By Barbara S. Wysocki
The Shops at Yale
Photo courtesy of Yale University
Fifth Avenue. Hollywood Boulevard. Bourbon Street. Chapel Street? If you have never heard of Chapel Street in New Haven, Connecticut’s second most-populous city, it may be time to discover what you’ve been missing. This lively street offers a triple crown of shows, food and art, all within easy walking distance of each other. Set in one of the country’s first planned cities, Chapel Street is a 21st-century hub bordered by a 16-acre green; it is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With Yale University in the neighborhood, visitors can fill a day or long weekend with a collage of campus visits, coffee and commerce.
Start with mind and body fuel at Atticus Bookstore Cafe with a grain bowl packed with everything from quinoa to carrots. Or try the Book Trader Cafe, where a slice of Morning Glory bread can been enjoyed in the cafe’s glass-roofed atrium. Coffee, tea and books are served at both cafes. At The Juice Box, where drink-makers “squeeze to please,” try a grapefruit and mint combo called The Eli in honor of an early Yale benefactor.
Tucked in front of the Yale School of Architecture on nearby York Street is Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea, where you can down a cup or two of java brewed from freshly roasted beans and purchase beans for home. Properly fueled, head up to the architecture school’s second-floor Yale Architecture Gallery, featuring exemplary student projects, which will be on display
Across the street from the Yale School of Architecture, at the corner of York and Chapel streets, is the Yale University Art Gallery, exhibiting artwork from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, ranging from ancient to Modern. Upcoming shows focus on art glass, Chinese textiles and still-life paintings, while classics by van Gogh, Picasso and Hopper are always on view. Completing the Yale architecture and art trifecta is the Yale Center for British Art, housing the largest collection of British artworks—more than 100,000 of them, including rare books and manuscripts—outside the United Kingdom.
The African art galleries at Yale University Art Gallery
Photo by Jessica Smolinski/Yale University
Sandwich and Soup Stops
Time for lunch? Consider Claire’s Corner Copia, where the menu of vegetarian fare includes Grilled Cheese Florentine served daily with a small salad. Or choose Maison Mathias, where quiche and croissants abound. Dairy devotees can scoop up ice cream, yogurt and cheese at Arethusa Farm Dairy. Or ruin your supper with colorful treats at CandiTopia.
Stroll and Shop
Unique, fashionable, trendy, eclectic and funky are just a few ways to describe the shops along Chapel Street. At Wave Gallery, silly socks, baubles, soaps and scarves are among the array of merchandise. Or drop into the home store dwell New Haven, chockful of goods for kitchen, bath and even baby’s room. Want to deck the walls? Check out the Japanese prints and Yale scenes at Merwin’s Art Shop.
After dressing your home, consider adding to your closet. For the latest fashions, check out the clothing and accessory boutique idiom, or pop in to Yurway Boutique, a yummy place to feast your eyes on women’s clothing that reflects the owner’s Brazilian roots and East Coast sophistication. You can also shop local at designer Neville Wisdom’s eponymous store. Wisdom searches everywhere for fabrics to suit his exceptional style, and his unique women’s and men’s garments are made in New Haven (with custom orders offered). At Enson’s, you’ll feel right at home with the game on TV and beverages available from the fridge while you shop the collection of formal and casual men’s clothing.
Walk to Wooster Square
Pizza and pastries are perfect any time of day. Follow Chapel Street to reach Wooster Square, where Italian cuisine is authentic and delicious. The debate continues about whether the pizza is better at Sally’s Apizza or Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. Try both, and make up your own mind.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria
Photo by Derek Dudek/Visit New Haven
Customers have sweetened their days at Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop since 1922; this family-owned bakery on Wooster Street is famous for its cannoli, Milano cookies and gelato cakes. A few blocks away, you’ll find Lucibello’s Italian Pastry Shop, where tastes of Italy (think pasticiotti) and France (éclairs, of course) make mouths water.
Two Ways to Tour
For a free tour of the area’s architecture and history with glimpses into Ivy League life, sign up at the Yale Visitors Center for a student-guided tour with stops that include Nathan Hale’s statue, student resident enclaves, the Sterling Memorial Library, and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Sterling Memorial Library
Photo by Jack Devlin/Yale University
Hop on the Elm City Party Bike for a two-hour ride that takes you sightseeing along Chapel Street with stops at bars and eateries.
Drinks and Dinner
After a day of exploration, it’s time for rest, relaxation and fine dining. For a French accent, there’s the Union League Cafe helmed by a chef born at the foot of the Alps and a wine list that complements his Gallic cuisine. Masterful mixologists pour signature cocktails with names such as Grace and Glitterati at 116 Crown. Dining al fresco (and on Thursday evenings, listening to jazz) at Harvest Wine Bar & Restaurant means dining on internationally inspired seasonal dishes made with local farm ingredients.
Stars at Night
Check out the stars on stage at the Shubert Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre. More than 100 years old, the Shubert has been home to distinguished off-Broadway premieres such as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Sound of Music, The King and I, and My Fair Lady. Be sure to see what’s on stage, too, at Yale Repertory Theatre, the professional theater in residence at Yale’s acclaimed School of Drama. Specializing in new work by emerging and established playwrights, Yale Rep has staged more than 100 premieres, including 2 that have won the Pulitzer Prize and an astonishing 17 that have advanced to Broadway. The theater season traditionally runs from September to May.
Kalieaswari Srinivasan and Hervé Goffings in The Prisoner, text and stage direction by Peter Brook and Marié-Hélène Estienne, at Yale Repertory Theatre, 2018
Photo by Joan Marcus
When the annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas swings into action in June (June 8–22 this year), concerts, lectures, dance performances, theater and even circus acts draw audiences of all ages to multiple venues indoors and out. Look for GRAMMY, Oscar and Tony award winners among the performers.
New Haven is the city where the Africans bound for slavery who mutinied on the Amistad first went to trial, five presidents went to school, and a young Marlon Brando hollered “Stella” on stage. Headed for history, stardom or a day trip, it is nice to imagine who might be walking down Chapel Street.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 edition of AAA World.