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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. The original comment has been removed
              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.