5 Tips for Dining Out in New Haven

RuffleCon is almost upon us! As the resident loli-on-the-street here in New Haven, CT, I’m going to be taking the next few weeks to give everyone some small tidbits about the city that will be hosting our fair conference so you’re prepared when you get here. Because I like to pretend I’m ~such a foodie~, this is mostly going to mean waxing poetic about the fabulous dining scene here. I’ve already got a review of one of my favorite local restaurants, Prime 16, up on the blog, but over the next few weeks we’ll explore some of your other options for feeding yourself during RuffleCon.


Restaurant Tips for New Haven, CT:

Make reservations whenever physically possible, because New Haven restaurants are tiny.

Most of our Downtown area is historic, and because of that, the restaurants tend to be fairly teeny. Some of them have as few as 6 tables, and take-out joints are understandably popular for that reason. When trying to plan a meetup for the Connecticut lolita community recently on short notice, I only found a single restaurant in all of downtown that could accommodate all 16 of us. While not all restaurants will accept reservations for the weekends, it’s always good to pick something out beforehand and call ahead to see if you can reserve some space.


Dine out in small groups when you can for the same reason

Due to the above, it’s best to try and keep large outings to a minimum. Downtown New Haven doesn’t have any kind of food courts and few large chains; it's largely populated by small, independent restaurants, so dining out in a large group can become a hassle for everyone. While we’re expecting everyone to make lots of new friends, reunite with old ones, and celebrate being part of such an amazing community as the alternative fashion one, please also try to be considerate of the local businesses you’re supporting and their regular patrons.


If it looks sleezy, chances are, it is.

This is a city full of amazing restaurants (I have friends who've moved to Manhattan and still miss our local cuisine!), and chances are good that anywhere you could wander into will have some really amazing options. But rent in this city is high, and competition for customers can be savage, so most of the establishments you’ll have the chance to frequent really have to bring their A-game in every way. Because of that, New Haven doesn’t have a lot of great hole-in-the-wall places, and any exceptions in the downtown area will be noted (a good example, off the top of my head, would be the one of my favorite bars, The Anchor - looks a bit sketch, but totally worthwhile).


Lines out the door are typically not worth your time (unless the line is full of other RuffleCon attendees.)

In New Haven, people typically only get in line to get drunk and belligerent and puke on each other on a dance floor (can you tell I’m getting too old for the party scene?). It’s a college town, with five universities technically considering themselves within city limits, so most of the people you’ll see downtown are attending one of them, and when you’re in college that’s kind of what weekends are meant for. Which is totally fine, and can be lots of fun! But since most of us will probably be in our finery for the whole weekend, the establishments with lines around the block are probably best ignored by RuffleCon attendees. The only obvious exception to this rule is if the line is entirely populated by con-goers - in which case, there's a good chance you'll be safe!


When in doubt, if you aren’t worried about the cost, follow the Yalies.

Yale University takes up most of downtown New Haven, so expect to see a lot of folks in J. Crew and Urban Outfitters walking around. Yale provides lots of information to students about the surrounding area (because not all of it is somewhere you want a rich 17-year-old to wander into accidentally), complete with maps and recommendations. And because they don’t typically have to really support themselves, when they aren’t doing schoolwork they’re often trying all the food they can (the economy of New Haven thanks them for this). So if you’re stuck on where to go for dinner and don’t mind the possibility of making it rain a little bit, these folks are likely to be a good bet to ask for a recommendation (if you aren’t feeling anything from our restaurant reviews, that is!).

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