SOPHIE KATZMAN ’14
GEORGINA THERMOS ’14
In our continuum to find new eateries in the Hartford area, we decided to start off the Food Dudes semester search with one of the city’s hidden gems: The Kitchen Café.
The Kitchen Café is a dynamic eatery nestled on Broad Street in Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood, just less than five minutes from Trinity’s campus. The Café is part of the Billings Forge Community Works (BCFW), which is a foundation that promotes community engagement and sustainability for residents of Frog Hollow. This area is one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city of Hartford, and the state of Connecticut. There is a high unemployment rate and a high rate of transience in the housing market. BCFW specifically offers job-skills training, employment opportunities, housing, healthy food, and access to valuable services for Frog Hollow residents. The Billings Forge Project does not merely raise money or come up with ideas; rather it uses a hands-on approach, through education and action, to improve the community.
The Kitchen Café is only a part of The Kitchen at Billings Forge. In the space, they also offer catering and cooking classes. All the food is farm to table; they use the freshest ingredients to create unique and succulent flavors. Many of these foods come straight from the Farmer’s Market and the Garden, which are also aspects of BFCW. The Farmer’s Market is a year round weekly market that presents fresh, local goods to residents of Frog Hollow who may not have had access otherwise. The community Garden provides gardening space for both the residents and the restaurants in Billings Forge in order to produce fresh food. The cooking classes range from various different cuisines. From bread to chicken to pickles, the instructors are professionally trained in culinary arts. The menu wittily names fabulous, fresh salads, sandwiches, soups and baked goods.
Beginning our day with an early brunch, we found the café completely empty—we figured not too many other people were thinking about lunch at 11a.m. Once noon came around, three out of the four interior tables were filled. We enjoyed observing the rustic, home & country feel of this intimate café. A large chalkboard hangs on the front wall labeled “community events,” listing scheduled cooking classes and other activities to get involved with the community. The picnic style tables suit the theme of community building and encouragement. The drawings that line the walls are by artist, Sam Brown, who is in charge of an interactive art project called, Explodingdog.com. Brown, a resident of West Hartford, designs his drawings as a response to a submitted title. The prints are bright in color and cartoon-like, adding personality to this exciting eatery. For its small size, there is plenty to look at and take in, but enough already—lets talk food.
It took a few minutes to make my final decision on the ‘Chicken Caprese,’ while the ‘Gee Tee’ was an absolute runner-up. Inside two thinly cut slices of Ciabatta bread, melted mozzarella hung on top of sundried tomatoes, arugula and deliciously seasoned grilled chicken. The Kitchen’s chefs added their own spice to this classic sandwich recipe with a tasteful Basil Pesto Aiolo spread. My sandwich came with a side of orzo with fresh Feta cheese and chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. While I stuck to my carnivorous roots, Sophie opted to explore their vegetarian options. She chose the fish tacos, a delicious blend of white fish, cilantro, lime, and vegetables paired with a side of black bean and corn salad. The soft corn tortilla wrapped around the crisp fish filet created a luscious taste combination. We both enjoyed this all for $8.50 each. Satisfyingly full, yet we couldn’t resist noticing the trays of dessert—it never hurts to look anyway, right? It was quite the selection of freshly made muffins, Danish pastries, and apple cinnamon tarts, but we made the executive decision to skip the sweets today so that we could come back soon for some treats.
The Kitchen Café is open from Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:00pm. Whether you are in the mood for a classic breakfast, brunch, or a late lunch, the Kitchen Café basically has it all. Only a quick ride away from the dorms and you are enjoying some fresh, good-quality food. Try it for yourself! The Food Dudes definitely approve of the tasty choices they offer.