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Chow-worthy places near Princeton, NJ?

I've read some of the posts about where to eat in Princeton, NJ. Some sound nice, but some of the posts are old enough to make me hesitant. And, more importantly, the posts talk only about places in Princeton. If I was going to draw a radius around Princeton, what restaurants and stores are chow-worthy within a 20-minute drive?

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  1. We like Mediterra and Blue Point Grill in Princeton, Acacia in Lawrenceville, and Rats in Hamilton. There are several other competent places in Palmer Square (Princeton) such as Lahiere, Alchemist & Barrister, and Ferry House; somewhat overpriced and somewhat unimaginative.

    1. I guess Mediterra has improved lately. Last time I was there it had gone way downhill, tho in fairness, that was about 4 years ago.

      We like Tre Piani (in Forrestal Village) very much. Great, fresh and local food, and nice airy ambiance.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ChefJune

        Yeah. I vote for Tre Piani. Ate at Acacia in Feb - very under-impressed. Best advice - avoid anything in downtown Princeton. Most are over-hyped and over-priced.

        1. re: Will5352

          A third vote for Tre Piani for food and interior. The food has been pretty solid & fresh w/ use of local providers (eg, Griggstown chicken, etc.). Great parking too.

          My husband and I go there every now & then as a nice occasion dinner place nearby us.

        2. re: ChefJune

          Maybe I'll try Mediterra again. For me, it has been awhile. It was the very worst service experience, ever. The "naive" host put the four of us at a window table, then the General Manager told us we had to move -- I guess we were pretty enough. When we left, the table was still empty. In addition to that, they put some crappy canola oil with a drop of olive oil on the table for dipping the bread, complete with red pepper flakes and dried basil. When I asked the waiter for some butter, she told me they didn't have any. When I suggested that she ask the chef for a ramekin of butter from the kitchen, she explained to me that in Italy they don't use butter. Thank you 19-year-old for the education. Oh, but they certainly make their desserts in house, just without butter. Never went back. And the food was mediocre.

          1. re: pitterpatter

            We went to Mediterra a few months ago, and it was good and pretty, but nothing to write home about.

            1. re: pitterpatter

              I have given Mediterra many chances but every time the food is mediocre at best. Nice setting but the food doesn't match up.

              1. re: tom246

                I had one of the worst dining experiences of my life at this restaurant. First off, our party of four was seated at a table at the front window. We already had our drinks, when a manager came over and told us that the hostess made a mistake, and we had to move. I guess our table was a prime spot, and we were not attractive enough. So, we gathered things up and moved to another table, and probably should have walked out, but we were going to a concert in Princeton which was to begin in less than an hour. When we left, that front table was still empty.

                Then, we got our bread with a small bowl of canola oil with some pepper flakes. This was gross. I asked our server to bring me some butter. She explained that they did not have butter in the house. I asked if they made their desserts. She said yes. Then I asked that she go to the chef, and ask for some butter, and I would be willing to pay for it. She explained to me, this young woman, that this is an Italian restaurant, and that in Italy they don't use butter. I did not tell her that I am a pastry chef and that she should go pound sand because I did not want to make a stink, but as they say in the biz, one good meal means just that, while one bad meal means 12 people will not patronize the place because of word-of-mouth.

                1. re: pitterpatter

                  My, what a condescending attitude from a waitress who is obviously a clueless twit! Normally, under these circumstances, I would ask to speak with the manager. However, given the situation you described regarding the table, that would be useless because that manager does not know the meaning of hospitality or service. You didn't mention any offer a drink on the house or a comped anything for you trouble. At least, that would have made the situation less onorous. Honestly, there is no way you should have agreed to move because "the hostess made a mistake." My husband and I would have stayed put and told them in the nicest way to suck it up!

          2. Conte's Pizza might not be what you are looking for, but it's quite delicious (and very casual).

            1. Well, let's see. What's on the current shortlist?

              In Princeton, Mediterra, Blue Point, Ferry House, Main Street, Tom Yum Goong for Thai, Masala for South Asian. Contra manioso I would not toss Ferry House in the same basket with the A&B or Lahiere's. Much as I like Blue Point I rarely get there because I am too impatient to wait for a table. Somewhat the same story for Main Street.

              In Lawrenceville, Acacia, Chambers Walk, Enzo's, and Elements Asia.

              In Hopewell, Blue Bottle Cafe and Brothers Moon.

              Agree with ChefJune on Tre Piani. Rat's in Hamilton is more of an experience than a restaurant - but fun nonetheless if you can stomach the prices. Sunny Garden remains a reliable standby for Chinese.

              Not a complete list - just what comes to mind at the moment.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MercerChow

                Adding on to Mercer's list for chow-worthy consideration:

                Sushi - AJIHEI on Chamber's in Princeton.

                Lunch - Olive's or Hogie Haven, both in Princeton!

                Specialty shops:

                Seafood - Nassau St. Seafood, Princeton (or king crab legs from Sam's Club in West Windsor - a steal at $12/lb for HUGE succulent king crab!!)

                Cheese / specialty foods - Bon Appetit, Princeton

                Coffee - Small World Coffee, Princeton

                Bakery / Breads - Italian Peoples Bakery, Trenton farmers market

                Farm stand produce - Terhune's, Lawrenceville (pick your own & store) or Trenton farmer's market

                Desserts / Cakes - Chez Alice, Princeton

                Ice Cream / Gelato - Halo Pub (ice cream), Bent Spoon (gelato) both in Princeton.

                Supermarkets - Wegman's or Whole Foods.

              2. Recommendations outside of Princeton include Blue Bottle Cafe (Hopewell), One 53 (Rocky Hill), KC Prime (Lawrenceville), Za (Pennington).

                Also, Main Street Bistro at the Princeton Shopping center is a good alternative to the downtown places - where all are consistently mediocre and none are spectacularly chow worthy!!

                5 Replies
                1. re: Foody4life

                  Za is a good BYOB if you are willing to venture that far from Princeton.

                  Tell us where you end up going and how it was.

                  1. re: Will5352

                    Seconding Za. Although my friends who went with me last time found it pricey. Next on our list is the Blue Bottle Cafe.

