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Moving to Princeton from NYC - what are your favorites?

So I'm very sad to be leaving my favorite food city, but I hope to find good food in the Princeton area as well. So far we've been to Elements, which was great! But where else should we go? I'm thinking mostly weekend brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks, and sweets, but maybe an occasional weeknight dinner as well. High-end, hole in the wall, and everything in between. I'm excited to be living minutes from a Cheesecake Factory, so good chains are welcome as well. We eat all types of food and are willing to drive... although having a few places that are cab-able from West Windsor would be appreciated for when we'd like to share a bottle of wine with dinner and not worry about driving after!

I've heard about Blue Point Grill, but anything else? Thanks!

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  1. Last time I was in downtown Princeton, I had to settle for the newly opened Cheeburger Cheeburger because it was a Saturday night and everywhere else had a ridiculously long wait. There's a lot of restaurants that look worth trying, but I've have very limited opportunity.

    1. Bent Spoon for gelato - must try.
      Ajihei (sp?) for authentic Japanese sushi - pricey but great quality.
      There is a bakery across from the library (for the name, sorry) that has some interesting bread offerings.
      Small World Coffee is an awesome coffee shop.

      Darn it, i wish i live in or closer to Princeton. I can only wish Freehold downtown could have better offerings...

      1. Try the Blue Bottle Cafe in Hopewell...not too far and you will love it.

        1. I have always liked Eno Terra which is in Kingston, a few miles from the center of Princeton. Peacock Inn is good if you want a more formal meal. Main Street Bistro is ok, sort of a high end diner.

          1. welcome to the area! Here's our local fav's:

            .. Fine Dining

            Peacock Inn

            .. Any night of the week dining:

            One 53
            Blue Point Grill - byob
            Blue Bottle Cafe - byob

            .. Pizza

            Osteria Procacinni - artisan, byob Kingston location, wines at Pennington location
            Nomad - artisan, byob
            Conte's - traditional

            .. Steaks and more

            KC Prime (casual)
            Ruth's Chris
            Witherspoon Grill

            .. Gelato

            Bent Spoon

            .. Frozen Custard

            Abbott's (closed for season till spring)

            .. Coffee

            Small World Coffee
            Cafe 44

            .. Breakfast or weekend brunch

            Cafe 44

            .. Lunch

            Lucy's Ravioli Kitchen
            Wegmans Market Cafe

            .. Sushi

            Mo C Mo C

            .. Seafood (fresh market)

            Nassau Street Seafood

            .. Cakes and more

            Chez Alice

            .. Grocery


            .. Specialty Foods

            Bon Appetite - Princeton shopping center
            Lucy's Ravioli Kitchen - fresh pasta, prepared foods and more

            .. Wines & Spirits

            Cool Vines
            Joe Canal

            .. Fresh poultry, specialty market (and awesome pot pies)

            Griggstown Quail Farm

            .. Hotdogs

            Captain Paul's Firehouse Dogs

            .. Happy hour or cocktail lounge

            One 53 (small bar but great cocktails)
            Peacock Inn
            Witherspoon Grill's bar

            .. Beers / Sports bar

            Tiger's tale - food's average at best

            .. Burgers

            Bobby Flays
            Rocky Hill Inn

            That should get you started! Lots of info on all the above here on chowhound or google for menus/info.


            2 Replies
            1. re: Foody4life

              ok, 2nd try at this reply....

              wow, thanks, foody - that's quite a list! and to everyone else's responses as well. after our crazy expensive chinese takeout last night, we're looking forward to trying all the places in this post.

              will report back if we find something that was not mentioned that we like... thanks again!

              1. re: jen223

                couple adds to the list of favs!

                .. Any night of the week dining


                .. Happy hour or cocktail lounge


                .. Bagels (how could I forget?!)

                Bagel Barn

            2. 1+ to Foodie4life for the wonderful list, I'd just add a few places I enjoy that did not make foodies list.

              The Dutch Farmers Market http://www.padutchfarmersmarket.com/ is a great source for cheeses and meats. They also have the best prices on spices you'll find anywhere. Although I love Wegmans as a whole, I find the meat and poultry at the Farmers market to be better. The also have wonderful candy and a bakery, but I try to resist. Cannot resist getting one of the hand made soft pretzels though! Yum!

