Chestnut Fine Foods… not ringing any bells? You probably have had their food without ever stepping into their cozy cafe since they cater events all over the city for all the usual institutions: Yale, the museums, arts and cultural events. Or from their table at the Upper State Street Farmers Market, which they helped found. But make it a point to stop by their storefront on State Street and become a regular.
Fred and Patty Walker have operated Chestnut Fine Foods for nearly 30 years. Starting on a shoestring at the corner of Chapel and Chestnut streets, the retail part of their business has always been cozy, friendly and scrumptious. Between delicious pastries, hearty entrees, and some of the best bread in town, Chestnut provides every manner of comfort food for every occasion. “We like all kinds of food, we cook all kinds of food,” says Fred.
Fred started in the food business in 1970 at The Cheese Shop in Greenwich, where he stayed for 12 years. Next was the Orchard Hill Market in Branford where in 1983 he met Patty, an interior designer who had a studio at Bittersweet Farm in Branford. Patty says, “I loved to cook, loved to. I could cook until I drop.” Patty’s good friends, Willoughby’s owner Barry Levine and his wife Lillian, knew she was seriously interested in food and interested in changing careers, heard of an opening at Orchard Hill and suggested it to her.
While at Orchard Hill the duo realized fairly quickly they’d rather work for themselves instead of for others. They began to search for a space for their planned culinary enterprise: catering, but with a retail front. They had their eye on State Street from the start, wanting to open “State of the Art Foods,” but they couldn’t find any open space. Instead they found a space Patty says was “the size of a cubbyhole” on Chapel Street at the corner of Chestnut, and named the business after the location: Chestnut Fine Foods. After 18 years their business was bursting at the seams. Looking once more, this time for bigger space, they finally found their long-desired State Street location, and moved there nine years ago.
The larger location seats 25, both indoors and out. Chestnut is hard to categorize: equal parts cafe, bakery, pastry shop, lunch and dinner and takeout (or eat-in), you can pretty much find anything and everything, from a snack to a full-fledged dinner party. Entrees, sides, pastas, salads, soups, rices, couscous, chutneys, cheese, to-die-for breads, and soon a beer and wine license, all available in-store. Catering is the other half of Chestnut’s business –– anything from a dinner party to a wedding, and Sundays their cafe is available for private events.
My personal favorite? It is one of the very best places in town to put together a picnic dinner for the Concerts on the Green.
Restaurant Website: http://chestnutfinefoods.com/
• The Detes: 1012 State St., New Haven. 203-782-6767. Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday available for private events.
• Price Range: Sandwiches $4.50/half, $8.95/whole. Entrees, sides $8.99 – 13.99. Desserts, baked goods, pastries available every day.
• Style of Food: Eclectic. “We like all kinds of food, we cook all kinds of food.”
• Favorite dishes: Moroccan chicken, poached salmon, chicken salad, baguettes, challah, scones.
• Drinks: Bottled beverages, beer and wine coming soon.
• Catering/Events: Absolultely.
• Vegetarian/Gluten Free available: Yes
• Outdoor seating: Yes.