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Princeton, NJ......walking distance from Princeton University


I'm planning to spend a day walking around and exploring Princeton university and surroundings. Any suggestions of a good place to eat in the area for lunch? Anything but italian. And anything different or unique to a NY'er would be lovely. Mid-priced.



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  1. culinary wasteland. the burger, at the bar, at alchemist and barrister is ok. mussels at triumph brewery are very good. the house-made bread (made with brewer's yeast) is perfect for sopping up any leftover sauce. house beers are interesting. worth a shot.

    6 Replies
    1. re: steve h.

      Ashame to hear Princeton is a culinary wasteland! Sounds like I should take my own packed lunch!

      1. re: gtrekker2003

        downtown princeton is kind of goofy. the people who run the coffee shops, the folk at the library, the surgeons at the hospital, etc. are all great. drop into any shop, say howdy and be prepared to experience some of the friendliest behavior on the east coast. just don't be too bummed if the food isn't great.

      2. re: steve h.

        I'd second Triumph Brewery for lunch. I usually go for the Fish and Chips, uniquely served (I'll not ruin the surprise). For a time they had those "seasoned/coated" french fries (which I hate) as the chips and I started subbing their homemade potato chips in that dish. IIRC, they went back to "regular" french fries, but I still opt for the potato chips (altho', they do get cold quickly). There's something about F&C with lots of malt vinegar at a brewpub that makes it an ideal meal. My second choice (altho', I think it may not always be on the menu) is their Oyster Po' Boy. And,as noted, great beers. Probably the best brewpub in the state (sadly, we are well behind in craft brewing in NJ, based on our population and historic brewing traditions).

        1. re: JessKidden

          Sorry, couldnt let this one slide without comment. I like Triumphs food but their beer selection is hideous. All the beers, even the big beers (higher abv) which are supposedly more popping and hoppy offer no different taste, just different color. I think NJ is terrific for brewpubs, not up to par with philly area but flying fish, harvest moon, jj bittings are all top notch beer producers.

          1. re: yankeefan

            Well, opinions on beer quality are always going to be varied, but “hideous” is a bit extreme considering the common view of Triumph’s beers. I’m not a “ticker” so very seldom get a “sampler” from a brewpub and, since I’m only going to have 2 (maybe 3) beers at a time, I stick to my favorite styles *or* go for a beer for which a brewer might be well-known. I find the “different color- all taste the same” experience is common at brewpubs- not surprising given that they are working in a small space, probably often using the same hops, malts and yeast AND often “dumb down” beers since they need to appeal to all drinkers, rather than only “beer geeks”. As for Triumph’s beers (especially the “bigger” beers which I tend to order) their IPA (esp. on the hand pump), Irish Stout, Raunch, ESB are all quite different and well-respected, as are their two “rye” beers- Jewish Rye and Roggenbock. The Coffee & Cream Stout may rank as one of my favorite stouts.

            On my comment on NJ being “behind” in the craft beer movement, it’s based not on the quality of the beer that is brewed here -tho’ many of few breweries that are in state have terrible distribution, considering the small size of NJ- notably Climax (granted, available in growlers only), High Point and Cricket Hill. It safe to say that it's often much easier to find California, Colorado, or New England craft beers in NJ (draft or bottled) than a good selection of "Brewed in NJ" beers in most bars or liquor stores.

            Rather, the complaint is the number of breweries and brewpubs, compared to other states that once had similar or even less significant brewing traditions (NJ was once well in the top ten of brewing states). I mean, Portland, Maine has MORE breweries than all of NJ! NJ’s got 5 breweries and 12 brewpubs. Compare that to Massachusetts’ 20 or so of each, Washington’s 31/68 (both with 2 million less people than NJ). Maine with a population less than ¼ the size of NJ, has 15 breweries and 16 brewpubs. Pennsylvania, a state with a great brewing heritage, has about 50% more population, but their brewery totals are 400% larger. And, the existance in New Jersey of good beer bars is, if anything, even rarer, given our population AND average income.

            1. re: JessKidden

              Agreed, I may have been a bit harsh but I do admit to being a bit of a beer geek. I was just frustrated because so many people really like triumph and Ive given it so many tries at the different locations and have always been disappointed. I have not had the coffee/cream stout but I am a huge fan of big beered imperials, ipas, and stouts as well and they havent produced one yet that Ive liked.