                    1. re: Heatherb

                      Let us know how you like Blue Bottle. We liked Za but found Blue Bottle a much better option.

                      1. re: tom246

                        Will do. Not sure when though - we still have to gear up for a "grown up" night out (which is what we call drinks, appetizers, entree, and dessert at nice restaurant as opposed to a slice of pizza or a cheesesteak).

                  2. re: Foody4life

                    Just a note, One 53 is now open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays.

                  3. Ruth's Chris just opened in Forrestal Village.

                    5 Replies
                      1. re: RPMcMurphy

                        I called the restaurant a couple weeks ago and they told me July 28. I haven't called back, but the online reservation system appears to be taking reservations for this week. Yay!

                        1. re: RPMcMurphy

                          We had dinner there last night. Overall, very good food served in a comfortable space. Service and the kitchen both need to settle in so a complete review at this time is a bit premature! We'll be going back in a few weeks to see how things progress.

                          1. re: Foody4life

                            How would Ruth's Chris compare with KC Prime on Quakerbridge Rd (Plainsboro/West Windsor)?

                            1. re: athenanike111

                              Ruth's Chris Princeton has just opened so it's a bit too early to provide a complete review and comparo. I'd say, KC Prime is a locally owned, well oiled machine while RC is a national chain that has their training wheels on (in all departments)!

                              In general, RC attempts to provide a more classic steakhouse experience with white table cloths, generously spaced tables, an extensive selection of cuts of beef along with the ala carte requirement to compose a complete entree.

                              The food at both places is very good.

                              The difference is at RC, you'll pay $41 for the ribeye (served on a 500 degree superheated plate with a coating of quickly vaporizing butter), then pay $8.50 for the creamed spinach and another $8.50 for something white. If you want a salad to start, add another $8. Net result is one will spend 30-40% more at Ruth's Chris versus KC Prime.

                              The service at RC is obviously just starting, but our wine service Tuesday night was laughable for a fine dining establishment. We ordered a 2001 Brunello and requested it to be decanted while we decided on the evening's fare. Our server broke the cork in half on opening (screw not in all the way leaving a partial cork in the neck of the bottle), then poured the bottle into the decanter and without asking, immediately proceeded to pour our (3) glasses. Each glass was filled to the point where only a splash was left in the decanter. So a nice bottle of Tuscany's finest that deserved to rest and open up a bit, was not to be.

                              Yeh, I should have put the brakes on prior to the immediate and extra heavy pour, but I was more interested in seeing how fine RC's wine service would be.

                              If I were to consider between KC Prime and RC as to where my steak dollar is going, I see us going to KCP 4 out of 5 times.

                              For details on the cuisine, check the Chains board for Ruth's Chris, while here's a recent thread on KC Prime for other insight:

                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/482652

                      2. Another rave for:
                        Olives (good lunch menu - takeout)
                        Tre Piani and Tre Bar!

                        1. My favorites include KC Prime for steak and seafood, Elements Asia for Chinese and Pan-Asian, Conte's for pizza, and Medittera or the Ferry House for something fancier.

                          Oh, Triumph Brew Pub in Princeton is also nice for a casual bite and a great beer selection (nice wine list, too).

                          1. Never disappoints - Teresa's Cafe Italiano - Princeton NJ
                            The restaurant is small but wonderful.

                            A Good Expensive Steak - Ruth Chris - Princeton NJ
                            Huge Cozy dim lit Dining Room
                            Everything is Ala Cart here - the Crabtini and Julianne Potatoes were yummy.

                            Salt Creek Grill - Princeton NJ
                            Great Kobe Burger and Garlic Fries
                            Very LOUD dining room

                            1. Blue Pointe Grill never disappoints for fresh, simply prepared seafood.

                              1. The post for the Bent Spoon was so old did not resurrect!
                                They make over 400 flavors - what flavors do they have today?

                                Had a Sicilian Blood Orange Spoon Soda.
                                Pellegrino poured over your choice flavor. This was delicious and refreshing - perfect for a walk!

                                Remember they let you try as many flavors as you want!!
                                Tried the Ricotta Ice Cream - Oh My!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: shabbystorm

                                  Check out their honey ice cream -- truly a wonderfully conceived and executed ice cream.

                                  1. re: shabbystorm

                                    There is always an abounding selection and whatever you choose will not disappoint. Owners Matt and Gab work diligently to remain superb in both quality, selection and service and are successful in all 3 areas.

                                    In the summer the line will be long, especially during peak hours, but well worth the wait over Thomas Sweets - their long time rival for ice cream in Princeton. Bent spoon prides themselves on organic and natural ingredients as well. If you have any food allergy guests, they will certainly have something to accommodate all parties.

                                    In winter, try out their European hot chocolate with vanilla bean marshies - it's liquid amazingness...

                                    Gab's cupcakes are killer as well... just saying!

                                    -----
                                    The Bent Spoon
                                    35 Palmer Sq W, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                    1. re: jojoMexico

                                      All well and good.
                                      But really, the ice cream at Thomas Sweets is far better.

                                  2. I've been lurking a while but I see some of my favorite spots are not listed so it's time to chime in. I live 10 minutes out of Princeton so your dilemma is one I face regularly. There are a ton of horrible or just "eh" and overpriced places in the area, not to mention a warehouse district's worth of depressing chain places. Plus there are a few very notable points of light.

                                    My hands-down favorite spot is also a best-kept secret, Non Solo Pasta restaurant (www.nonsolopasta.org) on West Trenton Avenue (aka Business Route 1) in Morrisville, PA, right over the bridge from NJ. You can easily get there in 20 min or less from Princeton--south on Rt. 1 and over the bridge. Been going there for years and while the atmosphere is cute and cozy but unfancy, I love their bread, their brick-oven pizzas, their succulent sauces, and most of all, their prices. I don't think you'll find a more succulent sauteed chicken for the money in central NJ, and at $17 their chicken saporita is a real favorite--delicious wine sauce, tender melt in your mouth chicken (2 big pieces) topped with spinach and cheese and a supergenerous amount of juicy lump crabmeat. (Can you tell there have been times I've gone there 2 or 3 nights in a row?) Anyway, great value for the money, great overall food and I will choose this over any place in Princeton proper.

