MexiCali Grille Leads Newcomers to Broadway's Phase II; Thom Brown Shoes brings fashionable women's shoe selections to Broadway

The Broadway District’s newest addition - the MexiCali Grille, a healthy but inexpensive casual Mexican café located at 320 Elm St. next door to the Ivy Noodle - will open its doors to the public on February 28 at 10:30 a.m., ushering in Phase II of Broadway’s revitalization by Yale’s University Properties.

MexiCali Grille will focus on fast, take-out service as well as on-site seating. The café will accommodate customers until 2 a.m. seven days a week to serve the needs of visitors to New Haven as well as nearby Yale students who like to stay up late. The menu will feature fresh grilled burritos under $4 and tacos for under $2, with most items priced between $3 and $4. Patrons can customize their burritos and watch them cook on an open grill.

MexiCali’s owners - Charles Hague, local proprietor of Aunt Chilada’s, and Yale alums and former football team members Than Merrill and Peter Mazza - are a great example of town and gown synergy. Aunt Chilada’s, a popular Mexican restaurant in Hamden, was voted “Best of New Haven” in 2002 by the New Haven Advocate. Mazza, a Cheshire native who was captain of the Yale football team, worked in Aunt Chilada’s as a teenager. He approached Hague to partner in this venture with him and Merrill, an ex-Yale football player who went on to play for the Chicago Bears, to bring Mexican food to Broadway, something that eluded the two students during their time at Yale.

“We listened to the student focus groups that asked for an inexpensive, late-night burrito restaurant on Broadway and we searched carefully to find the right operator,” said Bruce Alexander, vice president of Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs. Mazza echoed the sentiments of those focus groups, “It is an absolute thrill to be able to serve the Yale community in this capacity. This idea started when Than and I were undergrads. We wanted a fast, healthy and inexpensive food alternative on Broadway. And we love burritos.”

The Broadway Revitalization has brought twelve new merchants to New Haven since 1997. While Phase I of the revitalization included the development of 29-45 Broadway and the recruitment of a few select destination retailers to anchor the district’s regional draw, Phase II of the revitalization seeks to support small, independent and local merchants and increase Broadway’s identity as a unique, regional boutique-style retail district.

Alexander noted, “We needed to start off the revitalization with a few key anchor retailers to give Broadway a regional draw, but Broadway’s competitive advantage lies in the unique local merchants that will draw shoppers past area malls and back to the downtown. We now have a great selection of local merchants to fill out our merchandizing strategy.”

Recent merchant additions have included:

* Thom Brown Shoes, a small, independently-owned fashion-forward women’s shoe store located at 37 Broadway. Owner Thom Brown manages his three Boston-area stores while son Jason manages the Broadway location. Brown brings the experience and selection of contemporary shoes that will serve shoppers throughout the region.

* Ashley’s Ice Cream at 280 York St., which returned to Broadway, operated by the original owner, this past September because of the positive revitalization of the district.

* Bistro La Mensa, owned by New Haven restaurateurs Ficre and Gideon Gheybreyesus, which will open later in the Spring in the newly created space adjacent to the Yale Bookstore. Bistro La Mensa, open until 2 a.m., will feature authentic northern and southern Italian cuisine entrees under $10 in a high-quality but casual setting that will surely bring town and gown together to dine. The brothers also own the popular Caffe Adulis, an Eritrean restaurant located at 228 College St.

* Alexia Crawford, at 37 Broadway, recently refurbished and restocked with an expanded line of original handbags and jewelry designed by Alexia Crawford, who operates another store in New York City’s SoHo District.

Of the 71 merchants in Yale’s University Properties portfolio, 66 are small, independent merchants while five are national retailers. Because of its commercial portfolio, Yale is the largest real estate taxpayer in New Haven. Broadway has plenty of parking and most retailers are open until 9:00 p.m. to accommodate the evening activities downtown.

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