We have been foodies for a long time. Our home borough of Brooklyn provided us with ample opportunities to try many cuisines at a variety of restaurants, and we both came to the University with complex palates and serious penchants for eating good food. Middletown definitely surprised us. From Vietnamese to Ethiopian to Tibetan, our little haven in the middle of Connecticut packs a punch when it comes to delicious and exciting meals out. With the weather improving, and Main Street looking as appealing as ever, we decided to highlight some of our favorite spots in town.

Thai Gardens (Lewis): When I first walked into Thai Gardens as a wee first-year, I was apprehensive. Not many people were inside, the decor was out of style, and the music made me feel like I was in an elevator and not a restaurant. But the food! The meals I have had at Thai Gardens in two short years have lodged themselves in my memory bank. The papaya salad is the headliner of the Thai starters, but the squid and duck salads pack a punch of their own. All are steeped in delicious dressings packed with fish sauce and citrus, which I am always tempted to drink after the shreds of papaya, green beans, plump tomatoes, and crispy pieces of duck are long gone. I will also say that the roti canai is also a crowd-pleaser. The only downside is that the smallish size of the bowl of curry makes you yearn for more when the last drops have been licked up. When you get to the entrée section, steer toward the curries, noodles, and fried rice dishes and away from the stir-fry dishes. A simple stir-fry chicken with basil sauce is tasty, but the green curry, pad Thai, and fried rice are much more exciting. The pad Thai is rich, savory, tangy, and slightly sweet, and the basil fried rice simply hits the spot. An added bonus: if you are coming with a group of 15 to 20 people, Thai Gardens has a massive table in the back! The restaurant doesn’t seem to garner much foot traffic, which means the atmosphere is slightly lacking, but the food certainly makes up for it.

Brew Bakers (Lia): If you are looking for a charming cafe with an expansive breakfast and lunch menu, Brew Bakers is the place to go. Their bagels are good, especially when you’ve been eating Usdan bagels for months, and the breakfast sandwiches are perfect for a weekend morning. They also have an expansive array of muffins and breakfast pastries that are well worth the walk downtown. Lunch options include burgers, wraps, and salads, which certainly get the job done. The Reuben is an especially spot-on rendition. The lovely cafe has every kind of caffeinated drink from cappuccinos to chai tea (which, in my opinion as an avid tea drinker, could be a little less sweet and have a greater spice profile). That said, the coffee options are campus-renowned for rivaling those of Pi Cafe, and enjoying the drinks in a booth is much nicer than a table in Exley. The overall atmosphere is extremely cheery, with brightly covered walls, wooden benches, and an open concept. In the warmer months, the outdoor seating is great for lounging about and enjoying the weather and Main Street views.

Krust (Lewis): Many believe that Krust is overly expensive and fancy: the kind of place you could only go to when your parents come to town. However, this is not true. The prices are nearly identical to Mondo’s, at least when it comes to the pizzas. Krust’s atmosphere and intriguing food selections make it a must-go for an exciting Friday or Saturday night. The mushroom pizza (white) and the meatball (red) are two fantastic pizza choices that aren’t especially innovative but still hit the spot. You also cannot go wrong with a classic Margherita, which comes hot out of the brick oven and rivals any pizza place around. For appetizers, the burrata is rich, creamy, and perfectly paired with its toppings. The wings are also surprisingly good, and, to be honest, everything tastes a little better due to the wonderful interior design of the restaurant and the comfortable booths and tables. Once you are tucked away in a booth with your friends, you can happily enjoy Krust’s delicious drinks and figure out what combination of pizzas would be right for the group. Krust is made for sharing, and if you make sure to order enough pizza, there will be satisfaction all around.