              Old Man Rafferty's just a short drive up from Princeton on 206 is definitely worth checking out.

              I'd also recommend The Fine Diner in Clinton. http://www.thefinedinernj.com/ The best breakfasts and lunch, a far cut above what is usual diner fair. It is a little bit of a drive for you, but definitely worth it!

              Another place to check out would be The Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, and the restaurant located within - Rat's http://www.groundsforsculpture.org/ Be sure to make reservations, and to have plenty of time to walk/view the gardens. It makes for a wonderful day.


              1. For weekend breakfast I like the Princetonian Diner on Brunswick Pike. There are lots of good chain places along there, too. And Trader Joe's.

                1. I adore Tortuga's Mexican Village in Princeton. I've been going there for ages.

                  1. Welcome to the Princeton area. We did the move from NYC about 2 years ago and while we miss a lot of our old haunts there is enough here to keep us happy and well fed. We actually have a kitchen that we can cook in now so we knew coming here that eating out was going to be less than before anyways.

                    Our experience has been that the options for grocery and specialty foods is comparable to what we had in NYC. And good news - there is a Despana opening up soon on Nassau St. We've also been impressed with the local farm sources (Terhune for produce and Cherry Grove for cheese and Griggstown for poultry are favorites). There is also a terrific farmer's market at the Princeton Junction train station parking lot that runs from summer through fall.

                    Wegman's is a huge grocery store on Route 1 which you've probably visited already and we've been really happy with their selection and quality.

                    Aside from Wegman's and Whole Foods for everyday kind of shopping, you can get great products at:
                    - Bon Appetit - very nice cheese selection, crackers, condiments
                    - Dutch Market on Route 27 in Kingston - mentioned by another poster - their prices for produce and meat are quite good but they don't sell organic if that is something you care about. The market has this throwback kind of feel. There is a breakfast/lunch counter too and a counter that makes pretzels similar to Auntie Annies but far better.
                    -Olsson's Fine Foods - on Palmer Square, also a great cheese selection. They also make a variety of grilled cheeses which are great. They are a few doors down from Bent Spoon which is part of the reason why we were convinced to move here in the first place.
                    -Lucy's Ravioli Kitchen - great fresh pasta and sauces
                    -Italian Market across from the parking garage in Princeton. Best proscuitto.

                    Small World Coffee is the greatest. Period. The location on Nassau Street offers breakfast and they have an amazing egg sandwich.

                    Aside from Bent Spoon, the other ice cream option is Halo Pub. Their flavors are more traditional but still delicious. And cheap.

                    We've been so-so on the restaurants to be honest. I know this will come off as being very fussy but we were spoiled in NY. We love Peacock Inn but it's more of a special occasion type of place. Eno Terra is great for starters/small plates and wine but the entrees there have been disappointing. Blue Point Grill has been a bit hit or miss but the basic dishes like fried shrimp have been really good (FYI the seafood shop next to the restaurant offers a great takeout lunch menu which you can eat at the Blue Point tables when the restaurant isn't open). We also tried Blue Bottle Cafe which is in this very cute setting and the food was okay but the service we had was poor and amateur.

                    We have had consistently great meals at Teresa's. The Indian food at Cross Cultures has been quite good. Nomad Pizza is terrific and they have a food truck which pops up at different events (FYI - Jazz Feast in Palmer Square takes place in Sept each year and the food, beer and music are so much fun and the pizza truck sets up shop there). Triumph Brewery has great beer and sandwiches including a very well crafted burger; the entrees are just ok.

                    Enjoy exploring your new location!

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: pellegrino31

                      thanks for the post, pellegrino. glad to hear that you have adjusted well to princeton! we agree with the bigger kitchen - it's the 1st time we can both stand and do work in the kitchen at the same time. it's a great feeling.

                      you don't know how happy you made me with your news about despana! i LOVE that place and am obsessed with sherry, although i'm guessing the princeton location won't also have the wine store. i plan on emailing them right now to suggest it.

                      thanks for the other suggestions as well - we will be sure to check them out

                      1. re: jen223

                        Despana, whenever it arrives, will be such a nice addition.

