For many, the first association made with New Haven, Conn., is that of Yale University. Indeed, the Ivy League school helped put the town on the map, but this fledgling city has grown to be more than just a quaint college town. A two-hour train ride from New York City, New Have is a convenient day trip or weekend getaway.
While Yale definitely dominates the skyline with its arresting neo-Gothic architecture, there is plenty to see and do in New Haven.
Where to stay: The Study at Yale is a boutique hotel in the heart of the city just five minutes on foot from the famed university. Perhaps best known as the home of James Franco during his years at Yale, it embraces the academic atmosphere of the city with panache. The lobby itself is designed to be a reading lounge, with books lining the walls and comfortable arm chairs and sofas that one could spend hours in browsing through wide array of subjects on display. The hotel houses Heirloom restaurant, arguably one of the best and coziest restaurants in the city. Its décor includes a wall of wine bottles and an equally impressive wine list paired with its no-frills American fare like warm ricotta, heirloom Connecticut grass-fed burger, and hot caramel apple donuts.
What to eat: With so many college students in town, New Havenites are proud of their pizza, but there are other options, too, ranging from pizza to sushi to Mexican.
For Roman-style pizza, head to Bar, a lounge and beer brewery that serves artisanal pizzas and beers. Try the mashed potato and bacon pizza with a house-brewed lager.
Miya’s Sushi claims to be the first sustainable sushi restaurant in the U.S. Owner Bun Lai supplies this restaurant with local, sustainable seafood from his own fishing grounds in Thimble Islands, Conn. The curiously named Chinese Pygmy Rodeo, a roll of perfectly baked potato topped with Havarti and dill sauce is a must-try.
Beloved Claire’s Corner Copia, a popular joint for locals as well as students, has been around for 38 years. The Lithuanian coffeecake is simple but great for breakfast or after lunch, though you’ll have to get in line, as there are queues that run around the corner at lunchtime.
James Beard honoree chef Prasad Chirnomula spent a few months in the Oaxacan region of Mexico, which inspired him to open Oaxaca, the only Oaxacan restaurant in New Haven. His other restaurant in New Haven is Thali, an Indian restaurant, and it's also worth a visit.
Things to do: As clichéd as it does sound, a tour of Yale’s campus to view its varying architectural forms — Neo-Gothic, Georgian, and post-modern — is unavoidable. The walk takes you through the iconic library that was built as a cathedral, replete with stained glass and an altar area that houses the checkout counter, and its Beinecke Rare Books Library has a copy of Gutenberg Bible.
Many Broadway plays have been tested here before moving to New York’s Great White Way. The Shubert Theater, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014, was the testing ground for musicals such as My Fair Lady and Oklahoma, and where noted actors like Marlon Brando and Meryl Streep have graced the stage. Don’t miss the Yale Repertory Theater, with its wide genre of productions.
New Haven also boasts several museums worth a tour, like the Yale University Art Gallery. Founded in 1832, it houses ancient, medieval, and Renaissance art; Near and Far Eastern art; archaeological material from the University’s excavations; Pre-Columbian and African art; works of European and American masters from virtually every period; and a rich collection of modern art. Admission to this museum and most others in New Haven is free, which means you’ll have extra money to splurge on your supper.
Asha Pagdiwalla, the founder of Fork Spoon Knife, is a Contributor at The Daily Meal.