Karen Lin, Staff Photographer
Thirty-three New Haven restaurants will take part in a city-wide “New Haven To Go!” takeout promotion beginning next Sunday.
The promotion, which will run until Feb. 25, is a new winter dining program designed to generate interest in local restaurants. Each restaurant will offer a unique to-go meal for $20.21 per person, excluding tax, gratuity or delivery charges. The promotion was developed by Market New Haven, Inc. — a destination marketing organization founded by Yale, city government and local business leaders — in conjunction with MNHI’s Restaurant Advisory Committee, and it will be executed in partnership with the city of New Haven. Each restaurant will choose the time of day they offer the promotion, and MNHI advises them to serve multiple items in each meal, such as an appetizer and an entree.
“We’re putting opportunities in front of people and keeping them focused on supporting our restaurants. I think we’re a foodie capital of the state, so let’s continue to embrace it and protect it,” said Steve Fontana, the deputy director of economic development for the city of New Haven.
Alison De Renzi, who owns L’Orcio, an Italian restaurant on State Street participating in the five-day promotion, said that “New Haven To Go!” highlights how restaurants have pivoted and fine-tuned their to-go orders by using companies like ChowNow to build their takeout infrastructure.
De Renzi sits on the Restaurant Advisory Committee, which represents business owners in interactions within MNHI. The committee brainstorms marketing techniques, promotions and ways to increase restaurant interactions with the city.
In the fall, both MNHI and the Restaurant Advisory Committee organized the 2020 installment of New Haven Restaurant Week. The two-week promotion had special fixed-price menus at 25 city restaurants. According to De Renzi, the promotion was successful for those that participated. However, since Restaurant Week has guidelines that require a three-course meal, casual and low-price restaurants were prevented from participating, De Renzi told the News. “New Haven To Go!”, which provides restaurants with the flexibility of serving whatever they want for a set price, seeks to include a larger range of restaurants.
“Coming into the winter, we started throwing around this idea of ‘New Haven To Go!’ to keep the restaurants working, keep our employees working and get people engaged,” De Renzi said. “We wanted to make sure this promotion was a good fit for everyone, and we wanted to have an affordable price point that would attract people to support the restaurants.”
The Restaurant Advisory Committee decided to hold the promotion throughout the week since hosting it on a Friday or Saturday would further burden overworked kitchens, according to De Renzi. This year’s participants include a range of eatery options, from soup and fresh pasta at Olea on High Street to a chaat and dal — a savory snack and a hearty dish, respectively — at Sherkaan Indian Street Food on Broadway.
Joseph Hamboussi, the culinary director at Prime 16, a modern American restaurant on Temple Street, said he crafted a menu that he hopes will keep new customers coming back.
Hamboussi plans to include appetizers such as chili or mac and cheese and entrees such as their fried chicken sandwich or Tap House Signature burger, along with dessert options such as bread pudding or a truffle bomb.
“I want to put things on a menu that you can’t get anywhere else and that are top notch,” Hamboussi said.
According to Fontana, “New Haven To Go!” is part of a larger push by MNHI and the city of New Haven to support small businesses during the pandemic. Last December, the city launched the “Eat New Haven” campaign, an effort to celebrate local businesses. The campaign created the webpage visitnewhaven.com/dining, where residents can search for ordering options and purchase gift certificates for local eateries.
“We’re trying to keep the message out there that we have to support these small businesses through this tough period or they won’t be there for us when things get better,” Fontana said.
B-Natural Kitchen, a health-conscious cafe, opened a location on College and Center streets in January 2020 before being forced to close just one month later. It reopened in July, though it has struggled due to the effects of the pandemic. Angel Santos, the kitchen manager at B-Natural Kitchen, said he is always excited for promotions since he loves to cook and see people’s reactions.
“There are small local restaurants that are struggling due to COVID,” Santos said. “If the city can do what they can to help local restaurants out, go for it.”
Though De Renzi is excited for the upcoming campaign, she told the News she hopes residents will eat out throughout the week, instead of just on weekends, to support local business.
“We’ve just been trying to encourage people to share the love, in lots of different ways,” De Renzi said.
Details on how to order the “New Haven To Go!” promotional menu can be found on each participating restaurant’s Facebook or website.
A full list of “New Haven To Go!” participating restaurants and their menus can be found here.
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