Local restaurateur Walter Vera is taking on a new project with Chacra, an upscale Peruvian restaurant serving nine types of ceviche.
Khuan-Yu Hall, Contributing Photographer
Chacra is bringing Peruvian cuisine to downtown New Haven, opening its doors last week.
The upscale restaurant and pisco bar is located on Temple Street — across from the Omni Hotel — in the heart of downtown New Haven. City officials gathered with Walter “Jefferson” Vera last Friday at the storefront to celebrate the restaurant’s opening.
“A lot of the dishes are really authentic, from Peru, and most of my kitchen staff are also Peruvians,” Vera said. “We contemporize the cuisine and blend it to make innovative dishes … We have a little bit of everything.”
Chacra represents a new adventure for Vera, who has been a presence in the New Haven food scene for 20 years, first working as a server and rising through the ranks to become a restaurant manager. Now, he will be taking on yet another role, that of owner and proprietor.
Chacra’s expansive menu includes nine types of ceviche and 16 varieties of pisco, a brandy native to the winemaking regions of Peru and Chile, as well as classic dishes like lomo saltado, pollo a la brasa and yuca frita.
The restaurant has a modern feel, with large floor-to-ceiling glass windows supported by a grant from the city’s New Haven Facade Improvement Grant Program. The Facade Improvement Grant Program has invested about $150k into the facades of local businesses over the past five years.
Vera arrived in New Haven about two decades ago when he came from a job at the Yale Club in New York to work at Mory’s Temple Bar, where he worked for a few years before arriving at Pacifico Restaurant. At Pacifico, Vera said, he started as a server and worked his way up until he became the assistant manager and then the general manager. Eventually, Vera left Pacifico and spent some time as the manager of Barcelona Wine Bar.
The restaurateur credits his experience in these many different roles for having brought him to the point of being ready to open his own restaurant.
“Every place I worked, everyday I would learn something from everybody,” Vera said. “No matter what position you have in this industry, customers will come give you feedback. Everyday is a challenge, and everyday you learn something … I also went to school for business management, so you put it all together, the restaurant industry and college, and it makes a perfect combination.”
Ward 1 Alder Alex Guzhnay ’24 shared that he was moved by Vera’s story and his success given that Vera, like Guzhnay’s parents, is an immigrant from Ecuador.
Speakers at Chacra’s ribbon-cutting ceremony emphasized the restaurant’s prime location in downtown New Haven.
“This is one of the key locations not only for downtown restaurants, but really a key location, a linchpin location for all of New Haven, for New Haven restaurants,” said Carlos Eyzaguirre, the city’s deputy economic development administrator. “Anybody who takes this space is taking up one of the most highly visible spaces in the city, one of the places that sees the most foot traffic, that really is a forward facing restaurant in the city.”
Mayor Justin Elicker echoed Eyzaguirre’s emphasis on the collaboration between private business owners and the city government that made Chacra possible.
“This is a real partnership, this is such a good example of a partnership between the City of New Haven and local restaurants,” Mayor Elicker said. “The grant of $31,500 from the Facade Improvement Program is going to support not only this restaurant but the whole block.”
Chacra is located at 152 Temple St.