In my hometown, my favorite restaurant is a 25 minute drive away from my house (shout out to the Green Fork and Local Roots Market). You can imagine then what it was like for me to come to Wesleyan and realize that more than a dozen exceptional, diverse restaurants were within walking distance of campus. Truly, whenever I'm feeling any type of way, I can find a way to satisfy that craving in Middletown. 

Some of ya'll come from big cities where you can hop on public transportation and have the option of going to forty of your favorite restaurants. It's probably just as weird of a transition to go from all of those options to just what's on Main St.  

You feel like the easiest option—cough, Usdan—is uninspiring compared to your normal diet. But just a ten minute walk away is a variety of restaurants that may just become your new favorites.

#SpoonTip: On top of all of these restaurants, there's also a North End Farmer's Market on Main Street 10-2 on Fridays through October, and you can buy produce from the Long Lane (Wesleyan Student-Run) Farm every Tuesday from 4-6 at the corner of Wadsworth and Long Lane. 

1. When you just need a big bowl of pasta: Cantina Cafe Ristorante 

A photo posted by Sal Nesci (@salnesci) on

What to Order: Any pasta you get is going to be perfectly al dente and served in a seemingly bottomless plate. If you like your sauce with a little bite, go with the olive oil and garlic Fusilli Puttanesca. It's bowtie pasta tossed with high quality olive oil, garlic, herbs, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Or if you're craving something creamier, go with the Penne Pink Vodka. Whatever you get, you'll leave satisfied and with breakfast/lunch/dinner for the next day.

Location: 74 Court Street Middletown, Ct 06457. It's in the basement of an Italian club across from a parking garage which might seem a little sketchy, but don't let it phase you. When you get downstairs, find a server in the back and ask for a table.

#SpoonTip: Leave yourself at least a two hour window for this meal. Use it as a time to relax and catch up, don't be in a rush. Also, share a meal with a friend! The portions are more than enough for two. And call ahead to reserve a table, especially on weekends.

2. When your friends are vegetarian (and you're going ham): It's Only Natural

spinach, kale, cheese
Photo by Eliza Wilkins

Ha, ha. Irony. No, but seriously, this place is a little pricy so I recommend it for special occasions. And you can absolutely taste the quality of the ingredients in every bite. You can sum up this place with its title: they don't add anything that they don't have to. This restaurant also has a great atmosphere with fluffy couches.

What to Order: The Cali wrap with a side of sweet potato fries. They invented those things, and the Cali wrap is just the right balance of creamy and crunchy. It's got kale, quinoa, white bean hummus and mushrooms. You won't miss meat at all. If you're carnivore-or-bust kinda person, try the southern fried tofu. It tastes like fried chicken.

Location: 606 Main St Middletown, CT 06457

3. For everyday vegetarian (especially if your friends are carnivores): Emporium

wine, beer, gastronomy, coffee
Zoe Su

For a place with so many burger options, Emporium is incredibly vegetarian-friendly. They will make anything animal-protein-free if you ask! Emporium's also a great place to grab brunch on the weekends because they serve breakfast all day long. I love their egg white wrap. 

What to Order: The Jalapeño Popper Burger. Vegetarian? No problem: sub a veggie burger or order the jalapeño popper grilled cheese. 

Location: 386 Main Street (In the Main St Marketplace)

4. When you're feeling adventurous: O'Rourkes Diner

Eliza Wilkins

O'Rourkes was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives for good reason; you will rarely run into a diner with such inventive eats. Don't be intimidated if there's a line, they move people through here quickly.

What to Order: Brian's Special: if Brian (the owner) is there when you go, make sure to order Brian's Special, which is his concoction made-to-order especially for you. I've been served a corned beef breakfast sandwich and a special hash—it's fun to just leave it all up to a genius. But make sure to inform him if you have any dietary restrictions: he'll even do a vegan special for you. Above is one of the fall specials: pumpkin waffles (not even close to vegan tho).

#SpoonTip: Wanna eat like Guy Fieri? Try the Colcannon, House-baked Ham, and Irish Trilogy French Toast.

