A cold beverage by a warm fire at  the Tavern at the Armory (Middletown, CT), among several fireside dining options in the state. |Francesca Fontanez, special to the Record-Journal

Local fireside dining options to warm up winter

Local fireside dining options to warm up winter

Local fireside dining options to warm up winter

Let’s be honest–for many, January tends to not be the most exciting time of year. The rush of the holiday season has settled, snow storms seem less whimsical after December, and if you’re anything like me then you have a New Year’s Resolution that isn’t going as well as you’d hoped. Despite the cold truth, there is hope!

Warmth and mirth can be found by the hearth– check out these local restaurants to enjoy fireside dining and add a spark to your chilly January evenings.

Tavern at The Armory 70 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457

If you’re looking for an excellent authentic New England dining experience located conveniently on dazzling Main Street, Middletown, look no further. This is the ultimate date night spot! If you decide to visit and find yourself in front of the Inn at Middletown, know the tavern itself is tucked within the inn but has a handy public entrance for any outside patrons.

The knick-knack covered walls and pleasantly stocked bookshelves bring out the true intimacy of the space– with a gentle fire blazing in the background, you might be tempted to spend the entire evening inside instead of exploring the rest of what Main Street has to offer. Be careful, once you visit this tavern your expectations for any others will certainly go up. 

Fork & Fire 838 Farmington Ave, Farmington, CT 06032

While this fireside dining option is home to the least conventional hearth experience on the list, it also proves to be the best hidden gem in Farmington yet! Regarding ambiance, the best way to describe the location might be “jazzy” with splashes of music-decor from across multiple cultures. This chic yet laid-back restaurant is extremely dedicated to their craft. Fork & Fire is a farm-to-table restaurant, meaning all of their products come directly from local farms and businesses in the area.

The ingredients come together in-house where everything is hand-crafted daily. The menu is highly unique, and the dedication to quality is apparent from the delicate olive oil to the heartiest of meats. Don’t miss the truffle fries– I’m not exaggerating when I say these are the best I’ve ever had! Cozy up near the sleek electric fireplace, and enjoy some of the finest food in Farmington!  

New Mill Restaurant 493 South End Rd, Plantsville, CT 06479

The ambiance of this historical restaurant is the epitome of “cozy meets classy”. Established initially as a functional mill in 1737, the building has been a vital pillar of the Plantsville community for generations. Besides the fabulous decor and excellent service, what really caught my attention about the New Mill Restaurant was the hearth.

The fireplace is large, rustic, and illuminates the room as an added layer of authenticity to remind us we’re dining in a relic. A fun fact about this historical hangout is that despite years of memory-making, many aspects of the original mill–including beams, walls and doors–are original from 1737! Stop in to taste history.

Jesse Camille's Restaurant 615 Church St, Naugatuck, CT 06770

Another historical hangout with a fireside experience you can’t miss is Jesse Camille’s. Located in what used to be the Historic American Brass Country Club, Jesse Camille's Restaurant is a fabulous location all year round. With a gorgeous view of Naugatuck’s Hop Brook Golf Course, Jesse Camille’s has been recognized for their awning-covered outdoor patio, their “romantic” atmosphere, and (naturally) their seasonal fireside dining. Warm up with a cup of their beloved Clam Chowder by the fire on a chilly winter evening!

Honorable Mentions:

To write a piece about fireside dining and not mention Fire at the Ridge in Middlefield would be a shame! While this makes my third piece mentioning the spot, it must be highlighted. The multiple individual fire pits near the slopes are what makes this location stand out; enjoying a warm beverage by the fire while skiers zip by is an experience like no other!

Another honorable mention goes to Cava of Southington. The seasonal decor is absolutely stunning with meticulous detail unlike any other dining facility I’ve ever seen! While there is a fireplace featured at Cava, it is unavailable for use at this time as it is currently home to a grumpy Grinch! 

This month, don’t let the chilly nights get you down– brighten up your evening by exploring a new fireside dining experience that’s sure to delight! 

Francesca Fontánez is a Meriden-based journalist, educator, and creative. A graduate of both the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden writing about the city she loves and surrounding areas. When she's not teaching ELA at Washington Middle School she's either exploring the Eastern seaboard for her lifestyle blog (@ eastsidevibes on Instagram) or working on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach. Email Francesca at eastsidevibeswithcess@gmail.com with tips on what you want to read about next, or just to say hi!

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