              I did object to the NJ comment but I wish they had better distribution as well. One that I didnt even know about and doesnt get much play is River Horse, but in my last visit down there, they do a pretty damn good job. Their trippel is very good as is their IPA- quite the nice surprise. I am faithful to Harvest Moon and for the microiest of all micro brewpubs, they do a great job of making delicious and unique beers which makes me even more upset that a bigger place like triumph doesnt. If you havent been to harvest moon, I highly recommend. I think more the typical flavorless, different color brewpub is Basil Ts, they do a poor job IMO.

              It is a bit depressing that I am trekking to get to some of the real good brewpubs and craft brews but its well worth trips to PA and DE for places like Victory and Dogfish.

      3. Princeton is hardly a culinary wasteland. For something different, try The Underground Cafe, a Bulgarian restaurant that is only a couple of blocks from calmpus.


        1. you also might try Calico Grill a new place that opened about a month ago. They specialize in seafood with a South American influence. BYOB.

          Calico Grill
          180 nassau street

          1. Unlikely to be anything different or unique to a NY'er unless you don't get out much.

            If you walk down Chambers St (across Nassau St from PU) you will find nice choices for Indian - Masala Grill - and Japanese - Ajihei.

            Mediterra on Hulfish St is good but not quite mid-priced.

            Best Chinese in the boro is Tiger Noodle - north on Nassau St.

            Small World Coffee is the anti-Starbucks - a local institution that serves some prepared sandwiches at lunch.

            Whatever you have, have something light so there is room for ice cream from The Bent Spoon on Palmer Square. (Come to think of it, that's one you can't find in NY.)

            3 Replies
            1. re: MercerChow

              I'd definitely recommend Halo Pub over The Bent Spoon. I just can't endorse those overly precious little sample cups they serve the ice cream in. And, it's far from midpriced - $4 for a tiny scoop is highway robbery! At Halo Pub, you can get enough to share for under $3

              Another vote for Small World Coffee. Their roasting facility is about 3 miles away so the coffee is always fresh. I usually get the cafe au lait - the coffee and hot milk is served in separate glass vessels so you can mix the two to your own personal tastes.

              1. re: punkin712

                You really can't compare Halo Pub to the Bent Spoon. Halo Dairies makes high-overrun large-batch ice cream using commercial flavorings, just like the really big guys do. Bent Spoon makes their ice cream in small batches, using an italian gelato freezer. Their flavors are mostly locally-sourced from real ingredients, and can be really interesting. The price is a bargain considering the quality.

                But the best thing about the Bent Spoon is their CUPCAKES!!! (Real buttercream, not too sweet, heavenly).

                1. re: cranrob

                  "You really can't compare Halo Pub to the Bent Spoon. Halo Dairies makes high-overrun large-batch ice cream using commercial flavorings, just like the really big guys do."

                  I'm not sure what you mean by "commercial flavorings". If you read the ingredient list for Halo Pub ice creams (available by the pint at Halo Farm in Trenton), the ingredients for virtually all the flavors are all natural. Halo also uses hormone-free milk. High quality doesn't necessarily have to come with a big price tag (or in a teeny tiny cup).

                  Different strokes, I guess.

            2. I second Ajihei for sushi/Japanese. I, personally, think Karen's on Witherspoon street is the best for Chinese food, but I've always had a soft spot for that place.

              If I had only one choice for lunch, though, it would be a chicken salad sandwich from Olives on Witherspoon St. They recently expanded their small restaurant, but they still don't have indoor seating. If the weather is nice enough I'd go there for a sandwich and some of their pasta salad and take my lunch back to the green in front of Nassau Hall (directly up Witherspoon Street) and have a little picnic.

              9 Replies
              1. re: SarahEats

                I second Olives chicken salad - big chunks of chicken, the absolute best! Olive's also has many hot & cold prepared foods and Greek specialties, all good. Really the best spot & selection for a mid priced lunch in Princeton.