                                    Next up: I recently went to the under-new-ownership Lawrenceville Inn (www.lawrencevilleinn.com) and was pleasantly surprised. A bit pricey for everyday, but if you like the idea of being in a quaint house, socializing with the other tables and food made with great attention to detail, you'll love it. Bread was great. soup was outstanding, steak frites was done to perfection--again, I love tender buttery soft meat and they did it right. Lots of yummy things on the menu I will return to try but I do wish they did a prix fixe or lower cost night--assume around $35 a head for a basic dinner with starter.

                                    Down the street from them in Lawrenceville I like the Fedora Cafe for their funky cafe style and great brunch options. Not a ton of options but what's there is solid--great crabcake benedict, omelettes, french toast with fruit, etc. I've enjoyed casual lunches and FANTASTIC interesting salads there too, including an awesome fall themed salad with gorgonzola cheese, dried fruits and roasted squash - over the top delicious! Their sweets are too sugar-intense for me. They do look pretty, though.

                                    While in Lawrenceville, do not miss the delicious meats and handmade cheeses at Cherry Grove Farm which has nice long store hours (www.cherrygrovefarm.com). See the cows get milked at 4 p.m. each day and sample cheese and whatever the farmer is compelled to cook while you wait. 2 weeks ago he was making to-die-for omelettes with Cherry Grove's own eggs, bacon, cheese and herbs. Plus, they are so nice to visit with overall--it's really a treat!

                                    Last in Lawrenceville is Enzo's, teeny tiny Chambersburg-style Italian family-run spot in an unlikely location. The chicken parm there is very average and some of the tomato saucey dishes are not my preference there--remind me of the italian restaurants I went to as a kid--but check the chalkboard for some great meat and seafood specials. Notable delicious and splurgeworthy (read: not gonna work on a diet!) items include their button bread which is laced with olive oil and sauteed onions, garlic and leeks and a scallop artichoke gratin type dish which is redolent of butter. Mmmm.

                                    Pizza: We like Divine Pizza in Hamilton near Dairy Queen, finally an old fashioned pie where they don't dump sugar into the sauce. Also Conte's in Princeton is fabulous. Federici's on main street in Freehold is a bit farther out but their ultra ultra ultra thin crust is the slimmest around and it is delicious, plus you can sit out on the broad sidewalk cafe-style. DiLorenzo's is good as well of course but I tend to like more cheese than they offer.

                                    In Princeton itself, I've eaten everywhere but found few favorites. Even when I pay the higher prices, I don't feel the food is worthy--so many "that was average" meals at Ferry House, Lahiere's (oh so dated!), etc. Mediterra is great atmosphere but the food is solid, yet doesn't wow, me, esp. for the price. The places I like in P'ton are not really fine dining spots.

                                    PJ's Pancake House is tasty but best for its green pepper and onion-laced hash browns. I still like JB Winberie's for pub food, nice burgers and buffalo chicken salad. I go there a good bit for a quick bite. Ichiban has nice sushi but I still want to try Ata Hei.

                                    I really enjoy La Mezzaluna on Witherspoon Street, especially with a bottle of wine from next door, but the acoustics make it a noisy spot. Duck and goat cheese salad, butternut or pumpkin ravioli, rack of lamb are big winners here. Oh, and lest I forget, homemade gelato!

                                    The Bent Spoon is my favorite ice cream spot, mint streak with dark chocolate laced through or dark chocolate ice cream mixed with coconut ice cream will tempt me every time. (Thomas Sweet is way too sweet and Halo Pub was a good buy back when sundaes were still $1.25, but now Bent Spoon is king).

                                    Instead of sub shops, I really like to get lunch from the cafe inside the RWH Center for Health & Wellness on Quakerbridge and Sloan. Very tasty wraps and paninis, even some salads and fish/meat dishes which are served unfancily but full of fresh and tasty ingredients. Good smoothies, too. And eating out on the little tables in front or inside is functional enough although I like to take my sandwiches out on picnics, myself. Grab lunch and bring to Sayen Gardens, etc.

                                    Also in Hamilton on Quakerbridge Road, Vasanta Bhavan offers tasty vegetarian fare and a FABULOUS array of dosa and uttapam. They have a fixed price dosa night which is very worth it. I also find Passage to India in Lawrence's $12.99 buffet nights Tues & Weds to be a good value, very decent food for the price although I would go elsewhere when faced with the full price entrees on the other nights.

                                    It's a teensy bit over 20 minutes away, but our favorite burger spot is Inn of the Hawke in Lambertville. Far better priced than the New Hope and Lambertville alternatives (recently I paid $16.95 for a very "just ok" burger at Havana!) they give you fabulous fries cut like thick potato chips and serve with malt vinegar. Good salads, sandwiches and entrees, great beer selection, and a charming outdoor dining area.

                                    For dessert, head to Wildflowers in New Hope, the food here is not great mostly but desserts are cheap and offer a huge selection - homemade fruit cobblers, chocolate chip banana cake, the "ooh la la" chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and ice cream, and then besides those traditional options you've got things like black rice with mango. Something for everyone, awesome funky atmosphere and you can sit on the little patio over the water.

                                    A long post, I know, but I wanted to share my favorites. I still have to try Blue Bottle, Brothers Moon and Rat's but I hear very good things, esp about the first two.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: locavoracious

                                      One heck of a good post, thanks for sharing. Agree with your take on most of the places and a few I need to try.
                                      I gain 5 lbs just looking at the button bread at Enzo's :)

                                      1. re: locavoracious

                                        loca: I've heard Vasanta Bhavan has closed - they certainly don't answer their phone.

                                        1. re: cranrob

                                          Cranrob, I think you're right--was wondering why I'd not heard from them in a while. I used to get their email specials.

                                        2. re: locavoracious

                                          Your post was very inspiring - thank you for taking the time to write so many details, really enjoyed reading this.

                                          I have Button Bread on the Brain!

                                          1. re: locavoracious

                                            Thanks for the info on Non Solo Pasta--I've never been there. The pizza on their website looks delicious. Burgers are 16.95 at Havana now??? Their prices are a joke (and a bad one, at that).

