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Old 02-23-2012, 09:49 PM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
10,685 posts, read 8,050,105 times
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Figured I'd start a discussion on this as people often question if CT has good nightlife, and where it is.

I write this as a semi-active twentysomething bar-goer. These are all in SW CT. Aside from a couple of these, I've been to them all. Here's what I've found to be the best, or just the most active nightlife spots:

Stamford

Butterfield 8 - Big space with 2 floors and 2 large bars and DJ's on weekends, nothing particularly unique. Mix of young professionals mostly. Probably Stamford's most consistent and reliably good nightlife.
Tiernan's - Solid pub with a lively weekend scene. I actually prefer the atmosphere here to Butterfield.
Bartaco - Brand new. Only been in there a short time, but it seemed like a nicely designed stylish space and I've heard good things about the food. On my list to explore further.
Tigin - Irish pub that's hoppin' on weekends.
84 Park - Large club emulating the NYC (wannabe?) vibe. I haven't been yet, but I'm putting it down because it's an important staple in the Stamford scene.
Grand - Another bigger space, trendy lounge with DJ.
Seaside Tavern - Not in downtown and a bit of a dive, but non-pretentious and they have live music often.
Barcelona - Nice bar, pretty low key and doesn't really do the club thing. Good place to have drinks, and an even better place to drink. Classy. Euro. Good spot.

South Norwalk

Ginger Man - Dozens of beers on tap and a nice, relaxed (but sometimes loud) atmosphere with lots of warm wood (no pun intended). Nice patio off to the side. If you have to pay for parking in the nearby lot because all the street parking was taken, you can keep an eye on your whip.
Red Lulu - The drinks are obscenely overpriced and I've often found they don't keep the lounge area particularly clean, but it's an acceptable place to drink with friends and the decor is an interesting faux-gothic exploration.
Barcelona - See Stamford.
Black Bear Saloon - I'm putting this down because it's popular, not because I like it. Between the crowd of popped-collar inbreds and trust fund frat guys, it's a less than lovable crowd. They also charge a cover many nights, and to me, it's just not worth it for a DJ in an unimpressive space with ho-hum service.
The Loft - This place is solid. Crowd skews a bit older on some nights. They do the DJ/club thing but the space is tiny and often gets very crowded. Despite its name and the assertion of a martini lounge, it's actually pretty straightforward on weekends.
O'Neill's - Solid, fun Irish pub. I liked the old, divey location better - but the new one works too. Great place to see a cheesy cover band.

Milford

Citrus - I don't know what happened, but after this place was renovated last year it seemed to blow up on weekends. It used be an older crowd and not particularly lively, now it's PACKED with 20 and 30-somethings every Friday and Saturday. They do the glowing bar like 116 Crown in New Haven. It wraps around the whole main room, and this place was clearly redesigned for maximum nightlife revenue. Their food is solid, and they have a small-ish outdoors patio. Drinks are reasonably priced and there's lots of comfortable booths to unwind in with friends when the bar area gets uncomfortably packed.
Stonebridge - The big daddy of the region in the summer. Might be one of the most popular bars in CT when the weather's warm, and definitely the most popular outdoor bar. It is a nice building, upscale colonial design beguiles the crowd that comes on DJ nights. In the summer on most nights before 10PM, it's actually a really nice place to be. The patio is huge with 3 outdoor bars overlooking the river and waterfalls. The tented bar is the most popular, and that's the place to hang out when it's quieter. Usually young professionals or an older crowd during that time. Also, when the patio is closed the indoors during cold months is mostly an older crowd and typically cover bands. In the summer on certain nights, it transforms into something, well, you'll either hate or love. There's definitely a strong Jersey Shore feel. That's not to say everyone is doning that look, but it is prevalent. Lots of eye candy and skanky dressed women. Some nights, the cover can be high, the line to get in is long, and it gets packed to the point where it's uncomfortable. I like to go just to see the spectacle. On more reasonable nights, it can be really fun to just be drinking outside, on a great patio near a waterfall. I enjoy it occasionally, despite its criticisms. As an aside, these guys owned Daniel Street Club across the street, which was one of the finest music venues in the state. Sad that they sold it recently or it would be on this list. Its future is still unknown with the new owners.
SBC - Again, another patio. Milford probably has more outdoor nightlife in the warmer months in close proximity than any other place in CT. The patio is not huge, but nice. The inside is a nicely designed space with views of the waterfall/river from some windows. It gets packed on Saturday nights especially with the DJ. Again, the patio has its own bar like Stonebridge
Archie Moore's - Just like any other Archie Moore's, a standard American pub atmosphere - but with a large outdoor patio with bar near the harbor. Popular, but quieter than SBC and Stonebridge.
Cabo - This place is dead in the winter. The appeal is the patio. It's very big and seating is dining tables. There's no bar outside, unlike the others. The view of the harbor and boats makes it a great summer bar. I find it's a good place to start the evening, especially as the sun goes down. Reserve a table!
Seven Seas - Old school seafood joint with a slight Irish pub feel. This is downtown's neighborhood bar. No pretension, great hangout.
Bistro Basque - Like a much smaller and cozier version of Barcelona. Relaxed wine bar with nice decor. Classy place and a great night starter with the exemplary food and wine.
Black Bear Saloon - This one's weird. It has an outdoor patio, but it faces a mall parking lot. It's a huge, nicely designed space with TONS of TV's, but it's in a mall. They do have bands occasionally, and I hear the live band karaoke is interesting. For being another Black Bear, the crowd is not like the New Haven and Norwalk locations and is very... average. I'm on the fence with this place, but it is pretty popular.
Tengda - Another bar on this list outside of downtown. Nice trendy space, great food. They do a DJ night on weekends.
Plan B Burger Bar - Like Tengda, in Milford Marketplace on Route 1. Low key bar scene (I haven't heard of a DJ night here or anything), but a tremendous selection of drinks and beers.

