Shopping

Post-Modern Cycles and Service (Knapp’s Cyclery, Inc.)

Knapp’s Cyclery, Inc. 1761 Princeton Pike, Trenton (609) 393-1199
(Directions) (Website)

Knapp’s is located on the northern end of Brunswick Circle, where Princeton Avenue changes it’s name to Princeton Pike. It has a Trenton address, but is just over the border in Lawrenceville.

Knapp's Cyclery

Knapp’s has been around since 1944, and the current owner, Pete Garnich, started working at the shop, for Mr. Knapp, in the late 1970′s. He bought it around 10 years ago.

The shop is pleasant, with a good selection of bikes for kids and adults, mountain and racing.

If you haven’t been on a bike in a few years, be prepared to be amazed. Today’s bikes are incredibly strong and easy to ride compared to what was sold even 10 or 15 years ago. The technology is really that much better.

Knapp’s has kept up with the times, and perhaps surpassed them. I’ve bought 6 bikes as an adult for myself, and 4 for members of my family. I’ve never experienced the care and expertise that Knapp’s brought to the table when I bought my current road bike.

Matt, my salesman, had me on the bike on a trainer. He adjusted the seat, not just for height, but for its position on the rails (backwards and forwards). He measured the angle of my body over the handlebars. The position of my knee relative to the pedal. The extension of my knee. He ended up swapping the stem which came on the bike, with another that was 10mm shorter, at no charge.

No one has ever done anything like such a thorough job.

If you’re looking to buy a bike, you can’t beat Knapp’s for service.

Not so Crazy (It’s Nutts)

It’s Nutts, 1382 River Road (Rt. 29), Titusville, NJ (609) 737-0505
(Directions)

“It’s Nutts” is a little off the beaten track for Hidden Trenton, but we’ve included it because it’s immediately adjacent to Washington Crossing State Park, and on the way to Baldpate Mountain.  If you’re headed there, it’s a great place to pick up a well prepared, moderately priced meal (in an area that’s not known for bargains).

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Nutts creates one of the best, authentic Trenton-style tomato pie you’ll get outside of town.  Not quite to the level of Papa’s or DeLorenzo’s, but pretty darn good.  Burgers, cheese steaks, subs – all are decent.

And great, homemade ice cream.

Just the place to tuck in after a long walk in the woods.

Dressmaker to the Rest of Us (Sayah’s African Fashion Studio)

Sayah’s African Fashion Studio, 42 Vine Street, Trenton (609) 695-4221
(Directions)

Sayah Anne Richardson, the proprietor of Sayah’s African Fashion Studio, immigrated to Trenton from Liberia about 30 years ago.  Ever since, she’s been Trenton’s “go to” dressmaker, creating custom fashions, or expertly altering dresses for a diverse clientele.

Want your grandmother’s wedding gown altered for your own wedding?  Go to Sayah.  Off the rack dresses just don’t fit you?  Go to Sayah.  And get it for a fraction of what you’d pay in New York or Princeton.

Sayah’s tiny Vine Street shop, in the basement of her home, also features beautiful and hard-to-find west African printed cottons, which she will fashion into a unique creation, or sell by the yard.

Since Sayah works by herself, it’s best to call ahead for an appointment.

Pleasures, Guilty & Otherwise (Vincent’s Ice Cream)

Vincent’s Ice Cream 902 North Olden, Trenton (609) 396-3341
(Directions) Vincent’s is closed during the winter months

Editor’s Pick for Best Ice Cream by the Scoop

Vincent’s is the pink and white ice cream stand at the corner of North Olden and Pennsylvania, just west of Rte. 1, and a couple of blocks down the street from Brunswick Avenue. It is exactly what you hope an independently owned business will be: well managed by an entrepreneur-owner who knows what he’s doing and cares about quality.

Vincent's Ice Cream

Vincent’s does home-made, hand dipped ice-cream, home-made water ices, and soft-serve. He also does a mean meatball, pulled-pork, or chicken-breast sandwich.

