I would recommend making the trip to New Brunswick.
Have heard many good things about places in Freehold, personal favorite is El Meson- terrific authentic Mexican food. it is also byob so you know.
One place you can not pass up in Freehold is Jersey Freeze- best soft serve ice cream Ive ever tasted.
I just love the way we are digging up old posts and breathing new life into them - lol. This one is only 5 yrs old, but I'll bite.
I live fairly close to Jersey Freeze and still don't get the attraction. Forget about the fact that their regular food is awful, my family and I think their ice cream is just so-so. I wish we liked it more. but ...
Having grown up and worked in the princeton area these are some of my favorite picks. I can't say much about the newer stuff or even if this stuff is still there.
I use decent a lot in this post, and that is what princeton excels at. Food that is good, but probably not as good as lets say Flushing for Chinese food, or Los Angeles for Al Pastor tacos. However, the simple fact that they have it and do more than a good job on things makes it decent.
Princeton Shopping center has a bunch of good restaurants. Pizza star is cheap pizza by the slice-decent but not fantastic. Mexican-decent (California style), the chinese is passable, there is a great cheese place and gourmet food. The soups are good. Sandwiches and prepared food are not that great depending on the bread.
Mexican village is okay tex mex. Not fantastic. There is a small soul food restaurant somewhere near Mexican village. I can't gurantee that it is still there, but great smothered/fried chicken, and sides. It is a dive.
Alchemist and Barrister is pretty bad. This is on witherspoon. I have never had a good meal there.
Olives has nice sandwiches if it is still there. It is greek influenced
Bent Spoon has good gelato from a trusted source
Thomas Sweet has great traditional ice cream
Halo Pub is a great bargain if you don't want to spend a ton on ice cream
Nassau Inn has decent sort of continental fare nothing to write home about, but a great place to grab a beer when there isn't a cover band.
Americanized Chinese Take out (not close to other options)
Tiger Noodles on nassau (Owner of Sunny Garden. See previous post.) They do a good job and have been around for a while. I know the owner's kids, but not that biased.
But it is good for a greasy spoon. Sunny garden is about the same.
Chez Alice (now in palmer sq.)
Also there is a bakery on Tulane St. off of nassau. French trained pastery chef. I like his stuff.
Hoagie Haven on Nassau street
Off the main drag, but good for the cheap large hoagie. George if he's still there is a princeton fixture.
Main Street Cafe in Kingston. Drive down nassau street until it turns to 27. Great soups and a nice portabello sandwich. This is more deli take out like. Very quaint. I'm not too fond of the one in the Princeton Shopping Center. it is Also, look at the mexican food place there. I think it is
Outside of Princeton
Scanticon is a good standby for mother's day brunch
Scanticon is so bad - at least for brunch - that all four of us left most of our food uneaten. We went there last year for Father's Day (OK, I know - what did we expect?) but still, while I didn't expect the best, I didn't expect so much inedible food, either. We are not fussy or picky eaters. Everything looked good but nothing tasted good. Everything was either the wrong temperature, dried out, too old/stale, flavorless - you name it, there was at least one bad quality to each item we tried. In the past, the brunch was very good. Apparently, word is out that it is no good, because the place was at most 1/2 full and they didn't prepare much food and started to run out of things quite early. They were packing up and closing it down when we left at about 11 a.m.
Generally, I find this area to be a dining wasteland. There are a few good places in New Brunswick.
Since this thread resurfaced, the Scanticon's original brunch was the toast of Rt. 1 for years. $21.95 covered an impressive brunch menu that included strawberry champagne, 4 chef stations, fresh fish and dozens of menu/dessert items. It is now the Forrestal Conference & Hotel Center (something of that sort) and no longer a destination of note. Nor does the Forrestal Village (originally opened as a first-class indoor/outdoor mall) across the highway resemble its original business plan. Big changes there.
