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The Ultimate Guide to Food (& Drink!) Near Yale University


(Updated 02/01/2024, Originally posted on 1/21/2021.)

New Haven may be best known for pizza, but you’d be seriously missing out on the food scene if you stopped there. New Haven has so much more to offer! Being a Yalie has its prestige and the flexible dining programs make life easier, but food from the dining halls can get boring. 

As soon as you venture out of the dining halls, your tastebuds will start to water with all of the delicious options out there. We’re not just talking about your simple meat and potatoes meals. We’re talking about authentic dishes that are specific to so many cultures. Indian, Asian, Latin American, Italian…you name it and New Haven has it. With so many different types of restaurants to enjoy, you can map out an entire year of restaurant trips and more! As our employees at New Haven Towers can attest, the most common question we get is, “Where’s the best food near Yale University?”.

Whenever you get annoyed about the fact that you can’t cross the street from all the traffic, or Northeastern students keep chanting “Down the Field” as if that’s remotely clever or original, go to one of these restaurants or bars and remember why going to Yale University in the downtown New Haven area is so great.

restaurant new haven

Fine Dining:

While grabbing a bite to eat in your sweats has its perks, it’s always fun to turn it up a notch and have a sophisticated dining experience, even when you’re a freshie. Whether you want to impress a date or your folks are coming to visit (and picking up the tab, ultimate bonus!), here are some Yale favorites.

Union League Cafe – The ultimate in fine French dining and for good reason! This is a real “special occasion” type of place with a historic charming touch. Be sure to make a reservation and dress for the occasion.

Olea – Our staff members say that patrons drive in from all over Connecticut to enjoy a meal here. It’s a top Spanish restaurant with wines and be sure to check out its highly recommended cochinillo. If you want to feel fancy and still eat at home, this restaurant also offers takeout. 

Zinc – Zinc has been a part of New Haven’s fine dining fare since 1999 so you know it has to be good to be in business for more than 20 years. From small plates to some amazing entrees, this restaurant incorporates organic ingredients. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds with its 4.3 Zagat Rating.

Heirloom – For Yale students, this is an easy all-day (breakfast – dinner) option located in The Study at Yale hotel. In their words “Farm + Coastal Cooking” and it really stands out.

Jack’s Bar and Steakhouse– Whether you’re stopping in for lunch or dinner, there’s much more than steak on the menu. From seafood to salads and more, your entire table will find something delicious.

Some other restaurants in New Haven include Olives & Oil, Harvest, Hamilton Park, Atelier Florian, Otaru Sushi

union league cafe
Union League Cafe

Fun Dining:

Where to head on Friday night with the gang? Love a fun brunch? Looking for lunch near Yale? We’re on it with some fabulous choices that will give you just another reason to love living and eating in New Haven!

Geronimo’s – Drinking margaritas and tequilas on the porch has never been more relaxing. Try their Southwestern fare for some delicious dining in a subdued atmosphere. The Grilled Shrimp tacos are a must-try as well as the tableside guacamole. Unlike some other places that just offer your traditional guac, you can turn it up a notch by adding lobster or bacon and roasted corn. 

Pacifico– Tapas, mojitos, and a lively bar…that should be enough to make a trip. While the indoor dining room is colorful and fun, Pacifico also has outdoor dining when the weather is nice. This is a great way to check out the scenes going by while enjoying your favorite foods. When it comes to apps, we recommend the queso fundido is super tasty. Besides tapas, there is a full dinner menu. One of the many favorites is the Salmon Caramelizado, if you like fish. New for 2022, check out “Barcito”, the new lounge downstairs in Pacifico. It’s a fun and lively atmosphere with crafted cocktails and tapas.

Barcelona Wine Bar– If you’re looking for a chic tapas restaurant with a wine list that goes on for days, Barcelona Wine Bar is a stop for you. Large plates are also served if you get a little hungrier.

