Note: This is by no means an exhaustive list of eating options in Middletown. Many of the restaurants we missed will be featured in a second installment, but feel free to add your own mentions in the comments.
To all the incoming students of Orientation 2012: if you think you are landing in the middle of nowhere, trust me—that is not the case. This is especially true on the culinary side of things, because Middletown is home to many fabulous restaurants. In light of this, we are providing you with a two-part list of some of Wesleyan students’ favorite places to eat in Middletown. Be forewarned, though: this is a (very) incomplete list. See more of Part 1 of this food series after the jump!
Prices are on a $-to-$$$ scale, and some descriptions have links to the restaurant’s website.
Brew Bakers: coffee/brunch place, $$
Brew Bakers is one of the most popular places to go get brunch on Saturday or Sunday, especially because of how close it is to campus. On top of its proximity, it has a menu that is varied and goes beyond the typical brunch options: while they have the usual bagel, eggs and coffee option, they also always have delicious daily specials to try out. They also host benefit events fairly often, such as some for Wesleyan’s own Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). And to top it off, the owner is a gold-medalist chef in Austria!
Javapalooza: coffee shop, $$
Javapalooza is a neat little place. With colorful walls and music playing all the time, it’s a great place to go chill if you want a quick get-away from the Wesleyan Bubble. I often go there on Sunday mornings in order to have a nice brunch and get some reading done, because it’s less filled with other Wes students then than Brew Bakers. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I can’t attest to the quality of their coffee drinks, but the other stuff (such as chai latte) is good, along with their brunch foods. You’ll definitely want to check it out.
O’Rourke’s Diner: American diner, $$$
One of my favorite places to get brunch at in Middletown, O’Rourkes is a real gem. Established in 1941, it’s one of the oldest eateries in Middletown and still family run. I always get one of the many omelets that they offer whenever I go, and have never been disappointed. Some friends say that it’s not the best food in town, which I agree with, but the atmosphere really makes it wonderful: it looks like a typical-diner-gone-somewhat-futuristic, and is perched right atop a train track, so you see trains go by below you every so often. And head chef Brian, while he may look stern, is a very kind man: he always brings you bread and extra pastries from the kitchen, and makes sure you have a nice time there. This is definitely a Middletown classic that every Wesleyan student must go to before graduating (and after, in order to buy the alum omelet!). Try the Irish specials, and watch out for the huge lines on weekend mornings.
La Boca: Mexican, $$
La Boca is one of Middletown’s popular Mexican restaurants, and rightfully so: the food is good, and the ambiance too. The burritos are quite filling, and they have a great assortment of drinks, such as margaritas. They moved locations recently, so many students haven’t been to the new place yet (it’s still on Main street though), but it’s supposedly better than the last one. In any event, one great aspect of La Boca are all the fun events they host each week, such as Trivia Tuesday on (you guessed it) Tuesday nights.
Thai Garden: Thai, $$
Thai Garden is one of the most popular That restaurants in Middletown. With affordable prices, a kick-ass Pad Thai, and a free Thai iced-tea drink if you present a WesID, you’re set for a tasty and filling meal. The crab ragoon is a good appetizer, in my book, but you can’t really go wrong with most of their dishes anyway.
Mondo’s Pizza: NY Style pizza, $$$
Right next to Rite Aid, Mondo’s Pizza is a fairly short walk from campus and a nice place to go if you want better-than-Dominos pizza. Granted, it’s pricier than the online-ordering alternative, but is worth it: the arugula and prosciutto, the oozy egg and the truffle “artisan pies” (i.e. smaller pizzas) are awesome, along with almost any of the other
pizzas “pies”. A friend’s mom did get sick from eating shrimp there once, so make sure their fresh if you want to order some. Other than that little incident though, it’s been great dining so far.
It’s Only Natural (I.O.N.): vegetarian and vegan, $$$
I.O.N. restaurant (not the market, though they are affiliated) is located within the Main Street mall, towards the back. This place is also worth the slightly-higher prices if you’re willing to splurge a little bit for the sake of indulging yourself with good food. Everything is unbelievably tasty, so you can’t really go wrong here. I will say that my personal favs are anything Mexican-themed and/or with sweet potato. The Cali melt is also very good. This place is yet another “must go” if you’re like any other Wesleyan student (vegetarian, vegan, or wish you were either of those).
New England Food Emporium: variety, $$
Also located in the Main Street mall (right at the front), the New England Food Emporium (called the Emporium, for short), was establish only within the past two years, and it’s been a big success. The food is great, and the menu is extensive and varied (think salads + savory crepes + sweet crepes + delicious sandwiches + soups + toomuchmoretowriteabouthere). The atmosphere is laid back yet classy, with couches to sit and eat on, or high-up, long wooden tables to eat from as well. It is also attached to a great store that has a variety of cooking appliances and kitchen necessities (such as honey and other yummy things). Plus, the prices are quite reasonable. A great place to bring your parents to when they visit you. Can’t really go wrong with this one!
The Nest: American, $$
Right next to Junior Village on Church street, the Nest is where Wednesday night Bar Night is located, and it gets quite busy then. On any other night though (or during the day for lunch) it’s not too crowded, and a fun place to grab some grub. The prices are reasonable, and the food has always been good when I’ve gone. They have a simple yet varied menu, including sandwiches, pizzas, salads, etc. Your typical American restaurant, really. There’s a nice patio to eat on when it’s nice out, and a chill bar to grab a beer at if you’re 21+. The artist formerly known as Cardinal’s Nest.
Eli Cannon’s Tap Room: restaurant-bar, $$$
For those of you over 21 (especially those who love beer, but even for those who don’t), this place is yet another must. Located at the end of the downtown area, it’s a slight walk away from campus, but well worth the trip. Throughout the year, this place rotates through dozens of different ales in order to always have the 36 freshest ones available to you, many of which you have probably never heard of. Their extensive and ever-changing tap menu tells you where each beer is from and what style it is to help you out. And if you’re still unsure of what (or how) to pick a beer, just ask a waiter and they’ll hook you up with something really good. And what really makes the place is the fabulous indoor decor and the back outdoor patio, so be sure to check both the inside and the outside out. It’s this sort of place that makes being 21 really worth your while…
Covered in Part 2 tomorrow: Neon Deli, Marco’s Deli, Haveli India, Luce, Amici, Athenian, Typhoon, Osaka, Mikado, Iguanas Ranas, and Klekolo.