What do you do when you are trying to think of a humorous, intelligent way to address gentrification and zoning challenges in New Haven but you’re not quite ready to bite the bullet?
You write a review column, of course.
New Haven’s restaurant scene is as competitive as ever, so this week, we look at two new-ish restaurants downtown, and one old one in my neighborhood that I finally had the gumption to try.
What does New Haven’s least qualified food critic think? Read on to find out!
South Bay Brings Creative Seafood Inspirations Downtown
The JS Restaurant Group, which also owns the absolutely excellent Harvest, now has a new restaurant downtown: South Bay. Allegedly the theme is Mediterranean-inspired, though I’d say it’s more like “here’s a bunch of awesome seafood and other great stuff we thought of,” which I admit doesn’t sound as reasonable.
The vibe definitely suits the theme, with light walls splashed in blue paint, but I don’t know what part of the Mediterranean inspired the Pear Walnut and Gorgonzola Salad. It sounds like it’s in Brooklyn.
Either way, like Harvest, the menu is full of brilliant and creative dishes. A guitar player sat nearby, strumming away in a way that provided ambiance without distracting me or showing my date that the could be dating someone else with a real talent.
Our waitress seemed to enter some sort of interdimensional portal for about 10 minutes but it seemed like every other table had great service so we’ll chalk it up to quantum mechanics this time.
Pros: Great location, tons of seafood options, creative, high-quality dishes
Cons: Tiny issue with service, once you bring a date here you’ve set the bar pretty high and at this point it’s just a slow, tedious descent into disappointment that even years of couples’ therapy can never help you recapture that initial spark and magic on a cool Wednesday evening in Downtown New Haven
Olmo Takes Caseus’ Experimentation to the Next Level
It’s not entirely clear to me how Olmo transitioned from Caseus. It sounded like former Caseus owner Jason Sobocinski wanted to spend more time with his family. So the new Olmo restaurant is… also co-owned by Jason Sobocinski. Okay you know what I have no idea.
Olmo is the brain-child of other co-owners/head chefs Craig Hutchinson and Alex Lishchynsky and it’s like they both looked at Caseus’ menu and thought, sure, it’s weird and experimental… but is it weird enough?
Oh sure they’ve got green salads and mussel toast. But they’ve also got half of a fried chicken that’s coated in this maple glaze that… holy cow. Half a chicken is like 17 bucks. But you can buy a whole chicken if you’re a ramping up for winter hibernation.
They also have an aged rib eye steak that’ll only set you back a cool 62 bucks.
My father got the shrimp and grits which he said was “pretty good,” and if you know my father, that is some pretty emphatic language from him, so I guess that’s like 3 and a half stars.
I got a dessert, which I forgot to photograph, was some weird chocolate-y thing in a mason jar and sea salt and I gotta say the salt was… powerful. Probably too powerful. I had to really mix up the dish to make it work.
Still, it was a tiny misstep, and I so much appreciate the experimentation and weirdness which covers the menu that I am happy to be a part of the experiments.
Plus, the bill actually came out to a reasonable-ish total, compared to previous Caseus visits.
The environment is very similar to Caseus, albeit a little bit of a cleaner look. Outside, you still get that great Trumbull Street Traffic Atmosphere you missed. Nothing says ambiance like middle-aged dudes revving their Harley Davidsons.
Pros: Experimental menu, lots of veggie options, a little cheaper than Caseus
Cons: Not every experiment hits, many “main” dishes are still meat-based, people who ride motorcycles are jerks
D’Amato’s Seafood An Oasis of Fried Seafood in Whalley Avenue Desert
Oh sure, it’s great reviewing your fancy downtown restaurants with your chic menus and creative dishes and people who wear black button down shirts serving you food.
I wanted to try something a little different this time and review a restaurant in my own neighborhood. Which basically leaves me with six bodegas, a liquor store, a fried chicken/ice cream place, and D’Amato’s Seafood.
Receently revamped, one side provides take-out (very popular) and one provides dine-in (less popular). They make fried seafood. Hot dogs, hamburgers. French fries. Onion rings.
Basically your classic shoreline fried seafood joint except right in the middle of Whalley Avenue for some reason.
Plus, their phone number is 203-498-2722 (CRAB). Hell yeah.
Just call us at 203-498-CRAB. YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT.
It also closes at 7:30pm which is obviously an interesting move for dinner but also consider what your Whalley After Dark club might look like and yeah y’know what let’s get outta here.
Figured I’d try it all with a “Standard Combo” which “feeds 2.” I want to be clear that the two people this feeds are profesisonal wrestlers cause this is not a reasonable amount of food for two normal humans.
Which, for 26 bucks… not bad.
As far as I can tell the only seasoning is salt and pepper and it is honestly fantastic. It is a comical amount of food but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fries and onion rings were also solid, if not a bit greasy.
The ambiance is, well… you are on Whalley Avenue.
Pros: Very good fried seafood, huge plates for the money, outdoor seating
Cons: You’re on Whalley Avenue, if you don’t like seafood you are not gonna find a lot of other options