Yale and New Haven, CT Restaurant Reviews: PART I

Okay, since I spent all week up here at Yale eating every single meal out, I thought I'd pass along the info about the availability of gluten, dairy, soy, nut, corn, and egg free dining. As an aside, can I say "Eugh!" Eating out this often is just not me! We "usually" only eat out about once per 2-3 months (if you don't count coffee). You can make healthier and much cheaper food at home. Honestly, I don't know how the "average" American does it with all their fast food and eating out "treats." Anyways, this is not a pretty post, just an informative one. I tried to contact the Celiac support group here in New haven a good week before my trip, but they were busy and didn't get back to me about recommendations until yesterday. For all of you who have been counting (I guess that's only Jon, ha ha), I have already been here almost a week. Their one recommendation was a tad late. Thanks for the help though guys - better late than never!

The following lists the restaurants at which I ate, what I ate, the price for my food and the general price range, the service, the management attitude towards my questions, and any ill effects I had from misadvertised food. Yes, Karina, I did get sick a few times but not nearly as bad as you so I'm counting myself lucky!

El Amigo Feliz, Mexican
This is a tiny hole-in-the-wall looking bright yellow shack right next to the Marriott where we were staying. Quite literally this was a 5 second walk and it is very convenient since it sits right at the intersection of Broadway, York Street, Tower Street, and Whalley Avenue. I love run-down looking mexican joints since they always seem to have the best and most authentic food.

First Impressions: Good, expansive menu. I could find 7 dishes listed which I could eat or easily modify. Their price range was anywhere from $6-$25 depending on how fancy you want to get. I decided to splurge a little and got something different since I wasn't the chef. A customer hanging outside smoking (since all restaurants here are smoke free) raved about the place so I decided to try it out. I walked in and was quickly greeted and seated. The waitress was wonderful; she was very response as I scanned the menu and asked recommendations. I was eyeing the fajitas, but I am always wary of contamination with the (flour) tortillas, "spiced mexican" rice, and lord-only-knows what's in those beans and guacamole. However, she was great! As I explained that I couldn't eat blah-blah-blah, she shook her head and quickly suggested corn tortillas, minus the dairy, and extra salsa. I was stoked, this was starting off on a good foot. Now, for the food:

The Meal:
I chose beef fajitas, no dairy, extra salsa, and corn tortillas (which I did not eat but it made me feel better that they wouldn't accidentally handle and serve wheat flour tortillas if I wasn't ordering something different). It was a little pricey for me, but $14 is not atypical for a fajita meal which includes the canonical meat, onion, peppers, tortillas, and a plate of spiced mexi-rice, refried beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream/cheese (which I left out).

It was done quickly since the restaurant was not crowded (~10 minutes). The meal came out sizzling and smelling fantastic, though I know that was vegetable oil and not coconut or olive oil used in the frying :) Oh well, you can choose your battles and a few meals of vegetable oil won't kill me ... I hope, lol. It was hot and fantastic! There was not a scrap of dairy or (obvious) gluten anywhere. The tortillas were piping hot steamed corn tortillas. The meals was colorful, hot, and fresh. I eyed the rice ominously since I am wary of the "spice" in mexi-rice laced with peas and real roasted carrot chunks. I felt adventurous and starving so I chowed down. As advertised, there was indeed no gluten in the spice since I did not get ill in the slightest. Of course I had the usual "you fat pig you ate all that Mexican and now you're gonna pay" gas from the beans, rice, and general gluttony in which I indulged. It was great - the meat was lean and not very greasy, surprisingly. I was expecting greasy everything and contamination everywhere, but I found my meal to be safe. The waitress was very attentive and came over multiple times to make sure it was all okay and I was feeling well.

Summary: Overall, this is not a "gf safe" per say restaurant - at least it doesn't advertise itself as such, but I had a fantastic meal with a very responsive, helpful, and enthusiastic waitress. I'd eat there again and again without reservation. I highly recommend this place if you like Mexican (and I don't mean Ameri-Mexi). In fact, I have 6 more dinners to try! Ahh, what a wonderful curse. I had NO bad food reactions at all.

