oHeps14 – Welcome To The Elm


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Okay, Heps is coming to where I live. So I will serve as your concierge to the Elm City that I know.

Let’s start with getting here. I think everyone pretty much knows that I-95 and I-91 in Connecticut both suck. Connecticut’s state motto — qui transtulit sustinet — translates roughly to “inexplicable traffic jams.” If you must drive, good luck. Actually, if you must fly, good luck. Flying into Tweed Airport in New Haven has all the charm of bungee jumping at a county fair.

So what is a visitor to do? TAKE THE TRAIN. MetroNorth from Grand Central in New York? Two hours and less than $40 roundtrip. Boston? Amtrak from South Station? Little more than two hours and about $100 roundtrip if you book now.

Once you get to Union Station, no matter how hungry you are, don’t eat Sbarro. You will thank me later when you discover that New Haven is a foodie haven. Back to the train station, there will be several surly cabbies waiting to take you the mile-and-a-half downtown without saying a word to you. If you act like you know what you are doing, you can hop the Yale Shuttle to downtown for free. Act Yalie.

Once you are in place, recognize that both Lyft and Uber have just landed in New Haven. Drawback? The drivers might be so new that they have no idea where they are taking you. For those driving, parking will be located in the Marginal Drive lot, located at the intersection of Derby Avenue (Rt. 34) and Yale Avenue. Yale will have a shuttle bus to the Dewitt Cuyler Complex. Great update from the folks at Yale: Each day at Heps there will be a shuttle bus from Payne Whitney Gym on campus to the Smilow Athletic Center (across Derby Avenue from the track) leaving every half-hour beginning at 9 am. It will return from the same spot on the :15s and :45s, heading back to campus. Big thumbs up to the Bulldogs for that. Athletes, fans and family are welcomed to ride.

Okay, let’s jump right in to the rest of the news you need to know.

If you are coming to Heps, you might as well come a day early as New Haven has quite a bit to offer. We’ll spell out some things to do in the coming days, but first you can take a look at the places to stay within walking distance of Yale and Center City. The Study (1157 Chapel Street) is perhaps the priciest option. It used to be The Colony, but it has scaled up and has a nice bar/restaurant as well. Next in line is the Omni New Haven (155 Temple Street), which has a top-floor restaurant with a great breakfast buffet. Probably the best prices can be found at the New Haven Hotel (229 George Street) and the Courtyard by Marriott (30 Whalley Avenue). All four hotels are within 10 minutes of the Heps venue, Dewitt Cuyler Field.

Even the most nay-saying nay-sayers would have a hard time criticizing the restaurant scene in New Haven. There is something for all. I am just picking out a range of downtown spots.

Actually, let’s start with one place a little off the beaten path. It is Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria (157 Wooster Street), which has been honored as having the best pizza in America. Take that New York, Chicago or any place else that thinks it’s special. The actual winner was the Pepe’s White Clam Pizza. If you aren’t up for that short trip from downtown, you can get pizza at Bar Night Club (254 Crown Street), which is where the young folks go. Right across the street from Bar is the historic Louis’ Lunch (261 Crown Street), which claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger. Eat up on Saturday (open ’til 2 am) because it is closed on Sunday.

Is it a restaurant or a bookstore? Atticus Bookstore Cafe (1082 Chapel Street) is both and not like some chain bookstore with pre-packaged turkey sandwiches and juice boxes. If you want to watch Bronx Tale, Goodfellas or Scarface while you eat Italian good, Good Fellas (702 State Street) is the place for you. Seriously, no sports, just Italian flicks.

Some great dining and social options include Barcelona New Haven (155 Temple Street), the Union League Cafe (1032 Chapel Street) and Heirloom at The Study (1157 Chapel Street), but also consider the amazing Soul de Cuba Cafe (283 Crown Street), which doesn’t fit more than 25 people. Call ahead for that one.

If you have a hankering for bar food and beer, try Kelly’s gastro Pub (196 Crown Street), O’Toole’s Irish Pub (157 Orange Street) or J.P. Dempsey’s Bar & Restaurant (974 State Street), which is a friendly biker bar.

Yes, we have a Chipolte, but we aren’t telling you where it is.

If you are looking for a Mother’s Day brunch in New Haven before Heps Championship Sunday, we’ve got some ideas. Let’s start with John Davenport’s (155 Temple Street) which is on the top floor of the Omni Hotel. Great food, great views of the city. Right across from the New Haven Green is Claire’s Corner Copia (1000 Chapel Street), a great vegetarian spot that has been feeding New Haven for three decades. The Westville neighborhood — not far from the Heps’ venue — offers two great breakfast spots — Bella’s Cafe (896 Whalley Avenue) and Lena’s Cafe (873 Whalley Avenue). Go early or expect a crowd. On Yale’s campus is the famed Blue State Coffee (84 Wall Street & 276 York Street) while an off-the-beaten-path hot spot is The Pantry (2 Mechanic Street) in East Rock. Again, the earlier the better for this place. One final place is on the water at the Sage American Grill (100 South Water Street). Brunch doesn’t begin until 11 am there, so you might miss some of the action.

And finally, if you think that Survival Saturday at Heps is not quite entertaining enough, you can explore additional options that evening. The Long Wharf Theater (222 Sergent Drive) features the musical The Last Five Years. The Yale Repertory Theatre (1120 Chapel Street) is closing out The House That Will Not Stand that night. Southern Connecticut State’s Lyman Center (501 Crescent Street) will play host to comedian Sinbad. If you are just planning dinner and a movie, the best movie house in town is the Criterion Bowtie Cinema (86 Temple Street).

That’s it. Have fun!

— Brett Hoover

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