Let’s start with the sandwiches. To date, I’ve only had the meatballs, which are tasty, flavorful, and surprisingly light. When I asked Vincent what they were made of, he confessed they are turkey! “I did a taste comparison of beef against the turkey. The turkey was just better.” I suspect he’s right. The sandwich itself is big, with plenty of meatballs, and priced fairly at $4.50. (Because the turkey will be much lower in fat than beef meatballs would be, this is the pleasure you needn’t feel guilty about.)
Vincent’s home made ice creams (the guilty pleasures) are creamy and strongly flavored. At $3 for a “regular” which is roughly two normal sized scoops, it’s also pretty good value against other ice cream stands that make their own. Flavors rotate with the season and Vincent’s whim.

Vincent's Ice Cream Menu

The water ice is also outstanding, made with real fruit. The only issue I’ve had with Vincent’s is that he doesn’t turn over the inventory as quickly as Rita’s, so the water ice isn’t always fresh. When it is fresh, however, some flavors are untouchable. I’m not a huge fan of the soft serve, but who cares when you can buy a Gelato made with Vincent’s home made ice cream.

Vincent’s is basically a take-out place, but there are picnic tables on a patio behind the store.

Tommy and the Ice Cream Factory (Arctic Ice Cream)

Arctic Ice Cream 22 Arctic Parkway, Trenton (609) 393-4264
(Directions)

Editor’s Pick for Best Ice Cream sold in Bulk

Arctic has been manufacturing Ice Cream in Trenton since 1931. Actually, the original factory was on Hermitage Avenue. The current factory (a WWII era quonset hut where they’ve manufactured for only 55 years or so), is one block into Ewing, though it has a Trenton postal address. According to Tom Green, the owner, the same two Polish women have operated the packing line for 49 years.
Tom Green Arctic Ice Cream

Arctic is a great place to buy ice cream if you’re stocking up for a party. The smallest container is a half gallon ($5), or you can get the 3 gallon tub ($24.64). It comes in (count ‘em) 45 flavors (though not all flavors are available year round).
Ice Cream Flavors at Arctic

Some of the flavors have a cult following. For example, the Peanut Butter Ice Cream is the only ice cream served at Chick and Nello’s Homestead Restaurant in Hamilton. And you can find references on the web to many other establishments in NJ that proudly and exclusively serve Arctic’s products.

My own limited taste sample suggests that the ice cream is pretty darn good. It doesn’t have the butterfat content of a super-premium, but is delicious all the same. Note that a 3-gallon tub works out to $1.03/pint, 74% cheaper than a pint of Hagen Daz.
In addition to their own products, Arctic stocks a large number of ice cream novelties which they sell by the case at very reasonable prices: popsicles, ice cream bars, as well as Spumoni, Tartuffe, and tiramisu.

Well worth checking out. There’s also a lovely little breakfast and lunch counter with a full ice cream bar on the premises.

Flavored Water (Rita’s Water Ice)

Rita’s Water Ice 4 locations surrounding Trenton in Hamilton, Ewing, Lawrence, and Morrisville
1715 Greenwood Avenue (Hamilton); 1400 Parkway Avenue (Ewing); 2070 US Highway 1 at Whitehead Road (Lawrenceville);815 W. Trenton Avenue, Morrisville, PA
(Website)

Water Ice is a Philly confection: a slush (like a slurpee) made from water, sugar, and flavorings. In Rita’s case, the flavorings are generally fruit (my favorites: mango, wild-cherry, and lemon) with chunks of fruit mixed-in. Rita’s is a chain started in a suburb of Philly in 1984, that has been aggressively expanding in the mid-Atlantic states with some 400 stores.

Rita's Water Ice Greenwood Ave.

Water ice is made fresh in each Rita’s store, and thrown out if not consumed within 36 hours. This is one of the ways that Rita’s seems to do a better job than most independent competition (ices purchased from small indy operators often taste freezer-burned).