I've been using the Chowhound boards for so long, I'm so happy to finally be of some use. I used to have family in Princeton/Lawrenceville for many years. While these suggestions may not please the most hard-core chowhounds, you still gotta eat. Please post back if you need me to find more exact locations.
Hoagie Heaven is on Nassau St., towards the northern end of town. The students love 'em, and I think they're a pretty good reward for semi-behaving at the Princeton Record Exchange.
Teresa's pizza (in Palmer Square now, I think) is also good. Sort of gourmet - they do white pizzas and whatnot - but quite tasty. Of course, I grew up in northern New Jersey and now live in New York and, frankly, really miss any pizza from New Jersey. One caveat: I haven't had their pizza in years, and it may have changed.
Mediterra is at the bottom of Palmer Square (on Hulfish St.; you may need reservations) and is nice. Not 100% traditional mediterranean, I think, but a heck of a lot better than winding up at J. B. Winberie's (if they're still there).
Triumph Brewing Company is back up on Nassau St. The beer is freshly brewed, and the food is good - medium/upscale 'brewpub-type' food. It's possible that during the academic year it's swamped with PU students, so bear that in mind.
Main Street Bistro is in the Princeton Shopping Center. They say they're "Euro-American" but New American would fit. They're also the priciest suggestion I have but may still fit into your 'moderate' category if you don't go crazy.
Big Fish Seafood is in the Market Fair mall on Rt. 1 below Alexander Road. It's extremely theme-y, but if you can get over the whole cartoonish/crowded aspect you might enjoy their fish, which is fresh and well-prepared. This may sound odd, but one of the times I was there I had the best restaurant green beans side dish I think I will ever have in my whole life.
Finally, don't forget this: Sunny Garden may have a silly name, but it's a very good Chinese restaurant. MUCH better than your average cheap-chinese takeout place. The atmosphere is lovely, and they may even do takeout as well. It's off rt. 1, behind the Princeton Car Wash and what is/was the Princeton Ski Shop.
Oh, and I don't know why I feel I have to mention this, but the Pennington Market on rt. 31 in Pennington is one of the best and friendliest grocery stores I have ever found. One time at the checkout the clerk discovered that my celery had gone bad in part, and immediately someone was dispatched to fetch me a fresh bunch. Maybe it's years of living in cities that jaded me, but I really appreciated that. And, well, yes, the selection was pretty good.
I do hope that I have been helpful. Please post further with comments, agreements, or denials.
Princeton: pack a lunch. If you insist on trying to find least-bad options, do a search for previous discussion and see where all the dead bodies met their various fates.
Freehold: I've never been there, but can offer this second-hand tip: Fred and Murry's Deli Restaurant Rt 9N at Pond Rd, in the Pond Road Shopping Center, 732-462-3343 traditional Jewish deli. Very homemade.
re: Jim Leff
The Freehold area is my home territory, so I can give you advice based on first-hand experience.
Fred & Murray's, located just at the Freehold Township/Manalapan border, is definitely *not* the best Jewish deli in the area. For me, that distinction goes to Jessie & David's, a kosher deli (F&M is not kosher), which is located a little north of F&M, on the south side of Route 9, in the Towne Point Shopping Center, in Manalapan. All their deli is terrific, but I am particularly partial to their succulent pastrami -- the fatty cut, or course, not that first cut dry shoe leather that passes for pastrami. Their chicken soup with noodles and matzo balls is full of flavor. Their homemade round potato knishes are tasty. Their crinkle-cut french fries are crispy. Excellent cole slaw. Great pickles -- sours and half sours. And, of course, good old Dr. Brown's. There is a salad bar and a huge menu of traditional Jewish dishes. Try it; you'll like it!
The Freehold area is overloaded with Italian restaurants. The food served in most of them is totally sucky as far as I am concerned. The only two that I would venture to recommend are Portabello, on South St., off Main, and Ferrari's, in the Chester Lighting Shopping Mall, on the north Side of Route 9. I have had hit and miss meals at both these places.