Fairfield/Black Rock

Ash Creek Saloon - Nice neighborhood bar. No nonsense, big ol' wooden bar. Mixed crowd of everything from college kids to older folks.
Acoustic Cafe - Great little music venue.
Nuvo - I haven't been here yet, but it's supposedly the most popular club-like venue in the area. It's owned by the former owner of Bravo in downtown Fairfield, which is now something completely different. On a side note, I'm still bummed that the Skybox in Fairfield is closed. One of the better bars in the area. But I digress.
Captain's Cove - Family-friendly seasonal place with a water view becomes a hive of debauchery at night. Is that a large Titanic model hanging from the rafters? Weird. They do the typical club thing and have a nice outdoor deck. Expect to pay a cover on popular summer nights.

New Haven

BAR - This might be the best nightlife destination in the state, at least in southern CT. 3 distinct rooms with their own characteristics and their own full bar. Where else can you get some of the best pizza in the state, beers brewed on the premises, play pool, lounge about, and then enter a huge club space for either free live indie rock or a DJ set? It's also a seriously cool post-industrial architectural design example. Enough said. This place is unmatched. The crowd also tends to be less trashy than other popular clubs on Crown.
Rudy's - Rudy's moved from their old location to the Chapel West area, and the new bar is much bigger, and much more polished and trendy than the last . Aside from great bar food (known for their frites and many dipping sauces - perfect bar food), they offer a very impressive rotation of microbrews on tap. This place is very popular with the student and hipster set. The front room has the bar and main space, a back room houses karaoke/DJ/dancing, and another back room for extra tables (complete with a wall extracted from the old Rudy's hanging proudly as art). Great place.
The Owl Shop - This place is in its own category, because literally there is nothing like it in the state (or northeast?). Somehow grandfathered to allow drinking AND smoking, this cigar lounge dates back to the 1930's and still feels it. It just oozes class, stamped copper ceilings, leather, and wood. You can't help but order a Scotch. On the weekdays they have live blues. Very cool.
Black Bear Saloon - See South Norwalk.
Prime 16 - Main attraction might be the burgers, but the beer comes a close 2nd. One of the best beer selections around. Great bar with great food.
Barcelona - Like Stamford/South Norwalk's locations, but bigger. And with dancing.
Cask Republic - Essentially a larger SoNo Ginger Man. Same owners. Again, tons of beers, cask conditioned ales (you must try it!). Massive wood bar. Same decor and atmosphere as Ginger Man, and like that spot - can get a little noisy at times, but the space is huge and you rarely feel cramped.
116 Crown - The most stylish bar in CT. Very trendy, very cool design in the space. The glowing bar as the focal point. In the day, it has a varied and interesting menu. At night, it's all about the mixology. Extremely skilled bartenders, who teach the occasional mixology class, concoct incredibly varied and interesting drinks from a multi-page menu. It may be expensive, but between very high quality ingredients and a lot of skill - it feels warranted. And, this is random - but the bathrooms are awesome.
Firehouse 12 - This space is 1/2 world-class recording studio and performance space (lots of live jazz shows here) and 1/2 hipster cave bar. You enter through some truly massive front doors and go downstairs to the bar. Cool design and architecture makes it a very nice space. The crowd is definitely of the art school variety. Good indie music on the playlist (I happen to quite like that). The drinks are good, and the beer is reasonably priced. While they only have a handful of beers on tap, they're well chosen and affordable, and there's lots of good stuff by the bottle to choose from. If you can get a seat, the lounge couches are a very comfy place to spend time with a group. Oh, and $3 PBR's.
Anna Liffey's - The quintessential Irish pub. 2 floors, but the basement is the coolest with its rustic wood framing and stone walls that give it that cozy old world pub feel. Oh, and they're super into soccer there. Very popular bar, but not uncomfortably crowded usually. Not an ounce of pretension.
Cafe Nine - One of the most active music venues. Seems to have live music almost every night. Not a huge space, and a bit of a dive - but a great place to see a band. Cover charges are reasonable to see original bands.
Stella Blues - Similar to Cafe Nine. A small-medium music club. Lots of blues and rock. Live music every weekend and many weekdays.
Toad's Place - Needs to be mentioned. Not my favorite place unless a good band is coming through. It's the very definition of a dive. The club/DJ nights are HUGELY popular and a spectacle of skanks, as well as the dubstep nights. Very popular place, especially with the 18-20 crowd as they can enter (but not drink).
Terminal 110 - This one's a bit of an oddity. It's a club through and through and pretty big. But it's the only NH bar in this list you can't walk to. It's tucked away in a very industrial area near IKEA off 95. Appears to be popular with suburbanites. The one time I was there, it was fairly crowded and seemed like a nice space.

