Project Park

Hola Amigos
Park Road/Street Food Project

2013 Onward

food4Park. It’s best known as just Park. In West Hartford (my hometown) it is Park Road and runs between South Main Street and Prospect Avenue. In Hartford it is Park Street and runs from Main Street to Prospect. Main to Main, Road and Street, Park is home to Hartford’s huge Hispanic populations in Parkville and Frog Hollow. In West Hartford, it is decidedly “whiter,” but still abuts neighborhoods with large immigrant populations.

In total, it is 3.8 miles long. And it is home to numerous small, independent restaurants. Some great, some not-so-great. I want to eat lunch at them all. There are also all sorts of unique businesses along the route and some are probably worth checking out.

Look, you don’t care about this. This “project” is merely another diversion for me. Unless you do care about this. And by “this” I mean this idea I’ve had for several years: Eat lunch along Park Road in West Hartford and Park Street in Hartford.

Why? Well, because a lot of is muy delicioso for one, but I think there is a much larger and far-reaching reason why I’d want to do this.

I have long contended that the true measure of a city’s success is in its ethnic neighborhoods. With Hartford’s notorious White Flight and disturbing lack of downtown residents, it’s the vibrant ethnic sections of town that keep the city vibrant. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that these same sections also contribute to the crime rate, but I have my liberal namby-pamby socialist reasons for much of that.)

A rather chilling description of Frog Hollow

I have always loved Park Street in Hartford. A few years ago, the city did a pretty decent job of sprucing up the place with nice awnings, brick walks and street lamps. Now, Parkville should be a destination spot. Can Frog Hollow achieve the same? I hope so.

Once again, the dynamic of an interstate cutting through a section of town has had ramifications. Parkville on the western side of I-84 is up-and-coming. Frog Hollow (where the tattoo shop in the video is) has a lot of work to do. Drugs and crime still plague the area. I’m in no position to sort out those issues, but I’m game for exploring, perhaps, why they exist. Keep in mind that Trinity College is here as well.

443476771_09e74152feOver on the West Hartford side of things, the scene is a bit more staid. There are bakeries with $5 cupcakes, sure, but generally everything on Park is very affordable. The most chic-chic restaurant on the whole stretch is probably O’Porto, a Portuguese restaurant just over the Hartford line.

Will I eat everywhere? No. Will I see this “project” through? Probably not. I usually quit on non-CTMQ stuff like this. But for now, I’m interested in the cultural dynamics of Park in both towns. I’m fascinated by the tiny enclaves of Portuguese, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Peruvian, etc. restaurants along the route.

Interestingly, Park doesn’t have a single Jamaican or Caribbean joint to my knowledge. And that’s a shame, because the ones in Hartford’d Blue Hills and and North End are great little joints for cheap eats. Hartford is a divided city: Blacks up north, Hispanics in Parkville and Frog Hollow, whites in the west end, and no one downtown.

Ok. Let’s see how this plays out.

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