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Park Central Tavern in Hamden, CT - Don't Bother

There was alot of hype, not to mention big crowds when this restaurant openned a few months ago. I've gone twice and have to say I am NOT impressed. The Lobster Roll was tasteless, plus my fries were soggy; the Caesar salad was dripping in dressing (eck!); Crabcake was oily; steak was tough.

The entrance to the restaurant is weirdly situated - the 'main' entrance is accessed from the parking lot but if you accidentally enter on Central Avenue, you have to walk down a long hallway into the bar to reach the reception area. And why oh why is there a t.v. in EVERY dining room?? I'm going to a restaurant to relax and enjoy the company of my dining companions- I'm not there to watch t.v. The bar is super noisy if you get seated in there- the 'main' dining room which they call the wine room is tiny - makes you feel like you are in your grandmother's parlor. There is another room adjacent to the dining room (that has yet, another t.v. ) which sits empty, and not in use eventhough we had to wait quite some time for our table. The layout is just weird.

We don't need another Eli's or Playwright. Better off heading a bit further north on Whitney to Taste which has a more 'inventive' menu. I think their business (unfotunately) has suffered a bit due to the openning of Park Central Tavern but I hope crowds return to this nice neighborhood restaurant. Their food is quite delicious.

Park Central Tavern
1640 Whitney Ave, Hamden, CT 06517

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  1. I haven't eaten at Park Central, but the reports I've heard are very similar to what GoodFoodie has written. I agree about Taste - really good food and consistently good service. One of the former owners of Taste is actually the matre'd at Park Central (Nace), so I am quite sure that he has "brought" along some of his old customers.
    It is clear that Park Central is having a significant impact on Taste - the last time we were there (on a Thurs night) there were only a handful of other tables occupied. Not too long ago, Thursday night meant a full house for them. It would be a shame if Taste became another victim of these difficult times....

    1 Reply
    1. re: lsnhc

      Agree wholeheartedly lsnhc! I was one of those customers who 'followed' Nace to Park Central but after giving it two tries- don't plan to go back. The food is really not worth it.

      It would be sad if Taste fell victim because of Park Central Tavern's openning up nearby because Taste serves MUCH, MUCH BETTER food. So please -continue to patronize this neighborhood venue.

    2. Pam- Since you enjoy Luce, I encourage you to check out L'Orcio on State Street (and Eld) and Skappo on Crown in New Haven. Incredible Italian food at both.

      Still no dice re: Park Central though. We all work hard for our money (esp in this economy) so why waste it on a mediocre restaurant? Have spoken to numerous friends who are 'foodies' in their own right and, independently of what I have expressed -all agree that Park Central simply does not cut it. Sources say the chef is very credible but has not been given free reign to develop a creative menu which results in the bland, institutional food that tastes like Stouffer's. And as far as ambience- how enjoyable is it to dine with television sets blaring in the background in every room?

      If you are bound to the Hamden area, next time you are up from D.C. and in the mood to be culinarily adventurous - check out Ibiza Tapas on Dixwell, near Benham. GREAT tapas; as good as I've had in Spain. Further south on Dixwell, there's Sushi Palace, Thai Terrace, and Thai Awesom which is not bad but definitely not as good as Rice Pot in New Haven. In neighboring North Haven, you will find LuDal and Bellini's. Once you branch out and sample some great food, it will become clear. Happy feasting!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: GoodFoodie

        Wow, your suggestions virtually mirror any I would make! I have a double?? I would say that Thai Terrace is better than anything NH has to offer. I eat there frequently.
        I like Mickey's, too.

      2. The New Haven options above are good, though there are many other fine places to eat in New Haven. In Hamden, Ibiza Tapas is another solid and interesting choice. Another one not mentioned yet is Mickey's: see the thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/384069 for some information.

        1. Having dined at PC four or five times now, my view is that things are improving, but remain hit or miss. I think they are trying to be the neighborhood spot in a neighborhood that won't tolerate anything too exotic or pricey, hence the demise of several previous restaurants in that locale. The tavern menu is ordinary, but not bad. The fries, have improved, no longer soggy and the burgers are quite good. Lobster roll can be a disappointment. Last time, the roll was over-toasted, dry and crumbly There is a vegetarian open-faced sandwich that is really good, as are the soups of the day and the mac/cheese (my weakness).The dinner entrees are pretty standard, ranging from about $19-30. INfo is that the chef is quite reknowned from previous restaurants in the area. It seems like his talents are not being fully utilized here. Hoefully things are on the upswing.
          Has anyone tried Amici's, just up the street?

          1 Reply
          1. re: jenni49

            I have gone to Cafe Amici's several times, although not this past year (economics) I have always been happy with their food and the prices. Cozy atmosphere, good service. Desserts are a little lacking, but never had room for them anyway after a delicious meal.

          2. Updating my original post.........I have gone back to Park Central a few times now and admit the menu selections have improved. Apparently, they hired a new chef and revised their menu selections. Typically, I sit in the bar area and order 'Tavern Fare" as oppose to the full menu items.

            Park Central Tavern
            1640 Whitney Ave, Hamden, CT 06517

            4 Replies
            1. re: GoodFoodie

              I'd be very surprised if they hired a new chef. Rob Johnson, the original chef, is one of the owners...

              1. re: lsnhc

                Whether they re-shuffled/hired new/fired/made-no-change to the kitchen staff, the food and menu selection has improved. I was informed by restaurant staff they worked hard to revise the menu and worked with a new chef to do so.

                I still have issue with the blaring television sets and the small, awkwardly designed primary dining room. However - I am agreeable to returning, and sitting in the bar area for a light bite.

                1. re: GoodFoodie

                  I have heard "not so good" things about this restaurant, but it sounds like they are making an attempt to get back on track. The owners have deep pockets so they are not going anywhere. I will wait to hear some more good stuff before heading back.
                  There are alot better options in Hamden right now. But I will keep checking back. I like Ibizas tapas, Luce and Taste. There are so many options in Hamden right now, good or bad ? I dont know .

                  1. re: willier

                    AGREE re: Ibiza Tapas, Luce and Taste. I have always been a great supporter of Taste and hope they see things through. "Hang in there, Taste!" Consistently good food. The bar/night-out-drinks scene has unfortunately, been overshadowed by Park Central.

                    Park Central is not my first 'go to' choice in Hamden but simply another option; am glad the owners/chef took notice to revise the menu and improve on food choices. As noted above - I would not go to Park Central for dinner (as I would to Taste) but it's a fun, quick stop over for drinks and bar food. Overall, things are looking up locally.

            2. Any other recs for Hamden CT area for lunch?

              1 Reply
              1. re: mpwgrady

                Not open for lunch, unless you lunch late ~4PM, but this place has quite a young and inventive chef.


                Excellent beer selection too.

              2. Thanks for the reviews of PC. I had looked at their menu online and found no reason to go there. Now, after hearing about the TVs, I'd def not go there.
                we've been to Cafe Amici (mostly for pizza) a few times and always left happy. Staff are always welcoming & helpful. More of a low key neighborhood place than PC IMO.
                Tried going to Mikro but it is tiny, takes no res and is popular, & we didn't want to wait. Heard they are now open for lunch. Have heard good things & want to try it.