                        I'm not sure about the sherry selection but Cool Vines which was mentioned by another poster is a well managed wine, spirits and beer store. The staff has always been very helpful and make great recommendations.

                        One other suggestion - it's about 30 minutes away in Stockton, NJ (just north of Lambertville) and called the Stockton Market. It's an indoor market with a number of vendors including a few food counters. Mighty Quinn BBQ has a counter there and it is off the charts good. Amazing. Their EV location just got 2 stars from the NYT. I was always partial to the brisket at Hill Country but Mighty Quinn's is better. The other vendors are a mix of food to eat there and items to take home. We just discovered it a few weeks ago and are longing for the BBQ again.

                        1. re: pellegrino31

                          i just saw the NYT review! but if you go to mighty quinn's website, they don't list any NJ location. is it the same? although i'd guess there wouldn't be 2 bbq places by the name of "mighty quinn's"!

                          i'm quite picky about my brisket as i like it pretty fatty, so hopefully they will do that. their pulled pork sounds great... i like it carolina style and think their carolina-texas blend sounds good.

                          my husband wants to purchase a smoker to make his own bbq here, but maybe with a good bbq place nearby i can try to postpone this purchase a little longer! thanks for the rec, again.

                          1. re: jen223

                            Sorry I might have totally misspoke. I could have sworn that the place in Stockton Market was Mighty Quinn also and that the guy behind the counter mentioned something about a NYC location, though it's quite possible now that I imagined the whole thing. But didn't imagine the deliciousness of the brisket!

                            1. re: pellegrino31

                              i may check it out this weekend, and if so, will report back!

                              1. re: pellegrino31

                                You did not mispeak. It was noted in the NYT that the owner/chef of the New York location is from Hunterdon County. The Stockton location has been open for some time. You can find references to it on the web - just search "quinn's" and "stockton".


                                1. re: ambrose

                                  not anymore...

                                  Last weekend was our last one at Stockton Market. Hope to return to NJ soon, until then visit us at 103 2nd Ave in East Village!

                                  10:12 AM - Jan 1, 2013

                                  1. re: freshmanjs

                                    so sad! especially disappointed that i missed them by one week!!

                                    maybe i'll still go and check out this other (new?) bbq place at the stockton market called "> than Q" aka "More than BBQ" as listed on the website:

                            2. re: pellegrino31

                              so i checked out stockton market last weekend and bought a bunch of goodies that we're now eating. also visited the "> than Q" place and got the scoop.

                              so apparently the 2 owners of mighty quinn's decided to part ways (i didn't ask why). one obviously opened up mighty quinn's in manhattan, but i spoke to the other at stockton market... he's decided to stay put and open up "> than Q", meaning "more than BBQ" as they have other sides and things that aren't technically BBQ. not sure if the menu is similar to what it was in the past, but i've uploaded a photo.

                              i have not tried mighty quinn's (in manhattan or stockton), but i will say > than Q is delicious!!! i was so pleasantly surprised. i was just in houston a couple weeks ago at gatlin's, which is supposed to be the best in houston, and i prefer everything i had at > than Q to gatlin's. by far. (although gatlin's potato salad was delish)

                              pulled pork slider - flavorful, moist, and tender (but not mushy) pulled pork with a secret sauce that's part carolina and part texas and probably part something else.

                              brisket slider - i specifically asked for fatty brisket (dry brisket saddens me), and they delivered. it wasn't particularly fatty, but it was definitely moist and had great flavor.

                              (both sliders paired the meat with some add-on's... lightly pickled vegetables from what i remember, but i was so focused on getting this food into my mouth before my husband's bigger mouth ate it all that i didn't pay as much attention to detail as i normally would.)

                              smoked chicken thighs - i didn't originally plan to order this, but they said they were amazing, so why not? smoked and marinated with sriracha, honey, and lime, they were thrown in the deep fryer to order. i thought these were amazing, and they might have been my favorite even though i'm normally a pig/cow and not chicken person. the balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy was spot on.

