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Jan 29, 2010 10:38 AM

What's new New Haven?

In the interest of making this shotgun wedding work, how about introducing all us Tristate (FFD county) alumni to what is happening chow-wise in New Haven (aside from the reference to Pepe's, Sally's, Modern and Louis Lunch which occasionally trickled down to us).

After all NH is the state's third biggest city, with diverse population, a discerning academic. medical and tech community, and as close to some of us as Westchester, (our estranged partner. ) So what new chow possibilities await us down here in lower FFD?

First, to address FFD county deficiencies, Is there a great Steakhouse, Mexican, Chinese, Seafooder, Jewish Deli, Bagel place we should know about? We've not found much here.

Which of the authentic Italian and also red sauce places there would you reck?. French, New American, South American, ethnic? etc.

And if you had to pick one must- try, unique-to-New Haven resto what would it be?

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  1. First of all, thank you for not encouraging the idea that NH is only worth coming to for pizza.

    Steakhouse: Central Steakhouse on Orange St; good steaks, meat cured in house, wonderful wine list.
    Mexican: much blood spilled about this in various threads on the old NE board. Bottom line, I think, is that this is not something to come to NH for.
    Chinese: Lao Sze Chuan in MIlford on the Post Road is the consensus choice. Very good food, Szechuan style of course. Much that is interesting. There is supposed to be a very good Taiwanese place somewhere in the area, but I forget the name (and I haven't been there).
    Seafood: For informal places, specializing in lobster, clams, fried stuff (but with full menus of grilled and baked seafood as well), the most popular are on the shoreline on the other side of NH from you: Lennie's Indian Head in Branford, Lenny & Joe's in Westbrook (my preference) or Madison.
    Jewish Deli: I don't know of any that get more than lukewarm praise.
    Italian (authentic): L'Orcio on State Street and Skappo on Crown are two excellent choices. The latter is Umbrian, run (and operated entirely) by a single family.
    Italian (red sauce): I think Tre Scalini on Wooster Street (just beyond the pizza district) is better than most. Many others to choose from, though.
    French: Union League Cafe on Chapel is an old standby that still has extremely good food and the kind of atmosphere you expect in a French restaurant. In Branford, Le Petit Cafe offers very good sort-of-French food cooked by a fine Chinese chef (who could be much more inventive if he would only let himself). The only rap on LPC is that the menu doesn't really change much, but if you're only going once, that doesn't matter. Cafe Routier out in Westbrook isn't really French, but I have to mention it somewhere, because it's been quite good for a long time.
    New American: I'm not quite sure what this means, but Zinc might be a good example. Some people on CH are critical of Zinc for a certain incoherence; I like it a lot. And the dessert chef there is as close to a culinary god as NH has to offer. Bespoke probably fits this description too, but they have recently changed hands, and it is not clear what will happen in the future.
    South American: for a city with a full Ecuadorian consulate, NH has surprisingly little in the way of South American food. Pacifico on College St. has some good things; if Cuba counts, Soul De Cuba on Crown Street is good.
    Spanish: no list of NH restaurants would be complete without Ibiza (High Street), arguably the best restaurant in town. Some like Barcelona Wine Bar, but I find the food there poorly executed. The wine list, on the other hand, is wonderful. Ibiza also has a smaller outlet, Ibiza Tapas, in Hamden.
    Turkish: Istanbul Cafe on Crown is good. There are a couple of other Turkish places in the NH suburbs that I've heard good things about.
    Malaysian: Bentara provides very good and interesting food in an atmosphere much more elegant than you might associate with this cuisine. The outstanding winelist (shared with Central Steakhouse) is actually a pity, because virtually none of the food goes with any of these great wines.
    Indian: Many places, but Thali at the bottom of Orange Street stands head and shoulders above the rest (and above most other Indian restaurants in North America, in my opinion). If you're vegetarian, Thali 2 (across from the Yale bookstore, off Broadway) is great. I'm not, so I'm less impressed.

    With a couple of exceptions, I've tried to stick to New Haven here: there are good places that might be called either "French" or "New American" in Chester/Essex, for example, and the Watch Factory in Cheshire is a really good Austrian restaurant, among many other places that will be unfamiliar to FFD Country residents.

    One place, unique to New Haven? I guess I would put Ibiza and Thali at the top of my best-of list, but there are Spanish and Indian restaurants elsewhere. I think Bentara, as an outstanding Malaysian place, comes closest in the unique-to-NH category. Or perhaps Skappo: how many Umbrian restaurants are there in North America? But I don't think you'll go seriously wrong at any of the places mentioned above, and you will help to dispel the notion that NH is only about pizza (plus Louis Lunch, God help us).

