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Apr 23, 2011 05:13 PM

Celebratory dinner for 5 in central NJ near Princeton

My siblings and I are coming to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday with her. Parents live in the Princeton area and don't venture far out of town most of the time, but know that area very well. New American, Italian, or French would be the safest choices. The sibs and I would prefer something interesting new American, but a really well-done classic Italian place is okay too. We are willing to drive a bit to something special, espeically if the surrounding area is nice. In fact, we have a whole long weekend with her in the area for this surprise visit and are generally looking for recommendations of things to do/places to go. Mom likes gardens, museums, and history and is capable of walking several miles.

One member of the party is a vegetarian but may possibly eat sustainably raised/organic meat and fish.

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  1. Peacock Inn, Princeton or Elements, Princeton for the celebratory dinner. Grounds for Sculpture and the onsite Rat's restaurant for lunch/brunch and your arts outing.

    Peacock Inn
    20 Bayard Lane, Princeton, NJ

    8 Replies
    1. re: Foody4life

      They love Grounds for Sculpture and have eaten at Rats. We might do it anyway, but was hoping to surprise her with something new. I very much doubt they have tried Elements. Does it live up to they hype?

      1. re: loraxc

        Elements is solid and I've described it elsewhere as more avant-garde vrs the more refined and traditional Peacock. Elements is probably better on a Weds/Thurs than a more hectic Fri/Sat. The chef's table is great. Chef Anderson and the very capable staff will take great care for a semi private evening.

        1. re: loraxc

          Not sure how big your party is, but another great place for a celebratory dinner would be the wine cellar at One 53 in nearby Rocky Hill.

          Dining in One 53's main dining room is a bit close and energetic, but the wine cellar is a great hide away. Two long communal tables can seat 10+ each. You could easily occupy one table (not having to reserve the entire room) and again have a semi private dinner. Menu is excellent, top to bottom and the wine list plus captain's list is deep enough to satisfy all.

          Note their menu changes frequently with the seasons and the available fresh local ingredients or provisions. The menu on the website is not current but is typical of the range of their very upscale bistro fare.

          Wine cellar pic from their website:

          One 53
          153 Washington Street, Rocky Hill, NJ 08553

          1. re: Foody4life

            This looks very interesting! We will only have 5--do you think we could still reserve a table in the cellar?

            1. re: loraxc

              for 5, you'd probably be sharing the table with others... another party of 2 or 4, depending on how busy they are.

              In that case, I'd recommend calling (vrs booking on opentable) and specifically reserving the *front corner window table* in the dining room - round table, seats 5. It's the best table in the house for a party of 5.

              The other table for 5 is in the back of the dining room and is not as nice the space is a bit smaller and can get very energetic (noisy) on a busy night.

            2. re: Foody4life

              I want to thank you for ths recommendation. We ate in the wine cellar and it was perfect. The food was very good, with some standouts. Service was excellent. Only flaw was some grit in my asparagus-morel ravioli (those morels are tricksy).

              This is quite close to my parents', but they had never been there and enjoyed it.

              1. re: loraxc

                Sounds like a great time. Glad your parents enjoyed our local fav!

        2. Some excellent suggestions so far, here are a few more to think about. For some culture between the dinners :) I suggest the Princeton University Art Museum, which has a wonderful collection of art from the masters. Some significant endowments have helped shape the collection.
          Best of all, it is free. Don't miss it.

          Our favorite place in the area is Blue Bottle Cafe in Hopewell, a 10 minute drive from downtown Princeton. Menu changes every 3 months, they source from local growers, innovative menu. It is BYO which can be a bonus if you want to bring a few special bottles of wine to open for that celebration. Many glowing reports here if you search "Blue Bottle Cafe".

          Another nice choice is Eno terra which is 10 minutes north of downtown Princeton in Kingston.
          Attractive dining room and also has a private room if needed. Like Blue Bottle, they source locally whever possible. They have a liquor license and have an extensive wine list.

          You have many choices in this thread, wherever you decide to go, have a great time!!

          5 Replies
          1. re: tom246

            Based on many excellent recs. from other CH'ers, we tried the Blue Bottle Cafe and loved it!

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

            1. re: Tay

              Tay, glad to hear you enjoyed Blue Bottle. Great innovative preparation, excellent service and for us its BYO which is a plus.
              As the menu changes every 3 months, the dining experience changes completely which keeps one wanting to go back.

            2. re: tom246

              tom - great suggestions as well! We haven't been to BBC since last fall. Is their online menu current? What's your recent favorite(s)? We're trying to get some friends to go with us and I want to entice them a bit... will be their first visit.

              1. re: Foody4life

                We have not been back since early February when their winter menu was in place. The menu online looks to be current as the apps and entrees are completely different than our visit in February.
                Looking at the current menu I see too many tasty options to decide :) Scallops are always wonderful and the preparations vary a lot depending on the time of year. If either of your friends are gnocchi fans, the ones at BBC are some of the best anywhere.
                A new prep is sous vide lamb shank, I don't normally think of lamb shank prepared that way but sounds great.
                Be sure to get us a report after you go. This also reminds me to get back there soon :)

              2. re: tom246

                The Museum suggests a five dollar donation .