Pomp, circumstance and good eats

Keri Lynn McHale

The congratulatory smiles across your relatives’ faces will quickly fade on graduation day if you have to inform them you forgot to book a table at a local restaurant.

If the thought of dragging your screaming cousins, disappointed parents and cranky Uncle Bill from restaurant to restaurant disturbs you, pick up the phone now. There is still time to call and reserve a table at your favorite eatery. In fact, there are a few options available, even for those who procrastinate.

The well-known, local sit-down restaurants are filling up fast. Playwright in Hamden, the Rusty Scupper Restaurant in New Haven, Nikkita in New Haven, Mickey’s Restaurant and Bar in Hamden, L’Orcio Restaurant in New Haven and Eli’s on Whitney in Hamden are all nearby favorites that are booking quickly for families on May 20. If you want to dress up and sit down, you must make a reservation as soon as possible.

Although making a reservation is advised, especially for those with larger parties, all hope is not lost for those who call too late or want to play restaurant roulette. Chain restaurants like TGI Fridays, Olive Garden, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, Outback Steakhouse and Chili’s Grill & Bar welcome customers on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Most of the low-key, less-expensive restaurants offer call-ahead seating. Calling the restaurant the night before or morning of to inform the host of your arrival time and number of people in your party will reduce wait time. Remember, if you want to dress down and sit down, calling ahead is a good option.

To avoid the chaotic restaurant scene altogether, consider having your dinner catered. Whether it’s a four-foot sub from Ray and Mike’s Dairy and Deli or hot Italian food from Toninos Pizzeria & Ristorante, this is a less-explored option that can work out just as well. In the mood for the other white meat? Joe Grate’s Barbeque in Hamden will set up a pig roast anywhere you want. Rule of thumb: the more people you have to feed and the more food you need, the earlier you have to place your order.

When all else fails, there is always pizza or Chinese food. Hamden and New Haven are inundated with Chinese restaurants and pizzerias. Rule of thumb: when it doubt, carry it out.

Now, if you need a cold beer to help you tolerate Great Aunt Sally’s story about her new dentures, the local bars are also open. Side Street Grille has some good-old affordable bar food including fish and chips, burgers, award-winning wings and ribs. No reservations necessary.

If pleasing your family is important and you want to avoid being seated at the children’s table at your next family function, research your options. Many restaurants have Web sites with menus and prices. Also, call to check the restaurant’s hours since graduation is on a Sunday and some restaurants such as Caffe’ Bottega in New Haven, are closed.

If you think getting your diploma will be the most memorable part of your graduation day, think again. It won’t be too pretty if you fail to feed your family.