                Here's your walking lunch plan:
                -- Exit campus at the Nassua St gates & walk 1/2 block down Witherspoon St to Olive's on your left; pick up lunch (takeout only).
                -- Turn left out the door of Olives and walk 1 block further down Witherspoon to the Library Sq (Hinds Plaza) where you'll find outside tables, chairs & benchs.
                -- Enjoy lunch then from the Sq, cross Witherspoon and walk 2 block down Hulfish St and go left on Palmer Sq West. The Bent Spoon will be on your right and the gelato is outstanding. Try the Pear & Processco if you like pears.
                -- Now you'll need some coffee, so make your way back to Witherspoon St and go to Small World coffee a few doors up (toward campus) from Olives.


                1. re: Foody4life

                  I was just about to post this exact same plan! Olive's falafel is also great.

                  If you are feeling really ambitious, hit Halo Pub (on Hulfish) for another ice cream after your coffee, and see whether you prefer that to Bent Spoon. Both are great--but very different from one another. Another nice area to eat is the expanse of grass and little tables on Palmer Square (right outside Bent Spoon).

                2. re: SarahEats

                  I have to jump in here and promote a chicken salad sandwich from Cox's Market - pulled roasted chicken (they roast them in the rotisserie in the front window) with lots of great flavors! Nothing better than freshly roasted rotisserie chicken! They also have great soups and salads - try them out if you haven't been there.

                  1. re: tplayer

                    Just make sure you have enough cash. Last time I was there, they tried to charge me extra for using a credit card. I refused to pay the extra charge, they insisted on charging it and I left. Never been back.

                    1. re: punkin712

                      So I asked them about this credit card thing (I go in there all the time) and they said one of the previous owners started that policy but once he left they stopped it and that was over 3 years ago! In fact, I bought a coffee for $1.65 and they took my card so maybe you should give them another chance.

                      1. re: tplayer

                        Good to know...thanks for the update!

                  2. re: SarahEats

                    karen's on witherspoon is truly awful. such fake chinese food! i don't understand how they can stay in business. conte's on witherspoon st serves decent pizza and there's a v good mexican place called tortuga's mexican village on leigh ave.

                    1. re: ruf

                      I agree with SarahEats - I also enjoy Karen's.

                      Conte's has a quaint location but the pizza isn't great.

                      1. re: ruf

                        I think you mean 'not good mexican place'.

                    2. There's a Mexican restaurant called Tortuga Mexican Village at 44 Leigh Ave. It's walking distance from the hospital. It was pretty good.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: wench31

                        Avoid Tortuga's... It's godawful.

                      2. Thanks everybody!
                        Now I'm quite excited to try some places out. maybe I'll stick around for an early lunch and an early dinner. :)

                        foody4life, thanks very much for the itinerary with directions! I love it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gtrekker2003

                          Well, dinner is a whole 'nother thing.

                          Let us know how it works out!

                        2. Go to PJ's right on Nassau Street, authentic Princeton food, been there for years, take it from me, my family's there since the 1600's!!!DEB

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Deb9962

                            Have to say, Triumph is fantastic. Food and beer is clearly head and shoulders above most in the category. They are looking at a place in Red Bank, parking the only (what else) issue. I, for one, would welcome it. I think Red Bank needs a fresh place to challenge Buono Sera and Red.

                            1. re: hotfoodhot

                              While I haven't been to Triumph in a long time, I agree with hotfood that the food and beer is quite good. I hadn't heard that they were looking for a place in Red Bank and appreciate the news. I too agree that they would make a fine addition to the Red Bank scene.

                              1. re: bgut1

                                I am usually pretty upbeat about most restaurants because I'm so delighted there are people who will cook and clean up after me (Lazy? Me? Naaaah.). I've been to Triumph several times over the years. I just can't get that into the food. They have had some wonderful things over the years, but they've also been spectacularly inconsistent. Lately, I think they've been going for trendy at the expense of taste. I had a veal dish at the Princeton location last year in which the veal was perfectly tender and delicious, but the rest of the dish was way too busy. It sounded good on the menu but it basically amounted to bits of eggplant and a couple other vegetables (arugula?) with small balls of goat cheese, all covered in a tomato "fondue." My reaction to the reality was a resounding "MEH". At Princeton prices, I would like something a bit more.... together? I'm not sure what bothered me about it entirely, but I think I was feeling like I had gotten the kitchen's leftover ingredients in that dish, like they had thrown together what they had on a whim when they created it rather than thought it through carefully. It had sounded very good on paper though.

