The Draw: The food, the people, the park.
The Vibe: Proud, vibrant, united
The Northeast neighborhood in Hartford is vibrant and filled with residents who have fierce neighborhood pride. A mix of residential streets with small businesses throughout, a section of Main Street full of quirk and charm, and the majority of Keney Park, the Northeast has a lot to offer.
Where Jamaican and West Indian cultures, cuisine, and social scenes unite, Main Street is lined with proud and diverse locally-owned eateries, clubs, businesses, and churches. There is an incredibly close-knit community of residents living here—people know one another—they stop to chat, smile and wave, or honk their car horns to a person walking by on the sidewalk.
Much of the neighborhood’s perimeter is flanked by Keney Park, Hartford’s largest public park, which has close to 700 acres of land comprised of forest and meadow areas, a golf course, cricket fields, a disc golf course, and the Keney Park Sustainability Project. This Northeast gem offers a quiet oasis that feels far away from the city itself.
On the outskirts of Keney Park, you will find the Keney Park Sustainability Project, which, at first, gives off the impression of a humble backyard farm. On a small land plot behind a city-owned building sits three greenhouses, a hand painted mini bus, modest vegetable gardens, a couple of goats, chickens, and Tehuti, the loveable and ever-friendly “watch” dog who mostly enjoys sitting in the sun and getting lots of pets.
Despite its quaint appearance, the project is aspiring to do big things for the city of Hartford. They are taking everything we love—community, sustainability, and locally-grown food—and creating something really special with it.
With over a dozen program offerings that range from composting to mushroom production to stormwater collection, Keney Park Sustainability Project aims to provide hands-on training, outreach, and community collaborations to help teach people how to become more self-sustainable and environmentally conscious.
Our favorite part about them? Their spunky, hand-painted bus, dubbed “The Real Food Roadshow,” travels around to local neighborhoods and Farmers' Markets throughout the summer months and gives away fresh produce on a donation basis, making locally grown food attainable for everyone.
The Keney Park Golf Course is an 18-hole course with an accompanying tavern (aptly named The Tavern at Keney Park). Both of which are open to the public and bring in golfers from all over throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. The beautiful brick restaurant and bar overlooks the picturesque golf course and has delicious pub-style food and drinks that make it a worthwhile destination even if you’re not a golfer. FYI, the hot dogs are dangerously good.
And speaking of food, let’s talk about the cuisine of the Northeast! Full of authentic Jamaican spots, each with a huge selection of offerings, style and flair. For all of your Jamaican-style baked goods needs, we suggest Scott’s Jamaican Bakery. Scratch-made Jamaican patties with various filling options (beef, chicken, spinach and cheese), fresh baked hardo bread, duck breads of varying sizes, and of course, a bakery is not a bakery without its sweet treats. If you have a sweet tooth, Scott’s has some sweets for you—cinnamon buns, pound cake, sweet potato pudding, bread pudding, chocolate chip cookies—you name it.
One of our favorite things about this part of Hartford is its walkability. Park your car on one end and you really can walk down the entirety of Main Street and find a place to grab pretty much every meal. If you do that, will you feel so completely stuffed that you’ll regret walking back? Maybe…but it’s worth it.
Don’t miss out on Dunn’s River, a restaurant that has been serving up authentic Jamaican cuisine since 2008. For those who happen upon it for the very first time, Dunn’s River might feel like a hidden gem. But the ever-bustling lunch hour and long line (don’t worry, it moves fast!) will prove that wrong. Plenty of people are in on the secret of Dunn’s River and they are regulars.
With some of the friendliest service around, Dunn’s feels like you’re being taken care of by family members you’ve known your whole life. Jamaican seafood staples like Snapper or Whiting come served hot, and the Curry Goat is a tender and tasty melt-in-your-mouth delicacy. All the dishes come with generous sides like rice, beans, vegetables, and plantains.
For the vegetarians among us, or maybe those who just need a meatless day once and a while, down the block from Dunn’s River is Lion’s Den Vegetarian Restaurant. On the menu are fresh juices and smoothies with nutritional add-ins like sea moss. You can build your own bowl with assorted Jamaican-style options like rice and peas, rasta pasta, veggies, tofu, chickpeas, and more.
Our sneaky favorite in this neighborhood is C&K Kitchen—which also serves up tasty Jamaican food and some incredible fried chicken (your choice of dark or white meat!).
Beyond the delicious food scene in the Northeast, this neighborhood is also home to a few social clubs that offer vibrant and culturally influenced events. Depending on the spot, you can find anything from your normal nightlife vibe with clubs featuring DJs and themed parties to more educational, cultural, and family-friendly events.
The West Indian Social Club serves as a cultural and community center for West Indian and Carribean-American culture. It is also a venue that hosts many events throughout the year and is available to use for private functions. Sportsmen’s Athletic Club is a venue for various themed events and DJ nights and is also available for private events. The recently renovated Tropix Caribbean Grille is a chic, trendy club that hosts events almost every night of the week and will keep you up to date on everything going down on their Instagram. The one thing all three of these places have in common—they serve a mean rum punch.
All in all, we love all that the Northeast of Hartford offers in terms of recreation, food, drink, and culture. If you’ve never been or are new to the area, it’s definitely worth checking out.