Coming from New York, one of the biggest and most culturally rich cities in the world, my move to New Haven worried me ~food wise~. My mom is probably the best cook I know, but when I wasn’t eating her soul-filling Dominican meals, I had a selection of thousands of food places to eat from: local restaurants in my neighborhood, pizza shops and delis, or “bodegas,” on almost every corner, small up-and-coming places, food trucks/carts and festivals like the Queens Night Market (I could keep the list going for a while). Beyond missing home cooked meals, I expected that moving to a much smaller city would also limit my options in terms of quality and cuisine (I’m trying not to sound like a snob, but New York foodie culture is so strong).
But when I started to explore the restaurants, beyond the fast food places and chains, in New Haven, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only are there many options that are super tasty, but you can really get a nice takeout or sit-down meal much more affordably than in NYC (which was good for my tummy and my bank account). In this post I’m going to highlight some of my favorite restaurants from diners to sit-downs, desserts to more desserts (I love dessert), in greater New Haven and closer to Yale. Along the way I’ll feature experiences and photos of some of my friends. Coming from a background where food and eating is always a party––the more the merrier––I truly believe in the power of food to bring people together. Trying local restaurants around this city has been an honor and has left me with memories with my friends that I will savor forever––or, more likely, until I come back to visit as an alum!
Arethusa Dairy Farm
It might seem weird to start with dessert, but one of the first things I tried outside of dining hall food when I first got to Yale was ice cream. I looooooove ice cream, even though I’m lactose intolerant, and New Haven definitely has some amazing options. My favorite, however, is probably Arethusa Dairy Farm because it’s so creamy and soft and the staff is always so nice. Also, in one scoop you get so much ice cream for $4! My go-to flavor is strawberry. If you’re not big on ice-cream they also have amazing cheese, milk, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Here is a picture of my friend Danielle when she got Arethusa for the first time!
My friend Danielle at Arethusa
So as a New Yorker, one of the things I really miss are bagels, and to-date I haven’t found a bagel spot that reminds me of home (although Olmo’s bagels on Whitney Avenue is pretty good). BUT, as a breakfast lover in general, I think The Pantry is one of the best diners I have ever been to! It’s located in East Rock, has outdoor seating, and a must try are the cinnamon roll pancakes (which as you can see by my face are my favorite pancakes).
Me at The Pantry
Pizza – The Great Debate
Sally’s or Pepe’s?
When it comes to classic New Haven pizza there’s a big debate: Pepe’s or Sally. And while I think both are pretty good, I think I prefer Frank Pepe’s (mostly for their summer tomato pie). You can’t come to Yale and not try at least one of the many famous pizza places, but there’s also Bar, Modern Apizza, and a place I just recently discovered––which I liked maybe even better than Sally’s too–– 163 Pizza.
Eating pizza at Pepe’s
My Go-To Dinner/Late-Night Spots
I won’t get into too many details with this final list but these are the places I either go to when I don’t want dhall food, when my friends and I want a nicer sit-down dinner, and new places I’ve tried this semester! I’ll let you know the cuisine, my go to/favorite dish, the price range, and include some pics!
Basil: Thai/Asian, $
Why I eat here: it’s cheap and good for days when I don’t like the dhall option, also the food is just really good
Go-to dish: Red chicken curry or sesame chicken
Mamoun’s Falafel: Mediterranean, $
Why I eat here: It’s super cheap, convenient for a to-go meal, super tasty, and they’re open until 3 am!
Go-to dish: Three words: falafel pita sandwich.
My former roommates Abby and Aki enjoying their Mammoun’s
Rubamba: Latinx/Latin fusion, $$
Why I eat here: I tried a Colombian arepa here for the first time and have since been obsessed with the food. The side of maduros (sweet plantains) reminds me of home.
Go-to dish: Beans arepa (delicious cheese filled corn-cake topped with beans, veggies, guac, lettuce and with a side of rice/beans and sweet platanos (plantains)
A Colombian Arepa at Rubamba with fried plantains and rice underneath
Mecha Noodle Bar: Ramen/pho, $$
Why I eat here: I just really love ramen but they also have so many other food options. Their menu happy hour is nice to get meals cheaper and still have a sit-down experience with friends (also a great place to order different foods to share).
Go-to dish: firecracker wings, KFC bao, and Spicy Miso ramen
September in Bangkok: Thai, $$
Why I eat here: I recently just tried this restaurant but the food was so amazing and the plates are huge, so it’s good to share!
Go-to dish: Grilled Salmon or Drunk-Man Noodle, For dessert: mango sorbet
Seafood Basil Fried Rice and Grilled Salmon
Other Amazing, Black, Latinx, and Immigrant owned restaurants:
This list was not expansive what-so-ever and there are so many other restaurants I’ve tried and loved, even in greater New Haven. New Haven is predominantly a Black, Latinx, and immigrant city so it’s important to me to support the local businesses of the residents who live here, away from campus!
- El Coqui
- Food Trucks at Long Wharf (“Food Truck Paradise”)
- Lalibela Ethipioan Restaraunt
- Havenly Treats
- B. Natural Cafe