Unofficial Orientation Series: Middletown Eateries, Part 1

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 tomorrow, but feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments.

baby-turtle-eats-strawberry

Middletown has so many fantastic dining options that at first you might feel like this turtle: faced with an almost insurmountable mountain of deliciousness. Much like the above turtle, though, you’ve got to start somewhere. We’re here to give you a head start.

From coffee-shop casual to awkward-family-dinner upscale, there’s food in Middletown for every occasion. This is Part 1 of our guide to some of the best places to eat in town, to be continued tomorrow.  Prices are on a $ to $$$ scale. Also worth noting is that a lot of Middletown restaurants accept Middletown cash, so save up some of that laundry money for your dining excursions. Read all of Part 1 of our food list after the jump!

redpanda10O’Rourke’s Diner: American Diner, $$$

Family-run since 1941 and still going strong, O’Rourkes is the place to go for the ultimate hangover cure a damn good brunch and a bustling, friendly atmosphere.  With a vast menu of omelets, pancakes, and other breakfast delicacies to choose from, you can’t go wrong—unless you try to order the Graduation Omelet, which is reserved for Wes grads only. Hang in there! The place is fairly small and is only open from 6AM to 3PM, so you should plan ahead and be prepared to wait a bit to get a table. Located on the North End of Main Street, it’s a bit of a walk from campus, but you’ll be happy for the trek back once you’ve inevitably eaten too much.

New England Food Emporium: variety, $$

The New England Food Emporium (or just Emporium for short) is one of my favorite places to grab food in Middletown, mostly because it’s so versatile.  Located in the Main Street Market (386 Main Street), Emporium offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, crepes, and breakfast foods, as well as some interesting coffee and juice options.  Their grilled cheese selection is wonderful, as is their homemade falafel–as long as you haven’t been overdoing those 3AM falafel truck runs.  The place is spacious and nicely decorated, with plenty of long tables, window seats, and comfy couches to choose from. While it’s a great place to bring your family or a large group of friends for lunch, it’s also totally acceptable to bring your laptop there to do some work. (I fell acute-slow-lorissleep on one of their couches once, though, so beware of that.) Emporium is also home to a great store filled with novelty candy, cooking appliances, and specialty foods.

Luce: Italian style, $$$

I’ve eaten at Luce twice. The first time, I got dinner with my family and the families of both my roommates (yes, I lived in a forced triple my freshman year, and yes, the dinner was sufficiently awkward). The second time was a few months later, when a bunch of my hallmates and I dressed up and set out to have a “fancy” evening. The food was very good, as far as I can remember, and worth the fairly expensive prices. If you’re looking for a nice Italian place to go on a date, or to take your folks when they come to visit, this is definitely an option to consider.

Athenian: diner, $

Sometimes you just really need a diner, and sometimes you really need a diner at 4 in the morning. Athenian provides that vital resource. I can vouch for Athenian’s great food and service in the daylight hours, but as pyrotechnics sagely noted in last year’s post: “4am trips to Athenian for milkshakes and gravy-fries is something every Wes kid should experience.” You’ll need a car to get there, since it’s located up Washington Street, but the wide selection of diner food that awaits you there is worth the ride.

Osaka: Japanese style, $$
“Hey, WesWings?” “I would…but the Osaka special is tonight. So no.”
The above text exchange happened pretty frequently between me and a friend of mine last year. I’ve never been to Osaka myself, but the famed special is apparently 50% off certain sushi rolls on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The consensus seems to be that Osaka offers a decent selection of Japanese food at reasonable prices, so give it a shot if you’re in the mood for some sushi.81413866

Klekolo: coffee shop, $
Conveniently located on Court Street just off Main, Klekolo is a neat little place with a bit of an edgier atmosphere than your run-of-the-mill coffee shop. It’s home to a fantastic selection of fair-trade coffees and pastries. I’ll let this “rabid coffee addict” from last year’s post tell it like it is: “Klekolo is the salvation of students who can’t choke down Usdan coffee without spiking it love a good cup of free trade coffee for about a dollar a cup. Klekolo offers Starbucks-esque extras (amaretto shot in your mocha, anyone?) but their simple cup of joe is better than anything you’ll find in Middletown. Common patrons include a recent Connecticut politician, local artists, disaffected mid-twenties with piercings (not yet confirmed if these are Wes grads) and an ambitious Middletown chess club. Caution: cash only.”

NoRA Cupcake Company: dessert, $

Just over a yeahow-animals-eat-their-food-1-11481-1365613410-0_bigr old, NoRA Cupcake Company has already made a huge name for itself in Middletown and the greater Connecticut area. With deliciously elaborate cupcake flavors ranging from PB&J to Strawberry Peach Lemonade to Mexican Wedding Cake, the NoRA store (located next to O’Rourke’s on the North End) is a fun place to snag the perfect dessert. Even if you don’t make it to the store, you’re sure to encounter “Lil’ NoRA,” the company’s decked-out cupcake truck, parked on William Street on weekend nights. You can even vote for the truck’s weekly flavor selections. Nothing like some good cupcake democracy.

