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Top Restaurants in New Haven, CT?

Hi - A good friend of mine is getting married in two weeks and then moving to New Haven by the new year. I'm thinking of getting them a gift certificate to a fabulous meal for their wedding gift. I'm willing to spend $200-250 if need be. What are the BEST restaurants in New Haven? Are there even any, or is it worth it for them to just go elsewhere?

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  1. yes, New Haven has great restaurants.
    Union League - classy, delicious, french
    bespoke - hip, inventive
    ibiza - amazing spanish food
    thali - creative high end indian

    1 Reply
    1. re: EastRocker

      OK, Ibiza and Thali are well worth it. Bespoke (both upstairs and downstairs, different names and I can't recall the other one) is overpriced and unpleasantly noisy.

      Union League is always better than I expect it to be.

      In the past, I would have said your friends should go out of town to Branford, to Le Petit Café. I'm afraid Roy's food hasn't changed much in a while, though, and it's just not as good as it once was (still good, just not the best thing in NH county any more).

      If you like steaks, Central is excellent, and the wine cellar is wonderful.

      East Japanese in Orange isn't exactly a wedding-present kind of place, but it's the best Japanese around (and you could certainly spend $200-250 there for two if you tried).

    2. EastRocker is dead on. Those are among the best of NH. I would add Central Steakhouse. They have the best wine list in the state and the food is great.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ctfoodguy

        While very nice, I would not put Central's wine list above Cavey's. Cavey's cellar has over 15,000 bottles to Central's 8,000. More selections and many more regions represented at Cavey's as well.

      2. Yes, EastRocker is dead!
        I would add that New Haven's best are up to the standards of Boston, NYC, Dallas, etc.
        Search the New England board and check the other, recent threads about New Haven's restaurants.

        If steak is your thing (though they do more than steak and have an incredible wine cellar), I too would add Central Steakhouse and add Tre Scalini for Italian.

        1. Scargod and EastRocker have, as usual, made great suggestions. To that I would only add, if the suggestion isn't too late, that some of those places, as well as others, do some great "event dinners," for lack of a better term. Either on their own or teamed up with the Wine Thief, they do wine and beer pairing prix fixe dinners, or dinners focusing on a particular food or theme. Tickets to such events make a great gift. Check the restaurants' websites (Ibiza, Thali, Central Steakhouse, Bentara, and Foster's in particular come to mind as having these sort of events) or the Wine Thief's website for calendars if the idea interests you.

          1 Reply
          1. re: danieljdwyer

            Excellent suggestion. I often forget about these dinners and often it's the inverse of stepping in crap, I accidentally find out about these events and do them. Over five years I've/we've probably done eight or so. The dinner at Union League, put on by Mt. Carmel Wine and Spirits, earlier this year, was probably the best food/French wine pairing I've had around here.

          2. thanks so much to everyone - this is incredibly helpful! i'll do some investigation with the ones you all have suggested, especially the "events", and go with what feels good to me! i still have a little bit of time to buy, so if anyone else has suggestions, feel free to throw them in the pot!

            1. Not in New Haven, but next door: Le Petit Cafe in Branford! Impeccable French Cuisine. Highly rated in all aspects! Prix fixe menu. Smaller than ULC and I think possibly more intimate. I've never heard a bad word about them.
              What say ye, Chowhounds? I ask this because I cannot say categorically to go there over Union League Cafe since I've never been to Le Petit. I plan to go.....

              2 Replies
              1. re: Scargod

                Le Petit is one of those places that, at least for us, generally evokes a "why didn't we think of going there"! The food is consistently excellent. I guess my biggest problem with it is never being able to let go of what it used to be: An absolutely unbelievably affordable prix fixe - I think that it used to be something like $19.95 for 4 courses! This was, of course, under the first owner, who was Jacque Pepin's nephew. Additionally, he maintained a wine list of several bottles under $20.00. When it was sold to the current owner, the paradigm changed, and while the decor and service remained the same as the "budget" menu, the prices escalated significantly. with 4 courses now priced at $48.50, hardly the bargain that it used to be, even adding for inflation. Add a bottle of wine from a list that is heavily into the $40 - $50+ range and you have a rather expensive evening ahead (do the math - $200+ per couple incl. tax and tip). My problem with this is that while the food is undeniably delicious, the place does not evoke a "high end" or special occasion atmosphere. While there are certainly a number of other area upscale restaurants that could easily cause one to spend similar amounts of money, they are generally a la carte, and I would never think of ordering 4 courses, while your only option here is the prix fixe.
                I guess that if I were new in town and went to Le Petit Cafe for the first time, I would have less of a negative bias, but knowing first hand what it used to be, it is hard to "swallow" the current pricing.

                1. re: lsnhc

                  About to go to Le Petitie for my first time. I will report back! Any updates or suggestions? I know it's pre-fixe so I'm not sure what options there are...