                              burnt end baked beans - i'm personally not the biggest baked beans person in general, but my husband really liked it. good sweet and smoky flavor from the meat pieces in it.

                              5-cheese mac & cheese - creamy and rich, topped with breadcrumbs. i definitely enjoyed it, although i wouldn't mind if there were more flavor... maybe throw some mustard in there to kick it up a notch?

                              anyway, to sum it up, this was definitely worth the drive and will definitely be my go-to BBQ spot. thanks, pellegrino, for the recommendation. i don't know much about stockton, NJ, but in future visits i may try to convince them to move closer to princeton! i would think college kids would love this stuff. when i went to order, there were people milling around but no actual line, but as i was chatting with the owner, though, a pretty long line formed behind me... so i'm thinking business is still good for them.

                              1. re: jen223

                                thanks for posting this! great review. we will definitely have to check out stockton.

                                1. re: jen223

                                  I'm so glad you liked Stockton Market. And very much appreciate the report on > than Q and the back story on Mighty Quinn. I looked at the photo and that was the same menu when I visited a few weeks ago. I loved the brisket - I too agree lean brisket is kind of a travesty and the slices I had there weren't too lean or too fatty. The mac and cheese seems to be cooked throughout the day rather than sitting in a steam table, at least that was our experience.

                                  When you go next time, try the greens with bacon. Incredible! My husband also had one of the soups - leek and gorgonzola which is very non-bbq but was delicious.

                                  I'm glad that the bbq will still be there - now that we have an infant, our days of chasing around our food cravings has ground to a semi-halt.

                                  1. re: pellegrino31

                                    after we ordered the mac & cheese, i saw a small portion of mac & cheese being cooked in a pan on their stove. my guess is that they semi-prepare (or mostly prepare) it and then finish it up as orders are placed. definitely better than sitting on a steam table... no dried or exposed-to-air-too-long-and-hardened pieces at all.

                                    will check out the greens with bacon next time!

                                    they did also mention that they plan on doing a lot more catering, so no need to even chase your BBQ craving to stockton... maybe you can celebrate your baby's 1st birthday with a BBQ party!

                                    1. re: jen223

                                      One step ahead of you - after our Stockton Market visit I told my husband that a bbq theme 1st birthday would be amazing!

                          2. I recommend Tre Piani in the Forrestal Village on Rt 1. For my $ it is the second or third best Italian restaurant in NJ. The others at the top of my list being Il Villagio on Rt 10 in Parsippany and Casa Guiseppe in Edison.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jracpa

                              i LOVE italian and will add tre piani to the list. i grew up not too far from parsippany, and while i feel we always stuck to the chain restaurants, i'll now have to bring the family to il villagio, too!

                            2. Looking forward to the opening of Agricola, in the old Lahiere's space on Witherspoon St. Chef from CA and it's looking to be a good everyday dining choice. Food from a farm very close by. Supposed to be opening in about a month or so, check their FB page.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Frederick Loren

                                thanks, frederick, for the head's up. i'm not the biggest FB person but will google it! is there some specific way people keep up with restaurant openings or food news in the area?

                                1. re: jen223

                                  I follow Princeton Scoop on Twitter

                              2. *sigh* I know how you feel, years ago I moved from NYC to Pennington, NJ--right next to Princeton.
                                I have to be honest with you--the drive from Princeton to NYC isn't that bad--just get on the TPK and you are back "home" in one hour and fifteen minutes.
                                However, I find that THE best--ok. well the TWO best food places of all time in Princeton are: Hoagie Haven and Lucy's Ravoli. Having two teenaged sons at the time we lived in P'ton, Hoagie Haven was heaven. It is a crowded, college-student filled place that has the best Hoagies in the world. You need to try it! And Lucys--I was just talking about Lucy's yesterday to a coworker--the best Caesar salad dressing in the world. The world. You can purchase it in a container but watch out, it makes the greatest dip and omg. It makes me wish I still lived in that area just thinking about it--and the Ravoli is great too. Pick some up and cook it at home.
                                Don't forget to do your grocery shopping at the Wegman's on Rt. 1!

                                1. I have heard very fine things about Agricola. I plan to dine there in April and cannot wait.