Check out their Facebook page to see what’s on the menu for the day/start drooling in advance.

Lizzy B’s Sweet Celebrations: dessert, $

A family owned bakery/sweet shop in the heart of Main Street, Lizzy B’s is home to a wide variety of desserts. I’m a huge fan of their ice cream selection, all locally produced by Praline’s. I asked my friend (who’s the biggest ice cream fan I know) which of their ice cream flavors I should mention. Her response: “PUMPKIN.” (I can second that; it’s good even when it’s not Thanksgiving season.) I also recommend their graham cracker flavor (“Bee’s Knees”). Located right near a bunch of restaurants on Main Street, it’s the perfect place to go after dinner. It’s even worth a walk from campus if you’re in the mood for some non-Usdan ice cream.

For real, though, try the pumpkin flavor.stock-footage-squirrel-eating-bread

Tandoor: Indian style, $$

Tandoor provides quality Indian food at reasonable prices. You can order takeout or delivery by phone or online, which is super convenient. I’d also recommend going there for a sit-down meal, though; the restaurant itself offers good service and a fairly quiet and peaceful atmosphere. I’ve only been there for dinner, but apparently their lunch buffet is pretty good, too.

Froyo World: dessert, $

Froyo World has been open for just under a year, but it’s already been a huge hit among Wesleyan students and in the Middletown community. It’s everything you could ask for in a self-serve frozen yogurt joint: lots of flavors (I’ve enjoyed their s’mores, samoa, and salted caramel varieties), endless toppings (they have a whole dispenser of Lucky Charms marshmallows! And a Nutella gun, for crying out loud), and a large space to sit down and enjoy. My one warning is that their cups only come in two sizes: huge and huge-er. You will inevitably get too much yogurt. But you probably won’t regret it.

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Typhoon: Thai style, $$

Typhoon caters a lot of small Wesleyan events and student-group functions, so you’ll probably be eating their food sometime in the near future, even if you don’t go to their restaurant on Main Street. Everything I’ve had from there has been really good; you certainly can’t go wrong with their Pad Thai. I’d recommend eating at the restaurant, too: it’s a huge space with lots of tables and a fairly laid-back atmosphere.

It’s Only Natural Restaurantvegan, $$$

I’ve somehow never been to It’s Only Natural, a now 100% vegan restaurant getting ready to open at its new location on Main Street), but I’ve only heard good things about it. Its menu boasts an impressive selection of creative vegetarian dishes, using plenty of locally-sourced ingredients. It’s on the pricey side, but it’s an enticing alternative to your WesWings seitan burger or indexthe Usdan vegan station. You should also check out the It’s Only Natural Market, a health food supermarket across the street from the restaurant’s new location.

 Udupi Bhavan: Indian/vegetarian, $$

Udupi Bhavan offers a fully vegetarian menu of food from the Udupi region of India. Located at 749 Saybrook Road, it’s about a 10-minute drive from campus. I keep hearing great things about this place, but I’ve never been there myself. A quick scan of the menu revealed a lot of delicious-looking options for reasonable prices, but if anyone wants to elaborate more than I can on the restaurant itself, by all means do so in the comments.

This concludes Part 1 of our not-comprehensive-but-still-hopefully-somewhat-helpful guide to eating in Middletown. With your growing knowledge of Middletown’s restaurants, you will slowly become less like the first turtle and more like this one. Check back in tomorrow for Middletown Eateries, Part 2, which will cover Javapalooza, La Boca, Thai Garden, Mondo’s, Neon Deli, Mikado, Anoho, The Nest, Amici, Eli Cannon’s, Haveli India, & Iguanas Ranas.

  • WesFoodie

    A couple newer ones to include, both of which are amazing:

    Cafe 56 (Court Street)

    Taino Smokehouse (GREAT Barbecue; 482 S. Main Street)

    Also: it’s a bit farther, but Japanica > Osaka, IMHO.

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  • really

    why isn’t pho mai on this list? get your shit together

  • Ford News Diner is a good alternative when the O’Rourkes line is unreasonable—it’s pretty much just as good, albeit without the fancy Irish specials.

    If you go to the Emporium (which rules), poke around the building until you find the Book Bower on the lower level.

    Let the record state that ION is Ian MacKaye’s favorite eatery in Middletown.

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  • Nicole

    Javapalooza no longer exists…

    • Gabe

      Yeah, we found that out yesterday, and proceeded to cry. But the change is reflected in today’s Part Two.

  • Erin

    Tibetan Kitchen is THE BEST.

  • Lizzie
  • Matt Chills Tons

    o’rourkes should be $$, as it’s possible for you to get a monstrous brunch for around $10. plus, if you befriend Brian, the endearingly eccentric chef/owner, he’ll bring you free delicious things. his “brian’s breakfast” is more expensive, but it will without a doubt be the largest, most eclectic and insanely delicious thing you’ll have in your life. GO TO O’ROURKES, PEOPLE