If you live in or are visiting New England and are craving some historical stimulus, look no further. New England is a part of the U.S. with rich culture and full of history. As the Northeast region of the country, this is where British pilgrims first settled in the United States. Many battles and wars were fought and conquered here and this heritage can be seen in the way the antique streets and prehistoric architecture comprise many of the states in this area. These include New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut- where our story begins, specifically in the city of New Haven.
New Haven is a very unique area of Connecticut, to say the least. As one of its most up and coming attractions, Yale University makes up a big part of the city, where students from all over the world enroll and attend. As I walk the streets of New Haven I always become mesmerized by the Hogwarts-looking buildings of Yale; the university feel is definitely contagious. However, what outsiders may not see at first is that if you take the wrong turn or walk parallel to some of the most famous Yale buildings, you can easily be in the middle of a public housing government community, or some areas that are surprising to see so close to such a big and private elite university. While affluent students spend their nights acquiring some of the most expensive college degrees in the cozy Yale buildings, other kids "next door" spend their lives enveloped in a "survival mentality." A survival to wake up every day safe, be able to afford their life, to function properly and even to make sure they know where their next meal will come from. There has been a big influx of middle-upper class residents into New Haven in more recent years, and the community of this city has seen its impacts.
Gentrification is when a residential community or district is renovated or improved to conform to middle class taste. With the growth of the Yale and elite community, bringing upper-middle class members into the area, New Haven has quickly been tailored to their taste. Taste in residential buildings, taste in stores, businesses, and even their taste in food.
However, while there has been a big increase in smaller, non-chain, pricier restaurants, as a result of gentrification, the diversity of New Haven has managed to stay around through the other vast restaurant and food options. Some of my favorite include Mecha Noodle Bar, Rubamba, B Natural Cafe, Barcelona, Claire's Corner Copia, Mamoun's, Cedarhurst Cafe, Koffee?, Lalibela Ethiopian, Pacifico, Frank Pepe Pizza, and Modern Apizza (New Haven pizza may even overcome New York pizza, and that is not just my personal opinion...) Extraordinary pizza can be found no matter where you are in the city of New Haven. With rich Italian history, there is no denying New Haven can be recognized by its pizza. That gentle middle ground between a thin and thick crust, with perfect sauce, and cheese that makes you smile, New Haven pizza isn't hard to love.
Meanwhile, in a city famed for its pizza, if you look a little closer, there is a tiny little historic building on Crown Street that sells simple burger sandwiches first invented in the mid 1800's! Considered to be the "birthplace" of the hamburger, by the Library of Congress, Louis Lunch is also the oldest operating restaurant in the country. First opened in 1895, owner Louis Lassen received a hungry customer into his restaurant who needed a quick lunch on his way to work. Louis quickly gathered grilled beef trimmings and placed them between two slices of bread, and it became the original hamburger sandwich. Ever since then, the place continues making these hamburgers in the same fashion as when they first started. their grills are metal structures that enclose the patties, lock up and are inserted sideways into a fire "oven," or grill, cooking the meat to perfection. The restaurant doesn't allow for condiments, as huge signs with red X's are found on the walls of the restaurant "banning" them. The current chef and owner, part of the 4th generation of the Lassen family, explains that the focus of the restaurant was always to allow customers to taste the true flavor of the meat in the burgers, which is why they only allow for sliced onions, lettuce, tomato, and cheese, excluding the overpowering condiments like ketchup and mayo.
The family-owned restaurant has kept its insides to look exactly like the first ever Louis Lunch, after they moved from a movable truck hamburger stand to an actual building, so when stepping inside, it will feel like you have just stepped out of a time machine. They also offer locally sourced drinks called Foxon Park sodas, manufactured just next door, in East Haven! It's family-owned and operated places like these, still managed by Louis Lassen's great grandson, Jeff Lassen, that maintain their original values, and ideas that really add and enhance the value of communities. Local businesses like Louis Lunch also help keep New Haven's heritage around, no matter how much reforming the city may go through. The history, culture, and aesthetics that surround the New Haven area are what make anyone come, experiment, and love it, no matter how small it may seem; it's easy to call this place home, and it is definitely a must see during a trip to New England.
If you are looking to travel around New England this summer, definitely do not hesitate to check out this amazing and comprehensive guide of the 100 best things to do in Connecticut.
Check out my video on Louis Lunch below!