5. When you want a slice: Mondo

pizza, chicken, bacon
Photo courtesy of Jonathan M. on Yelp

The best pizza on Main Street (Krust is a close second) is so close to Wes. Not only do they sell gourmet pies, but they have great combos for lunch. They also have the best salads I've ever had at a pizza place.

What to Order: You have to go with the Oozy Egg. It's a three cheese white pizza topped with truffle oil, prosciutto, and an over easy egg. The crust is so thin and the cheese is flavorful and gooey, perfect for dipping into the runny yolk. 

Location: 10 Main St (right next to Rite-Aid) 

6. When you're feeling little fancy: El Pulpo and Tapas Bar

beer, coffee
Zoe Su

El Pulpo has a classy dining area and large bar, making it the perfect place to go for date night or drinks. They also have a beautiful outdoor patio. Go when it's nice outside and you really want a treat. If your parents are visiting, even better—those tapas add up.

What to Order: Start with the goat cheese in marinara sauce. It's exactly what it sounds like, and it's served with a crostini topped with garlicky pesto. Dipping the crostini into the "marinara sauce" is absolutely heavenly. Then for the entree, get Vieiras a la plancha con langosta, basically a scallop and lobster risotto. It's their speciality!

Location: In the Main St Marketplace (where Emporium is)

7. When Pi just won't cut it: Perk on Main

beer, coffee, wine
Zoe Su

Yes, Pi is great. It's convenient. But sometimes you want a crêpe with local eggs along with your latte, rather than those refrigerated bagel sandwiches you have to microwave. Perk on Main just opened in Middletown, and it is the place to go literally anytime you need a pick-me-up because it's open 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. Snack on one of their anytime crêpes, or go for soup and salad: whatever you order is crafted with the community and environment in mind. The Perk on Main's coffee is fair trade and they have a commitment to sourcing local ingredients whenever possible. Fingers crossed they are going to accept meal points this year. 

What to Order: Rajin' Cajun crêpe (cajun spiced chicken with tomato, cheddar, and cool ranch), with an iced coffee. 

Location: 344 Main Street

#SpoonTip: Keep an eye out for their food truck, Perk on Wheels!

8. When you want killer BBQ: Taíno Smokehouse

Zoe Su

The owner of Taíno was inspired by his experiences traveling on cross-country road trips. His passion for fire and food transcends state lines, and he's determined to bring pure, no-shortcuts-taken BBQ to the northeast (there's a new location that just opened in NYC!). So when you're craving BBQ, don't be discouraged by the fact you're in CT, just drive a couple minutes to Taíno. 

What to order: Start with the bacon bites (crispy salty bacon cubes served with ranch for dipping), and order a quarter pound of brisket (only $6) for your meal. The brisket is smoked for around 14 hours over white oak to develop all of its flavors and tenderness. 

Location: 482 South Main Street 

9. When you're hungry & broke: Tandoor Indian Cuisine

rice, salad
Eliza Wilkins

All the fluffy naan and creamy lentils you could ever want for under ten bucks? Technically $9.95, but still. Tandoor serves up an awesome lunch buffet that is constantly refilled. You can eat till your heart and stomach are stuffed, while still keeping your wallet full too. 

What to Order: The buffet, obv. 

Location: 170 Main Street

10. When you're craving sushi: Mikado Japanese Restaurant 

beer, pizza
Zoe Su

Whether you order in for the perfect study snack or come for a night out at the relaxing, hip restaurant, Mikado will satisfy your sushi fix. They've got sushi combos that you've never thought of before and miso soup that'll warm you up after a walk to Middletown feels like Buddy the Elf's trip from the North pole to NYC: cold, snowy, and full of rabid raccoons (okay, maybe not the raccoon part).

What to Order: The Incredible Roll—a former Wesleyan Spoon writer swears that the name doesn't lie. It's spicy tuna, salmon and yellowtail mixed with tempura flake, rolled up with mango and avocado, served with spicy soy sauce. How could it be anything but incredible?

Location: 3 Melilli Plaza (on Main St.)