                                            1. re: locavoracious

                                              Oh, I forgot --I did not know there was a cafe in RWH. That's very close to where I work--always looking for new places to go. I'll have to check it out!

                                            2. I was trying for a comprehensive list, yet I forgot Tortuga's Mexican Village in Princeton. Love it love it love it, especially the steak, marinated pork, chile relleno, the rich sauces...

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: locavoracious

                                                It was so comprehensive it left me breathless (and drooling) - and it's only 7:30 in the morning! Just had an Inn of te Hawke burger last week:-) Totally hit the spot. If you try Rat's, go in the warm weather so you can see the sculpture garden. I have to visit Cherry Grove Farm though!

                                                1. re: Heatherb

                                                  When Cherry Grove's chickens are feeding outside those eggs are amazing. Last year I bought a dozen and the yolks were a brilliant orange and oh so delicious. They made me realize how desensitized I'd become to the factory eggs in the supermarket

                                                  They're nice people over there as well. I locked my keys in my car once and they were kind enough to offer a cup of tea while I waited a tow truck to jimmy it. I wish nothing but good things for them.

                                                2. re: locavoracious

                                                  Question, at some point, on my way to Conte's Pizza passed a Mexican - Guatemalan restaurant called Chapin, is it worth checking out or should I just stick to Tortuga? Just curious if you have any insight. Thanks

                                                  1. re: shabbystorm

                                                    We find Tortuga overpriced and mediocre; Chapin is better, but take-away only. Next door is a latin market. For Baja-style, try Calico (CALifornia+MexICO) behind Cox's Market, BYO, and great, particularly for brunch. Plus their pancakes during breakfast time are freshly prepared, unlike the Sysco-boxed mix from PJ's.

                                                    Other local favourites (we've been here since September 2008):

                                                    Old World Pizza (better than Conte's [crowded but good], but take-away and CASH only); I've become a fan of pepperoni since tasting their pizza

                                                    Tomo Sushi: Mark-San is amazing. Order from the menu or have him invent something for you; the best yellow-tail we've ever had, and I like ika now that he's prepared it for me

                                                    Abhiruchi (indian): 20 minute drive north on 27--best Indian we've had in ages; dosas are out of this world

                                                    Ivy Garden (Chinese): ONLY for the whole roasted duck and whole fried flounder, sauces on the side (the sauces are divine)

                                                    Sotto (Italian): happy hour (4-7 daily), particularly their pizza, or a sit-down; incredible Italian

                                                    Teresa's (American/Italian): good wine list, including local wines, fresh food--many locally sourced

                                                    Yankee Doodle Tap Room/Nassau Inn (pub): food is okay, but good for drinks in front of the Norman Rockwell mural; have the parents stay here

                                                    Blue Point Grill (seafood): amazing seafood, but you'll pay for it. Leave your cell phone number at the desk (no reservations) and they'll call when ready

                                                    Halo Pub/Fete (ice cream/patisserie): Pub for ice cream and hot cider; Fete (next door) for amazing cakes; free pastry with morning coffee

                                                    Olives (deli): for incredible sandwiches and bread

                                                    Bon Appetit (gourmet market): pricey, but they probably have most cheeses and meats that you could ever want, plus amazing baguettes; the owner is really nice and will try to get me polverones next holiday season

                                                    Trenton Farmer's Market: everything but the kitchen sink, open 6 days now that it's summer; incredible fried chicken and really good ribs from the Amish (King's)

                                                    Halo Farm (grocer/dairy): great ice cream which tastes better than anything I've ever had and fresh milk--all varieties--skim, 1%, 2%, whole, rich (4%), plus lactose free versions, all under $1.33/half gallon

                                                    Shrimp King (seafood/diner; fish market): this is in Robbinsville, but they have some of the freshist local seafood for reasonable prices (including to die for scallops), as well as sit-down for great fry fry; the local fishmonger next to Blue Point Grill is overpriced

                                                    Chuck's Spring Street Grill (fried): great wings, good ribs

                                                    Pho 99 (Vietnamese/Franklin Park): clean and the best Pho we've had since leaving Brooklyn

                                                    Last Legg's Chicken & Waffle (North Brunswick): amazing fried chicken & catfish, good waffles

                                                    de Island Breeze (Caribbean/Somerset): the ackee & saltfish are amazing, and the roti is good

                                                    Magic Wok (Chinese/West Windsor): some of the best Chinese I've had in awhile; in the shopping mall with McCaffrey's

                                                    Noa-Noa (Mexican/New Brunswick): we believe in tamales again because of this place; they also make their own tortillas with this incredible machine up front

                                                    not recommended:

                                                    Karen's (Chinese): bland
                                                    Sakura (sushi): this place does not appear very clean and has had foul smells on recent stroll-by's; we've tried going in here 3x, only to walk out because something simply didn't seem right
                                                    Big Fish: okay before a movie, but not superb.
                                                    Star Pizza: greasy; a favourite of little leagues
                                                    Nassau Sushi: neither the sushi nor the korean food are very good
                                                    George's (sandwiches): okay for enormous sandwiches if you have the metabolism of a teenager
                                                    Thai/Mexican/Indian at Olden/Nassau: bland and greasy, all of them
                                                    Mehek (Indian): smells great, but bland bland bland. We hate passing in front of or behind the store because it smells fantastic from the outside but is simply not very good
                                                    Triumph (brewery/American): I like their rye beer, but service is mediocre and if you happen to sit on the top floor, your food will be cold.
                                                    Witherspoon Grill (American): good, but not great; very crowded and you will get bumped by the staff and other patrons
                                                    J.B. Winberies (American): good, but really really loud
                                                    Alchemist & Barrister (American): food generally good, but service can be all over the place; pot pie is phenomenal, but service?
                                                    Thomas Sweet (Ice Cream): too sweet and rich for me
                                                    Tom Yum Goong (Thai): beautiful and nice service, but we weren't floored by the food (too salty) and haven't been back.
                                                    Sahara: okay Lebanese food, but not phenomenal

                                                    -----
                                                    Trenton Farmers Market
                                                    960 Spruce St, Trenton, NJ

                                                    Halo Farm
                                                    970 Spruce St, Trenton, NJ

