Literary City Guide | NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT

These groups of well-grown trees, clustering among the busy streets and houses of a thriving city, have a very quaint appearance: seeming to bring about a kind of compromise between town and country; as if each had met the other half-way, and shaken hands upon it; which is at once novel and pleasant.
— Charles Dickens

Tour Guide: ANGELA KOU

Angela is a postdoc in the Applied Physics Department at Yale. When she's not studying superconductors, she can be found wandering the streets of New Haven with a camera in one hand and a cookie in the other. Find her over at Purple Wandering. (Photos by Angela Kou)


Relationship to New Haven: I moved to New Haven more than a year ago to work at Yale.

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner:  Alice Munro. Short stories are my favorite form of writing and Alice Munro has perfected the form. I really like the simplicity of her language and her descriptions of “normal” life.

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Let’s make a duo of Alices and invite Alice Waters. I loved all of the salads and vegetable dishes that I had at Chez Panisse. I also think it would be really interesting to talk to Alice Waters about slow food and sustainable agriculture.

Writing soundtrack:  Something peaceful like Yo-yo Ma or Melody Gardot or the Civil Wars.

Pen or Pencil: Pen

Coffee or Tea: Tea

Paperback or Hardback: Paperback 

Good Reads


The Book Trader Café. This store combines used books with a tasty café. The prices are cheap and the selection is good. They have a nice outdoor seating area for when you want to work in the sun.

Atticus Bookstore/Café. New Haven loves combining its books with coffee. Atticus Bookstore is a great place for buying notebooks and fun greeting cards. They are housed in the Yale Museum for British Art and often have an art exhibit going on right in the café.

Never Ending Books. This quirky bookshop is open only on weekend afternoons and for special events. All of the books are free (you can leave a donation) and some books are even left outside for the taking when the shop is closed. Never Ending Books also hosts multiple free experimental and jazz shows each month.


Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It’s amazingly beautiful inside this library and there are so many amazing books in here; one of Yale’s two Gutenberg bibles is held here. They also have fun exhibits showcasing some of the collection. For example, there’s currently an exhibition of very colorful magazines and artists’ books from East Berlin during the Cold War.

The Institute Library. This library is hidden deep in the recesses of downtown New Haven. It reminds me of my elementary school library except the books are for adults. They hold lots of cool events each month like Amateur Hour where experts come and speak on a variety of topics including time travel and recreating thousand-year-old instruments.

The Sterling Memorial Library. Yale recently renovated this library so it’s a great time to visit. It was built to be a cathedral of learning and you definitely feel that as soon as you walk in. Sterling also has a lovely reading room that is large and full of light.


The Poetry Institute. Poetry readings are held every third Thursday of the month by local poets at the Institute Library. There are featured readers but it’s also an open mic and you can sign up to read something of your own in a friendly atmosphere.

Yale Cabaret. The Yale School of Drama is one of the best theater schools in the world and grad students get the chance to put on a cabaret once every couple of weeks. The shows are sometimes serious and sometimes most definitely not, but they are always entertaining. They also serve food related to the cabarets that is often pretty good.


The Grove Street Cemetery. This cemetery is the final resting place for many famous people, including Noah Webster (of Webster’s dictionaries), Eli Whitney (inventor of the cotton gin), and Hiram Bingham (the inspiration for Abner Hale in the novel Hawaii).

International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Every June, this 15-day festival takes over all of the public space in New Haven with dance performances, music, films, public lectures, and classes. No matter what you are into, there is something at this festival for you. Many food trucks come to the New Haven Green for the festival so you can also sample the New Haven food truck scene while you’re there.

Good Eats


Blue State. This place has really great hot chocolate and a large selection of Rishi Teas. Everyone I know loves the coffee here as well; the baristas know what they are doing. If you are hungry, they have at least 4 different kinds of cookies available (with 1 gluten-free option) every day.

Green Teahouse. This tea shop serves many different types of good tea in a very relaxing environment. The tea prices are all around $10 but you can share with a friend and they leave a teapot full of hot water (constantly warmed by a candle and refilled by the servers) so you get many, many servings out of one order. It’s very easy to spend the day here working and enjoying tea.

Koffee?. This coffee shop is extremely cozy; it’s full of sofas and easy chairs. It’s a great place to hang out for the afternoon with a good book or some good company. They are open late at night (when they also start serving beer and wine).


August. This small bar is run by a husband and wife team who are the definition of friendly. They have an amazing wine selection and tasty charcuterie and paninis. I like to get a plate of a few different cheeses as my starter and the sardine panini as my meal.

Skappo. This family-run restaurant serves delicious Italian dishes. The tables are communal so it's a chance to make some new friends as well as eat good food. Anna, the owner, is great and even offers Italian lessons! Many of the dishes here are quite unique; their gnocchi is made from ricotta cheese and has a very interesting texture. For lunch, you can pop into Skappo Merkato around the corner for a really great sandwich and Italian soda.

Barcelona. This is my go-to place for small plates in New Haven. Everything on the menu is delicious but I especially love their a la plancha dishes. The meats are always juicy and tender. Their eggplant a la plancha comes with a creamy tahini vinaigrette that compliments the eggplant perfectly. They also have a great selection of Spanish wines.

Portabello Latin Food. New Haven has a large number of food carts but the Portabello Arepa Cart is my favorite cart for lunch. There are two carts: one at 277 York St and one at Whitney Ave. and Wall St. The arepas come with your choice of meat (the carnitas option is my favorite), salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and plaintains. It also comes with a side of rice but if that turns out to be too many carbohydrates you can ask for a side of mixed greens, which comes with a nice pineapple dressing.

Chao Wine Bar. I like to eat dinner here when I’m too lazy to cook. They make great Taiwanese and Chinese dishes. My favorite thing to get is the pork chop over rice, which also comes with Taiwanese sausage, a marinated egg, and pickled vegetables.

Bar. I couldn't make a list of New Haven restaurants without including a pizza place. I'm a big fan of the bacon and mashed potato pizza here and their salad comes with candied pecans and blue cheese, which should both be included in pretty much all salads. They also brew their own beer.


Ashley’s Ice Cream. I’ve been known to eat ice cream from this shop as a meal (don’t worry, I usually supplement with French fries). The ice cream is made from natural ingredients and my favorites are pistachio and strawberry.

Marjolaine Pastry Shop. This cute shop makes delicious fruit pies and tarts. Their croissants are pretty great as well; they have just the right amount of flakiness.

Lucibello’s Italian Pastry. I love the pignoli and the cannolis at this awesome bakery. The cannolis have super crunchy shells and the cream is not too sweet. They have a huge variety of Italian desserts and all of it is good.

New Haven Sunset

ANGELA's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view: Sunset from the top of East Rock. East Rock Park is a great park with multiple hiking trails and places to fish. From the top of East Rock, you can see all of New Haven as well as the Long Island Sound.

2. Favorite place to write: The courtyard of Kline Biology Tower. There are a few tables outside where I like to spread my papers and work while enjoying the sun.

3. Favorite museum: Yale Collection of Musical Instruments. Yale has a wonderful collection of instruments from around the world and from many different time periods. My favorite part is the keyboard gallery, where you can hear the sounds of keyboard instruments going all the way back to the 16th century.

4. Favorite coffee shop: Blue State. It’s a quiet place to work and I’ve stayed here all day drinking Arnold Palmers made with cascara tea and eating their baked goods and sandwiches.

5. Favorite thing about New Haven: I love that in New Haven I can get both the benefits of living on a tree-lined street and living in a city. The downtown area has great food and bars while the East Rock neighborhood is full of greenery and small cafes.