|About Hartford Restaurant Group
It All Started in Hartford, CT – Culinary Capitol of the World.
Okay, maybe not according to most travel and leisure magazines. But there are lots of people who say Hartford's dining scene is downright burgeoning – including a group of young restaurateurs with the ambition, energy and vision to put their money (and some really great food) where their mouths are.
The Hartford Restaurant Group is the management arm behind a trio of restaurant brands with roots in Greater Hartford. HRG restaurants include Agave Grill in Hartford; the Wood-n-Tap Bar & Grill in Hartford, Farmington, Orange, Southington, Rocky Hill and Vernon. HRG debuted an exciting new concept, TD Homer's Grill, in Southington in April '09.
Carving Out a Name
In 2002, a group of four friends combined their unique backgrounds and skillsets to develop the Wood-N-Tap restaurant brand. In mere months, what started as a rough sketch of a wooden keg on a cocktail napkin turned into the Wood-n-Tap Hartford, one of the most popular new restaurants the city had seen in years. Two years later, HRG opened the Wood-n-Tap Farmington with comparable success. More recently, the Wood-n-Tap wave has broken through in two highly-competitive chain-laden locations, Southington and Rocky Hill. The concept will break into New Haven County with a new location in Orange in Fall '10.
Key to the success of the Wood-n-Tap is the synergy of the partners' individual skill sets. Mike Hamlin's expertise in real estate and construction is key to finding suitable locations and building out the facilities. Phil Barnett's marketing experience helps give the restaurants their unique personalities and high-visibility throughout Connecticut. Wil Quijano and Ken McAvoy use their extensive food and beverage expertise to create the restaurants' innovative menus and manage daily operations.
In 2004, HRG expanded its horizons and crossed culinary borders. The original four welcomed in two new partners – the business savvy Al Ferranti and world-renowned chef Bronislaw Gorski – and offered up "something different downtown," namely Agave Grill. Al, Bernie and partners quickly turned the modern Mexican masterpiece into a favorite haunt for Hartford's hippest and a particular favorite for gathering before and after events at the Hartford Civic Center.
An adventurous menu, extensive tequila bar, live Mariachi bands, authentic Mexican folk art and the freshest margaritas north of the Rio Grande struck a chord with diners and Agave remains one of the most popular downtown destinations.
Pints and Potatoes
Part labor of love, part savvy business move, HRG developed their third restaurant concept in 2004 – Vaughan's Public House in downtown Hartford. In this venture, HRG welcomed another new partner, Johnny Vaughan. The colorful and outspoken Irish college student came to America to play soccer, only to find himself on the front line of the competitive restaurant business, first as bartender, then manager, then part owner of his namesake establishment. Vaughan's is now under independent ownership, led by Johnny Vaughan.
So, since 2002, the focus, vision and just plain hard work of HRG has resulted in three unique dining concepts and seven of the most well-loved restaurants in Greater Hartford. And in that time, the group has also made giving back a priority, donating thousands and thousands to such non-profit organizations as the Boys and Girls Clubs, Hartford Blooms, Lea's Foundation and the Hartford Arts Council.
HRG has certainly kept their collective plates full in recent years. But they still have plenty of appetite for growth. Who knows, if HRG keeps going like this, Hartford may truly become the culinary capitol of the world. Well, at least of Southern New England. Cheers.