Heaven Can Wait

Heaven Can Wait

What happens to a dream deferred? In the case of The Devil’s Diet, which identifies as a dessert bar but goes well beyond that, it returns with a new floor plan and CDC compliance.

More than six months delayed by the pandemic, the restaurant opened its doors on November 4, fulfilling chef Alba Estenoz’s dream and populating the fantasies of local sweet seekers. Like the pastel macarons staged under a glass dome on the counter, the broader menu—caffeine, sandwiches and pastry by day; wine, tapas and more pastry by night—caters to both youthful and refined palates. The bright ambiance, like a mix between a coffee shop and a private dining restaurant, with low, comfy tables delineated by high partitions, walks a similar line, as did the punchy, upbeat ’60s music playing during my visit.

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“This is Alba’s dream she’s been building on for years,” general manager Candace O’Leary says, “from being a pastry chef in Austin and at Zinc the past few years.” Located along the Howe Street side of The Novella apartment complex, Devil’s Diet has benefited from residents living above becoming fast regulars below, O’Leary says, adding that she herself is new to New Haven but already sees the appeal. “I understand why all the people I meet here are New Havenites and here for life. It’s a great city. Not as crazy as bigger cities but it’s got a similar feel, and I’m so excited to try all the new food.”

Some of the city’s newest, of course, is coming out of The Devil’s Diet kitchen, from serrano ham and manchego sandwiches to chocolate-espresso eclairs. I focused on the pastry. Macarons melted in my mouth and whispered flavors from vanilla to blueberry cheesecake. One of several petit fours on offer was almost cloudlike in its fluffiness, with hints of fruit adding a tropical flair.

There was also pleasure simply in looking at the often sculptural confections. Bars of tempered chocolate shimmered with geodesic texture. A nearby cake was more gestural, with blushing wedges of fresh fig floating on sweeps of white cream, all perched on a cylinder of pastry rolled with inky jam (and more cream).

Being by definition Lilliputian and priced at four pieces for $6 (or $2.50 each), the petit fours in particular create the potential for a train of different treats that’s hard to disembark. Another highlight was the spiced hot chocolate, a rich and creamy beverage with just a hint of heat on the back of the tongue—enough to remind you that, as heavenly as it might taste, it is The Devil’s Diet, after all.

The Devil’s Diet
1245 Chapel St (enter on Howe St), New Haven (map)
Tues-Fri 8am-9:30pm, Sat 4-9:30pm
(203) 666-8898

Written by Allison Hadley. Photographed by Dan Mims.

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