The New Calico Grill in Princeton--Anyone Go Yet?
We ate at Calico Grill for the first time a couple of weeks ago, for Sunday brunch. Got there around 11am, and it was only 1/4 full, which surpised us in a suspicious way. But that was a nice break from the absurd line at PJ's for so-so pancakes every weekend.
The room is small, and the decor not all that attractive, sort of confused and a little cold. The mural is nice, but needs some plants or something to break up the small square room and add some noise control. Also, it was totally silent, no music or anything, so we felt the need to whisper everything for fear everyone was listening. White table clothes and cloth napkins are nice, say that this is something a little more special.
The food was OK overall. I had the Spanish Breakfast and while nothing was wrong with it, it was just good not great. The pancakes were the same way...maybe very good. Coffee was not good. Overall we were happy with the food, but not the same happiness as after eating at Le Peep for example. The same mediocrity that plagues most of Princeton's restaurants.
If they could make the room a bit more comfortable and inviting, I'd be back much more often. But it you want pancakes and don't want to deal with PJ's, Calico Grill is the place to go.
Had the same exact Sunday brunch experience a few months ago - except they had a portable CD player to break the silence. Went there to avoid the crowds down the street. Food was fine. Service was OK. Place was less than 1/4 full.
Our impression was that this place needs an owner onsite, fulltime, with a big welcoming personality to add some life to the rather sterile room.
The brunch I had with my girlfriend on Sunday was wonderful! The place was tucked away and there were four tables outside but it was the view of the parking lot. We were there at about 11:15am and the place was already half filled. Both of us ordered the Loco Moco(not sure if that was the right spelling) but it is basically crab cakes on top of Spanish rice and two fried eggs. The crab cakes can be replaced by NY strip steaks or catch of the day.
Our server was very friendly and we got our ice tea promptly and our order taken immediately. The portion was very generous and I have to say that the eggs were done so nicely, a little bit crunchy for the eight whites while the yoke was still running(I guess this is really a person preference) The crab cakes were good too, not oily at all and tasty. The Spanish rice to me is more like some Chinese fried rice, with peas and carrots but I have no problem with that, it complimented the crab cakes and the eggs very well. The place seemed to be popular and it was filled by the time we got our check. By the way, it was quite reasonable, the check was about $26, we both had ice tea and the Loco Moco and I had coffee too! The Loco Moco with crab cakes was around $10.5!
I like college towns and Princeton is no exception, it is wonderful to stroll around after a tasty brunch and I would surely return!
Sorry to report that our first dinner at Calico Grill turned out to be a disappointment. We were fully prepared to like it – hoping in fact for a fish-oriented alternative to the long waits at Blue Point down the street. Sadly, Calico did not handle its fish very well and so it does not seem to be a real alternative.
We started off splitting the Calico’s Sampler Platter, which featured portions of three appetizers: fried calamari (fine), crab cake (also fine), and seared Hawaiian poke, which comprised chunks of yellowfin marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, green onion, and red chili. The yellowfin was way overcooked, chewy in fact, and had that gray complexion I usually associate with steam tables at Chinese buffets.
I ordered one of the specials, a yellowfin steak with ginger beurre blanc. It was billed as “black and blue” – meaning blackened on the outside but still very rare on the inside. When it arrived (served on a bed of rice with spinach on the side) the interior retained only the slightest hint of pink and was not very moist. In hindsight I should have sent it back. The sauce was good, though.
Mrs MC ordered the fresh seasonal fish, which gives a choice of any of the fish of the day (four offered on this particular day), with the sauce of the day (beurre blanc), and choice of preparation (steaming, grilling, broiling, sautéing). She chose the salmon, grilled. It came out nice and crusty, but the interior was just on the verge of being overcooked, though it was still moist. It was served with chipotle mashed yucca potatoes, which were tasty.
The room is small and cheerful and the service friendly if not too polished. It is BYOB, and we were happy to see the server appear immediately with a corkscrew. He opened the bottle and set it down. Unfortunately there were no glasses and we had to wait several minutes before they showed up.
This was just one meal and perhaps the kitchen was unusually aggressive with the heat on this particular evening. If you choose to go, I would recommend making yourself very clear on how you like your fish prepared.
Calico Grill is a great addition to Princeton dining scene. They opened 2 weeks ago and haven't advertised yet. The food has a latin influence with lots of fish and some meat on the menu. The space is small and attractive and prices are moderate especially for the area. Staff is friendly and helpful. My husband and I dined lightly sharing mussels in a red sauce. he had a caesar salad topped with grilled wahoo and I had a grilled wahoo sandwich.