What are the absolute best dishes in New Haven?

Any idiot can tell you that Union League is a good restaurant. But once you get there, how do you know what’s really worth it?

(I actually have no idea.)

Well have no fear, Dear Reader (and my you look nice today!), I am going to share with you my totally subjective list of My Favorite Dishes in New Haven.

Here’s the rules:

  1. Only one dish from a specific restaurant
  2. Don’t get crazy with the pizza
  3. Don’t bother telling me I’m wrong, I already know thanks

Cool. Good talk everyone.

Without further adieu, here are my absolute favorite things you must order in New Haven:

Quesadilla de Pato – Pacifico

Shredded duck with roasted peppers, smoked gouda cheese served with roasted corn salsita, jalapeno aioli and a pomegranate reduction.

Now, I don’t know what a reduction is, but it sounds delicious. And let me tell you, this is a great dish. The shredded duck works perfectly with the gouda and salsita, and the aioli on top is perfect.

Duck Quesadilla

I’m not crying, you’re crying!

If you’re on a date, you might want to order two. You don’t know if they’ll end up being worth sharing. Don’t risk it.

Also, their half-price bottles of wine on Sundays and Mondays isn’t terrible.

Cheese Pizza – Modern Apizza

I know some folks prefer the Italian Bomb because heart disease is hilarious or the veggie bomb because it’s fun to watch a pie collapse under its own weight like a dying star, but…

Give me the classic cheese pie.

For me, that’s how you truly decide who makes the quality pie. Sure, clams on pie are crazy and the Italian bomb is great, but a basic cheese pizza distills pizza to its simplest, purest form.

And nobody does it better than Modern.

(Sorry, everyone.)

The Smoker – Prime 16

I vacillated between the Smoker (beef patty with gouda, bacon, sauteed onions, crimini mushrooms, lettuce, and tomato) and the Cajun Patty Melt (beef with pepper jack cheese, bacon, tobacco fried onions and chipotle aioli), but at the end of the day, I’d take the Smoker.

Smoker burger

I should not have written this on an empty stomach.

There’s something about the combination of gouda, bacon, mushrooms and onions that really sets off their perfect ground beef. Prime 16 was possibly the first restaurant I fell in love with in New Haven and remain my favorite burgers.

The half-price happy hour is also an okay thing in this world.

Ricotta Gnocchi – Zinc

I gave up meat in the fall and one of the challenges has been learning to love vegetarian dishes the way I’ve always loved giant heaps of meat.

It’s not easy.

But the ricotti gnocci makes it feel easy. The roasted cherry tomato puttanesca sauce is scrumptious. I don’t know what’s in it. I don’t even want to know. I don’t care if it came from a terrible diamond mine. It’s that good.

Zinc doesn’t mess around.

The duck nachos are pretty dope, too. Look at me, breaking rule 1. Take that, me!

Mole pablano con pollo – Mezcal

I don’t know what’s really in mole. I don’t think anybody really does.

(Before you email me angrily, I’m kidding.)

The combination of blended spices, seeds, nuts, chili peppers and Mexican chocolate is perfect. It definitely makes me miss meat. But you don’t have to. It’s not too late.

Mole

It’s so beautiful.

Plus, their chips and salsa are great while you wait. And they have a tequila gun if you’re really looking to make some mistakes.

Whatever the Daily Special is – Caseus

Caseus is one of my all-time favorite restaurants in New Haven. And their menu is great.

But all of the best dishes I’ve ever had were one-time specials. I had a birthday dinner there with my father, and I ordered a dinner of pulled lamb over sweet potato mash and kale and it was so glorious I don’t know how to put it into words.

I’m pretty sure I died and ascended to Heaven for a couple of seconds there, and all of the angels were made of pulled lamb and all the clouds were sweet potato mash and…

… okay, I’ll stop.

But seriously. They have some creative, brilliant chefs here, and you’d be a fool not to check it out.

Ooh La La Mitzvah – Miya’s

The Miya’s menu is a novella of strange and invasive sushi, but I always come back to the Ooh La La Mitzvah.

There’s just something about the Tempura-fried sockeye salmon and the Arethusa Camambert and avocado that sets my taste buds on fire. In a good way.

Ooh La La Mitzvah

It’s diminutive size hides many secrets.

It’s a little ridiculous at $20 but it’s worth it. I do it every time and I never regret it.

(Except when my date is like, “Is this guy seriously going to eat a pound of sushi in front of me right now?”)

 

Tonkotsu Pork Ramen – Mecha Noodle

First of all, it’s pronounced “metch-uh noodle.” Just so you know.

Secondly, I’m cheating here, as I haven’t actually had this cause of the aforementioned giving up meat.

However, I have had the vegetable ramen, which is great, and my buddy Ross swears the pork ramen is like the greatest thing ever, and I trust Ross. You would, too, if you met him. That dude is legit.

 

He swears if it’s ever worth cheating, it’s worth cheating for this. So I’m gonna say it’s probably amazing. Cause Mecha is amazing. And pork is amazing.

I’d also add chili oil cause there’s nothing that can’t be better with chili oil.

Vegetarian Tikka Masala – House of Naan

I went back and forth on this one. My first thought was the Saag Paneer at Thali Too. But Dave loves this one, and I have to say, he’s not wrong. (Though he’s wrong about shit all the time.)

However, upon much consternation, I will say that I think House of Naan is just a little bit better than Thali Too (which is significantly better than Thali for reasons that are not obvious).

Plus, they can make face-melting spice that makes even a proper Englishman sweat, which is no easy feat. So hats off to you, House of Naan.

Mashed Potato and Bacon Pizza – Bar

Just because. It’s great. Everyone knows it’s fucking great. You can tell someone from the South, ‘Just try this mashed potato pizza’ and they’ll look at you like you’re an alien and then they’ll try it and they’ll be like PRAISE NEW HAVEN I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT.

It’s that good.

What To Do This Weekend

Two big things in New Haven this weekend.

First — where I’ll be — is the Elm City Express NSPL Conference Final game where they will be playing some jerks from Clarkstown, which is apparently a real place.

So come down, tailgate with us starting at 5, and have a great time!

Elm City express

Choo choo!

If you aren’t into soccer cause you’re a bad person or whatever, there’s also a free concert on the Green by Sheila E, who is apparently the “Queen of Percussion” and worked with some guy named Prince? I don’t know, maybe you’ve heard of him.

Anyway, it’s a free show and it’s on the Green and it starts at 7:30.

Also, I’ll apologize now for not writing for the next two weeks — I’ll be out of the country for a friend’s wedding in Greece! I’ll miss you, too.

So, what should I write next?

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