                                                    Abhiruchi Indian Cuisine
                                                    2800 State Route 27 North, Brunswick, NJ

                                                    Chapin Restaurant
                                                    146 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Conte's Bar
                                                    339 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Old World Pizza
                                                    242 1/2 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Sotto's
                                                    128 1/2 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Teresa's Caffe
                                                    21-23 Palmer Square East, Princeton, NJ 08540

                                                    Olives Deli & Bakery
                                                    22 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Tomo Japanese Restaurant
                                                    236 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Blue Point Grill
                                                    258 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Shrimp King Restaurant & Seafood Market
                                                    1111 US Highway 130, Trenton, NJ 08691

                                                    Calico Grill
                                                    180 Nassau St Frnt C, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Yankee Doodle Tap Room
                                                    10 Palmer Sq E, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Halo Pub
                                                    9 Hulfish St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    Ivy Garden Nj
                                                    238 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ

                                                    Bon Appetit
                                                    301 N Harrison St, Princeton, NJ

                                                    Chuck's Spring Street Grill
                                                    16 Spring St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                    1. re: Caralien

                                                      You are really good at those lists!
                                                      This one is great insight just like the Pizza one you posted!
                                                      Excellent :)

                                                  2. My wife and I ate at Taste of Mexico in Princeton Shopping Center over the weekend. It did not cure me of my homesickness for great mexican food in LA, but I have to give them credit for their beans. They make a mean pot of pinto beans in a nice liquor. The al pastor tacos that I had and the chile relleno that my wife had were pretty uninspiring, but I will return for the beans. In the interest of providing a complete review, I'll describe what I did not like about the al pastor tacos and the chile relleno. The meat in the taco was touch and lacked all the luscious goodness that al pastor tacos should have. They was too little pico de gallo, as well. The tortilla was fine, but it could have been a bit warmer so that it really enrobed the meat. The chile relleno wouldn't have been too bad -- they used a good chile and good cheese -- but they used the microwave to cook it. That meant that the exterior had none of the crunchy bits that I look forward to and the chile got too tough. The microwave and mexican food really do not go together very well. Lastly, they gave us some chips and salsa when we came in. The chips were fine even though they were not homemade. The salsa, though, was just the store-bought stuff. In fact, I think it was Pace salsa. Given how easy it is to make salsa, I have to admit that I was a bit frosted to see them take the easy way out on the salsa.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                      1. re: glutton

                                                        The guacamole at Taste of Mexico is the best in Central NJ for me. But the salsa is indeed terrible..I hadn't thought of Pace, but you may be right. It doesn't take much to make a decent homemade salsa.

                                                        1. re: frackit

                                                          The guacomole was pretty good -- you're right. It would benefit from a decent tortilla chip, though. I like that the guacomole is made from scratch when you order it -- too many places just ladle it out of some vat of guac they've got in the fridge in the back.

                                                          1. re: glutton

                                                            Never tried TOMexico's guac, maybe that's where I missed out. Although I haven't been in a while--Chapala's in Hamilton on Rte 33 had great made to order quac.

                                                            1. re: gbean

                                                              I'm not exactly a professional in the kitchen, but I can confidently say that I can whip up a guacomole that matches (or exceeds) what they have at Taste of Mexico. They make a fine version of Taste of Mexico, but at home I can pick better chips and make comparable guacomole, which avoids the drive across town for just an appetizer.

                                                              1. re: glutton

                                                                Yup, it's not difficult and I make a pretty mean one myself but there are some people who would rather drive across town.

                                                                1. re: gbean

                                                                  If I'm in the mood, sometimes I'd rather just drive to Taste of Mexico and pick up Guac to go, than drive to the grocery store, hope they have ripe avacado's, buy the ingredients, go home and chop everything, clean up, etc.. If I have the ingredients though, I will certainly make my own before going out and it is usually just as good.

                                                                  1. re: frackit

                                                                    we've taken to purchasing 2-3 avocados at each store visit regardless of the mood...those are placed in a bag for up to 3 days with a banana, and ready for when the guac craving hits (at least weekly). I may try Taste of Mexico one of these days, but being in the same mall as Bon Appetit oftentimes moves my craving from Mexican to picnic food...jamon, prosciutto, mahon, a baguette...

                                                      2. Halo Pub may very well be the ice cream king in Princeton, will have to do more research.
                                                        If you have not been, check out the 43 flavors they offer! It is great because all the flavors are there all the time.
                                                        Had the Stawberry Heath Bar and Peanut Surprise!
                                                        I'm a believer!

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: shabbystorm

                                                          next time in Princeton, you gotta try the gelato at the Bent Spoon on Palmer Sq ... 2 blocks from Halo, or Thomas Sweet's Ice Cream on Nassua. Then you can weigh in on the "it's my favorite" in Princeton debate!

                                                          They're all great and my fav is Bent Spoon.

                                                          http://www.thebentspoon.net/

                                                          http://thomassweet.com/about.html

                                                          edit - sorry shabbystorm, see you posted above re Bent Spoon.

                                                          1. re: Foody4life

                                                            Great idea Foody. You could do an ice cream crawl...Bent Spoon, Halo, and Thomas Sweet are all within easy walking distance in downtown Princeton. My preference is 1) Bent Spoon (#1 by far) 2) T-Sweet 3) Halo

                                                            The Bent Spoon is not even in the same league IMO. The quality of the ingredients and hand care taken in making their products is exceptional. But of course you pay for it at the cash register.

                                                            1. re: frackit

                                                              The great thing about the Bent Spoon is their combination of unique seasonal ingredients.

                                                              Pear & Prosecco last fall was outstanding, Lavender & Honey, more recently, was very good, Blood Orange & Dark Chocolate also hit the spot!

                                                              You never know what's going to be offered but you can be assured it's going to be awesome. That's what makes it a treat to come back.

                                                              1. re: Foody4life

                                                                My favorite is the lavender and mascarpone.OMG, that is sooooo tasty.

                                                        2. We recently had a very enjoyable dinner at Elements, in Princeton. I will write up a review soon and post it on the appropriate thread.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: RGR

                                                            RGR look forward to it. I live 5 minutes away from Elements, but still have not yet budgeted for a meal there. Let us know how pricey it was compared to other choices. Looking at the menu, I came up with about $100 a head with drinks and dessert.