Royal India, Indian
This tiny Indian restaurant is right around the corner from El Amigo which makes it a ~7 second walk from the hotel. It is a converted narrow townhouse, as are many local restaurants here in New Haven. A menu was posted outside along with the lunch buffet special prices. The menu got a little pricey since dinner is a-la-carte (not buffet) ranging from ~$7-$35 for fancy lamb and duck type entrees. I stalked the place for a good day or so but they were closed on Sunday until dinner. I didn't want to spend quite that much so I held out for a future lunch buffeting (that's a technical term). I did con my coworkers (that's you, Claudio and Rich!) to join me for a lunch buffet the following day - we were all very pleased. The problem with a buffet is that I'm a pig ... seriously, I think the server's eyes were going to bug right out of his head when he saw how much I ate :P

First Impressions: Walking in, it smelled like heaven and was very pristine and clean like most Indian restaurants. The small buffet in the middle of the tiny room was playing the scent of 'my tummy in love', by Cindalou.

The Meal: The buffet was an allergic consumer's dream, or at least a big relief, since each dish had a cover, dedicated spoon, and label with title and ingredients. With the exception of one spice, the ingredients were conspicuous and delicious. I chose the following: Tempura fried cauliflower appetizer, lots of spicy red hot chili oil/sauce for dipping, some plain basmati rice with peas, some yummy vegetarian coconut curry (I don't know the exact name), tandoori roast chicken with onions, a chicken and veggie creamy (coconut, nondairy) curry, steamed veggies, and a ton of creamed (coconut? I asked, it was nondairy) spinach with tiny potato chunks. Dessert was a few fresh tomato slices, and various pieces of fresh fruit. Basically, to go gf df, etc, I just didn't eat the bread, the yogurt dipping sauces, or the one dairy dish (that's one of about 10 dishes which did have dairy, pretty good odds!). Maybe some of you out there know the actual dish names, I forget. Anyways, I ate huge plates of seconds and then some. It was all hot, fresh, and absolutely the best Indian food I've ever had. I didn't even miss the bread! The lunch buffet was $7.95 so with tax and tip I spent $10. It was well worth it since I was stuffed the rest of the day, but a good stuffed, not the sugar crash or bad stuffed.

Summary: Excellent and affordable Indian buffet. The waiters were ok but eyed me suspiciously. The food was great and authentic and I did not get sick at all. Horrah! I wish the staff had been more friendly. I also would have liked to try the fancy lamb dish, though the buffet was great and within budget (especially since it was basically lunch and dinner). I am starving now and their buffet for lunch tomorrow sounds tempting.
Okay. This is really long already so I'll continue this review in a few more posts, but the coming attractions (so far) are : Recommended: Gourmet Heaven**, healthy variety (like a very small Whole Foods), and Bankok Garden, Thai. So far, the Not recommended crowd is not a crowd at all: The Whole Enchilada, Healthy American-Mexican with lots of lean meat, organic type options (sounds good...I'll explain)

** Careful, I did get dairy sick a few times but I can explain that later.

Cindalou's Kitchen Blues: Healthy Celiac / Coeliac Gluten and Dairy Free Recipes


  1. Well, I know you've been gone all week, but it's pretty darn hard to tell with all the blog posting you've done. (I just commented on this on my site under the "spice" entry.) You are hard to keep up with girl! Seriously, do you ever sleep? Or sit down and relax? And messing with particle accelerators doesn't count as relaxation or quiet time!

    Wow, what an interesting post about all the food challenges you've had. I hope it doesn't take you too long to get over this once you get home. It's so hard to eat out. Especially when you explain the you have celiac disease and the waiter asks if you can have rice. Or they say, "Oh, I've heard of that glucose thing." Argh...

    I'm busy putting together a celiac presentation for a group of nutrition students. I'll PDF a couple of the slides and send them to you if you want. How much gluten is enough to trigger the immune response and cause mucosal damage, etc. Information like that. Blah, blah, blah. I have 25 slides so far. Nasty looking intestines and all kinds of good stuff.

    Take care of yourself and we'll "see" you soon!

  2. lol
    I wish that I was able to even get to the point where I could explain gluten. No one was hearing it, no one cared (except the woman at El Amigo), and I actually was insulted and handed back my restaurant card at least twice. Joy. It's no surprise that I finally fell pray to the unlabeled food bar as I was glutened and dairyed (sp?) yesterday and today. I feel great... like if I had a drill then it'd go great right into my intestines. The people here are in large gruff and rude. The nicest people were at the art galleries, go figure.

    I'll post on the rest of the trip later, I am feeling woozy and pretty sick right now. Just in time for my 4-midnight shift, yes. I hate gluten and it hates me... a lot. Eugh.

  3. Hi! I just moved to New Haven to start a Ph.D. and stumbled across your website while searching for gluten-free friendly restaurants. I can't seem to find your second post-- Can you let me know what was bad at the whole enchilada and any other good restaurants you found?



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