Gather Up

E ven in a town with no shortage of quirky perk, GATHER, established in late 2021 at the corner of State and Hine (map), hooks you with its pleasant, lighthearted weirdness and makes you rethink what a coffeeshop can be.

Owner Sultan Thahir describes his approach as “scrappy and amateurish,” and so far it seems to be working, fueled by good drinks and vibes and a packed event schedule. Even scattered with eccentric treasures—tarot cards, vintage books, Polaroids of past gatherings—the place manages to avoid feeling like it’s baiting you to Instagram it. The warm demeanor of the staff and overall authenticity make it feel more like your artsy friend’s living room than just another place to sip your drink and stare into your laptop.

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Long Wharf Theatre

Among all the other things to look at is that events calendar, drawn in chalk on the wall and visible from a common area filled with leather sofas and armchairs. Nearly every night is an opportunity to enjoy live music or a drag show, a craft night or a game night, a trivia night or a movie night, an open mic or a workshop, making the space an attractive watering hole for neighborhood creatives. Zahir, a former film professor craving a less bureaucratic life, speaks of “providing opportunity to anyone in need of a platform,” underscoring his commitment to expression and the arts. (Still, he says, East Rock residents are given priority for bookings.)

Zahir also had a previous life as a barista, and it shows in the quality of his drinks, rounded out by a small food menu of open and closed sandwiches. Classic cafe beverages here include cappuccino, cortado, shaken espresso and dirty chai. I first chose, and very much enjoyed, the rich and delightfully not-so-sweet Maple Latte ($5). I also tried the Golden Chai ($5), a vibrant, off-menu concoction of turmeric, spices, black tea, milk of choice and honey falling somewhere between the House Chai and Golden Latte.

Teas come in nearly 100 base varieties, with an effectively infinite number of custom blends that can be built on request. There are no upcharges for larger sizes, alternative milks (oat and almond available), flavors or extra espresso shots. Recently added is a generous daily happy hour, from 4 to 7, featuring $4 draft craft and $6 glasses of wine with a nice mix of options available and plans for cocktails in the future.

Until then, something tells me GATHER’s gaggles will be just fine with $4 Skygazers and Fat Orange Cats.

952 State St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 8am-late, Sat ~10am-late
(603) 762-1327

Written and photographed by Katie Lloyd.

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