BAR Pizza & Brewpub – “Great pizza, great beer, great atmosphere. If you’re from New Haven you know.” Quote from a Google review that couldn’t say it better. The Mashed Potato pizza is a must. While this place is mostly known for its pizza, you can’t forget about the Bar Salads. Get enough for just you or for the entire table. We think the crumbled blue cheese and freshly sliced pears make this salad delicious. Plus, there are plenty of craft beers and a DJ on the weekend. Need we say more?

Louis Lunch – Whether they invented the hamburger or not, they definitely deserve a visit! (Edward, our leasing agent, says he’s inclined to believe it! Talk to him about it next time you see him.) But don’t expect a bun, this historic spot serves it on toast. Don’t knock it until you try it because these burgers are out of this world. You can’t say you’ve lived in New Haven and not have a burger from Louis Lunch.

Barracuda Bistro & Bar– Lunch, brunch, or Happy Hour, this place has you covered. This Latin America Gastro Bar combines Latin American ingredients with American comfort food.

Claire’s Corner Copia – This cafeteria-style eatery next door to Yale was started by a deeply in love couple. You can still feel the realness and family atmosphere there all those years later. Go for their kosher vegetarian fare and Lithuanian coffee cake and stay for their awesome Mexican options! That’s the great thing about this place. With so many different choices, you can go in for lunch one day and coffee and treats the next. They also offer vegan and gluten-free options which is a bonus.

Atticus Bookstore Cafe – Awesome lunch place for the bookworm and their friends!  Their café style food has rave reviews and of course, make sure to try their staple – homemade bread. Fun fact, Atticus has been a New Haven staple since 1975.

Arethusa Farm Dairy – They got us there at their fresh waffle cones! There’s ice cream that will make you melt but stop by for their full line of cheese, yogurts, milk, and other dairy products too. During the summer, the lines can get long here so make sure you carve enough time so you get the full experience.

Looking to go even more casual? Go visit Food Truck Paradise! Read what’s hot with New Haven food trucks on the New Haven blog.

bar pizza new haven

Fare Dining

The top places to go on an ordinary weeknight that you want to spice up with delicious fare. Yup! That can happen often as a student. We get it.

The Owl Shop – Full bar with live music, interesting people, and smokes. Don’t be intimidated if you are clueless about tobacco, the staff is friendly and offers great advice on choosing a great whiskey or cigar.

Elm City Social – Cocktail bar that aims to bring the 1920s back to life. It’s an aesthetically pleasing restaurant with well-crafted drinks (try the peach margarita) & delicious, unique cuisine.

Temple Grill– Located right across the street from the popular Omni Hotel, Temple Grill has a fun menu that includes the option to build your own salad. That’s one of the things we love most about it as well as it’s very chill atmosphere.

Stella Blues – Laid back bar with live music and great specialty drinks. They even have a pool table in the back! Insider Tip: Go on Tuesdays.

Mecha Noodle Bar – Japanese and Vietnamese fusion-style menu with full bar. The noodle bar serves both Pho and Ramen and patrons rave about their Baos.

Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant – Get your Middle Eastern fix here! Their most talked-about dishes include their fresh falafels, lamb kebabs, baba ganoush, and lentil soup. This is authentic Middle Eastern food at its finest.

House of Naan – Indian Restaurant offering outdoor seating and has foodies raving about their chili cheese naan. Oh, and of course their chicken tikka masala!

We love that the diversity of the food scene in New Haven reflects the Yale student body and the unique demographics of the awesome city of New Haven. We truly believe we covered some of the best restaurants near Yale University, but we want to hear your opinion. What are your faves?

  • Due to the ever-changing landscape of the New Haven food scene please keep in mind to double-check the hours and information to make sure they are open!
mecha noodle bar new haven
Mecha Noodle Bar

Most of the restaurants on this blog post are located in downtown New Haven. Not there? No worries! We love using Google maps to help find the closest restaurant/eatery to our location.
Heirloom, Zinc, Union League Cafe, Elm City Social, Mamoun's Falafel, House of Naan, Mecha Noodle Bar are all within 4-5 minutes to Yale University.