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New Haven, CT Top 5 Favorites

restaurants, why and what dishes to order. Also bakeries or ethnic markets? Thanks. Ethnic is great!

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  1. A couple of my favorites in and around New Haven are;
    1. Mamoun's on Howe St. (anything, but I always get the Ful Mudammas)
    2. Sally's Pizza on Wooster St. (try the Pizza Bianca - baby clams, no tomato)
    3. There was a Mexican place on Rte. 1 near the W. Haven/Orange town line called
    Baja. I don't know if it's still open though. The food was good, and they had a salsa bar with about six choices from mild to explosive. I can't say how authentically Mexican it is (or was) though because I haven't eaten much in the southwest or Mexico.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RIChowderhead

      Goodfella's for Italian.
      Sally's for Pizza.

    2. Bentara for the mussles, panang, and roti with the beef in it. Oh, I miss Bentara!
      Union League for, well almost anything
      Pepe's for pizza (I am a Texan and we simply don't get pizza like that down here)
      Roomba for the tuna and fou fou (spelling?)
      Thai Taste...great thai food
      Bella Luna for brie stuffed french toast...coma inducing.

      5 Replies
        1. re: ElizabethHenton

          That's a tough one given the wide variety of really good food in New Haven. If you are referring to fine dining, then they'd be:
          Ibiza
          Bespoke
          Roomba
          Zinc
          Union League

          For casual dining:
          any of the "big 3" pizza (Pepe's, Sally's, Modern)
          Mamouns
          Rice Pot

          1. re: lsnhc

            -roomba is amazing for latin-inspired fusion. they have excellent drinks, fabulous appetizers (i recommend the chivita), and such great desserts (the semi-freddo might be my favourite dessert ever).
            -bespoke is owned by the same people as roomba, and is supposed to be the best restaurant ever, although i've never tried.
            -lupi legna's is this adorable bakery. they bake breads on site, sell various loaves (mostly italian) in addition to personal pizzas, stuffed breads, and 2 desserts (chocolate chunk cookie and Sfogliatelle), and pizza doughs.
            -zaroka serves probably the best indian food in new haven, pricier than the others, but definitely worth it
            -and now i'm stuck on a fifth. there are so many great options. barcelona is a new wine bar with great appetizers and desserts. mamoun's is delicious, cheap, and open all the time. kudeta has promise.

            also for ethnic grocery stores, there is an awesome turkish/gourmet grocery store called limon in hamden, on state street. it's pretty well-priced and has tons of options for turkish items, and just general ethnic and gourmet items. and in new haven, there's the oriental pantry, which houses a million different asian items in this little little room. it is a pure wonder.

            1. re: shoogirl49

              shoogirl49, where is lupi legna's? I haven't been able to buy sfogliatelle outside of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx!

              1. re: kooby

                hey kooby. lupi's is at cedar and washington streets, down near the yale medical school.

      1. Don't come to New Haven expecting a world-class dining scene: it simply isn't New York, Chicago or SF. I've lived in two of the three and trust me, it simply isn't even close, even when you adjust for size, regardless of what people here say. That said, there are a few places worth trying.

        Bespoke isn't bad, but its over-done. There's too much on every plate: restraint is a virtue. But there are still exciting dishes (like a cauliflower puree accented with sultanas, a nice touch). Roomba is okay as well, although I've never seen much reason to fuss.

        Pacifico is good.

        Union League isn't bad, although a bit over-salted.

        Thali for Indian food, see also Bentara (Malaysian), and Miso (Japanese). They're all within about 2 blocks. And Skapo (Italian small plates) isn't bad either. There's also a great ethnic market (J-Mart, Asian products) next door to Miso.

        Zinc is ok. I sometimes see flashes of inspiration (the use of tea leaves to add a hint of smokiness to chocolates), but other times they stumble of seemingly basic items (rapini so bitter as to be almost inedible). That said, it seems to have a cult following.