Misc.

Dive Bar - West Haven - Besides having amazing burgers, this place also has a great small craft/microbrew beer selection. It's island-themed, but the kicker is the view: a completely unobstructed view of LI Sound. VERY few places have that. Not only does it have the view, but the very cool front window actually functions like a garage door - opening the entire bar to the breezes of the sea. Be warned, it can get uncomfortably packed at times.

The Horseshoe - Southport - Very cool and refreshingly unpretentious bar in Southport. Feels old school, real old. Crowd also tends a little older. A little bit of a Western theme. Wonderful neighborhood bar.

I've got quite a few more I could mention, but am tired of typing. New Haven is one place where I feel like I've just scratched the surface, and there's a few places in Stamford I've been meaning to try.

Please add your own!

Last edited by Stylo; 02-23-2012 at 10:42 PM..
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:14 PM
 
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That's a great list. Why no bars from Hartford? Is it because you aren't familiar with the area or because hart is just dead.

I think it tends to be a little on the dead side. Luckily I don't rent there anymore.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:18 PM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
10,685 posts, read 8,050,105 times
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Originally Posted by hartford_renter View Post
That's a great list. Why no bars from Hartford? Is it because you aren't familiar with the area or because hart is just dead.

I think it tends to be a little on the dead side. Luckily I don't rent there anymore.
A little of both. I'm not in the area much, and when I am - it's more dining than nightlife. West Hartford seems to have Hartford beat in the nightlife dept.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:22 PM
 
Location: Norwalk, CT
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After trying out the gay bars in the Hartford and New Haven area, I have concluded that the best nightlife is sitting in front of the computer at home
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:25 PM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
10,685 posts, read 8,050,105 times
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Originally Posted by nep321 View Post
After trying out the gay bars in the Hartford and New Haven area, I have concluded that the best nightlife is sitting in front of the computer at home
Gotham would leave anyone scarred for life.

In all seriousness, did you ever try 168 York Street Cafe? I frequent the Asian noodle place next door. From the looks of it, it has a slightly-under-the-street Greenwich Village vibe. Not a club at all, but a chill little bar. From the looks of Yelp, people are quite fond of it.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:35 PM
 
Location: Norwalk, CT
6,772 posts, read 5,188,385 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stylo View Post
Gotham would leave anyone scarred for life.

In all seriousness, did you ever try 168 York Street Cafe? I frequent the Asian noodle place next door. From the looks of it, it has a slightly-under-the-street Greenwich Village vibe. Not a club at all, but a chill little bar. From the looks of Yelp, people are quite fond of it.
Never been there. It might be more my scene. However, going to New Haven is a hike for me. It's at least 45 min each way. Not a trip I want to make back home at 2 AM. Besides, I've been going to bed before midnight on the weekends now, even. I hate waking up later than 9 AM, because it feels like the day is shot.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:38 PM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
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Might be worth checking out. More the intellectual crowd than club crowd. Seems to be a place one could enjoy as much at 8PM as 1AM.
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Old 02-24-2012, 12:35 PM
Status: "Slice like a ninja, cut like a razor blade" (set 11 days ago)
 
1,199 posts, read 723,673 times
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Great list, but you're making me feel old!

Interesting to see all the nightlife in Milford. Before Archie Moore's opened there wasn't much 10 to 15 years ago. The Stonebridge was there, but nothing like you describe now. Knickerbocker's in the mall and the Seven Seas was about it. Although I love New Haven, its good to see there are more choices in the area.
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Old 02-27-2012, 09:23 AM
 
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I live in stamford, the scene is getting old fast. Not that I complain too much about it but a lot of the bars are very generic, finance guys looking to unwind. I like Tigin cause its a little more low key. Tiernans is alright but the cover bands usually suck and they all play the exact same music. Butterfield 8 tries to act pretentious, but its alright. The best thing about stamford for me is its proximity to NYC
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Old 02-27-2012, 10:58 AM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
10,685 posts, read 8,050,105 times
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Originally Posted by howdydoody342 View Post
The best thing about stamford for me is its proximity to NYC
Yep, that's pretty much what it comes down to. And you can't beat NYC for nightlife.

I think the bars there serve the office crowd, if they stay in Stamford after 6 and/or live there. That's why it's not terribly diverse, but it is the best in the immediate area. I actually like the scene in Milford in the warm months better than Stamford. And I only like a couple places in South Norwalk, I feel like a lot of them have that pretentious feel with the pretentious prices to match. Lot of spoiled twentysomethings.

New Haven has 6 colleges within striking distance, so it's no surprise it has the most vibrant nightlife in the state.

Even Black Rock has a nice feel, likely benefiting from the college crowd there.
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