There are a whole host of options for eating on campus when you visit—namely, all the places you might eat as a student. However, whether you are planning to stay here for the next four years or are only checking Wesleyan out for a couple of nights, discovering the off-campus dining scene is most likely a priority.
Having grown up in a large city, I almost didn’t come to Wesleyan, specifically because I couldn’t imagine that Main Street offered enough dining options for my voracious, varied, and obviously highly cultured appetite. Upon my arrival, however, I was pleasantly surprised.
Middletown offers a small amount of a wide variety of things: what you see is what you get, but you see a good amount. There are enough breakfast and lunch places to satisfy the student body (and students’ families when they visit…because that is really the only reason students get up for breakfast on weekends). There are also a surprising number of different cuisines represented among dinnertime options. Though they may not always offer five-star quality, the food is more than enough to satisfy any craving.
The WesFest dining dynamic is a little different than the typical “going out to dinner” that might happen on weekends for students. Middletown is more crowded, for starters, and you are more likely to be looking for a “quintessential Wesleyan experience” than are Wesleyan students themselves.
Here is a guide to dining off-campus during WesFest, with this in mind.
Breakfast and Lunch
Made famous by the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” O’Rourke’s Diner is one of the few places that actually encourages students to get out of bed before late afternoon. Although from the outside the décor may seem unimpressive, it is a comfortable place to sit, talk, and enjoy top-notch diner food. Complimentary pastry samples are served with every meal. The breakfast menu is offered all day, seven days a week, and boasts a full page of creative omelette options along with French toast, pancakes, and assorted pastries. Eggs and hash are offered any way you can imagine them. There is an additional lunch menu that is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.
This location is relatively small, and can get busy, especially on weekends. Try to arrive outside of peak lunch hours to avoid the potential wait.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week
Location: 728 Main St.
New England Emporium
Emporium is a good choice if you are looking for a low-key dining atmosphere. With its coffeehouse décor and counter-service, it is the type of place where you can (and will want to) sit for hours. Its spacious location accommodates large and small parties and makes for a good family experience. Your food choices are almost unlimited, with the option of creating your own salads and sandwiches if you are looking for something not on the standard menu. In addition to lunch items, Emporium offers breakfast classics such as eggs and crêpes. When you’re done, you can walk to the neighboring FroyoWorld for some morning dessert.
Although the service is usually good, they occasionally get backed up. Ask for an approximate wait time before ordering your food, and avoid making plans for immediately after you eat.
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Location: 386 Main St., in the Main Street Market
Brew Bakers is a classic breakfast eatery, offering bagels, eggs, and wraps. Its lunch menu is more expansive, however, offering salads, panini, and “specialty sandwiches.” It has a pleasant, sunny, coffee shop atmosphere, but may be too crowded for large parties or for families during peak hours.
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Location: 169 Main St.
Tandoor offers standard Indian restaurant fare, providing dishes for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. It is a quiet restaurant with a lot of seating that often gets overlooked, so if you are looking to escape the madness of some of the more upscale dining options like Esca, this is the place for you.
In my opinion, one of the most entertaining aspects of Tandoor is the amount of control you have over the spice level of the food. Dishes can range from “mild” to “very, very, very spicy,” and if you impress them enough with your spice-eating prowess, you may just get free rice pudding at the end of the meal.
If you are here for the weekend, on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. Tandoor has a $10 all-you-can-eat buffet that offers limited service.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m., seven days a week.
Location: 170 Main St.
Looking for upscale dining? Esca is one of several Italian restaurants on Main St. that thrives on the business of visiting families. Prospective students, take note: ask your parents to come here, as it may be the last time you will be able to afford it. Esca offers a unique selection of flatbread pizzas in addition to pastas and non-vegetarian entrees. Be prepared for a wait during peak hours if you don’t have a reservation.
If you’re a late eater, take note: Esca is open later than most of the other dining options on Main Street. Depending on your schedule, this may be the perfect place for you.
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Location: 437 Main St.
Tibetan Kitchen is an open secret among Wesleyan students that is slowly making its way into the spotlight. Offering what in some ways seems like the most “big city” cuisine of Middletown, the Tibetan fare may at first seem unusual to diners who are more accustomed to bland and easy food. The menu offers a good number of vegetarian options, and the avocado potato appetizer is unreal.
Tibetan Kitchen is small, and service is on the slow side. If you do not want to wait, try to show up early, especially on weekend nights.
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.; closed Sunday.
Location: 574 Main St.