New Haven has a unique cultural richness due to the diversity of its population and the international persona and visitors that Yale University brings to the community, all of which makes it a great “foodie” city.
It is also the home of the first burger (Louie’s Lunch), www.louislunch.com and is well known for the “must have“ pizza that is in the book “1000 Places you have to go before you die.”
Last Saturday I was invited to participate in a Culinary Tour of downtown New Haven. The tour is held several times during the year and includes stops at nine food and wine venues. As a writer who is both a foodie, as well as a culinary history buff, it was delightful to hear the visionary stories of the restaurateurs and how they manifested their dreams.
The tour group met on the 19th floor of the Omni hotel for a “meet and greet” and to enjoy a continental breakfast at John Davenport’s (www.johndavenports.com), it’s the signature restaurant. What is special about this venue is the panoramic view of city, which is known for its remarkable architecture. They are committed to serving sustainable products that are harvested from all over the region. Their Bar 19 shares the awesome view and also has Happy Hour drinks for $3.75 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. in celebration of John Davenport’s founding of New Haven 375 years ago.
Stephen Fries and Chris Bartlett who run the culinary tours add to the enjoyment by making each stop a surprise. It would take a novel to write about each of the stops in depth, so here are the highlights:
Our first stop was at Orangeside Diner at 25 Temple Street where owner Tony Poleshek Jr. is a foodie celebrity in the New Haven donut scene. Up making his homemade square donuts at the “crack of dawn,” he could definitely have a starring role in the “Gotta make the donuts.” commercial. Really delish and well worth the calories!
On to the delightful Kelly’s Irish Pub (www.kellysnewhaven.com), we enjoyed tasty Irish tidbits in the charming outdoor dining area. Charismatic owner Patrick Hogan shared his vision and dream for serving designer beer and great food. The star of this stop was the panko coated brie with Melba sauce.
Next stop was a wine tasting at the Wine Thief (www.thewinethief.com), New Haven’s premium wine store that also has an expertise in pairing. The Wine Thief often partners with local restaurants for wine tastings and dinners.
On to Bar (www.barnightclub.com), which has a special persona since it is the newest “best pizza” contender in New Haven. Bar goes up against the renowned Pepe’s, Sally’s and Modern, which are the old traditional favorites and they knock it out of the park with their signature mashed potato and bacon pie and great beer menu.
We then walked to Oaxaca Kitchen(www.oaxacakitchen.com), Chef Prasad Chirnmula’s Mexican concept where we had tableside guacamole and enjoyed every flavorful bite.
Our next stop was Claire’s Cornercopia, New Haven’s favorite vegetarian, organic and sustainable restaurant,( www.clairescornercopia.com) where restaurateur Claire Criscuolo shared her vision which has become a New Haven landmark since 1975.
Our next stop was at Atticus Café (www.atticusbookstorecafe.com) a New Haven institution that has excellent food and a marvelous reading selection. We had a delicious fresh spinach salad that was a great palate cleanser before our next venue.
For dessert, we went to one of my favorite foodie spots in downtown New Haven—Union League Café, which also gets “top choice” awards consistently from Connecticut Magazine. Chef/Owner Jean Pierre Vuillermet designed Union League (www.unionleaguecafe.com) to have the ambiance of a Parisian Café in a venue that is a historical masterpiece. Known for it superb food and excellent wine list, we were treated to an assortment of delicious petit fours and a sweet, silky Muscat dessert wine.
Finally, we walked next door to the Wave Gallery (www.wavenewhaven.com) with its awesome selection of artisanal giftware and finished the Culinary Tour with a perfect bite of creamy chocolate.
The next tour is Saturday, September 21. Please call 203-777-8550 or 203-415-3519 for reservations. The fall is a great time to enjoy this fun, food-filled tour.
Check out www.visitnewhaven.com for more great “foodie” ideas.
Raise Your Spirits and Get The Dish!