Unless you are from the state of Connecticut or are a chicken wing connoisseur that seeks out the best wings in the country, you may never have heard of Plainville, Connecticut.
This small town lies in the shadow of the more well-known Bristol (home of the ESPN broadcast studios) and just outside the much larger city of Hartford. But people drive from all over the region to come try the famous wings at J. Timothy’s Taverne. But I found that Plainville has more to offer than great wings. There are several hidden gems to be found.
So, come to Plainville for the famous wings, but stay for the brewery and the locally owned restaurants.
J. Timothy's Taverne
The whole reason I came to Plainville was because I heard the famous “Dirt wings” at J. Timothy’s Taverne were named as some of the best wings in the country. This was a bold statement that I had to confirm on my own.
History of J. Timothy's Taverne
J. Timothy’s Taverne has a long history. The building was built in 1789, and John Cook opened Cook’s Tavern in 1795. Descendants of his ran the tavern all the way until it was sold to the current owners John Timothy Adams and Jim Welch in 1979. The building had fallen into disrepair, and so it officially reopened after renovations a year later as a more formal restaurant with white linen tablecloths. As with many restaurants, the first years were very difficult, and they struggled to make enough money to keep the restaurant open.
In 1988, the owners decided they wanted to revert back to a more casual tavern feel and renamed Cook’s Tavern into J. Timothy’s Taverne. One of their first big promotions was to sell a bucket of wings and Rolling Rock ponies on Wednesday nights.
How J. Timothy's Dirt Wings Became Some of the Best Wings in the Country
The wings and beer special made Wednesday a popular night. But it wasn’t until 1991 that their future changed with the accidental invention of their famous “dirt wings.” A guy named Barry played on their softball team and came in every Wednesday night with the rest of the team. Barry was the oldest member of the team, so they nicknamed him “Dirt” because he was “old as dirt.” He was also a very loquacious guy, telling long stories while his wings sat there getting cold. So, one day he asked the chef to just refry them and add more sauce.
As it turns out, double frying the wings made them crispier, and the double sauce gave them a more caramelized glaze. They became a hit with other patrons and were officially named “Dirt Wings” and added to the menu.
Eventually publications found out about these wings, and Thrillist, The Daily Meal, and Buzzfeed all named the Dirt Wings as some of the best wings in the country. The Daily Meal even named them second best wings in the country after Duff’s Famous Wings in Buffalo! They have since been featured on The Food Network and the Travel Channel.
The Verdict: I haven’t tried all the wings in the country. And it is certainly tough to beat Duff’s (they have remained great despite expanding from the original Amherst, NY location). And I’ve found fantastic smoked wings in places like Kansas City. But I will say that the Dirt Wings and J. Timothy’s are fantastic and absolutely worth the stop. Plus, the atmosphere and local beer selection made me love J. Timothy’s.
A small locally owned brewery is typically a great addition to a town, and Relic Brewing is definitely a great addition to Plainville. Stopping for here beers after trying Connecticut’s best wings makes for a great afternoon. Their success allowed them to expand the tap room a few years ago and add a larger space with tables, chairs, and even some pinball machines.
Unsurprisingly, the Whim Hazy NEIPA is my favorite beer. But Relic maintains a variety of around 10-12 beers available in the tap room. An unexpected but very welcome addition is that they also have one of the best selections of whiskies that you’ll find. Tell them what you generally like, and the staff will help you choose a bourbon, rye, or scotch that you’ve never tried before.
Every town should have a great breakfast spot. Rob’s Kitchen has some of the best breakfast in Plainville. Rob serves the standard breakfast fare, including a variety of omelets, French toast, pancakes, and ever-changing daily specials. He also has a few different version of eggs benedict and scrambles.
But the “Secret Menu” is what I look forward to the most. Rob is originally from Oaxaca, Mexico and his secret menu is full of Mexican specialties like tortas, tacos, and my favorite – chilaquiles (corn tortillas in a red salsa, cotija cheese, and topped with eggs of your choice). Rob’s kitchen is truly a hidden gem.
If you are looking for a nice dinner out, 50 West could be the best date night restaurant in Plainville. Plus, it has a great patio for outdoor dining.
Owner Vin Keola offers up a menu that includes from scratch American comfort food, seasonal specials, and crafted cocktails. Vin and his family left emigrated from Laos in 1980, and several of his dishes have a Southeast Asian influence. This includes the more subtle Cubanh Mi (essentially the fusion of a Cuban and a Bahn Mi) or the more obvious dumplings or drunken noodles.
50 West might be my favorite restaurant in Plainville. The Butternut Squash in particular was a surprise hit. And even their chicken wings are pretty good too. The only drawback is that I wish the bar was bigger for solo dining, but it’s hard to beat the outside tables in the summer.
Other Nearby Recommendations
Hop Haus: With locations in Plainville and Southington, Hop Haus has a casual pub feel. They have happy hour and an excellent craft beer menu. www.hophauscraftbeer.com
Craft Kitchen: Don’t let the location in a Fairfield Inn fool you. After getting his culinary arts degree, Owner/Chef Mike Truss honed his skills in Boston and Sonoma (California) before returning to Connecticut to open his own restaurants with a locally sourced menu. He has a location in Southington as well. www.craftkitchenct.com
Cava: Located in nearby Southington, this Italian restaurant has an Instagram worthy rooftop. www.cavact.com
Nina’s Kitchen: Quick stop for breakfast sandwiches and lunch. www.ninaskitchenct.com