                                                            1. re: frackit

                                                              frackit,

                                                              While Elements is far from inexpensive, how costly it becomes depends entirely on what you order and, of course, what you drink. We actually came away spending only $127 for two (before tax & tip), even though some of the dishes we ordered were the most expensive on the a la carte menu. I don't drink, and Mr. R. chose not to order wine. He went with the house sparkling water since they don't carry bottled varieties like Perrier or Pellegrino. And we got away really cheap there because the price was only $3.50, and they didn't charge extra for pouring more than one bottle.

                                                              1. re: RGR

                                                                My experience was actually pretty bad at Elements. But.....I think I'll give it a try, I think I hit it at a really off night or something.

                                                                I ordered a 44$ lamb dish....and got 2 or 3 little overcooked (ordered rare, came out medium-well) chops on top of some wilted salad, and a really soggy, greasy potato pancake.

                                                                Fiance ordered skate and half of her skate "wheels" weren't cooked.

                                                                Kinda my fault for not sending it back I guess.

                                                                And service was pretty slow between order/app/dessert/etc.

                                                                Dessert was pretty good though, and the bar was pretty good.

                                                                decor, and atmosphere was excellent, and service was friendly.

                                                                Bill for 2 with tip, 2 cocktails each, a glass of wine each, app main and dessert was 250.

                                                                1. re: RPMcMurphy

                                                                  I had the rack of lamb. Three large, meaty chops cooked exactly to my medium rare specifications. What you described as a potato pancake is supposed to be, according to the menu, potatoes rosti, a Swiss preparation. On my plate, like on yours, it was more like a potato pancake, and though not greasy, it was totally limp instead of crispy the way rosti is supposed to be. And, btw, the cost of my lamb was $39.

                                                                  I definitely think you should have sent back both plates. At a restaurant of the caliber Elements is aiming to be, i.e., the pricing, there's no excuse for those items to have been prepared incorrectly.

                                                                  1. re: RGR

                                                                    sorry, my bad, it was 39$.

                                                                    I'm going to give it another chance, as I'm sure it was just an off night. I haven't heard much bad other than my experience.

                                                                    What stinks is with some of these places, due to cost, its tough to risk/justify giving them another chance. I have the same problem with David Drake in Rahway...I know I hit it on a bad day due to all the positive reviews, but probably had worst lunch experience of my life.

                                                                    1. re: RPMcMurphy

                                                                      I can't disagree with what you say as I generally adhere to the proposition that a restaurant only has *one* chance to make a *first* impression. This is especially true when it comes to upscale places. For me, there's little or no excuse for poor performance. If they're going to charge high end prices, they'd best be on their game at all times. And, btw, that doesn't mean I'll end up liking everything I eat. But the food should at least be prepared correctly, which in your case, it was not.

                                                                      With regard to David Drake's, we've been there many times and have never had a bad experience. However, our last visit was in the fall of '07, so it's possible that things have gone downhill since then.

                                                                      I do hope when you give Elements a second chance, it turns out to be more than satisfactory for you.

                                                          2. I like One 53 in rocky hill, www.one53nj.com. Not as crowded as the princeton restaurants and only 5 mins away. Everything has been excellent there, good service as well

                                                            9 Replies
                                                            1. re: njbreadboy

                                                              Teresa's Caffe
                                                              21-23 Palmer Square East, Princeton, NJ 08540

                                                              I'm a regular here, and while the wait times can be a bit crazy if you go too late on Fri/Sat night, the other weeknights aren't so bad. The bread is good, the pastas are all excellent (I've tried all of them, at this point.)

                                                              I admit, I am an olive fiend, so I particularly love their Cavatelli Salsiccia (gemelli-shaped pasta, + sausage, asparagus, kalamata olives, and plum tomatoes.) It's $18, but a big portion, so totally worth it and very nourishing, esp. on these cold winter nights.

                                                              1. re: trenches

                                                                I was there on Monday night and it was insanely crowded. Maybe it was because of MLK Day. In any event, we waited 35 minutes for our table, then sat down. The charcuterie and calamari appetizers were great. The cavatelli entree was pretty good, too. The pizza was not so great -- the crust was soggy by the time it came to the table. Service was a bit amateurish, but that's the norm in Princeton. All in all, it was a fine meal and I'll keep going back. It's probably the best option in Princeton, which is admittedly not saying much.

                                                                1. re: trenches

                                                                  My husband and I just tried Teresa's this past weekend - we moved to the area from NYC a few weeks ago. so we're trying to get out and check out the restaurants in the area. We loved it - we sat at the bar since the wait for a table was a bit longer than we wanted. We had the cavatelli and a margherita pizza. Both very good. We were very happy with the service. Then again I like anywhere that has Allagash White on tap.

                                                                  Before Teresa's, we went to Mediterra for drinks to see what the crowd was like. We liked our drinks (a Manhattan and a Hendrick's martini) but found the bartenders to be overwhelmed and amateur-ish. We ordered the cheese plate and it was set down with no explanation whatsoever - we had to beg a bit to get a bartender's attention and his description was less than polished.

                                                                  After dinner, we went to Bent Spoon. We are happy it stays open until 11! We tried it before when we were house hunting and it probably factored about 50% in our decision to move to the area. We had the olive oil gelato that night, which was served with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Amazing.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  The Bent Spoon
                                                                  35 Palmer Sq W, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                                  Mediterra
                                                                  29 Hulfish St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                                  1. re: pellegrino31

                                                                    Thanks for the report and welcome to NJ! Keep letting us know where you go as you check out the area.

                                                                    1. re: tom246

                                                                      Thanks! It's definitely different but after 12 years of cramped city living, we like the new change of pace. Are there any Princeton area CH meet-ups?

                                                                      We've also been to Enoterra which we like a lot. Both times sat at the bar and the service, food and wine were excellent. I love the caesar salad with kale rather than romaine, a lot more interesting.

