New Haven: A Dining Extravaganza

February 5, 2008

T.E., 2L

I have heard the critiques - New Haven will never be Yale’s selling point, or even a factor prospective students list on the “Pro” side of the pro/con list they are making to help them decide which law school to attend. However, what many students do not realize until they arrive is that New Haven is not a bad place. Perhaps, for a city of its size, New Haven’s most surprising thing going for it is its restaurants.

By some fluke of nature, New Haven is a culinary delight. Chefs who were trained in fancy New York restaurants routinely opt to leave the big city, often because, well, to be honest, it’s a lot cheaper to open a restaurant here. In short, New Haven is close enough to New York to attract top quality New York chefs who can’t afford New York prices. The result is an astonishingly diverse array of tasty restaurants of the sort you would expect to find in, well, New York.

As someone who loves good food, I was concerned I’d be surrounded by chains in New Haven, but, with the exceptions of Cold Stone, Starbucks, and Subway (none of which, I’m sure you’ll agree, count as chain restaurants, since they’re not really, well restaurants) there’s not a chain in sight. Instead, there are two or three independently owned restaurants for every occasion.

When parents come to town, you can impress them with upscale Ibiza (a Spanish restaurant with a divine tasting menu available for only $58), Sabor (a Nuevo Latino restaurant with the most amazingly moist tres leches I’ve ever tasted), or Union League Café (a traditional French restaurant good enough to please even the most discerning palettes).

The food in New Haven satisfies all occasions. For example, I have learned that when clubs announce they are serving pizza, rather than bemoaning the fact that you’ll be eating just pizza for dinner again, to be excited for mashed potato pizza from Bar, white clam pizza from Pepe’s, or the astonishingly flavorful cheese pizza from Est, Est, Est.

When I have found myself craving something more exotic, I have found Bentara’s Malaysian food to be exquisite, while Istanbul Café features New York Times reviewed Turksish cuisine, Soul de Cuba has authentic (you guessed it) Cuban cuisine and fabulous mojitos, and Café Addulis has Eritrean food that you’re actually supposed to eat with your hands.

To meet my late night needs, Rudy’s is open late and serves the best frites this side of the Atlantic, and A1 and Gourmet Heaven are open 24 hours.

If you’re spending a night in studying, take out from Gastronomique (a hole in the wall with a menu featuring dishes as fancy as steak tartare and rack of lamb provencial for well under $20), or your favorite Thai or Indian place.

Whatever your reservations about New Haven, dining options should not be among them. You’ll eat well and have diverse choices, and if you complain at all, it will only be about the pesky pounds you’ve put on as a result.