Federici's, in Freehold on Main St. (aka "the Borough"), is *the* place to go for delicious thin-crust pizza. There are also other items on the menu, but I have not tried them.
For Mexican, there is El Meson, also on Main St. In the summer, you can eat on their large outdoor terrace. But indoors or out, their food is very good and very reasonably priced.
Aangan -- located right next door to Ferrari's -- serves well-prepared Indian food in a very attractive space. Every Thursday, there is a dinner buffet at around $12pp, which is truly a delicious bargain!
If you are willing to travel a few minutes south of Freehold, Fritzy's, in Howell, serves terrific German food at very reasonable prices. Portions are huge! We have never left there without enough in our "doggie box" to make for another meal at home.
I think that should do for now. Btw, all of these restaurants are BYO.
re: Jim Leff
I disagree with Jim about packing a lunch if you're coming to the Princeton area. There are a couple of jems that haven't really been mentioned yet, and unfortunately I don't have too much time right now to describe them, but here's a little taste:
1. Olde English Fish and Chip Shop (that's the title on the awning - the real name is Eur-Asian food) - on the corner of Nassau St. and Olden St. Forget the name - this place is really unique, and possibly the only place in the area to find authentic Asian food (other than Happy City for Cantonese on Route 1). Jumbo, the owner of the restaurant, is from Taiwan, and has imported his native cuisine on top of the original fish and chip dishes that existed before he took over the restaurant a year and a half ago. It's not a real sit-down place, just a couple stools at a counter and take-out, but it's a place you really have to experience if you're in the area. Not only are Jumbo and his family so unbelievably nice, but their food is superb - I personally recommend the black pepper beef or chicken (spicy's always best), the spicy tofu sauteed sichuan style, and, of course, bubble tea (the only place in the area that serves it). There's a lot more on the menu and it's all reasonably good - just be sure that if you don't look Asian, you tell them to make it spicy...
2. Nassau Bagel and Sushi Corp. - on Nassau St. next to Thomas Sweets. Another random pairing of cuisines, wouldn't you think? Again, another offspring of a takeover - Charlie, the half-Korean, half-Japanese owner, just recently bought the restaurant in the last year. It was originally a big deli-style bagel shop - Charlie decided to keep the sandwich/bagel business in the front of the store, but once you walk into the back, it opens up into a well-decorated, Asian minimalist interior. The Korean is very good, especially when one realizes how poor the selection is in the Princeton area - it's not Jersey City, Fort Lee, or K-Town, but some dishes are done extremely well. I'd recommend their rendition of Hwe Dup Bop, similar to Bi Bim Bop, but with more vegetables, a spicier hoisin-like (but not hoisin) sauce, and with sashimi instead of beef, served cold. The sushi is definitely the best in Princeton, but, again, that doesn't say too much - most of it is too salty (especially the ikura). Stick with the Korean dishes (made by Korean chefs) and you're set - you can even ask for stuff off the menu, if you do it in advance, and they'll make it for you.. Very reasonable, too - only about $15 per person for a full meal.
So there are two of my favorites in the center of Princeton. There are a lot of other interesting finds in the area, but I'll write about them later. Hopefully that helps - e-mail me if you have any questions.........
re: Jim Leff
Jim, I used to post a lot on the Outer-borough Boards under another sign-in name. I can't remember it and have a new one. Moved to the Princeton area a little more than three years ago. For lunch, I only have one Chowhound suggestion for you here. It is Tiger Noodles on Nassau street. Not for everything though. Their Chinese food is pretty pedestrian. Their noodles, however are outstanding. So are their shrimp dishes. The shrimp are fresh. They are cooked right too. Often shrimp are rubbery. Theirs are soft and tasty. So if you are in the area, please give it a try for lunch.
P.S. They just opened a new branch on US 1 in West Windsor. I have not been there yet. They also own Ya-Ya Noodles in the Montgomery shopping center in Skillman. Not recommended.