12 Best Restaurants in New Haven, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 25, 2024 by Emily Johnson

New Haven has long been known for its famous pizza joints and landmark institutions like Louis’ Lunch, the acclaimed birthplace of the hamburger. But Connecticut’s second largest city offers so much more when it comes to dining options. From small neighborhood eateries to critically acclaimed high-end establishments, New Haven has a remarkably vibrant and varied restaurant scene.

The influx of young professionals and academics tied to Yale University has no doubt played a role in attracting talented chefs and restaurateurs. The city also benefits from its diversity, with immigrant populations bringing their own culinary traditions to the mix. Many restaurants source ingredients from nearby farms or local purveyors, making farm-to-table cuisine readily accessible.

With so many excellent restaurants to choose from, it can be a challenge deciding where to eat in New Haven. Here’s a guide to 12 of the best, covering an array of cuisines and price points. Every restaurant featured offers a memorable dining experience all its own.

Sally’s Apizza

Location: 237 Wooster St, New Haven, CT 06511
Cuisine: Pizza

No list of New Haven’s best restaurants would be complete without iconic Sally’s Apizza. A Wooster Street institution since 1938, Sally’s serves world-famous thin-crust pizza in a no-frills setting with memorabilia covering every inch of wall space. Generations of Yalies have crammed into vinyl booths waiting for a taste of the heavenly hot tomato pie.

Sally’s uses a coal-fired brick oven to create the perfect chewy-crispy crust. Toppings like mozzarella, tomatoes, pepperoni, mushrooms, anchovies and eggplant keep the menu options simple. Be prepared to wait in line for a table, but rest assured every bite is worth it. This casual pizza parlor encapsulates everything that makes New Haven pizza so special.

Zinc

Location: 964 Chapel St, New Haven, CT 06510
Cuisine: American
Chef Paulo Martins puts a dramatic spin on modern American cuisine at elegant downtown restaurant Zinc. Dishes like foie gras terrine, Nantucket bay scallops and dry aged strip loin demonstrate Chef Martins’ flair for combining textures, tastes and colors on one plate. The ever-changing menu highlights seasonal ingredients at their peak.

Diners can customize multi-course tasting menus or order a la carte from selections like burrata cheese salad, chicken roulade or diver sea scallops with salsify, black trumpet mushrooms and truffle emulsion. A hip downtown vibe, knowledgeable staff and extensive wine list complete the fine dining experience. Special occasion seekers looking to indulge should put Zinc at the top of their list.

Miya’s Sushi

Location: 68 Howe St, New Haven, CT 06511
Cuisine: Sushi

For inventive sushi and a passion for sustainability, Miya’s Sushi is in a class of its own. Chef Bun Lai gained acclaim for his pioneering efforts in foraging ingredients from the sea and surrounding woods to create a menu tied intimately to nature and conservation. Diners may find seaweed salad with invasive dead man’s fingers sea squirt or peanut butter miso with jellyfish.

Chef Lai bucks sushi tradition even further with items like the Miya’s Memphis BBQ eel roll cloaked in bourbon-molasses barbecue sauce. The minimalist dining room lets the artistry of the sushi take center stage. Part meal, part mission – Miya’s Sushi offers a singular experience focused on sustainable ingredients and raising environmental awareness in a delicious way.

Heirloom

Location: 840 Whalley Ave, New Haven, CT 06515
Cuisine: American

The team behind Heirloom previously ran kitchens at notable New Haven restaurants like Ibiza and Roia before venturing out on their own. The result is a cozy neighborhood restaurant serving comforting contemporary fare like cast iron Brussels sprouts salad and chicken schnitzel. Daily offerings scrawled on chalkboards could include a range of house-made pastas, flatbreads fired up in a brick oven, or a dry aged burger loaded with charred onions and black garlic aioli on a pretzel bun.

Reasonable prices make Heirloom an ideal spot for casual dining with friends or gathering over weekend brunch. Quality cooking techniques combined with an understated hip vibe help this New Haven newcomer feel right at home.

Osteria Food & Wine

Location: 261 College St, New Haven, CT 06510
Cuisine: Italian
Osteria Food & Wine transports diners to Italy with handmade pastas, aromatic wines and Milanese-style entrees. Husband and wife team Cesare Casella and Costantino Mangione pull from family recipes to craft dishes rooted in the traditional flavors of their home country.

Start with a tasting of salumi and cheese or creamy burrata drizzled with aged balsamic before moving onto house specialties like Osteria’s signature lasagna layered with Bolognese sauce, béchamel, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

More elaborate presentations include seared scallops with cauliflower puree, capers and golden raisins. An all-Italian wine list offers the perfect complement. Knowledgeable servers and a sleek, modern ambiance heighten the entire experience. For fine dining Italian cuisine rivaling cities overseas, Osteria Food & Wine hits the mark.

Junzi Kitchen

Location: 260 College St, New Haven, CT 06510
Cuisine: Chinese

For fast casual Chinese fare made from scratch, look no further than Junzi Kitchen. The small chain started as a food stall inside Yale’s residential colleges before expanding into standalone restaurants. Diners order at the counter, then food runners deliver piping hot plates to tables when ready.

Junzi keeps appetites satisfied with menu staples like scallion pancakes, mapo tofu loaded with meat and spices, and beef noodle soup fragrant with star anise and cinnamon.

Those craving something lighter can opt for a salad or rice bowl topped with roasted eggplant, spiced chickpeas and carrots. In a city renowned for pizza, Junzi Kitchen stands outs by elevating ordinary Chinese takeout using high quality ingredients. Plus, student-friendly prices make this a go-to lunch spot.

