New Haven residents have an innovative new option for Sunday brunch — but only for two more weeks.
Downtown Table, the brainchild of local chef Nadine Nelson and Katherine McComic ’14, opened this Sunday on the corner of Orange and Crown. This new brunch spot is a pop-up restaurant serving farm-to-table cuisine at one long table, encouraging strangers from the Yale and New Haven communities to connect over a shared meal. But as McComic is moving to Spain at the end of September, her latest food venture will be short and sweet.
“I love bringing people together over food,” McComic said. “It’s not just that the food tastes better, it’s that the whole experience makes you feel more social, it makes you feel more human in many ways.”
The idea for the pop-up enterprise came from a conversation between Nelson and McComic at the English Market this summer. The two women found that they were both frustrated by the lack of accessible brunch options in downtown New Haven, especially in the Ninth Square area.
Nelson said she is hoping the pop-up sparks a larger culinary community in New Haven — one that can match her experiences in cities like Boston and San Francisco. Nelson said she is planning on opening a French market in New Haven later this year, after Downtown Table closes.
“There’s a lot of good food in New Haven, but there’s not a food culture,” Nelson said. “I want people to interact with food and with each other.”
In order to connect Downtown Table with local farmers, most of the ingredients are from nearby vendors, Nelson said.
The menu, which fluctuates throughout the day depending on patrons’ seating time, includes items like seasonal frittata and kielbasa with onions and locally sourced apples.
Nelson said Downtown Table aims to serve breakfast food with an interesting spin. In addition to foods like “hoppin’ john” — a bean dish — with cornmeal, Nelson also serves tortilla espanola and pates.
“We’re drawing on different traditions from all over to make breakfast fun,” she said.
Brunch-goers interviewed praised Downtown Table, emphasizing its communal setting.
Tim Follo ’16 said his meal tasted very “homey and authentic.”
“What I really liked about it is that the food didn’t seem rehearsed,” he said. “It was just very spontaneous, the way that the menu wasn’t revealed beforehand — like we were eating in their kitchen the way they would cook for friends and family.”
Lucas Sin ’15 — a founder of the student group Yale Pop-Up, which runs similar pop-up restaurants on campus each semester — said although pop-ups may lack the stability of traditional restaurants, their value lies in the flexibility that their chefs have with the menu and the immediate feedback received from patrons.
Sin added that he has been invited to cook for Downtown Table next weekend.
“Pop-up restaurants are breeding grounds for ideas,” he said. “[They’re] different from brick-and-mortar restaurants because at the end of the day, you’re working with a new menu that changes a lot.”
Sin added that pop-ups often publicize through Facebook pages, the online ticket sale site Eventbrite and word-of-mouth to garner a community presence and a full house.
McComic said that Downtown Table, which has utilized these marketing tools, has also received support from Project Storefront, a New Haven program that promotes local creative businesses, as well as from nearby shop owners.
New Haven is invested in making sure local-scale projects such as Downtown Table succeed, she said.
Downtown Table, which had its first two seatings yesterday, will open again on Sept. 21 and 28, at 82 Crown St.