What's nice in New Haven, CT?

Parents are coming for a visit next week, which happens to be both Father’s Day and my mom’s birthday. We’re planning to take a trip to New Haven to check out the Yale Art Gallery, so I thought it might be nice to combine it with either a leisurely brunch/lunch or lovely dinner in town. What do you HOs recommend? Pizza and anything seafood heavy/sushi are out. Doesn’t need to be super upscale, although they are up for fine dining as long as it’s not a 6-course tasting menu. They also enjoy creative American, basically any Asian or European cuisine, Mexican etc.

The a la carte menu at Olea looks interesting - has anyone been? Shell and Bones could work if my mother is in the mood for steak. Zinc looks good too. Would love other suggestions. TIA, HOs!

Not a regular visitor to New Haven but have been recently, and I can report Olea is outstanding. Union League Cafe is a stalwart and one of my favorites for a very civilized lunch. Adults are in charge at both places.


Olea! We had a wonderful dinner there this past week, but it was a business function so I did not take photos. It was my third time dining at Olea, which in our view is the best restaurant in town.

They have a very interesting cocktail menu, and I really enjoyed my blackberry and gin concoction. My dining partners opted for wine.

We started by sharing the croquetas de rabo, which were lovely. I decided to have gazpacho, which was garlicky perfection, and then the tuna tartare, also wonderful, as my dinner rather than ordering mains. My dining companions ordered the short rib special and the beef tenderloin, and there were clean plates all around.

The (shared) deconstructed cannomi-misu dessert was amazingly light and out of this world. The service was also excellent.

The only downside of dining here, besides the price, is that if there is a large group nearby, as there was during our dinner, the restaurant can become quite loud.


P.S. - Spouse and I are both not impressed with Zinc.


Zinc was the best meal of our time in New Haven in 2018.

Other places we ate at (that still appear to be open) were Kasbah (an OK North African & Middle Eastern place) and Heirloom (which, if not exactly “farm to table”, was pretty good on local produce).

1 Like

Thanks much for the input! I just made a reservation at Olea for dinner on Saturday, although we might switch to Zinc if my parents prefer to do lunch. Also, in the event that we end up going to New Haven on Sunday, is there ANYTHING noteworthy open? It looks like all of the top spots are closed Sun-Mon.

I don’t think @Harters is wrong about Heirloom, and it is in a hotel so it should be open seven days a week. I attended a private dinner catered by them a couple of months ago. The menu was something like a glazed salmon, roasted fingerling potatoes, and an arugula salad with balsamic vinaigrette. It was all quite good except for the desserts, which were meh. It is just that when it comes to dining out, we prefer to have something that we don’t feel is too similar to dishes we would make at home. Both Heirloom and Zinc seem to fall into that category where we are just not that excited about the menus. I haven’t been to Zinc in years because of that. However, I can totally see how that would appeal to a culinary patriot eating his way through the USA. :slight_smile:

Hachiroku, posted about on HO by others, seems to be open on Sundays. I haven’t tried it yet

Our favorite Indian restaurant, House of Naan, is open on Sundays and Mondays. It is excellent. https://houseofnaan.com/

Here are the other places that we have eaten at in the past six months or so. All of these will be a step down in terms of the quality/formality of your dining experience:

Atticus Bookstore and Cafe (downtown) across from the museum is where we often send visitors for breakfast and might be good in a pinch https://atticusnhv.com/

Claire’s Corner Copia is vegetarian and I have only sampled the huevos rancheros, which I enjoyed on multiple occasions https://www.clairescornercopia.com/

Then we get into other Asian options:
Miso (Japanese) is open on Mondays and is not just sushi. We’ve enjoyed their pork tonkatsu https://misorestaurant.com/

We order Thai from Rice Pot but have never set foot in the restaurant, and you’d have to drive to it. http://ricepotnewhaven.com/web/index.html

Junzi kitchen https://www.junzi.kitchen/ We keep going back for the noodle bowls, but this is basically fast food with limited seating inside. It is just near the Yale bookstore

Haven Hot Chicken Now we are really getting into fast food because there isn’t even any seating https://www.havenhotchicken.com/

There are other places on my map but I either haven’t tried them at all or haven’t visited within the recent past. Hope you enjoy your visit to New Haven!