Union League Café

Location: 1032 Chapel St, New Haven, CT 06510
Cuisine: French
Tucked inside a historic building downtown, Union League Café offers one of New Haven’s most elegant dining experiences within an atmosphere steeped in Gilded Age charm. Vaulted stained glass ceilings, working fireplaces and white tablecloths set the stage for Executive Chef Jean-Pierre Vuillermet’s refined French cooking.

Standouts from the rotating seasonal menus include dishes like roasted Nantucket bay scallops or braised beef short ribs. An extensive wine list and decadent desserts – think hazelnut dacquoise, vanilla crème brûlée and warm Valrhona chocolate cake – perfectly cap off the multicourse meals. Dining at Union League Café guarantees impeccable cuisine and atmosphere for celebrating special occasions or simply spoiling oneself.

Shell & Bones

Location: 100 Waterfront St, New Haven, CT 06512
Cuisine: Seafood
No one does seafood quite like Shell & Bones. As the name implies, diners can expect ultra-fresh oysters, lobster and crab sourced from cold North Atlantic waters as well as regional shellfish purveyors. Daily arrivals determine which catch ends up as specials – maybe roasted whole fish with salsa verde or linguini and clams. Shell & Bones also excels with raw bar selections including Little Island oysters from nearby Long Island Sound, colossal chilled shrimp cocktail and yellowfin tuna poke.

Garlic bread, New England clam chowder and simply prepared fish provide options for lighter appetites. The converted warehouse location right on New Haven Harbor provides a perfect backdrop to enjoy the fruits of the sea. Shell & Bones remains one of the best destinations for pristine seafood any time of year.

Pacifico

Location: 220 College St, New Haven, CT 06510
Cuisine: Mexican
Celebrity chef Michael Schlow brings contemporary coastal Mexican cuisine to New Haven with Pacifico. Colorful Baja fish tacos stuffed with freshly grilled or crispy fried mahi get dressed with red cabbage, avocado crema and salsa verde then wrapped in hand pressed yellow corn tortillas. The Pacifico burrito overflows with spiced skirt steak, pinto beans, Mexican fried rice and Oaxaca and pepper jack cheeses.

Lighter options include build-your-own tostadas or the Pacifico salad with Little Leaf Farms greens, pepitas and sherry shallot vinaigrette. Daily happy hour specials on margaritas, cervezas and select appetizers make this vibrant downtown eatery a prime spot for after-work socializing. Pacifico’s festive, modern atmosphere and scratch cooking put an elevated twist on Mexican food and drinks.

Olmo

Location 868 Whalley Ave New Haven, CT 06515
Cuisine: Italian
At cozy Olmo in the heart of Westville Village, owners Julian Cardillo and Manuel Romero reimagine Italian classics through the lens of local, seasonal cuisine in New England. Perhaps start with wood roasted eggplant caponata with burrata cheese before moving onto squid ink pasta tossed with grilled octopus or pan seared salmon served alongside Swiss chard risotto.

Every element receives meticulous attention as flavors and textures harmonize beautifully on the plate. An all-Italian wine list provides ample options exploring both Old and New World regions. The minimalist dining room with an open kitchen makes guests feel like part of the family during an intimate meal. Olmo stands apart for melding Italian flavors with ultra-fresh regional ingredients in a uniquely charming package.

Caseus

Location: 93 Whitney Ave, New Haven, CT 06510
Cuisine: Cheese and Sandwiches
Caseus calls itself “New Haven’s Cheesery” while also operating as a gourmet sandwich shop and craft beer bar. The fromage focused menu features over 200 artisanal cheeses perfectly paired with house made salamis, terrines and aged balsamic vinegars. Custom cheese plates might include selections like Ossau-iraty (Raw Sheep’s Milk from French Pyrenees), Délice des Crémiers (Triple Cream Cow’s Milk from central France) or aged Dutch goudas.

Sandwich options stick to the classics like ham and gruyere on housemade focaccia or the braised short rib panini with blue cheese and crispy onions. Staff gladly offer thoughtful suggestions on exactly which cheeses work best together. Caseus remains a quintessential stop for cheese lovers and those craving quick casual fare in the heart of downtown.

Barracuda

Location: 1 Broadway, New Haven, CT 06511

Cuisine: Spanish

Tucked inside the historic Taft Hotel, Barracuda offers contemporary Spanish cuisine in sleek sophisticated surroundings. Diners can nibble on tapas like patatas bravas doused in spicy tomato sauce or bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds and Valdeón blue cheese. For entrees, paella choices range from traditional seafood to a meatier version with chorizo, chicken and pork belly.

Crispy calamari, seared diver scallops and a savory lobster risotto round out the shareable plates. An extensive all-Spanish wine list provides the perfect accompaniment, along with Barracuda’s signature gin and tonics. Late night revelers keep the kitchen open until 1 a.m. on weekends, making this downtown hotspot ideal for drinks and snacks into the wee hours.

Conclusion

New Haven sets a very high bar when it comes to its dining scene. Pizza may have put this college town on the map, but today’s eclectic restaurant landscape has so much more to offer food enthusiasts. Cast Iron Brussels sprouts salads, expertly crafted sushi rolls focused on sustainability, handmade pastas served with refined technique – these establishments demonstrate a sophisticated and ever progressing culinary prowess. Immigrants infuse traditional flavors from around the globe. Talented chefs reinterpret New England staples using seasonal ingredients sourced locally.

Seafood restaurants showcase pristine oysters and lobsters delivered straight from surrounding waters. Taken together, all these dynamic dining establishments make choosing where to eat in New Haven quite the delicious dilemma. Based on the depth and diversity of remarkable options here, it’s no wonder why savvy travelers and astute food critics today rank this city among America’s top dining destinations outside of major metropolitan hubs. Any local will remind, when it comes to restaurants in New Haven, visitors are truly spoiled for choice.

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