        And if Baja is the same one I'm thinking of, it's a chain. And not a good one. I'd try to avoid Mexican here, I've not had good luck. Stick to CA (or Mexico). Southwestern food is quite different (although tasty).

        14 Replies
        1. re: the scribbler

          Just curious. Where is (or was) the Baja you're thinking of? The one I knew of did not seem at all like a chain-type restaurant.

          In fact, now I'm not even sure if the place I'm thinking of was called Baja. All I know is it is (or was) in Orange (almost on the W. Haven line), on the south-bound side of Rte. 1 (or Boston Post Rd.), next to a tire place, across the road from a plaza that is bound by Rte. 1 on the north side and Bull Hill Lane on the west side. It's also nearly across the road from the Walmart, and about a 1/4 mile south of the light at Meloy Rd.

          1. re: RIChowderhead

            That must be the Baja's that they're talking about (it is near W. Haven/Orange line). Not a chain and the food is good. Good fish tacos which isn't true at very many places around here (although last time I went they weren't great for some reason).

            As for my top 5 in NH:
            1. Bentara (just consistently good. although service can be slow -- beef two soy is favorite)
            2. Roomba (maybe it's slipped a little and doesn't live up to some people's expectations, but I've had good food every time -- bbq salmon)
            3. Pacifico (skirt steak)
            4. Pepes (again, maybe not as good as it used to be, but still the best pizza around in my opinion -- best peperoni pizza anywhere)
            5. Thali (better each time I eat there -- chicken kori gasi)

            1. re: RIChowderhead

              Baja's is not a chain.. I grew up on Mexican food in the Bay Area and when I moved here 15 yrs ago I couldn't stomach the Mexican restaurants until Baja's opened. It is genuine, run by two Mexican families from the San Diego area. What i really miss here is the taquerias (Mexican delis with cheap burritos, tacos, and taquitos), kind of like the taco trucks that park along the water on Long Shore Blvd.

              1. re: pjk24

                Baja in Orange is actually owned by a man named Bob, not Mexican families (although many Mexican people work for him). He used to have a restaurant in New Haven too (also called Baja's) but shut it down because it was too hectic to run 2 places.

            2. re: the scribbler

              Thali is excellent - on a different level than any other Indian in the NH area and most Indian places you find in NYC as well. Interesting, innovative food - not your typical Tikka Masala place at all. The NYTimes reviews they have up on the wall name a number of special dishes that are all worth ordering.

              I love the totally unsung, underappreciated Pizza House, on Edgewood and Howe - a neighborhood dive that's been there for 30 years selling Greek-style pizza that's my favorite in NH - totally different from the super-thin-crust Italian places like Pepe's but, to my taste, equally speclal.

              1. re: the scribbler

                Scribbler,

                "it simply isn't New York"
                It is silly to compare a city of just over 100,000 to a city like New York with over 8 million residents. No one in the thread suggested New Haven can hold its own against NYC or Chicago. However I challenge you to find a city of the same size as New Haven outside of the Northeast that has such a diverse chow scene. I can go to New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury, really any Connecticut city and find a huge selection of "ethnic" eats...Brazilian, Peruvian, Polish, Italian, Dominican, Mexican, Vietnamese, Ecuadorian, Trinidadian, Jamaican, Guyanian, and of course pizza to die for.

                "I'd try to avoid Mexican here....."
                Now, when it comes to Mexican you should be aware that the majority of Mexicans in Connecticut are from Puebla, Michoacan, and a few from Oaxaca so those are the cuisines that are going to be found in the local Mexican restaurants. Lovers of Mole should rejoice because that dish originated in Puebla. Tortilleria la Michoacana on Grand Avenue not only serves food but on the weekend it is a dancehall as well with Mexican musicians coming in from the tri-state area and from Mexico. If you dig around a little bit you will find some great places, no need to travel to California.

                And for pjk24 who is looking for a taqueria there is one in West Haven and one in Wallingford.