                                All of this said, they do have pretty good burgers and their beers are interesting. Please note also that each location has its own chef and menu. I have also been less than thrilled with the New Hope location for similar reasons (and stale sandwich bread one time). Burgers however are consistently good at both locations in my experience.

                                1. re: Heatherb

                                  "spectacularly inconsistent" couldn't agree more Heather. We've put Triumph lower on the list of our go to places. Beers are the draw - as they should be and are very good with their stout being my fav. The ambiance is usually great and there's always a good vibe. Unfortunately, they've cycled thru a series of chefs with each bringing their own take to the cuisine & menus. If we're not in the mood for beer, then there's many other places we'd go before TBC.

                                  1. re: Foody4life

                                    When they first opened they had this amazing sandwich (grilled chicken on sourdough with mozzarella, tomato, basil, red onion, lettuce and mayo) that was seriously cravable. Once that left the menu I've found the food to be just as Heater described - "spectacularly inconsistent." I haven't been to the Princeton location in years since we're in PA now, but the New Hope location was a go-to spot if we were in town. After a lot of meals that left us either feeling ill or annoyed by mediocre food, we stopped going. It's a shame because I still remember that amazing chicken sandwich and wish I could have another.

                                    1. re: SarahEats

                                      SarahEats, that was actually the sandwich I was primarily thinking about when I mentioned the great things over the years:-)

                                      1. re: SarahEats

                                        Wow Sarah - that grilled chicken was also what I was thinking of! Lots of mozzarella oozing out and a great compliment to a pint of beer.

                                        I think the deal breaker for us was ordering a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp and getting a plate of uncooked chopped, diced and sliced garlic with some shrimp and romaine flavoring underneath - inedible!

                                        1. re: Foody4life

                                          I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one who loved that sandwich!! :) The first time I went there after it was removed from the menu I almost got into an argument with the waiter - not that it was his fault the menu had changed, but like I said I used to crave that sandwich so being told I couldn't have it was like a swift kick in the stomach. Sigh...I can almost taste it...

                                  2. re: bgut1

                                    Ive never been impressed by the Triumph locations in either Princeton or New Hope. Both are very nice and the service was actually quite good.

                                    For a brewpub, they dont know all that much about the beer in terms of questions that you may have and a lot of them are very unspectacular- seems like a lot of effort does not go into crafting fine beers.

                                    The food has been okay but never anything that I would have been interested in ordering again. I am more than willing to keep trying it out for the new beers that appear because they do change the styles but I really wish they had done a better job on the food.

                              2. Mediterra is a favorite. Very fresh food. Don't expect to walk in for dinner, though. It's usually booked solid. Lunch is a safe bet. Another place, I can't remember the name, but it's in the plaza just to the right of the library (as you face it) looks kind of bar-y, but has good food and service. veejayne

                                1. My favorites in Princeton:

                                  Blue Point Seafood
                                  Ajihei sushi
                                  Masala Grill
                                  Hoagie Haven
                                  Bent Spoon ice cream

                                  Not a big fan of Triumph Brewery

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Paul N

                                    I've been dying to try Hoagie Haven, but I'm a little intimidated. Heard they were "soup nazi"-esque...

                                    Do they offer vegetarian or all cheese hoagies? Any recommendations for a newbie would be appreciated! :)

                                    1. re: punkin712

                                      I've not encountered any Hoagie-Nazis behind the counter - everyone's always pretty nice.

                                      I can't vouch for any of the vegetarian offerings, since I usually go there thinking about their BLT - or sometimes a cheese steak.

                                      But the bread and vegetables-fixings have always been fresh on my hoagies.

                                      1. re: Paul N

                                        Good to know...I think I'll venture in this weekend. Thanks!

                                        1. re: punkin712

                                          nah, theyre not hoagie nazis. back in the day they were all greek guys and could be a little confusing when getting your food dressed. mostly youd get fries and they'd rapid fire 'salt, pepper, ketchup'?!?!? at you - if you hadnt been there before you didnt know what they were on about. Thats probably the soup-naziesque bit youve heard of. I think the new people do the same - just be ready for it. Actually that phrase seems to have caught on all over NJ now - you get it everytime you get a porkroll etc!