G Heav After Hours

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

G Heav doesn’t exist. Or, at least, not any more. Gourmet Heaven, the namesake for the ‘G Heav’ abbreviation, closed in 2015. Its owner, Chung Cho, was revealed through a Labor Department investigation to have been paying workers wages as low as $4.44 per hour, depriving them of over $200,000 in rightful earnings. Employees, students and activist groups in New Haven demonstrated against Cho’s mistreatment, and after a YDN op-ed urged Gourmet Heaven’s eviction, Yale terminated the lease. Eventually, Cho was arrested for wage theft, but his charges were dropped two years later. 

Gourmet Heaven was replaced by Good Nature Market, and although the “G Heav”’ moniker had lost its namesake, Yale students have continued using the nickname for the deli at 15 Broadway, and for understandable reasons. Gourmet Heaven became Good Nature Market overnight, with no big overhaul or renovation to mark the transition. Many of the same workers once underpaid by Gourmet Heaven were hired by Good Nature Market. The space is the same, as is much of the decoration, and though the menu was revamped by the new management, there is a narrow range of what a grilled cheese can be. In truth, “G Heav” refers less to the deli’s ownership or official name, and more to the unchanging space that it occupies, remaining constant even through newsworthy shifts in management and signage.

The G Heav space is familiar and reliable, featuring the same food served by the same people from one day to the next. Physically, little changes from day to day in selection, layout, or design. But in its 24-hour cycle, the store’s ambiance and identity are not static; they morph to the changing tastes and energies of the customers walking through its doors, making G Heav visits at noon and G Heav visits at midnight almost entirely distinct experiences. This is the story of two G Heavs: one a wholesome, familiar, bright G Heav, and the other a darker, hedonistic, more spirited alter ego. 

The G Heav of morning coffees and afternoon snacks is illuminated by jubilant daylight upon the store’s hardwood. The line is short; food orders are moderate; customers send amiable nods to friends of friends. Dialogue between customers and employers is terse and perfunctory, devoid of depth and personality. It’s your conventional neighborhood deli, a convenient and reliable hub for sandwich enthusiasts and snack lovers alike. 

“During the day, G Heav is … a space to grab a snack with a friend before returning to study, a place that moves quickly and efficiently as people find what they came for and leave,” said Karsten Rynearson (SY ‘26). Aided by its heavy reliance on Snackpass for fulfilling orders, this G Heav is a provider of a service and little more.

But this is only one side of G Heav. Shielded from the scrutiny of sunlight, G Heav morphs into a less refined, less conventional version of the deli that serves breakfast and lunch. It is during these evening hours that G Heav becomes not just any other deli, but an irreplaceable fixture unique to Yale. G Heav at night is fueled by the groggy inebriation of after-Woads evenings and the insatiable appetites of postgame tokers. The din of hangry conversation reverberates as the line spills out into the store’s center, fraying out from the sushi fridge towards the seating area and the deli counter. Food orders are extravagant, imprudent, and greasy: sugar and mayo replace the healthier pickings of the later AMs and earlier PMs.  

For Karsten, nighttime G Heav runs are defined by “spending 15 minutes gaslighting yourself into believing that eating an entire pint of Van Leeuwen earl gray tea ice cream is actually a super healthy choice.” But food is not the sole reason for G Heav’s late-night popularity, nor the length of these evening visits. “G Heav moves much slower at night … [with] clusters of friends and laughing hysterically at 3 a.m. when we all have midterms the next day,” he said of the store’s ambiance at later hours. It’s a decidedly social environment in addition to being a hungry one.

G Heav nights are like mixers for the hungry, drunk, and exhausted, uniting whoever has a reason to be out late around the shared goal of a delicious bite. The store is crowded and disorganized in clumps of cliques. Half-lucid students struggle to multitask between engaging in their slurred conversations and listening to the stream of orders being called out. Swirling through the room is the communal, wide-eyed anticipation of the first bite of a really great sandwich, a release of nearly orgasmic satisfaction.

Fostering an even greater sense of community are friendships between students and employees. These are rare relationships between Yale students and New Haven locals that have a decidedly friendly dynamic at their core, not that of customer and a patron. 

Lila Salazar (SY ‘26) shared her friendship with G Heav employees, explaining, “Every time I go in, I know that I can catch up with Claudio, speaking to him in Spanish like I would to anyone back at home. It makes [G Heav] more of a part of my community.” Almost always in Spanish, these are meaningful conversations that deepen the G Heav experience for the many students who have them. The melodic ring of Spanish dialogue makes students (especially those with Hispanic and Latinx backgrounds) feel at home. And it’s a break from the de facto quarantine of Yale students from the greater New Haven community. 

In contrast with the more brief, transactional interactions during the day, these customer-employee conversations are longer and more personal. Perhaps this distinction is thanks to students’ social lubrication at night or maybe the absence of a manager to deter workers from casual conversation. Lila suggested it was the former, mentioning, “I only ever really talk to [employees] at night. Maybe it’s just kind of being broken down by the day that makes me more readily accepting of human connection.” Either way, late in the evening is when these friendships and conversations flourish, adding a unique charm to the store that hosts them. 

This is the louder, more engaging, more alcoholic version of the daytime deli. It fosters relationships between customers and employees, and strengthens those between students. There’s something deliciously unrefined about students coming together, united in their inebriation and indulgence, bonded by their unhealthy intake. By morning, nobody will know how fucked up you were, how disgustingly caloric your sandwich was, or how loudly you talked shit about your suitemate. That is, nobody except the other people who were guilty of it too. 

In the end, considering the varied experiences of the customers that walk through its doors, one cannot isolate the essence of G Heav. The name—a quick, communal, and confusingly unphonetic moniker—can refer to any number of the many faces of the deli. 

It is the very nature of G Heav as a varied, flexible space that makes the fanfare it receives so widespread and reliable. Students looking for a calmer, quieter space can enjoy G Heav in the hours around noon; customers hoping for a quick, impersonal transaction can get that with a Snackpass order; those looking for the perfect answer to voracious munchies can find one in the snack aisle. Much like the sandwiches they provide, the G Heav experience is modular and customizable, catered to the tastes and intentions of the customer as they evolve throughout the day. What makes G Heav so special to Yale is not just the space, nor the food, nor the individuals working there; it is the personalized intersection of them all, coming together to form a dynamic hub for hungry students of all types, 24 hours a day.

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