                1. re: JohnnyCT

                  JohnnyCT, this info the regional origins of NH's Mexican cooks is really interesting and I wonder if you could elaborate (since you seem to know something about the topic). I spent part of my growing-up in Southern California and I've always been pretty disappointed by the Mexican food I've found since moving back East. I had the vague notion that a lot of what I was eating in New York, New Haven, etc., was Pueblan, but I never knew much about which dishes are real Pueblan standouts - I just kept ordering the carnitas and chuletas I liked growing up and then wishing they tasted more like the SoCal versions. It never even occurred to me to order mole in any of the places I investigated in NYC - even though I love mole - because I think of it as a "fancier" dish. Now I definitely will. But if you've got suggestions for other areas where Pueblan, Oaxacan and Michoacan cooking shine, please share them. I'd love to get better at appreciating those regional cuisines in their own rights, rather than continuing to compare them, unfavorably, to the Cal-Mex I miss.

                  1. re: GDSwamp

                    Some dishes to look out for from Puebla are mole, chalupas, cemitas(a type of torta), and tacos arabes which are tacos al pastor but with different spices and a different thicker tortilla.

                    Michoacan is known for their carnitas. I've been told they make tamales with blackberries which I would try but I don't know if that is my style. They are also said to make a mean pozole.

                    1. re: JohnnyCT

                      Sounds good. Next time I'm in NH I'll try Baja or Tortillera la Michoacana with this stuff in mind.

                      1. re: GDSwamp

                        They offer tacos arabes at La Poblanita on Park Avenue in Bridgeport.

                  2. re: JohnnyCT

                    just saw this thread - where are some great dives/taquerias in waterbury or bristol? i'm up there periodically, but haven't seen much outside of italian...

                    1. re: bob gaj

                      Bob,

                      Here is a thread on Waterbury:

                      www.chowhound.com/topics/379816

                      Mi Pueblito is the best for Mexican.

                  3. re: the scribbler

                    I second the sentiment that it's pointless to compare NH to NY and other major cities, but I've lived in quite a few other smaller cities and NH has them beat in quality and variety in a relatively small area. You can park downtown and walk to at least 3 dozen good restaurants with cuisines all over the map. Some are better than others, but the scene is getting more competitive and bad places don't tend to last, so quality overall is pretty high. Prices are also good and not wildly out of sync with local salaries.

                    1. re: the scribbler

                      I know this is an old post, but I am surprised that it stood unchallenged. How can this poster say Union League "isn't bad"?
                      New Haven does have a few restaurants that compete well with other cities with reputations for fine dining. Just read. Why do NY Times food critics keep coming here?

                    2. 1. Mamoun's (anything, really, but the falafel is fantastic)
                      2. Pepe's (white clam pizza--you just can't this kind of pizza anywhere else).
                      3. Sultan's Delight at Istanbul Cafe

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rmmcgrath

                        Sally's also has the Pizza Bianca (white clam pizza).

                        And Sally's is better than Pepe's. Just ask Doonesbury.

                      2. You've got a lot of great choice here.
                        But one of my favorite places is overlooked.
                        Ivy Noodle across from the Yale Bookstore on Broadway.
                        Always jammed.
                        Community tables or counter seating.
                        This is hole in the wall, not upscale dining, but, REALLY GOOD NOODLES.
                        They cater to the Yale College crowd so the prices are very reasonable and they are open very late.

                        I recommend the Coconut Curry Tofu Soup with whatever noodles you happen to like.
                        Also for appetizers try the shrimp pancakes, turnip cakes, and wontons in hot oil.

                        They are so good that a second noodle place opened about a year ago in the same area.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: WannaBeFoodCritic

                          Sorry, I've had very bad meals at Ivy noodle, greasy, bland and overpriced. There are much better noodle places now: York Street Noodle House, East Melange on Howe (new this year) and Dozo on Whalley (brand-new in last month). All kick Ivy Noodle's butt. But East Melange is a standout in that it has all kinds of down-home Chinese stuff and lots of Chinese people eat there. Excellent Singapore Chow Fun.