As midnight passes on Main Street in Chester, the tumbling water of the adjacent Pattaconk River begins to take hold. In a few hours that noise will own the town, but for now, at the nocturne of the night, the river still has competition — the yips and cackles from the Pattaconk 1850 Bar and Grille.
The bright barn red facade is the focal point of downtown Chester and probably its most traveled to destination. Otto Pizza, River Tavern, and the brilliant upstart Grano Arso might garner more critical acclaim, but the heart of this almost fictitiously quaint small town is the Pattaconk. In the summer the few tables up front provide proper people watching down Main Street and while the long side patio to the entrance’s left may not offer that same pastime, it houses the most expansive outdoor seating in Chester. In the winter the large backroom is the primary dining spot with views of the river, but the bar, with its L-shaped design and dozens of glass mugs strung across the ceiling is an ideal place to post up and throw a few — or many — back, as the snow falls outside.
See the Pattaconk is a bar that most everybody who likes to eat and drink in the area has been. Its a prime pre or post drink spot for the other eateries in Chester, its a haven for a quick bite for traffic from the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, and its a fine refuge for decent and affordable bar food in a town that doesn’t host many inexpensive options. In these three regards, this review is probably an affirmation of the Pattaconk, not a preview for your first visit. Its the most local, regional pub around. The place toes the line between a pub where bartenders do, in fact, know your name, but also a spot that has consistent support from the surrounding communities. In this way you get an extremely local feel, with enough people to continually fill the place and keep it lively.
And you can see this character in its rotating taps. As I write, there are enough old school staples — Miller Lite, Peroni, and Modelo being served — for those who aren’t into the craft beer scene, but with enough craft options to appease everyone else. Indeed, these craft options aren’t the most adventurous, nor the most local — Allagash, Sam Adams, Lagunitas are some breweries on tap right now — but they are accessible. They pander to the huge cross section of the population that travels there and if you can’t sit down at the Pattaconk and find a couple beers you enjoy, then you are a goddamned snob not worth saving.
The food at the Pattaconk is not the zenith of bar food in the area, but it does the trick. The wings are legit, the quesadillas huge and satisfying, and the burgers executed to how they were ordered. Its a simple litmus, but ordering a burger medium rare and seeing what comes out is a good gauge of the competency of any kitchen, but especially at a bar / pub / tavern. Save one bad experience (I’ve drank and ate my fill at the Pattaconk many times over the years), the Pattaconk has been proficient in this regard and this test sums up their food. Satiating and affordable pub fare, that complements the pints you are downing quite well.
Lastly, the Pattaconk is actually a place where you might be able to meet someone to make bad decisions with. Its not that the Pattaconk orchestrates a nightlife per se, but the combination of a 2:00am close on weekends and a consistent population of people who show up means that if the stars align, you might actually have a chance. In rural Connecticut, if you are unattached, thats about all you can ask for.
Strengths: Location / Dependable Population / Tap Offerings / Atmosphere
Tips: A fine place to eat within its own rite, but tack a pint or two on either before or after you dine at other Chester establishments. If you’re up for it, it can be a very decent late night spot on the weekends
FEAST: Wings / Burgers
FROTH: Draft Beer. Lots of Options.
FEAST: 7/10 – FROTH 8/10 – BAR: 8/10