You’re right, it is - and it could be a contender for Sunday. Thanks so much for everything else on your list as well! I agree with you that I seek out restaurants that offer something I couldn’t or wouldn’t make at home (and that Zinc and Heirloom might both fall into that category), but I think my parents would be happy with either of those choices (and Olea, should the timing work out). Shell and Bones is also open on Sundays and has a nice brunch menu with some non-seafood choice for mom and oysters for dad, so that could work as well.

1 Like

On the high end Olea and Union League are very good. I think Zinc tries but falls short. Dishes are overly complicated and fail in execution IMO.

Shell & Bones has one of the nicest settings in town. Menu is primarily seafood but the menu has some nice beef and pasta alternatives. Lunch on the deck is just such a great experience.

Pacifico is a good choice if you want to try high end Mexican.

Hachiroku won’t work as it’s almost all seafood. Food is great if you want Japanese izakaya style though.

L’Orcio is a good Italian restaurant. I say that even though a friend’s family is the owner. Harvest works for a nice brunch spot.

The center for British Art is fabulous if you have a chance to visit there. ETA: looks like it’s closed for building renovations until 2024. That’s a shame.


I remembered a few other spots worth mentioning, especially since I covered such a wide range of restaurants above. Seems like there are at least a couple of people who spend enough time in town to make this interesting:

East Rock Breads (Instagram)

There is not yet a brick and mortar location for East Rock Breads, but we picked up bagels on a couple of weekends. The pickup is from 10-11 am on Saturdays and for the moment feels somewhat like a back alley drug deal. LOL. Background: Our home in NYC was within striking distance of Zabar’s, Murray’s Sturgeon Shop, and Barney Greengrass, so those are the bagels we are used to. My first NYC bagel was from the original H&H. If you are from NYC and reading wondering why I am not mentioning Absolute Bagels, we did make the trip up there once but do not remember anything particularly special about those bagels. Our cream cheese from there contained a foreign object, and we vowed to never return. To get back to the point, Bill Frisch’s everything bagels have been great toasted with cream cheese, and we are looking forward to the official opening of his bakery.

Ricky D’s Rib Shack https://rickydsribshack.com/menu/
I have never set foot inside this restaurant, but I am a lifelong fan of Memphis style barbecue. The Ricky D’s pulled pork sandwich is fabulous when we are craving barbecue but are not willing to ship it from Memphis. For context, we were disappointed by Mighty Quinn’s and Dinosaur in NYC. Memphis favorites are Central for both pulled pork and ribs, and Rendezvous for dry ribs.

Pistachio Cafe 2 https://menu.pistachiocafe.com/ This second outpost of a restaurant opened by Syrian immigrants is on the fringes of downtown. I felt that the menu was disappointingly Americanized when I visited, but for breakfast I liked my za’atar croissant with salad on the side. There is a Syrian breakfast available, but it is only for a party of more than one. I took both walnut and pistachio baklava home from the dessert counter and thought both were quite good.

Bella’s Cafe https://bellascafect.com/ in the Westville neighborhood is incredibly popular for breakfast and brunch. We tried it once and each enjoyed some variation of Eggs Benedict. We would definitely return, but have been warned that there is a wait on weekends. The first outpost of Pistachio Cafe is nearby.

Lastly, for Middle Eastern food we generally order mezze from Rawa https://www.rawainc.com/dining, also in Westville. Rawa is good, but not as great as the sit-down location of Naya at 1057 2nd Ave, or the flashier Ilili, both NYC favorites.

1 Like

Atticus Market has really unique New Haven(ish) style pizzas on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. I think it changes weekly, but some examples: Seacoast Mushroom and Potato Pie, White Bean and Ramps, Spicy Kale and Nduja.
They also have a bunch of other delicious eats.

1 Like