11. When you're celebrating: NoRa Cupcake Company

Eliza Wilkins

NoRa's is a place to splurge, both calorically and financially. At around $5 bucks per cupcake, they ain't cheap. But every single bite of that cupcake will make you feel like a million bucks. You are worth it. 

What to Order: I'm a sucker for the classic cookie dough or PB&J but they've got everything from Pumpkin Spice Latte (in the fall) to Figgy Blue Cheese (it's exactly what it sounds like, these people are genius). 

Location: 700 Main Street

12. When you're with someone special: Tibetan Kitchen

chicken, salad, pork
Eliza Wilkins

Tibetan Kitchen is super cozy and intimate, perfect for a night out with that special someone. Most importantly, their dumplings are out of this world. What is more romantic than dumplings? It's a great place to unwind and try some familiar and some not so familiar (ie. steamed bread) eats. 

What to Order: Start with dumplings (any kind) and steamed bread. My go-to for dinner is the Tsel Tofu, but honestly you can not go wrong here. 

Location: 574 Main Street

13. When you’re missing home: Sweet Harmony Cafe and Bakery 

coffee, tea, beer
Eliza Wilkins

Wherever home is for you, you'll find solace in Sweet Harmony's massive iced coffees, cheesy panini, and packed omelettes. It is cozy enough for a morning of studying or chatting with a friend (I've done both). 

What to Order: If you're going for breakfast get Corey's Cali omelette with avocado, tomato, cheddar and your choice of ham or bacon. Going for lunch? I love their grilled cheese with sweet potato, spinach, and black bean mayo (on the best homemade bread you will ever have), but I've also heard good things about the Island Chicken Salad and the chicken pesto wrap. 

Location: 330 Main St., Middletown, CT 06457

14. When you need a little chocolate: Tschudin Chocolates

Photo courtesy of Christy M. on Yelp  

Rob (Tschudin's his middle name) runs this place, and he is always there and always entertaining. He's a lawyer, philanthropist, and all-around cool guy who spent some time as a tightrope walker and then, naturally, decided the next logical step was to become a chocolatier.

What to Order: The chocolates are always different but make sure to try anything spicy he has. It is so satisfying to bite into a chocolate that sets your taste buds on fire and then has a rich, dark finish. From garam masala to cayenne-spiced truffles, you will find that your understanding and enjoyment of chocolate can reach heights you didn't know existed. Dark chocolate apricots are another one of my favorites.

#SpoonTip: Rob also offers chocolate-making classes so you can become almost as cool as him.

Location: 100 Riverview Ctr. Middletown, CT 06457 (on Main St next to AT&T)

15. When you're on a budget: Ford News Restaurant

Photo courtesy of Ari Rudess

The staff here is incredibly friendly, and prices are reasonable, which can be hard to find on Main Street. Go here when you want a no-frills diner experience that'll leave you full of crispy, fluffy pancakes.

What to Order: Pancakes. Their blueberry pancakes are everything you could want in a breakfast/pillow/hangover cure. And their egg sandwiches (pictured above) are pretty great too (that round roll tho). 

Location: 358 Main Street

16. When you're feeling indecisive: Cafe 56

sandwich, bread, fish
Photo courtesy of yelp user Kristin L. 

What to Order: Tacandwich

The Tacandwich is for people who can't decide if they want a taco or a sandwich. You're not let off the hook entirely, because you have to choose between grilled chicken and guac, steak and chimichurri, or porkbelly and ham (pictured above). It's served up in a locally baked Portuguese long roll that is fluffy and chewy enough that you can really sink your teeth into it. Chef Sabrina, the inventor of the tacandwich, can be seen working her magic in the open kitchen. More of a salad person? There's also a large selection of salads (a great vegetarian one, too) to choose from.

Location: 102 Court St., Middletown, CT 06459 (take a right at Ramani's)

Bookmark this page for your nights out, nights in, and everything in between. With this article in your arsenal, you're ready to venture outside of Wes (WesWings makes some dang good pails, but you've gotta try an Incredible Roll or a Jalapeño Popper burger) and enjoy all of the big flavors of Middletown.