Princeton is known for its diverse culture and outstanding cuisine. Being a food-enthusiastic resident of the small, restaurant-barren farm town next door, I have come to love Princeton my go to spot for a culinary fix. With more choices for locally sustainable food than there are highway exits in New Jersey, standing out in the crowd in Princeton can be a challenge for a restaurant. Had I not been taking a trip to Whole Earth in order to satisfy my inherent need to make everything from scratch, I would never have stumbled on a hidden gem nestled in a shopping center. After seeing the “coming soon” sign in the window, I instantly hopped on my phone to find out what this place was all about. Six months and four trips back later I have come to love the “comfort food with class” style cooking of the North End Bistro.
Inside the restaurant you’ll find chic purple and green décor, dark wood tables and modern metal chairs, and a menu with an entire section dedicated to one of the most delicious foods the culinary gods blessed this earth with: mac and cheese. If the trendy-yet-relaxing feel of the restaurant isn’t enough to draw you in, the mouth-watering combinations of cheesy covered pasta goodness will. Of course, if swirls of pasta and creamy cheese aren’t your thing, there’s still an entire menu of other upscale comfort foods from which to choose.
Each unique dish taste like “your momma’s meals” with a makeover. No offense to moms out there, including my own, but until I sampled the genius creations of North End, I had never experienced the sinful deliciousness of brioche grilled cheese. This is not your ordinary two slices of Kraft Singles on Wonder Bread. They pair gooey fontina and provolone with sweet and smokey cherry wood bacon, then top it off with creamy avocado and the juicy pop of a Jersey fresh tomato. If that’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread, I don’t know what is.
If you’re feeling more “on a roll” try the North End lobster roll. I have to say it is one of the best lobster rolls I have ever had the pleasure of eating. What makes this particular roll special is the unexpected presence of bacon and avocado. Each luscious, lobster-filled bite is made extra creamy by the avocado, while the crunch of smokey salty bacon offers the perfect textural contrast. The creative mixture is nestled inside buttered brioche toast and served with a side of hot and crispy fries. Whoever said New England does it better has never had the delicious treat of a lobster roll from the North End Bistro (or seen Super Bowl XLVI).
The appetizer menu offers everything you would expect to see at a true Jersey restaurant. On it you will find dishes like bruschetta, disco fries, and spinach and artichoke dip. However, as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy teaches us, “it’s an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem.” The bruschetta is made from ahi tuna and is served on a wonton, the spinach dip is peppered with shaved truffles, and the fresh-cut disco fries are smothered in provolone cheese and homemade gravy. Each appetizer is made fresh and served piping hot for a very affordable price.
The experience of eating at the North End Bistro makes an already outstanding meal that much better. The staff is friendly and attentive, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the owners come out to greet you—that alone is something you do not find in many restaurants. Paired with the comfort style food with a twist it feels like an episode of Leave it Beaver gone Technicolor. Every dish is made from fresh, local ingredients and served with a side of creativity. For a chance to let out your inner child, visit the North End in Princeton.
The North End Bistro
354 Nassau Street
Princeton, NJ 08540
Christine Van Arsdalen is a born and raised Jersey Girl; native to central and Costal NJ. As the author of the blog the Dexterous Diner, Christine chronicles her efforts as she indulges her foodie side on her very small budget which she likes to call “champagne dining on a beer budget”. She grew up being yelled at by an old Italian woman in the kitchen who was surprisingly not her mother. Her love of food grew from a combination of cooking in a restaurant and fond memories of creating scrumptious meals from scratch with her father. Today she travels around the state of New Jersey and beyond searching for new twists on her old favorites; foods that bring you back to your childhood in a modern and sophisticated way. She loves unexpected and creative combinations, both in the food she eats and cooks. Though her palate has become more refined, she is still excited by a grilled cheese sandwich; that, and a great cup of coffee.