Not what you asked for at all, but if you are driving from the Midwest to New Haven, you should also make sure to get to Frank Pepe's for a pizza. Really, New Haven is much more of a pizza town than a lobster one.
Not that you shouldn't get lobster, you should, (and I agree with these guys, take a drive for it) just wanted to make sure the pizza stayed in consideration.
oh you bet. in fact, when we were there in feb., we found a pizza place that had the only wood fired pizza oven in ct. right around the corner from hotel. it was pretty good, but nothing earthshattering. i have had many people tell us not to miss Pepe`s though, thanks for the tip!
I honestly don't know if they do steamed, whole lobsters, but Stowe's Seafood in West Haven seems like it'd be a much shorter trip, and it's right on the beach. It's a typical New England clam shack, and their fried food is tough to beat. Fresh fish, clams, oysters, and other goodness flash-fried when you order.
Likewise, there are a few places in West Haven right on the shore where I'm sure you could find lobsters. I just haven't been to any of these except Stowe's.
I think the closest "lobster-at-the-pier" to Yale is at Guilford Mooring (http://www.guilfordmooring.com/) in, obviously, Guilford. A seriously informal restaurant, and actually within a few feet of the docks. Not that there are all that many lobstermen who use these docks, but there are boats rocking at their moorings to watch and to lend the required atmosphere. Outdoor tables in the summer. Adequate lobster (excellent, I dare to suggest, from a midwestern perspective, though only adequate for a New Englander, I say as a transplant from the one to the other). Outstanding home made vidalia onion rings. Double lobster roll for $19 -- as is should be, two New England (top-cut) hotdog rolls filled with picked lobster meat and nothing else, melted butter on the side. Avoid the fries altogether and ask for some rings.
Go farther out on the shoreline and get better lobster rolls at Lobster Landing in Clinton, but you'll also surely enjoy the shorter trip out to Guilford. Other lobster dishes (including the only one that matters, plain boiled lobsters) too, of course. It doesn't sound as if the poster would be in a position to benefit from this, but next to Guilford Mooring in the summer it is (or at least used to be) possible to buy fresh lobsters.
At any place on the Sound in CT, the lobsters you get will be of the local variety that is, sadly, inferior to the real thing in Maine. Still very good, though. I think it was actually decided that the lobsters in the Sound have evolved into a distinct sub-species in the warmer water environment.
The Stone House across the street has more elegant and refined food (with less of a water view, and no sense of being "on the docks"), but that's not what the poster was after.
Carmen Anthony's steakhouse which is right in New Haven always has great food and wonderful service. Carmen Anthony's is a chain here in CT and they also have a fish house but the steakhouse still has lobster and other seafood dishes as well as an amazing steak menu. Its not cheap but really classy and good. Heres their menu:
Johnny Ads on route one in old saybrook which is east of new haven has imo the best lobster roll in the state it has been around forever and can get extremely busy on weekends. They also have amazing fried clam strips. This is their website
If the at the pier part isn't that important, then go with one of madisoneats three suggestions.
If you do want to eat on the pier, and want a lobster roll, go to Lobster Landing in Clinton.
If you want it on the pier and you want a whole lobster, go to Abbott's in Noank.
The other option, my personal favorite, is to go to Lenny and Joe's Fish Tale in Madison, get it all packed to go, drive down the street to the beach, and eat it on the sand - they also have picnic tables if that is more appealing. It's all right off 95, so it's very easy to find everything - you absolutely can't miss the giant signs for Hammonasset State Park (the beach). Technically they don't allow alcohol on the beach - or maybe it's just glass bottles that are prohibited? - but in a decade's worth of beach picnics, a wine bottle or six pack has never drawn so much as a second glance from anyone. I don't think anyone cares, as long as you don't litter. I live and work adjacent to Yale, and it takes me about an hour from the time I get out of work until the moment my ass in the sand and I've got lobster in my mouth.
Will you have a car? I strongly suggest heading a bit north on 95 to the shoreline area-- 10-20 minutes away. Then you could do:
Lenny's in Branford
The Place in Guilford
Lenny and Joe's in Madison
all are very casual, fresh lobster and steamers kind of places-- near the water but not piers (that's more Maine...) Lobster Landing in Clinton also has a great waterside lobster roll!
My mom and I can vouch for both Lenny & Joe's (Madison or Westbrook) and Lobster Landing in Clinton. We went to Lobster Landing today--what a gorgeous day to be sitting out on the water. We were chatting with a shoreline local--a lifelong Clinton resident--while waiting for our food. The local lady agreed with my mom--her favorite lobster roll is (1) Lobster Landing, (2) Lenny & Joe's. :)