“You eat with your eyes first,” chefs on TV like to say. As a metaphor, it seems basically right, though it doesn’t quite square with the fact that your nose often beats your eyes to the punch. 

Some New Haven eateries sidestep that quibble altogether, by emphasizing visual appeal before you can even place your order. There’s Miya’s Sushi, where Reflection, a wabi-sabi maritime vision by sculptor Silas Finch, “floats” beneath strings of warm golden bulbs. There’s August, the intimate East Rock wine bar, where the glassy bottoms of its ever-evolving wine selection protrude from a tall, rustic wood element behind the bar.

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There’s Marjolaine down State Street, where Kwadwo Adae’s curvy mural of Paris—Jour Ensoleillé Sous La Tour Eiffel—pings the French-style confections in the case across the bakery. Which makes a fair analogy to the scene at B-Natural (on Chapel Street), where a second Adae mural, The Studious Six, mirrors the lively bookish scenes unfolding daily among the cafe’s resident Yalies.

Nearby is Geronimo, where a fireplace shrine of porcelain, wax and bone sets a mood, alright, and near that is BAR, where resident chalk artist Michael Micinilio recently scrawled some flowery characters. Half a block further is ROÌA, where every nook and cranny feels as valued and sculpted as the fine-dining plates that pass beneath its historic molded ceiling. A block away from that, but somewhere else entirely on the design spectrum, is K2, a young Chinese/Japanese spot below the Temple Street Garage, where flashy light installations signal a boldness you might hope is reflected in the cuisine.

Over in Westville, a bold idea is turning a place meant for feasting your eyes into one where you can also eat with them. Two days ago, Lotta Studio, a visual arts-focused studio/co-working/gallery space, finished installing a coffee and pastry bar for both members and the public. Placed just inside the front door, it’s a light-service outpost for The Coffee Pedaler, whose full-service flagship, replete with a food prep station and other infrastructure, is back in East Rock. Helping make up some of the difference, the efficiency-minded machinery at the Westville satellite includes a sophisticated piece of tech that Pedaler owner Ryan Taylor says can faithfully execute his shop’s specialty (and usually hand-performed) pour-over technique.

Stocked with hot poured gourmets, bottled cold-brews, bags of premium roasts and treats from Hamden bakery Bread & Chocolate (to go with plenty of Pedaler swag), the bar is backed by a wall of old repurposed windows built into a striking superstructure. Framed in distressed wood painted farm white, barn red, burnt orange, forest green and, of course, coffee brown, some windows are open. Others are paned with glass, catching the light that pours through the storefront’s southern-facing facade.

Can’t you see? It’s another visual treat to digest in New Haven, along with your food and drink.

Photo Locations
1. Miya’s. 2. ROÌA. 3. August. 4. Geronimo. 5. K2. 6. B-Natural Café. 7. BAR. 8. The Coffee Pedaler at Lotta Studio. 9. Marjolaine.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories.

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