Posted Sept. 20, 2012
By ROBERT PURSELL
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Contrary to what most citizens living outside of the Northeastern region of the United States believe, there are more cities in the Northeast than simply Boston and New York.
In fact, while this may come as a shock to many readers, located directly in between those two cities lies a historic city with a rich cultural and culinary history, and filled with a fascinating nightlife.
I’m talking about the Elm City. I’m talking about New Haven, Conn.
What most people don’t realize is that, during the three-hour drive in between New York and Boston, not only are they passing through one of America’s oldest and culturally richest cities, but also they are missing a chance to have a great time and enjoy some of the best food in the country.
New Haven has a few well-known calls to fame. One is Yale University. The old university sprawls through the heart of the city, The century-old Gothic stone architecture of the university buildings stands in stark contrast to the ultra-modern glass and stainless steel buildings of the clothing shops and banks downtown.
And while the buildings of Yale are truly beautiful, most specifically in Autumn when the brilliant hues of purple and red and yellow of a New England fall cloak the surrounding hills in magnificent foliage, the true wonder of a trip to New Haven is the tastes you will take in.
Put simply, New Haven is one of the culinary centers of America.
Visitors looking to enjoy one of the best slices of pizza in all of America should head down to the historic State Street and take in a piece of pie at Modern Apizza (pronounced AH-beets in the New Haven vernacular). The shop, located in a quaint red brick shop tucked into the heart of State Street that lacks any real form of parking, has been a local favorite since the pizzeria was started in 1934.
Locals flock to the restaurant for its famous brick oven pizza and familiar environment. The trademark pie, a clam’s casino pizza, is a white mozzarella (pronounced MOOZ-uh-Del) with fresh-caught New England clams, green roasted peppers, and crisp bacon strips, all served on a thin crust. Small pizzas go for $11.
If you don’t feel like pizza, but would prefer to say, have a quick bite to eat, you can grab a burger and a piece of history at Louis’ Lunch on Crown Street, New Haven, also known as the birthplace of the hamburger. The small painted wood building has cherry red siding and a dining area roughly larger than a walk in closet.
The burgers, which are a blend of five different cuts of beef, are flame broiled vertically and garnished with cheese, tomato, and onion and served on pieces of white toast. The burgers are a juicy handful, and for only $5 you’ll be hard pressed to find a better burger anywhere.
But beware, the shop will not, under any circumstances, provide you with condiments, and will consider it an insult if you ask for them. Opt instead, to walk to one of the numerous street vendors across the street if you find it completely necessary to request ketchup or mustard packets.
If you decide that you want to take in a little nightlife while in the Elm City, head down to Toad’s Place nightclub. The nightclub, which started in 1974, has hosted the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and The Doors on stage. The walls of the club are covered head to toe in photographs of famous musicians, and from the very back of the stage you feel as though you could almost reach forward and touch the stage.
The feeling in the venue during a shoe is pure electricity and if you happen to catch it on the right night for the right show, it can end up being an unforgettable experience, like the time Bob Dylan played a five hour set there, his longest ever, or the time the Rolling Stones played an unannounced hour-long set there.
The beautiful thing about the Elm City, is that since it is still a relatively unknown city, everything you find in the city feels unique and original. At no point while touring New Haven will you feel as though you are in any other city in the nation. Each and every restaurant or delicatessen or bar that you go to feels like some hidden gem that you have found.
So the next time you’re making the commute from New York to Boston, or vice versa, take a detour on I-95 into New Haven, and enjoy a slice of pizza, and maybe catch a great show. I guarantee you it will be unlike any other place you’ve ever been.
IF YOU GO
Take exit 45 off of I-95. Make sure to park at the Yale Commons Lot where parking is only $10 for the day.
Visit toadsplace.com for details on show times and ticket prices. Make sure to visit in mid-to-early October when the trees have started to change color.