Are you a freshman struggling to figure out how you’re going to feed yourself for the next four years? Or maybe you’re an upperclassman dreading the endless line for pastabilities?  Well, good news. We’ve assembled a list of some of our favorite restaurants in Middletown for you to explore.  All of these places are within walking distance from campus and offer some of the best deals and dishes in town, so be sure to check them out!
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1. Neon Deli

    If you haven’t been to Neon Deli, you are either living under a rock, or a freshman (It’s okay frosh. You’ll learn soon enough).  Neon offers typical deli fare–sandwiches, soups, salads–as well as some grocery items, for cheaper prices than WesShop. Just looking for a quick lunch? We recommend the Sussman special, a soft 6-inch roll with chicken cutlet, provolone cheese, black olives, pepperoni, and onions, melted to perfection and served by some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. For a guilt-free dessert, check out the Ben & Jerry’s Greek Frozen Yogurt (Raspberry Fudge is our fave). The one downside: they don’t take Middletown Cash. But for the awesome service, great food, and proximity to campus, we’d say it’s worth the cash.

2. New England Emporium

    It’s no secret that there are several coffee shop/cafe-like establishments along Main Street, all with distinct personalities and menus. They each have their perks, but one of our favorites is New England Emporium. Calling this place cozy might be pushing it, as it’s one of the larger restaurants in town, but the comfortable couches, homey decorations, and casual menu give it a warm and friendly vibe. It wouldn’t be right to dub the Emporium a “coffee shop” because of its expansive menu, which includes a variety of breakfast options, sweet and savory crepes, soups, sandwiches, salads, gelato, and pretty much any drink you can think of. It’s definitely a great place to settle down with your books and indulge in a nice snack. Oh, and they take Middletown Cash!

3. Mondo

    It’s 6 o’clock and you’re craving one thing and one thing only: pizza. Don’t be ashamed; it’s most college students’ meal of choice. The only thing you should be embarrassed about is ordering from Domino’s when there’s a fantastic pizza restaurant right down the street (literally… just walk down Church and you’re there). Be warned: it’s not your run-of-the-mill pizzeria, and you’re going to want to bring more than 5 bucks (or be prepared to use Middletown Cash). The thin crust pies are cooked in brick ovens, using only the freshest of ingredients. They come at a price (13.50 for a medium pie), but are incredibly delicious and big enough to share. But even if you’re not in the mood for pizza, you will definitely enjoy one of their other great offerings. Eggplant fries, anyone?

4. O’Rourkes

    O’Rourke’s is probably the most famous restaurant in Middletown. People come from far and wide to go to this very established diner, so expect a line, especially on the weekends. We think its success can be attributed to its irresistible charm. The restaurant is tiny, probably not seating more than 30 people. After the long wait, the servers welcome you to your table by giving you a flower, and a little amuse bouche: a few pieces of their freshly made bread or muffins to hold you over until your main dish arrives. The menu is heavily influenced by the owner’s Irish heritage, so expect dishes like Irish soda bread french toast, bangers wrapped in pancakes, and several different varieties of hash (which were even featured on the Food Network program “Diners Drive-Ins, and Dives”).  Don’t stress too much about what you end up choosing, we guarantee that everything is delicious, but we’re somewhat partial to the egg dishes, especially the many variations of eggs benedict. At some point during your four years at Wesleyan, it’s absolutely essential that you check this place out for a truly unique dining experience.

5. Anoho

    Fun fact: Anoho is short for Asian Noodle House. They have an option where you choose a type of noodle, meat/soy product, vegetable, and sauce, and they customize a dish for you (the customizable noodle soup is a go-to sick food). They’re also the only restaurant in Middletown to serve bubble tea! The food is considered Asian fusion, so you’ll find dishes from Japan, Thailand, and predominantly China. For appetizers definitely try the scallion pancakes and fried pork dumplings. If you’re not in the mood for noodles we recommend the General Tso’s chicken (it’s the best in Middletown, from our experience). Vegetarian/vegan? You’re in luck; they recently added several vegetarian substitutes to their menu to cater to our community. Almost every chicken dish has a bean curd substitute, not to mention a variety of tofu dishes. You’ll be happy to know that they take Middletown Cash and deliver (it usually takes about 45 minutes for them to get to campus.) The one downside may be the ambiance. What from the outside looks like a cool, modern, somewhat urban establishment, on the inside is simply a quiet Chinese restaurant, with gentle background music and Chinese art decorating the walls. But hey, it’s definitely not bad. Everything is clean and the service is very friendly, but don’t go in expecting a super hip party scene, unless your definition of a party involves Chinese elevator music and subdued Asian waitresses serving wonton soup in porcelain bowls (no judgement if that is your definition of a party). Anyway, Anoho offers great food at completely reasonable prices. Just go.

