Trisha Mohan ’26
Diversity in the Hartford area is widespread and established, particularly in its varied selection of restaurants scattered throughout the city. Many newcomers and college students, however, will stray off to nearby West Hartford to admire the upscale restaurants located in Blue Back Square; nonetheless, the value of these restaurants is certainly comparable to those in Hartford, specifically Thai restaurants. Sweet Chili Restaurant, located at 312 Park Rd #7, borders Hartford and West Hartford.
With over 13 appetizer options, five signature soups, seven house-made salads, and close to 50 main course entrees, Sweet Chili encompasses Thai cuisine through various outlets. Alongside their diverse main menu, Sweet Chili also offers lunch specials and weekly deals. With a 4.65/5 rating on Grubhub and a 4.4/5 rating on Google, customers appear to be quite satisfied with the food, along with the comfortable atmosphere and willingness of the staff to provide accommodation for those with dietary preferences. One customer expresses their contentment in an online review, finding that “[Sweet Chili] offers an unassuming storefront but a peaceful, tasteful interior. Our server was attentive and helpful. The food was excellent. We had the special Chive Dumplings (soft dumplings fried to a crisp), Drunken Noodles with pork, and Drunken Chicken (ground chicken with string beans, bell peppers, onions, and Thai basil). There was a nice variety of wine and beer options.”
After hearing these fantastic reviews, I had to try it myself. On a mellow Sunday night, I decided to drive to Sweet Chili, located on a quiet sector of Park Street. After parking in the back, I made my way into the restaurant, greeted by the friendly staff who quickly sat me at a table. The dining area elicited a calm ambiance with dim lighting, various water fountains, and soft music and candles. After being given a menu (and making the difficult decision of what to order), I patiently waited for my food. I ordered the Red Curry with Chicken and Thai Basil Fried Rice as well as one order of Shumai as an appetizer and one Tom-Yum soup. Sweet Chili truly lived up to its reputation as the food was fantastic. The curry was both creamy and thick, while the Shumai was crispy yet warm on the inside. Additionally, everything tasted as if it were made with fresh ingredients, and I was constantly checked up on by the attentive staff for any further needs. Aside from the food quality being fantastic, the price range is somewhat affordable. Most of the standard appetizers are under $10, while the entrees range from $15 to $25–all very affordable considering the prep time and quality of the ingredients to cook traditional Thai food. In my opinion, Sweet Chili is based around more standard Thai dishes rather than fusion options to cater to American taste buds.
When I paid a visit to Blue Elephant Trail (a Thai restaurant in the heart of Blue Back Square, West Hartford), I had a much different experience. The ambiance evoked a modern twist, with many people, designs within the food, pineapple bowls, and extravagant desserts. However, when ordering a dish identical to my meal at Sweet Chili, the Basil Fried Rice, it was strangely sweeter than the fried rice I have been served in the past—I had also requested a spicier dish. While I am not writing this to criticize Blue Elephant, I am merely noting that the more expensive, fancier, pineapple bowl-serving restaurant is not always the establishment with the best food. From the sweetness of the fried rice to the stir fry’s absence of standard Thai vegetables, Blue Elephant Trail caters to American tastebuds rather than embracing original Thai recipes; Sweet Chili, on the other hand, takes tradition, great service, and clean ingredients and implements them in their high-quality food. Sweet Chili does not amass the crowd that other Thai restaurants do. This underrated yet amazing establishment deserves a visit, not only to support our local small businesses, but to get a mouth-watering meal that is worth your dime.