Salsa’s 3 (Lewis): Hidden away on Washington Street, this gem of a Mexican restaurant is the perfect place to go for a weekday gathering. Birthday on a Tuesday? Go to Salsa’s 3. It doesn’t have the pizazz of Typhoon or Krust, but it is fast (order at the counter), cheap ($2.50 for a taco), and has the nicest staff in Middletown (free chips and salsa!). The menu is huge, and some items (burritos, quesadillas) are somewhat lacking in a very understandable, middle-of-Connecticut kind of way. The tacos, on the other hand, are bangin’! The al pastor and carnitas are especially juicy and full of flavor, and the green and red salsas that come on the side are the perfect complements. Other exciting menu options include the birria tacos, the flautas, the enchiladas, the sopes, and the rice and beans. For me, you can judge a Mexican restaurant simply based on the quality of its rice and beans. Overall, you won’t be blown away by the innovation of the food, but you will leave Salsa’s 3 with a heavy, comforting feeling in your stomach that makes you wish you hadn’t ordered a fifth taco. 

La Boca (Lia): Let’s be real. La Boca is not where you go for the most authentic Mexican food. It is where you go for, as their website boasts, “authentic fun.” I am not going to sit here and try to defend their somewhat average salsas, nor am I going to claim that their burritos are out of this world. However, if you are looking for a boozy night (for the 21+ crowd of course) with some solid Americanized Mexican food on the side, this is the place for you. As expected, they start you off with a basket of chips and salsa, and I’ve heard that the drinks are substantial and strong. Their guacamole is pretty good, and the enchiladas are quite tasty and large. The tacos, while slightly more expensive than at Salsa’s 3, are slightly better due to their enhanced toppings, bigger size, and more flavorful meat. What might be La Boca’s greatest strength is their larger plates, which give you a more fine-dining feel than Salsa’s 3. Quite surprisingly, the menu has a good number of options for all the plant-based and vegetarian eaters out there. They also often have live music and events, like trivia nights, which contribute to the fun atmosphere. While Salsa’s 3 might be a comfortable spot for a weeknight, La Boca is the place to go for an exciting weekend Mexican meal. 

Pho 170 (Lia): If you haven’t been to Pho 170, you need to. I seriously think that a good bowl of pho can cure all that ails you, and this place has the best in town. It doesn’t have the decor of Lan Chi’s, but the hole-in-the-wall vibe, from the linoleum floors to the TV playing reality shows in the corner, is exactly what I look for when I go for pho. While they have Thai cuisine and stir-fry dishes on their menu, it’s best to skip them, in my opinion, and go straight for the steaming bowls of soup. Their service is incredibly fast, and the best part of the experience is that the whole shebang is mostly self-serve. The table is laden with at least five types of spicy sauce, from sriracha to chili oil to gochujang, in addition to a myriad of flavorings, like hoisin and oyster sauce. The soups also come with a large platter of bean sprouts (my favorite part), Thai basil, and lime wedges. Their bubble tea is quite good, although it can be a bit on the sweet side. I highly recommend their Thai tea. This place is the perfect destination for a cold winter day, and don’t forget the guava candies on your way out!

Lan Chi’s (Lewis): Now, I haven’t been to Pho 170. I am sure their pho gets the job done, and it clearly holds a special place in Lia’s heart. But Lan Chi’s Vietnamese restaurant is a one-of-a-kind spot. Let’s start with the staff: it seems like the restaurant is family-run, and the three or four people who work there are seasoned pros at creating a small-town, comfortable, authentic dining experience. The funny, charismatic woman who always takes my order also makes the drinks and helps prepare the food. Because of this, your main dish will take a little while to come, but it will always be worth your while. The appetizers are delicious, like the tangy, refreshing chicken salad, the crispy but light wings, and the ultra-fresh spring rolls. But the real heavy hitters are the entrées, especially the stir-fry dishes. My personal favorite is the lemongrass ginger stir-fry, which is served with your choice of meat. Accompanied by a tiny salad with a few pickled vegetables, this sweet, savory, delectable concoction is a plate-licker, meaning when you finish, you can’t help but fully clean the plate with your finger and mouth. If you want pho, they have a number of variations that come steaming hot and packed with flavor. You can try the pho, thoroughly enjoy it, and then settle on a stir-fry that will force you to come back every weekend to satisfy your craving. Sadly, Lan Chi’s is only open for dinner four days a week (Wednesday through Saturday), but this just makes it all the more special when you trek over and enjoy a perfectly curated dining experience.


Lia Franklin can be reached at lfranklin@wesleyan.edu. 

Lewis Woloch can be reached at lwoloch@wesleyan.edu.

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