Please help-- getting bummed in Princeton
I've just moved to Princeton and I'm getting bummed by the food scene. It seems that there are many, many restaurants here in town, but few seem to deliver a good to excellent meal consistently. Some offer excellent food sometimes, some offer decent food with bad service, some offer good to excellent food in a loud, overcrowded room. Am I missing something or should I just resign myself to this? Also, I haven't explored much outside of the "downtown" Princeton area. Where should I head?
Thrilled with the Wegmans, Whole Foods, etc options, but I can't cook EVERY night...
I've been living here off and on for the past 7 years, mostly on. I think that these days, me and my friends are sucking up the drive to Edison and Metuchen to explore ethnic foods. We're definitely tired of the same old down here. You can even hop on the train to New Brunswick, from the Dinky, and try the Ethiopian place on George St, or any of the other spots (though i've only been to Ethiopian, but hear good things about other spots).
If you have to eat in Pton, Aji Hei has great sushi, tho not cheap. Passage to India, in the L'ville Shopping Ctr, has tasty dosa. Brothers Moon in Hopewell is great for a more upscale and pricier meal, far better than Ferry House IMO. For simply cooked fish, on a night you don't want to cook for yourself, Blue Point is good, crowded, but the fish is super fresh!
' Main Street ' in the Harrison street mall is good . Most of downtown Princeton is overpriced and so-so .
Yes, the scene is fair to poor, especially the downtown area, which caters to a captive clientele of students and their parents, so you need to get out of town. There is absolutely nothing worth going out of your way for and I don't eat here unless I have to. Hope you have a car.
That said, did you find Pizza Star in the Princeton Shopping center? I really like their pizza. Ferry House is usually good (unless you're there on the chef's day off). Aside from sushi, forget Asian. You might as well try the places up Rt. 27 in Edison/New Brunswick. Plainsboro has nothing to offer either. There are a number of restaurants in Lawrencewille on Rt. 206, but I've not tried any of them.
You can get good prepared Amish food up Rt. 27 at the Kingston farmers market from the take away at the back (not the stand at the front, which serves very mediocre food). This is basic, stick-to-your ribs, grandma food. Try the mac and cheese and corn pudding and especially their rotisserie meats. Their ribs and chicken are quite good, as is their roasted carved ham and turkey breast. You can also get fresh hand made soft pretzels, and try the pretzel-wrapped cheese dogs.
Trenton has Delorenzos Tomato Pie on Hudson St. and Malaga Spanish restaurant, which makes a great mussels in green sauce, good paella, and serves huge portions of just about everything, and service is good. Also try Lorenzos steak house across from the Trenton train station. I've heard it's pretty good and where all the NJ politicos hang out. There are a number of old school Italian restaurants in the Chambersburg section, but I don't go to those as I'd rather drive to South Philly and get better Italian food there.
Lambertville has a better restaurant scene, including Hamilton Grill (Mediterranean) No. 9 (American), Ota Ya (Japanese), Manon (French), Saigon (or Siam?), all of which are BYO and are reasonably priced. Unfortunately, none of qualifies as truly fine dining, or even exceptionally chowish, except for Hamilton Grill, just a notch better relative to what else is available in the area.
I disagree with your assessment of Hamilton's Grill. I would definitely not categorize it as "fine dining." We hadn't been there in years, so we decided to try it again during the fall. I didn't remember much about our previous experiences there and, frankly, I was unimpressed. Not bad food, but just o.k.
Max's Red Rooster Grill, in Flemington, is something of a clone of Hamilton's Grill since the eponymous owner previously worked at HG. We ate at Max's for the first time last week, and I think Max's offers a far superior dining experience. While the menu is similar in concept to HG's, there are some different and very intriguing choices. More important, the food was delicious. Other plusses: service was better; there was a distinct friendliness that was missing at HG; and the overall ambiance is cozier. There is an open kitchen and, in addition to table seating, there are four seats at the counter where you can dine while watching the chefs in action. It's a BYO, but they do offer a small selection of NJ wines. Before leaving, we spent a few minutes talking with Max, who is young and very engaging. We told him that he has a winner on his hands (the restaurant has been open just a year), but judging by the many people who arrived and were obviously regulars, I think he already knows that.
Warning: there is very little good food to be had in the Princeton area and for some reason most people living around here don't seem to notice. I agree that it is quite dissappointing. I have found a couple diamonds in the rough however.
Happy City (Chinese, on rte 1 in the mall with Marshalls and Whole Foods)
Kalluri Corner in Princeton has passable South Indian fare but for excellent and cheap South Indian head North on 29 (Nassau Street) 'til you start getting near South Brunswick (about 15-20 min) there are some great cheap South Indian places in the strip malls.
Firkin Tavern in Ewing has pretty decent bar food. If you cross Rte. 1 into Pennsylvania take the Penn. Ave exit (1st exit in PA) and you'll find Michaels, really good bar food and wings (ask for them very spicy).
Other than that one must get used to exceptionally overpriced mediocrity (KC Prime, give me a break)
While I agree with most of what Andrew says, I wouldn't write off Brothers Moon in Hopewell. It's not cheap, but they make solid and very tasty New American food. Great risottos, fantastic lamb chops. L'ville Inn used to be great but has gone downhill, sadly, since Scott, the former chef, left. Fedora's is good for a casual, decent meal. But truth is, in Princeton itself, there's not much!