Best Neighborhood Bar (East Side) - 2003
RJ's Place - CLOSED
Readers' Choice: Pop's
The beer's cheap. The jukebox is fantastic. The food's good. But we really love the house plants on top of the cigarette machine. Set in a residential neighborhood kitty-corner from the town's volunteer fire station, RJ's is the quintessential corner tavern, the kind of place where no one minds if you put your feet up on the neighboring barstool while enjoying the game on a crystal-clear big screen. It's not as crowded as it was before Premcor closed its refinery, which had been Hartford's largest employer, but a deal to reopen the refinery is in the works. Meanwhile RJ's will survive, if history is any guide. The place has been a bar since the 1930s, and it shows in the wooden bar back and the linoleum floor that reminds you of your high school cafeteria. This is a blue-collar establishment with photos of refinery softball teams on the walls and no mirror in the men's room. With a pool table set on a raised area next to the kitchen, out of the way of the happy-hour hustle-bustle, RJ's is a great spot for billiards. The aforementioned house plants atop the butt machine add the perfect living-room touch. With more than 100 CDs heavy on blues, rock and country, the jukebox is one of the biggest and best in the metro east. Beer is ridiculously cheap -- just $1.90 for a Bud longneck (except on Mondays, when the price drops to $1.25). And wings are free on Wednesdays.