                                                                      On the other end of the spectrum, we've also had a few meals at Tiger's Tale. We hoped it would be a substitute for our favorite pub food spot (Waterfront Ale House) but it's not quite there. Though the burgers were pretty good, we tried the steak and it was underseasoned and overcooked. Tried the spinach dip but it had a ton of cream cheese and was really unappetizing. The menu is just way too big. The other night we were looking around at Bon Appetit and saw the Main Street Bistro next door and think maybe that's going to be the pub food spot. Beer choices look really good.

                                                                      We're curious to try the more upscale places - One53, Blue Bottle, etc - but haven't got around to it just yet.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Bon Appetit
                                                                      301 N Harrison St, Princeton, NJ

                                                                      Blue Bottle Cafe
                                                                      101 E Broad St, Hopewell, NJ 08525

                                                                      Main Street Bistro
                                                                      30 E Main St, Freehold, NJ 07728

                                                                      Tiger's Tale
                                                                      US Highway 206 N, Skillman, NJ 08558

                                                                      1. re: pellegrino31

                                                                        Nice to hear your "exploring" is doing well. Blue Bottle is a favorite of ours, don't forget that it is BYO (big change from NYC:)

                                                                        A great little artisan pizza joint is about a mile or so north of Princeton on Rt 27 in the village of Kingston is Osteria Procaccini. Only been once but the pizza was special. Hope to get back there soon. Here is a recent thread.

                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/763863

                                                                        PS: CH get togethers are sooo hard to put together. Everyone seems to be so busy. Ironically, when there is one, everyone has a great time.

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Blue Bottle Cafe
                                                                        101 E Broad St, Hopewell, NJ 08525

                                                                        Osteria Procaccini
                                                                        4428 Route 27 North, Kingston, NJ 08528

                                                                        1. re: pellegrino31

                                                                          You might try Salt Creek Grill in the bar for happy hour--good choices and visually a nice space. Also we had a really good time at Tre Bar in Tre Piani last tuesday nite-their regular hamburger is $5.00 on Tuesday nights and there are really good happy hour prices.The service was really good, too, 'tho I always hear really mixed reviews of the restaurant. (both restaurants are in Forrestal) I am always disappointed at Main Street, even tho' I really want to like it. Also agree about Tiger's Tale--Stick with the burger!!! And enoterra is really my favorite,"tho pricier, bar spot.

                                                                          1. re: pellegrino31

                                                                            welcome to the local area! you're going quickly thru the list of good spots!

                                                                            some ideas for you:

                                                                            Main Street Bistro, good not great. has much better food than Tiger's Tale. We like to dine at the bar or outside during the summer. The lamb sliders off the grazing menu are very good.

                                                                            One 53, Rocky Hill, our local favorite. Owned by the folks that also own Lucy's Ravioli Kitchen north of town. We frequently dine at One 53 and always at the bar. Great vibe and always busy. Can't go wrong with anything on the menu. Mussels are a favorite, tasty burgers and their current rabbit special was very good. Anytime you order something with fries (also great) ask for the truffle mayo for them. Addictingly good!

                                                                            Blue Point Grill, best fish for miles. byob. always busy but now take res'v on opentable.

                                                                            Nomad Pizza - Hopewell. great woodfired artizan pizza (the anti NJ pizza shop!). Nomad and Osteria Procaccini that tom246 mentioned are our two local favs. Conte's in town isn't bad but not in the same category as the above.

                                                                            Elements and the Peacock Inn, for special nights out. Both upscale and outstanding in their own way.

                                                                            1. re: Foody4life

                                                                              Thanks for the warm welcome! We really like the area. We've done a fair amount of exploring particularly because we have no kitchen to speak of (renovations) and are making do with a microwave, electric skillet and a slow cooker.

                                                                              We have gotten take out from Lucy's Kitchen twice - both times the lasagna. We also bought a few items to make an antipasto platter for friends that came to visit.

                                                                              We attempted to eat at Osteria Procaccini on a Sunday night recently and we were there on the early side - 6:30 - but all the tables were full and everyone just sat down so we didn't feel like waiting. It looked good though. It's about a 5 minute drive from our house so I'm sure we'll make another attempt.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Osteria Procaccini
                                                                              4428 Route 27 North, Kingston, NJ 08528

                                                                  2. Has anyone been to the new location of Da's Thai Kitchen and Catering in Hopewell?

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Thai Kitchen
                                                                    320 US Highway 206 N, Chester, NJ 07930

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: bucksgirl

                                                                      Speaking of Da's. Are they opening 2 places? I just read about Da's Slowdown Cafe and Noodle House in Hightstown.

                                                                      1. re: stillnotdon

                                                                        The food at Da's Slowdown is FABULOUS!!!!!! The curries are great, but my personal obsession is the khao soi... it is to die for. Nice people, great atmosphere, good prices. So happy to have authentic, delicious Thai food right here in Hightstown!

                                                                        1. re: hightstownfan

                                                                          Will have to give Da's a try. Had no idea it even existed. Thanks hightstownfan.

                                                                    2. Hightstown is just 15-20 minutes from Princeton and has some great restaurants that are much more reasonably priced. Check out:

                                                                      Fernando's Grille - (formerly on Rt. 130 in Robbinsville, now in a much better location at 173 Mercer Street/Rt. 33) - outstanding American cuisine - their scallops cannot be beat. Also a great lunch menu with generous portions, very reasonably priced. The chef is wonderful.

                                                                      Molto Bene Caffe e Mercato Italiano - (116 No. Main St. - park across the street, next to Tavern on the Lake) - Italian gourmet - everything they make is delicious and lovingly prepared in-house, plus all kinds of great coffees, fresh soups, salads, desserts, etc. Great little market also with meats, cheeses, prepared foods, fresh breads, etc.

                                                                      Da's Slowdown Cafe & Noodle House (110 Mercer St/ Rt. 33) - authentic, affordable and delicious Thai cuisine, plus it's still a coffee house with homemade gelato. Must try the khao soi.

                                                                      Hightstown Diner (151 Mercer St/ Rt. 33) - just what a diner should be - friendly and unpretentious with good, reasonably priced food. Dinner specials are a steal- a recent favorite was crab cakes served with a perfectly cooked filet mignon. Everything is made in-house, right down to the yummy salad dressings and cranberry sauce. Real diner lovers will especially appreciate the menu.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: hightstownfan

                                                                        Just had breakfast at the Hightstown Diner Sunday - french toast , juice and coffee for less than $5 . The french toast was good but the coffee wasn't .

