Slept until noon? Claire's serves healthful breakfast selections all day--long after fast food establishments have shifted their deep fryers from hash brown to French fry duty.Want salt on your sandwich or salad? You'll have to get off your lazy keister and go get it--there are no salt shakers on the tables at this vegetarian emporium, but there are a few tucked away on a central baker's rack if you're really propelled to embark on a sodium search.
Frank and Claire Criscuolo's gourmet vegetarian restaurant was born at the corner of New Haven's College and Chapel Streets in 1975, just about a year after their marriage. This healthy eating community hub has always been a bit ahead of the curve, perhaps due to its proximity to Yale University's diverse student and faculty population. The restaurant was handicapped accessible long before accessibility laws were enacted, and it has had a Braille version of its menu for more than 30 years. It was certified kosher more than two decades ago. And, since Frank's death in December 2011, Claire has remained passionately devoted to fostering healthful eating habits and expanding the business they nurtured for so long together.
Vegetarian or not, you'll love the food selections here. Claire's specialty is Lithuanian Coffee Cake, a frequent mail order request of Yale alums homesick for a taste of New Haven (though Claire says it's not quite as good frozen). My breakfast choices--a velvety Spinach-Mushroom Quiche with an organic crust and a flaky scone were only outdone by the aroma and flavor of cinnamon coffee with a shot of whipped cream.
Claire Criscuolo's business card identifies her as a "culinary artist of vegetarian cuisine," an apt title considering that the wonderful vegetarian preparations, and particularly the baked goods on display as you navigate the restaurant's cafeteria-style line and order from the colorful blackboard menu, do look as delectable as they taste. Claire is also a registered nurse and a member of several professional cooking organizations. She is a consultant, lecturer, vegetarian cooking instructor and author of several cookbooks, as well.
"I thought if we had a restaurant I could just spend my days cooking," said Claire, who identified her primary source of culinary training as--"my mother." Though her business involves a great deal of travel, it is obvious that she maintains steady influence on the operation of her namesake restaurant, which boasts an eclectic menu that must be a joy to return to after days on the road. "I get really tired of pasta primavera," she said.
Vegetarians will find the restaurant's diverse selection of soups, quiches, salads, sandwiches, flat bread pizzas, veggie burgers and Mexican entrees a refreshing treat. Meat eaters will feel right at home, too, in spite of the absence of beast or fowl among the wealth of healthy offerings.
The restaurant's long hours make it a popular spot with both New Haven visitors and locals. Hours are 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. "We like to think of this as a reality restaurant," said Frank Criscuolo, who explained that because Claire's Corner Copia remains open throughout the day, much of the work of running and maintaining the restaurant is fully visible to patrons, rather than hidden behind closed doors during "off" hours.
But don't worry... even while the staff at Claire's is hard at work, you won't feel the least bit guilty lazily sipping a cup of tea and noshing on a Hi Protein Salad, Falafel Pita or hot and zesty dish of Mexican Lasagna.
If you're going... Claire's Corner Copia is located at 1000 Chapel Street in the heart of New Haven. From I-91 South, take exit 1 for downtown New Haven. Turn right at the light onto Church Street. At the third light, turn left on Chapel Street. Proceed two lights. Claire's is located at the intersection of Chapel and College Streets. Make a left turn onto College Street to locate parking. From I-95 North, take exit 47 for Downtown New Haven to exit 1. Go to the first light, and make a right turn onto Church Street. Proceed to your third light and make a left onto Chapel Street. The Chapel Mall will be on your left side and the lower New Haven Green on your right. Go to the second light, and you'll see the restaurant on the left-hand side. Make a left turn onto College Street to locate parking. For more information, call 203-562-3888.
If you can't make it to Claire's Corner Copia... Order one of Claire's cookbooks, an try some of the restaurant's recipes at home.
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