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A Yalie’s Field Guide to New Haven Restaurants: Hit or Miss

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

My alma mater, Yale University, is located in New Haven, CT. New Haven is a foodie city (famous for their pizza offerings, primarily the legendary Frank Pepe's), but that doesn’t mean that EVERY restaurant is a hit. My roommate and I, disabused of the propaganda that dining hall food “isn’t that bad,” have tried nearly every restaurant near campus. Some of our adventures proved successes (the Tarry Lodge!!) while others did not. Whether you’re a New Haven local, a Yale freshman looking to see what restaurants to try with your family during Parent’s Weekend, or just a hungry soul looking for inspiration, here is a list of some New Haven’s hits and a few misses.

1. The Pantry-- Hit. Although you need to set your alarm for 6 am to beat the weekend crowds, the Pantry is the best breakfast spot in town. My roommate always went for the Eggs Benedict, but many patrons (myself included) trek to this restaurant to sample the famous Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. Trust me- they’re well worth it.


2. Louis’s Lunch-- Miss. This famous joint is the birthplace of the hamburger. However, aside from the historical appeal, Louis’s Lunch is a miss. The burgers are made on white sandwich bread instead of buns and all burgers are cooked rare. If you’re truly looking for a great burger, there are better options in New Haven.


3. Rudy’s-- Hit. Without a doubt, a burger from Rudy’s will brighten any Yalie’s day. In addition, the French fries are served with a choice of a more than a dozen sauce options. Pro tip: try the mango sauce.


4. Union League Cafe-- Miss. The menu doesn’t offer many options, and portion sizes are minuscule. My roommate was the disappointed recipient of three tiny, bland raviolis and spent the rest of the meal daydreaming about Rudy’s (see above).


5. Donut Crazy-- Hit. While this establishment doesn’t serve meals, they are a great spot for brunch or a snack. Donut Crazy has every flavor of cake donut imaginable, and their chocolate Oreo donut (the Black Hawk) is a fan favorite. Pro tip: their iced lattes are out of this world.


6. Atelier Florian- Miss. Across from The Study at Yale, Florian is easily accessible for people visiting New Haven. However, while this restaurant does have an extensive seafood selection, nothing truly stands out. One's time can be better spent exploring other options.


7. Willoughby’s- Hit. Although Blue State is a tad more famous, Willoughby’s has the best coffee in New Haven.


8. Olives and Oil- Miss. The food is bland and the space is best used to host social events rather than to enjoy a meal.


9. Tarry Lodge- Hit. Tarry Lodge has the best Italian food, particularly the bucatini cacio e Pepe. Portions are generous and the quality of food is unrivaled. For dessert, everyone should try the chocolate and olive oil swirl soft serve.


10. Basta Trattoria - Hit. If you’re sensing a theme, restaurants that do Italian food well are a hit in my book. Basta serves traditional Southern Italian cuisine with strong flavors. Also, they provide large chunks of fresh bread for each member of your party, which is definitely a plus.


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