4/20 dinners in CT include a hot dog contest and ‘Big Mac’ empanadas

Photo of Leeanne Griffin

April 20 has become a "high holiday" for cannabis users, and this year, a few Connecticut restaurants are marking the occasion with special events and dinners.

The date and number have been associated with enthusiasts since the 1970s, when a group of California high school students inherited a map that allegedly led to a crop of abandoned cannabis plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station, Rolling Stone reported in 2018. The students gathered at 4:20 p.m. for weeks to drive out and hunt for the plants, smoking joints along the way.

They never found the plants, "yet the term '420' became embedded in their dialogue, referring to their favorite plant while teachers and parents were conveniently left in the dark," reporter Zoe Wilder wrote.

In 2022, just about nine months after Connecticut legalized recreational cannabis, state chefs are celebrating the culture (and potential munchies) with craveable foods.

Dante Cistulli prepares to toss dough at his restaurant, Zephyr's Street Pizza in West Hartford.

Dante Cistulli prepares to toss dough at his restaurant, Zephyr's Street Pizza in West Hartford.

Lisa Nichols

At Zephyr's Street Pizza in West Hartford, owner Dante Cistulli has lined up a 4/20 "chefs' potluck" party he's calling Hot Dog Heroes. He's invited 10 Connecticut chefs to cook their own hot dog recipes at the restaurant that night, and guests will choose a winner. 

For $25, customers will get tasting portions of all 11 hot dogs (Cistulli is also competing) and a string of beads, which they'll use to award to their favorite chef's creation. But there's also a chef's vote, Cistulli said, where the chefs have to choose their favorite recipe — and they can't vote for their own.

Participating chefs include Ashley Flagg of Millwright's, Mo Major from The Place 2 Be, Xavier Santiago of Statement Group/ The Place 2 Be, Carlos Perez of @ The Corner, BobRoy Wheaton from Four Dads Pub, Corey Cistulli of Farmington Polo Club, Ethan Czarneski of Present Company, Doug Kelly of Max Burger and Tom Kaldy of The Charles.

The winner of that contest gets the "ultimate bragging rights," he said, but the bottom three losing chefs have to get a tattoo of a hot dog.

"Some chefs are going to try to get all cheffy, and I'm telling you, my guess is a plain dog with chili, ketchup, mustard will probably make the top three," he said. He plans a mortadella dog for his own recipe.

The event, which kicks off at 5 p.m., will also feature giveaways and live music by Mind Goblin. Cistulli plans to make it an annual party. 

A platter of snacks planned for the upcoming Bear's Smokehouse BBQ/ The Vulgar Chef 4/20 dinner menu. 

A platter of snacks planned for the upcoming Bear's Smokehouse BBQ/ The Vulgar Chef 4/20 dinner menu. 

Kyle Marcoux / Bear's Smokehouse BBQ

At Bear's Smokehouse BBQ in New Haven, the restaurant is teaming up with The Vulgar Chef for a "Fast Food 'Meats' BBQ" dinner on April 20 at 6 p.m. The Vulgar Chef, also known as Kyle Marcoux, has a large and loyal social media following for his preposterous food creations: the more absurd, the better. Recent recipe videos include a Slim Jim "Wellington," with macaroni and cheese rolled around the meat sticks and wrapped in puff pastry, and "beanut butter" cups — dark chocolate cups filled with baked beans.

Marcoux also happens to handle marketing and social media for Bear's, so he's working with the restaurant to design different takes on fast food items using smoked meats. Planned items include a "Big Mac" empanada with cheeseburger and pickle filling, brisket sliders, Doritos-crusted French fries, Flamin' Hot Cheetos-topped macaroni and cheese and Texas taquitos with Bear's smoked sausage.

A platter of food is $60, including desserts, and it serves two people, Marcoux said. The event will also feature giveaways, including bottles of Truff hot sauce and VIBES rolling papers.

The event is THC-free, though, Marcoux said. "We're just shooting for that food that people are on the hunt for."

Olmo Bagelry in New Haven is giving away 420 bagels with schmear from noon to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday — or whenever the 420 bagels are gone, whichever comes first. Guests can order online for pickup through Snackpass, or in person at Olmo's digital kiosks. No additional purchase is necessary.

At Black Rock Social House in Bridgeport, which hosts a monthly "food culture series" with menus from different countries, the restaurant hosts a dinner with CBD-infused courses. The menu, which spotlights Ukrainian dishes, is available on April 20 and 27, and specific ingredients like salt, sugar, grapeseed oil and herb butter are infused with cannabidiol.