6. It’s Only Natural

    In your time at Wesleyan, be it 1 day or 3 years, you have all experienced the onslaught of comments regarding the progressive, politically correct, “hippie” reputation of this university. We suppose that if there’s one restaurant in Middletown that best reflects this perception, it’s It’s Only Natural. This eatery (not to be confused with the It’s Only Natural Market which is a few blocks north) is the only completely vegetarian restaurant in Middletown. We’ve found it to be somewhat hit or miss, but mostly hits. The juices are delicious and fresh, but with a limited variety, and without a to-go area where you can get a drink for the road. The vegetable dumplings are absolutely delicious, as are the noodle bowl and the sweet potato fries. The dishes you should avoid are the chili, and anything that involves cheese as one of the key ingredients. Come for the vegan food and juices, the cool, laid back ambiance, and bring your wallet, because it’s not cheap (look at $14 for an entree). For health food products and vitamins, definitely check out the It’s Only Natural market. Although they don’t have as much variety as larger health food stores, you’ll definitely be able to find the basics, and the quality is very good.

7. NoRa Cupcakery

    When we heard that someone was opening a cupcake bakery on Main Street, we literally jumped for joy, and rushed down to this adorable little bake shop as quickly as we could. Come on, who wouldn’t be excited about cupcakes? NoRa is a fascinating establishment. Located deep within the North End of Middletown, which has a stigma within the community for being lower-income and somewhat dangerous, the name “NoRa” refers to its location, north of Rappallo avenue, a choice the owners made in the hopes that the title will be universally adopted by the Middletown community, thereby changing the reputation of the North End neighborhood. Besides their social and political message, NoRa offers some delicious cupcakes. Every day they have different specials, always including one gluten free, vegan, and Weight Watchers friendly cupcake. One of their most interesting creations is called “pan cupcake & bacon” (with or without blueberries). Like the name suggests, this cupcake is made with pancake batter and bacon. The incorporation of bacon within desserts seems to be all the rage these days, so we like NoRa, because they are keeping up with the times, both socially and gastronomically. Check their Facebook for the daily flavors.

8. Amici Italian Grill

    Got a hot date this weekend? Or is it just your parents coming to make sure you haven’t died yet? Either way, we’ve got just the place for you. If you’re into Italian food, you’re sure to find a solid meal at Amici. It’s not the most authentic European dining experience, and it might leave a gaping hole in your wallet, but their food is soooooo good. We suggest trying the Mediterranean salad, Veal Parmigiana, and Chicken Gnocchi. Also, don’t skimp out on the bread. It’s served with garlic cloves that you scoop out and spread on with a knife, which is kind of weirdly fun. Overall, Amici is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a more intimate, upscale environment.

9. Praline’s Ice Cream (Lizzy B’s Sweet Celebrations)

    Praline’s is one of those incredibly cute ice cream shoppes that you just can’t walk by without stopping in… and unconsciously start frequenting every weekend for that perfect little dessert. It’s less of a one-night-stand and more like one of those “Oh my God I think I’m in love with you” kind of things, so don’t be surprised to find out that Praline’s is actually a pretty popular chain in Connecticut. Call us blasphemous but we actually rank it higher than Coldstone. It’s a little cheaper, has a more comfortable, “neighborhoody” vibe, and serves frozen treats that are really top-notch. Be sure to try the Beez Neez, Praline’s N’ Cream, and Cake Batter flavors, all of which are made locally with quality, fresh ingredients. So what do you say; are you ready to jump on the Praline’s bandwagon?

10. Sweet Harmony Cafe and Bakery

    You may have scrolled through this list and thought to yourself “Aight yo, I might as well have created my own food blog. I’ve literally heard of all these restaur–wait, what the hell is Sweet Harmony and why does it sound like a bad soap opera?” Well, this is one of those hole-in-the-walls that definitely reinforces the hipster stereotype at Wesleyan. And even though it’s not the most popular, it definitely merits the elaborate description that follows…

Once upon a time, two hungry girls were meandering through the quaint streets of Middletown, Connecticut. As they stumbled along, they came across a tiny house, in front of which read a sign “Sweet Harmony Cafe and Bakery”. Somewhat timidly, they entered, only to be greeted by an adorable room, laden with trinkets and treasures of every variety. A kindly old woman sat them down at a miniscule wooden table, where they were served the freshest and most delicious of salads, most savory of comfort foods, and interesting, creative beverages. Then dessert arrived, and with one glance it was as if we had died and gone to heaven. What a thing of beauty it was. The strawberry shortcake, drenched in strawberry syrup and fresh fruit, and topped with the chewiest, creamiest scoop of vanilla ice cream and a perfectly thick dollop of whipped cream. The cream puff cake, doused in hot fudge, and embedded with a filling, was almost artistic in appearance and nature. After paying their bill, which was not by any means exorbitant, they left, completely satisfied, wondering, if perhaps the experience had even been real, or maybe they had been dreaming all along.

Okay so basically what we’re saying is that this is an absolute MUST eat in Middletown. Find a friend, preferably someone who appreciates joy, and bring them down to Broad Street for one of the most divine of dining experiences.

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Did we miss something? Comment and let us know your favorite places to eat in Middletown! We’ll be sure to feature them soon.

Ari Rudess and Alex Irace