There are a lot of good reasons to head to Hartford. I’m particularly love with the collection at the Wadworth Atheneum Museum of Art and its former director’s hoax-house mansion—two of the many things to do in Connecticut’s capital city where you can visit the home of quirky American satirist, Mark Twain.
No less unusual but equally inspiring is Chango Rosa a pan-Latin fusion restaurant in downtown Hartford situated within walking distance of State Capital Park across from Union Station.
Featuring an eclectic pan-Latin inspired menu and vibrant, fun décor Chango Rosa is less about authentic Latin foods and more about creatively using Latin ingredients and cooking methods as inspiration.
“We want our cooks to be cooks and our mixologists to be mixologists. We want them to explore their creativity first,” says David Gilmore, Chango Rosa’s Executive Chef, formerly of Infinity Bistro. “For me that’s about experimenting and finding unique ways to get the best out of the ingredients and flavors.”
The result, says the chef, is that folks will find that Chango Rosa’s dishes don’t aspire to be “authentic” but imaginative.
Many of Chango Rosa’s items riff of street food throughout Latin America. The menu features a wide complement of tacos with traditional fillings like chicken, beef and fish, but also shrimp tempura, Korean-style kimchi pork and their own “Al Pastor” style in which pork is formed around a rotating vertical spit like what is used to make gyros. A pineapple skewered on top of the seasoned meat, bastes and flavors it while cooking.
If tacos aren’t your style, there are plenty of other interesting mains including empanadas stuffed with chicken, manchego cheese and golden raisins and four kinds of pupusas. Octopus Carpaccio with sweet palm dressing is another unusual and delicious option.
The sides and sharing plates are another area where Chango Rosa shines. The Nacho Changuito riffs on the original hearty plate with the addition of smoked meat of your choice and a hefty drizzle of barbecue sauce. Montreal’s famous poutine—a dish of cheese curds and fries, is reimagined using yucca, chorizo and queso fresco. One absolute standout was the Elote—roasted corn removed from the cob and served with spice crème and smoked cotija—a comforting and delicious version of the Mexican on-the-cob street food favorite.
Equal to the menu is Chango Rosa’s cocktail lineup helmed by mixologist Conrad Neurice, formerly of Elm City Social, Neurice mixes most of the bar’s syrups and infused liquors in house, and the drinks are unique and comparable to any New York or Brooklyn cocktail creation—at a fraction of the price.
Neurice’s signature quaffs like the Monkey Butt—tequila, lemon, acai, hibiscus-lemongrass syrup and spices or the Tribal Secrets with pisco, lemon, cassis, tropical juices, chocolate bitters and more are supplemented by additions he creates for the season. We tried the autumnal Black Walnut Margarita, featuring tequila, Triple Sec, agave, walnut liqueur and black walnut sugar and it was aromatic and warming. For the brave of heart and gut, there’s Chango’s Revenge, with orange, lime, pumpkin spice, and bitters and tequila both infused with habanero the super-hot pepper often used in Latin-Caribbean cuisine.