New Haven is now widely considered to be a "foodie" destination, and its press in the national and local media tends to play up this aspect of tourism and nightlife. Greater New Haven was always known for pizza, and great Italian food, but now you can find almost anything you'd like. In fact, I recently read that New Haven has the largest number of Thai restaurants per person of any city in the country! It's not clear why that is, specifically, but we do know that one good restaurant begets another.
We are also seeing a trend of current successful restaurants opening in other locations, often with another theme, and more often than not with a lower price point. Good restaurants have a formula, and it seems that, once you have it down, you can replicate it in other formats. There are also "mini chains" of local brew pubs or other varieties, and their success seems to follow them to new locations.
One would think that there would be a certain limit on the number of seats that could be filled in a given area on a given night, but, if you've ever walked around downtown New Haven on a weekend night, or driven along the Boston Post Road in Orange and Milford, that apparently isn't true--every parking space is full and every seat is taken. Another good sign that the economy has turned....and good news for commercial real estate owners and agents.