns a 1-2 hour drive was no big deal. But, since living in Fairfield County for 10 years, 1-2 hours might as well be 20 hours for some crazy reason. Hence why we never seem to make our way up to Hartford to try Firebox, a Modern American Farm to Table restaurant people have been raving to us about for years! But, one random Saturday we had nothing going on so we figured it was about time to make our way on up . . .
When we got there the first thing we did (of course) was hit the bar. We figured since we never got up that way, we’d call a local friend Rob over to have a drink with us. The bar area was HUGE and very cozy looking with beautiful brick walls, big windows and a rustic wood and metal ceiling. In addition to a nice selection of craft beer, wine, and cocktails, the bar also had its own menu for bar snacks and lighter fare. We went for cocktails because we can’t resist a creative bartender. Here are two of their concoctions: Kristien had the Perfect Margarita: jalapeño infused blanco tequila, Gifford Triple Sec, lime, lemon, and salt. While we can’t say it was perfect (not enough spice, maybe a bit too watered down), it did have some fun complex flavors going on. Not bad and very refreshing. Dan had the Spring Fever: Aviation Gin, Cocchi Americano, lemon, St. Germain, and orange bitters. This drink was very gin forward, to the point of overpowering the other ingredients. While Dan did finish it, it wasn’t balanced enough for him to truly enjoy. Once we were done hanging at the bar we headed on over to the separate dining rooms. The dining rooms, while a bit different than the bar area, were still very cozy with brick walls, dim lighting, and cozy booths. It wasn’t long before the waiter came on over, and we ordered up some wine and began stuffing our bellies. Here’s what went down the hatch: Native Corn Chowder: basil oil, Piquillo peppers, and pancetta. We’re not exaggerating when we say that this was one of the best chowders that we’ve ever had. The panchetta was chunky and added a smokiness to the chowder. The soup itself was creamy, with a sweetness coming from the corn and a slight tart taste from the Piquillo peppers. Mussels: Kielbasa, roasted corn, fingerling potato, lager, argula, and garlic toast. First, every single mussel here at Firebox came served opened, meaty, perfectly cooked and ready to eat. We hate nothing more than when we get a batch of mussels and some of them are cracked, closed or poorly cooked. The broth was a bit spicy and the lager and brininess of the mussels came through. The addition of the crunchy corn, smoky kielbasa, and crispy potatoes added that great textural differences that made this a winning dish. Cast Iron Duck: Summer beans, pickled raisins, mustard greens, grilled celery, smoked mustard vinaigrette, and red-eye gravy. We are very selective about duck dishes because if it’s not cooked well, then it’s probably one of the worst things that you could eat…then again, done right it’s one of the best. And, we’re happy to say that they did things right, cooking the duck just right, tender and delicious! Adding more flavor and contrast were those beautiful pickled raisins with an amazing sweetness. We loved them so much we’ve decided they should be on every single dish forever and ever, amen. Also, the beans were a nice addition, adding a crispiness. Housemade Fettuccine: panchetta, peccornino Romano, smoked tomato butter, sage pesto, sun gold tomato gremolata. Our favorite part of this dish was how complex it was. Smoky, fresh, bright, and herbaceous. Like the panchetta in our corn chowder, this panchetta was crispy and brought a nice smokiness that went perfectly with the tomato butter. The gremolata took the dish up a notch with a nice sweet and tart flavor. It tasted like it was just made straight from the garden to the plate. The fettucine itself was served al dente and the crispy breadcrumbs sprinkled over top were like the cherry on top. Fantastic! Dessert at Firebox was just as creative and exciting, too. We had a Spiced Beet Cake made with a goat cheese and sour milk jam, house made granola, beet ganache, and fennel fronds. Normally if we saw Beet Cake on the menu, we’d avoid it, but we had tasted so much good food, we felt like we were in safe hands here. The cake was delicate, moist, and spongy and was full of flavor from the spices. There was also a great complexity going on here with savory flavors from the beets, a tangy creaminess from the goat cheese, a just-right sweetness from the granola, and that added jab of delicate fennel. We were so full, and felt sad that we had to leave the ice cream sandwich behind which featured buttermilk waffles, a pistachio malt, salted caramel, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate chips. Ahhhhh, next time!
As I’m sure you could’ve guessed from our writeup, Firebox proved to be well worth the drive. Our only regret was not getting our butts there sooner. While the cocktails couldn’t hold a candle to some of the hot spots in Fairfield County, the food and service were simply wonderful. We’d definitely recommend you make the drive too!
Firebox Noms: 4 Cost: $$$ Address: 539 Broad Street Hartford, CT 06106 Phone: (860) 246-1222 Hours: Monday, closed Tuesday-Friday: 11:30-2:30 and 5:30-10 Saturday: 5:30-10 Sunday: Brunch from 11-2 and 4:30-8:30 Tavern Menu from 4-close Tuesday-Sunday