The Willimantic Brewing Company (“Willibrew”)
The Willibrew is a living landmark restaurant & pub brewery that offers fresh-brewed beer as well as a delicious selection of other beers, fantastic food, and great service, all in the historic ambience of a 1909 U.S. post office building. 5-beer flights are affordable, the menu is bountiful and the food is delicious! The Bavarian pretzels were the freshest I’ve ever had, and the cheesy ale sauce was the perfect compliment to it, without the overly bitter flavor that can come with beer cheese. The French onion soup was wonderfully cheesy and flavorful, and the tuna melt on marbled rye was perfectly toasted with a heaping portion of tuna and perfectly fried, fresh and salty steak cut French fries on the side. They also have a delicious vegan three bean chili, perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of heat warming your throat after each bite.
Situated on Main Street in Willimantic, CT, the building blends in as a stately old town building rather then standing out as a pub or brewery. Upon entering, you go down a hallway before coming to a small arcade room with vintage arcade games on top of old marble floors, and giant windows all around. Through a door on the other end of the arcade you see the bar and restaurant seating. Past the bar the seating wraps around to an area with vintage post office windows (below), where you find another door opening up to a large dining room with a bar.
If you’re looking for a bite and a brew and you’re looking to support local, small business in Connecticut, The Willibrew is worth a stop – and maybe some Willibrew merchandise as a souvenir!!
The Willimantic Food Co-op
Right down the road from the Willibrew is the Willimantic Food Co-Op, which is getting a nod for it’s huge supply of oats, nuts, grains and spices, as well as for partnering with local farmers to provide local, high-quality food and other goods. It is a different type of grocery store that is owned and operated by its members. The prices are a bit high (and non-members pay 10% more than shelf price on all goods), but if you’re looking for a wide variety of fresh, local, high-quality items (good for folks with allergies or special diets too) then it may be worth a membership, which provides you with a bit of a discount as well as a range of other benefits. For more information you can visit the co-op’s website at https://www.willimanticfood.coop/.
Elm Package Store
This little package store gets a shout out for charm. It’s nestled right next door to the Willimantic Food Co-Op, has a mural of John Walker on the exterior wall, and hand painted windows inside affording views of the beautiful church across the street (yes, that window says “Beer” – they also have one that says “wine”).
A Little About Willimantic…
You may not know much about Willimantic, CT. I myself was only familiar with it as a sort of pass through town on the way to Misquamicut Beach, RI. In 2002, The Hartford Courant ran an investigative series on it called “Heroin Town,” which detailed the rampant use of heroin in the small town, making it uncomfortable for people even to just pass through on their way to other destinations. It generated enough concern with the state that they appointed a task force to look into the issue and today, several projects aiming to revitalize the town are underway. Some of the town’s distressed factory buildings have been turned into residential space and efforts to attract businesses to the area have turned other former factory buildings into space for small startups.
Willimantic is located in the town of Windham, a town that was incorporated in 1692. The name Willimantic is actually an Algonquian term for “land of the swift running water,” which is due to the fact that the Willimantic River runs through it. This river was the source of the towns prosperity for decades. By 1828 there were six cotton factories along the river bank, and Willimantic became know as “Thread City.” The American Thread Company had a mill on the banks and was at one time the largest employer in the state as well as one of the largest producers of thread in the world. It’s factory was the first in the world to use electric lighting.
For decades, Willimantic was a center for the production of silk and cotton thread. Immigrants came from all over to work in the thread mills. Railroads added to the growth as Willimantic was one of only a few stops between Boston and New York on the high-speed train. More than 800 ornate Victorian homes were erected in the town’s Prospect Hill section, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hard times ensued when the American Thread Company moved out of Willimantic (and Connecticut) in 1985, and though the town has not seen the same prosperity since, it is on its way back and is worth a stop in to check out some of its highlights.
This information was taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willimantic,_Connecticut