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Hightstown Diner
                                                                        151 Mercer St, Hightstown, NJ 08520

                                                                        1. re: arpad

                                                                          Terry (owner) always wants to know if something is off - next time let him know. Went there today for the lunch special - grilled ham & cheese sandwich and a salad for $4, served about 5 minutes after we ordered! Can't beat it. Dinner specials are huge and cheap, too.

                                                                          1. re: hightstownfan

                                                                            Coffee has been bad there as long as I can remember . They need to buy better stuff .

                                                                      2. I didnt see it mentioned here is Nomad Pizza for Neapolitan style pizza in hopewell, nj. Uhh wrote it in my blog and got pics if you want a look of what it is all about.

                                                                        Blue bottle cafe which is in the area is also chow worthy as well.,

                                                                        1. When all else fails....and you want the BEST hoagie on the planet. Get over to Hoagie Haven in Princeton. Teeny place with the biggest, best hoagies. I'm hungry.

                                                                          1. After 2 dinners at Ferry House, the latest 2 days ago, we will not go again. My appetizer, fried calamari, was tough and cold. The pork loin and tiger shrimp special entree was disappointing. The pork was dry and hard and barely cuttable with a steak knife. The portabello soup was bland. Not worth the money. The place was filled at 6:30 when we arrived and tables turned over regularly while we were there so Princeton must find it acceptable.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Ferry House
                                                                            32 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542

                                                                            1. We had dinner last week at The Peacock Inn. Superb cuisine, excellent service, and lovely ambiance.

                                                                              The Peacock Inn photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                                                                              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: RGR

                                                                                Great pics and enjoyed your comments. We really have enjoyed our dinners at the Peacock Inn as well. We're lucky to have what I consider outstanding fine dining so close to home.

                                                                                1. re: Foody4life

                                                                                  Thanks for the compliment, Foody4life. :) Princeton now has what I consider two of the finest restaurants in the state: TPI and elements.

                                                                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                2. re: RGR

                                                                                  We ate there a few weeks ago as well. It was amazing - this is the write up I put together on CH.

                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/797835

                                                                                3. I concur, Blue Point Grill by far the best for seafood. Always packed though.

                                                                                  Winberie's is very solid pub food. A favorite of mine. Service isn't terrific but the food is consistently great for a pub.

                                                                                  Tortuga solid and authentic Mexican. Much better than Taste of Mexico but farther from downtown.

                                                                                  Chapin very tasty but a total hole in the wall. On that note, Cox's Market on Nassau is also a hole in the wall. Not everything is good there but they make the best breakfast sandwich I have ever had and I go there quite often in the morning. Coffee is literally undrinkable though. Walk down the street to Small World or Starbucks. The focaccia of the day is also good at Cox's.

                                                                                  On a nice day for a picnic, Olives is good. D'Angelo's Italian Market is good as well. I'm addicted to their marinated black olives and marinated artichokes. Very good.

                                                                                  Avoid PJ's Pancake. Tourist trap and bland like the majority of places on Nassau. Boggles my mind why people wait in line.

                                                                                  Hoagie Haven is an institution. More or less what you would expect. Kind of fun. George's next door is just as good and has a more varied menu. If you get there and there is a line out the door, bail and skip the line by going to George's.

                                                                                  Bent spoon is very nice for certain flavors. Earl grey flavor is great. Halo better if you are a chocolate lover.

                                                                                  Agricola, Mediterra, Teresa were mentioned. I like them in that order. They're alright. Eno Terra a bit farther from downtown same idea. None of these are anything to write home about IMO but I have only been to each of them once or twice.

                                                                                  Despagna
                                                                                  http://www.despanaprinceton.com/
                                                                                  I think this place has a few locations in other places so you may know it. I saw one in Soho once. I think it is the same. They make pretty solid paella. Pretty nice rooftop patio on a nice day. Service hasn't been great.

                                                                                  Soonja Cuisine
                                                                                  http://www.soonjascuisine.com/
                                                                                  Better than Ajihei IMO despite the hype of Ajihei (ex Nobu/Morimoto sous chef?) but it is farther from downtown Princeton. Also serves Korean food in addition to the sushi but I think the sushi is better than the Korean.

                                                                                  Cross Culture
                                                                                  http://www.crossculturerestaurant.com/
                                                                                  BY FAR the best Indian (especially compared to options in town). VERY good. Also a bit farther from downtown Princeton. If I had a car, I would go all the time.
                                                                                  Tandoori Bite is also pretty good too and right in downtown. CC is amazing though. Mehek is the worst Indian option by far.

                                                                                  Prospect House Garden Room
                                                                                  http://www.princeton.edu/prospecthous...
                                                                                  http://www.princeton.edu/prospecthous...
                                                                                  http://www.princeton.edu/prospecthous...
                                                                                  If you are touristing around campus on a weekday, this is a nice place for an ON CAMPUS experience (used to be the residence of the President of the uni). Special events in particular are nice. Nice gardens to overlook. If you are coming during warmer months, ask for a table near the window overlooking the garden. As usual at Princeton, it tries to be fancier than it can handle and generally small portions...but fun nonetheless. Tap Room (cafeteria) in the basement is good too and you do not need to be affiliated with the university for either of these places.

                                                                                  Looking forward to trying Elements after reading on Chowhound :).

                                                                                  BYOB!!!
                                                                                  Many places do not serve liquor but do BYOB. If you want wine with dinner, I recommend Princeton Corkscrew.
                                                                                  https://www.princetoncorkscrew.com/
                                                                                  IMO the best wine store in Princeton by a stretch.
                                                                                  They directly import this one port(o) that I can't get enough of. Ridiculously cheap too (<$15?) for how good it is. I want to say "Sant Eustemia" or something. They sell out sometimes (maybe because of how much of it I drink haha)

                                                                                  Best places in Princeton are "no frills" IMHO. I think the "upscale" places tend to try things over their head. Service in most places is a bit amateurish.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: acr27

                                                                                    Great review acr!!! Very informative!