    2 Replies
      1. re: linguist

        Thai: Rice Pot on State Street - most authentic
        Mexican: Baja's in Orange, CT; and J's Luncheonette on Middletown in New Haven (taquerias)
        Patisserie: Marjolaine
        Indian: Thali Too (as noted above) is fantastic. Am not a vegetarian and I love it.
        New American: I like Zinc too. Bespoke is WAY overpriced and with the change in owners, am not sure where they are going.
        Turkish: Saray in West Haven is always filled with Turkes which is a good sign.

        State Street Cafe
        342 State St, North Haven, CT 06473

        Thali Too
        65 Broadway, New Haven, CT 06511

      2. Great idea!

        I'll let the New Haven locals fill in more of the blanks for you, but here are my contributions to begin the expansion of your chow horizons:

        I love Katz Deli in Woodbridge (directly off the Merritt), as do my friends and family.

        On your way to New Haven, stop in Milford to check out Lao Sze Chuan. I wish I lived closer. Go on a sunny day and head over to Silver Sands State Park, too (may as well make it worth the trip). In a rare instance of board kumbaya, we all seem to love LSC.

        David Foster is uber-creative in the kitchen. His cheesecake brulee kicks serious @$$. This man thinks way outside the box and the payoff is yours for the tasting.

        2 Replies
        1. re: kattyeyes

          +1 on LSC, given the dearth of good chinese food in FFD county I often head up there when I don't feel like hitting the city (that's NYC not an ex-tristater I'm acutely aware of our new board designation and wanted to be clear...ahem). LSC is more authentic than I expected and all the better for it.

          I've also been to Bentara a few times. I like it. They don't wimp out on the spiciness of the malyasian dishes and that keeps me coming back.

          Overall I like exploring New Haven for eating out. Breath of fresh air from some of the suburban fodder down here.

          1. re: Scotty100

            I would highly recommend Hao Si Chuan, on the Post Road in West Haven. It's better than LSC but you don't get much more ghetto than this location. Lots of dudes just hanging outside of the liquor store next door drinking 40s. But the most authetic Chinese food, let alone Szechuan I've had in Connecticut.

        2. Jewish Deli - love Westville Kosher Deli (in shopping center with Amity Wine) - prepared foods and sandwiches are wonderful, H&H bagels, real chopped liver, nova is sublime. All kinds of kosher meats, plus buffalo burgers. They keep kosher, though, so they're closed early Friday and all Saturday; but they are well worth making the time for.

          1. At the risk of looking like a man with a one-track mind, I really like the taco trucks up in New Haven. Whereas we in FFC have few, New Haven has seven in a row. (OK, two are puerto rican and one is a hot dog truck).

            Here are some good photos I took on a recent excursion:

            The nexcalli truck has good tacos placero (don't know what that translates into) and the santa apolonia, the truck with the sparsest gettup, has awesome cemitas. Folks on the boards like the Ixtapa trucks (there are two).

            1 Reply
            1. re: adamclyde

              I'm glad you mentioned these. I've been meaning to go.

            2. I posted a pretty extensive list at the end of last summer:
              I don't know if much has changed since then. Bespoke has changed ownership, and I hear that's a good thing.
              My list only covers New Haven iself, and mostly just downtown.
              For your specific inquiries:
              Steakhouse - Central Steakhouse is great
              Mexican - Guadalup la Poblanita is worth travelling for, and the taco trucks are worth stopping at if you're in the area
              Chinese - Lao Sze Chuan in Milford is very good, and I like Royal Palace in New Haven, but neither is in the same league as the Chinese in Flushing
              Seafood - it's like linguist said
              Jewish Deli - nothing worth travelling for
              Bagels - nope
              Regional Italian - L'Orcio (mostly Tuscan but with influence from Lazio, Marche, and Emilia-Romagna) and Skappo (Umbrian) are both excellent
              Red sauce - nothing great in New Haven, but Roseland Apizza in Derby is great; they're understandably well known for their pizza, but their other food is even better
              French - Union League is good, but there's better fine dining French to be had in Fairfield County. Caseus is a great bistro, and also a great cheese shop.
              New American - Foster's is creative, delicious, reasonably priced, and well worth a trip to New Haven. Heirloom is also very good.
              South American - Pacifico was really great the first few times I went there, but has been hit or miss since
              Must try - Ibiza, absolutely. I don't think there are more than a few other places in the same league as Ibiza in the whole state, and Mark Bittman agrees. After years of searching and wasting money at the top recommended Spanish restaurants all over the US, the only other Spanish restaurants I've found that are on par with Ignacio Blanco's (Ibiza, Meigas, Ibiza Tapas) are those in Jose Andres's Think Food Group.
              Also worth the trip out - Thali (unless you're closer to the slightly better New Canaan branch), Bentara, and Soul de Cuba.