One of the great things about living in Connecticut is that we are truly a multicultural state. If you head into any of our big cities, you’re sure to find representatives from countless countries and communities.
And that’s great for a bunch of reasons. It breeds tolerance, it shows children how people from all around the world contribute to making America great, and it introduces us to cultures that we may never experience any other way.
One of the most important aspects of any culture is its food. It’s also one of the easiest ways to dip your feet into a new culture. If you live in CT and are curious about the culture of the people you share the state with, or you’re just a foodie looking for your next fix, you should head on down to New Haven for some one-of-a-kind treats from around the globe.
Mecha Noodle Bar
Mecha Noodle Bar is a noodle lover’s dream. Serving ramen, pho, and a whole range of other delightful Asian-fusion dishes that take elements from Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, and Korean cuisine.
Mecha has a playful atmosphere, as perfect for college kids as it is for their parents. This place is one of my personal favorites, and I highly recommend it to everybody who wants to know what is so darn special about ramen and pho.
Location: 201 Crown Street, New Haven
Hours of Operation: Open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 10pm, and Sunday from 11:30am to 9pm.
Rice Pot Thai Cuisine
Rice Pot is often called some of the best Thai food in New Haven. As such, it’s a great place to begin enjoying some of Thailand’s quintessential meals: Pad See Ew, Drunken Noodles, Tom Yum Pad Thai, curries, and more.
Thai food tends towards the spicier side, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Just ask them to not make it spicy; easy enough! Conversely, if you’re like me and love hot foods, ask them to make it s spicy as they would eat it—but be warned, it’s going to be hot!
Location: 1027 State Street, New Haven
Hours of Operation: Open Sunday through Wednesday from 11:30am to 9:30 pm, and Thursday through Saturday from 11:30am to 10pm.
Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant
Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant is a great introduction to middle eastern foods if you’ve never experienced them before. Middle Eastern foods rely on fresh herbs and simple ingredients, and Mamoun’s knows how to keep these ideals centerplace.
Specialties include various kebobs, pita sandwiches, platters, traditional salads, and, of course, falafel.
Location: 85 Howe Street, New Haven
Hours of Operation: Open Monday through Sunday from 11am to 3am.
Ethiopian cuisine is an interesting one for sure. It’s comprised namely of various stews that are eaten with a spongy, fermented bread called injera that is similar to an acidic pita. Communal in nature, the food is usually served in the middle of the table in a lazy-susan manner so that everyone dining can dig into whatever they want to try.
I’ve eaten at Lalibela’s, and it was my first and only foray into Ethiopian food. The stews were delicious. Though you can order a full plate of a single stew, I recommend getting a sampler so that you can try a lot of different meals and find a favorite.
I mentioned that my experience at Lalibela’s was my only foray into Ethiopian food. While I loved the cuisine, it can be rather expensive, so I’m saving it for a special occasion. But I do recommend that everyone goes and tries it at least once.
Location: 176 Temple Street, New Haven
Hours of Operation: Open Sunday through Thursday from 5pm to 10pm and Friday through Saturday from 5pm to 11pm.
Kasbah Garden Cafe
Kasbah Garden Cafe is middle eastern food with a Moroccan flair added to it. Though the restaurant has indoor seating, the outdoor tables are really where it’s at if you’re looking for an authentic and relaxing experience.
Meals here consist of middle eastern favorites: Hummus, baba ghanoush, falafels, couscous, and so much more. They are especially known for their “tagines,” or stews
Location: 105 Howe Street, New Haven
Hours of Operation: Open Monday through Sunday from 12pm to 10pm.
I’m sure you’ve heard of tapas, but do really know what they are? According to history, tapas were originally a thin slice of bread or salty meat that individuals in Spain would use to cover their cups of sweet wine in between sips (in order to keep flies out of their drinks). From this humble start, they evolved into a complex array of appetizers and “small plates” that we have today.
Barcelona in New Haven is a restaurant that takes tapas to the next level. Instead of simple appetizers, the ones served here are elevated and include everything from charcuterie to salads, meat dishes, pickled delicacies, seafood and more. Depending on what you choose to nibble on, plates can go for as little as $4; but because the servings are so small, you’re going to inevitably pick a couple to enjoy alongside your drinks. It’s a common complaint that, while delicious, it’s relatively easy to spend a fortune at Barcelona.
Location: 155 Temple Street, New Haven
Hours of Operation: Open Monday through Saturday from 5pm to 1am, and Sundays from 11am to 1am.
El Coqui Restaurant
El Coqui is a little restaurant that serves what it calls “Spanish” food, but the meals are actually much closer to Puerto Rican cuisine than anything you’d find in Spain. (The name, “Coqui,” also comes from the sound made by a certain species of frog native to Puerto Rico.)
The atmosphere is laid back, the food is of a homemade quality, and the prices are reasonable. Favorites here include the mofongo (mashed plantain), pernil (fried pork), alcapurrias (a mashed potato ball stuffed with ground beef), and of course rice and beans and more.
Location: 286 Grand Ave #1, New Haven
Hours of Operation: Open Monday through Sunday from 10:30am to 8:30pm
Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletano
Okay, so including Pepe’s on here might be cheating. But it’s sort of Italian, isn’t it? Regardless of whether you consider Pepe’s multicultural, it’s an amazing place that deserves to be on any list of New Haven restaurants.
Favorites here include the white clam pizza, the Margherita, and the tomato pie. But really, no matter what you order it’s bound to be delicious. A restaurant doesn’t stay in business from 1925 through today with sub-par pizza. Learn more about why we love Pepe’s here.
Location: 157 Wooster Street, New Haven, CT
Hours of Operation: Open Monday through Sunday from 11am to 10pm.