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Mar 14, 2013 09:39 AM

Agricola, Princeton

Agricola Community Eatery opened for dinner this past Sunday and has immediately brought vitality and dining excellence back to its landmark location in the heart of Princeton.

J and I dined here last night with friends and really enjoyed the experience. It’s hard to believe they’ve been opened literally 4 days as our evening was nearly flawless. Our congratulations to owner Jim Nawn, executive chef Josh Thomsen and all involved in getting Agricola open for the community.

Upon entering, one is immediately attracted to the rustic finishes befitting a farm to table dining establishment. Rough hewn beams, exposed brick walls, tile floors, wood ceilings, an expansive pewter bar and industrial lighting all combine to enhance the casual rustic theme. The interior of the former Lahiere’s has been opened up and expanded creating a generous bar and windowed lounge area along with 3 separate dining areas and the adjacent eat in kitchen. It was a transformation well done and worth waiting for.

Diners have a choice of rooms when booking an online reservation. Depending on one’s mood, we would recommend the Parlor room off the bar for a casual dinner with friends, the Community room in the center of it all for a bit more energetic experience with a swirl of activity around it’s high top tables and you, or for a more refined dinner the Family room that’s tucked away from it all and is fitted with more comfortable seating. A small courtyard has been added to the rear of the building for additional dining space as soon as weather permits.

We started the evening with cocktails at the bar and were struck by the similarities to ABC Kitchen in NYC. All service staff at Agricola are dressed in similar plaid button down shirts and jeans as those at ABC, add some whitewash to Agricola's brick walls along with white furniture and you could be in the same place. That’s not a bad thing as we have really enjoyed dining at ABC.

The primary difference is the chef at ABC sources his produce from regional farmers at the nearby Union Square green market. Here at Agricola, the owner’s Great Road Farm is no more than a few minutes away and is the chef’s source. Agricola's menu covers are printed with lists of what produce to expect from the farm during each season - spring, summer, fall and winter. Nice touch.

The food at Agricola is exemplary. A lot of thought has been put into composing a limited menu that will emphasize the seasonal produce and local provisions to satisfy diners on a daily basis. Our compliments to chef Thomsen and we look forward to seeing how the menu changes throughout the growing season.

We enjoyed apps of cod fritters, octopus, poached egg and the excellent gem salad then entrees of the mushroom stew, arctic char, short ribs and red snapper. The depth of flavor in the wild mushroom stew was phenomenal. The short ribs were a generous and hearty portion. Our red snapper served with three pei mussels in a flavorful turnip broth was wonderful and we would order again.

The value here is excellent. With no entrees over $30, Agricola is a welcome alternative to our other local favorites - many with a majority of $30 to $45+ entrees. Agricola’s wine and spirits menu is extensive and we enjoyed a favorite bottle of Shypoke with our dinner.

We welcome Agricola to Princeton and look forward to returning on a frequent basis.

As a matter of fact, we’re returning tonight!

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  1. Sounds great. Thanks for the review. I'm looking forward to trying.

    1. Nice review, you had me at "similarities to ABC Kitchen" - I love that restaurant so having something similar here in Princeton would be terrific.

      1. Was able to secure a reservation for dinner the other night. We had a wonderful evening. The space is a complete transformation from the old and stuffy Lahieres. It now looks fresh and energetic and very inviting. It's quite rustic inside but still manages to maintain an air of sophistication. The food was excellent. We had the kale salad and the octopus to start. Both were good, but the kale salad was outstanding. The cilantro dressing was light and refreshing and had just he right amount of acid. For dinner we had the arctic char, the mushroom flatbread, the scallops, and the pasta dish. They were all cooked perfectly, but the two stars of the evening were the pasta with fresh peas and the arctic char with quinoia and currants. Service was very friendly and attenive but not stuffy at all. The servers are young and hip but all seem knowledgeable. I found the prices to be reasonable for the quality of food and the overall experience of the evening. I highly recommend and will definitely go back.

        1. Thanks for the great review. We had dinner at Agricola last night. All the food was wonderful. We had the kale salad, which was big enough to share, the scallops, short ribs, and rosemary potatoes. This was a little too much food for us to eat and we spipped dessert. The water glasses are a little small and we had to keep asking for refills. I think as the servers get more seasoned they will think to refill the small water glasses. The restaurant is a definite winner and we will return again.

          1. Thanks all. We've been back to Agricola 4 times since our first visit - twice for dinner and twice for cocktails with lighter fare in the front bar / lounge.

            Each visit has been great and has allowed us to try most of the current menu.

            From the bar menu, we'd recommend the mushroom flatbread - addictingly great, and the Agricola burger. Our burger last night was well seasoned, grilled to a perfect medium rare, simply topped with cheese, house made pickles and aioli. It's now our local fav.

            From the dining menu, we'd recommend the market salad (now kale, as described by madgreek99 above), octopus or goat cheese and potato terrine to start. Stand out entrees include the chicken (yes the chicken!), the pork chop, short rib or the arctic char.

            Service continues to impress with well trained and engaging staff.

            Lunch will be starting as early as next week with weekend brunch to follow.