Rita’s also does a superb Frozen Custard…denser and creamier than a Dairy Queen or Soft Serv, and better than anything I’ve ever had in an independent shop. On it’s own, I find it TOO rich. But mixed with water-ice, in a concoction they call “Gelati”, it’s heavenly. They put a layer of custard at the bottom of the cup, fill it with water ice, then crown it with another dollop of custard. Careful eaters can get a bit of custard with every bite of ice.

Rita’s hours vary seasonally, and are closed during the winter. On the first day of spring (the day of this original posting) they offer a free regular water ice just for showing up.

If you read this site, you’ll see I’m not a big fan of chains. But I make an exception for Rita’s. They do a very good job. There are some independent water ice shops in Trenton, and I’m hoping that one will make the grade to be included here. But for now, my conscience wouldn’t let me leave Rita’s off.

Battlin’ Perogies (Henry’s Deli and Luncheonette)

Henry’s Deli and Luncheonette 916 Brunswick Avenue (609) 392-3537
(Directions)

From the outside, Henry’s looks like an old-school luncheonette, which went out of fashion in the early 1960′s. However, peer through the window, and you see something’s up with the large, modern cooking area, and nicely stocked shelves. Then you realize all the packages have Polish labels, and you remember that you’re at the very epicenter of the Polish section of Trenton: European Bakery is next door, Cosmo Food Market is across the street, Rozmaryn Restaurant is around the corner, and Villa Polonia is two blocks north.

Henry's Deli

Henry’s menu is schitzoid. Half is a classic American diner, with an extensive breakfast menu, sandwiches, burgers, and cheese steaks. The back page is in Polish. According to the people behind the counter, whose English skills are intermittent, these items are all translated into English in the small print in the “specialties” section. But a quick visual inspection suggests it’s not true. Never mind.

One Polish specialty which does show up in both languages is the perogies: cheese and potato, potato, sauerkraut and mushroom, or meat. They come with sour cream and either applesauce or bacon and onions. Henry’s are home-made on the premises, and can be purchased for eating-in, or are available frozen to cook at home.

Now here’s the deal: Henry’s perogies are peasant food. My favorites are sauerkraut and mushroom and the potato and they’re delicious. But they’re not light. Hit the Villa Polonia up the street, and you’ll get a delicate, light little puff. Also delicious but in a very different way. Julian’s are kind-of in the middle. Cosmos also sells frozen perogies to cook at home (for about $1.70 more a dozen – $6.95 instead of $4.95-5.25 as at Henry’s). I confess not to have tried them, though they look more like Villa Polonia’s rather than Henry’s. As of this moment, my personal favorites are Julian’s, but its fun to figure out which you prefer, and I hope you get the chance. You may not lose weight, but you’ll have fun.

Fishing Consultants (Brunswick Sports, Inc.)

Brunswick Sports, Inc. 1177 Brunswick Avenue (corner of Mulberry), Trenton 609-392-4444
(Directions)

Brunswick Sports is an old-fashioned bait and tackle shop that offers a good selection of products combined with expert advice. Re-opened by 4 partners in April of 2006, it’s the perfect place to find out what’s happening on the local streams.

Brunswick Sports

Maybe the prices at Sport Authority or WalMart might be a little lower, but you’ll get exactly what you need, and know exactly what to do with it when you leave Brunswick. They have a great selection of light spinning rods ranging from $20 to $100+, plus a pretty good selection of salt water tackle. The emphasis is on spinning and bait casting, however, with very little of use to the fly fisherman.

Bakery a la Polonia (European Bakery)

European Bakery 900 Brunswick Avenue (corner of N. Olden), Trenton (609) 695-7200
(Directions)

The European Bakery (“EB”) is the expanded successor to the Eagle Bakery (now closed), which used to operate two blocks down Olden Street. It offers a wonderful variety of authentic Polish-style baked goods – pastries, cakes, and breads – plus a well-stocked deli with cold cuts, sausages, and an assortment of grocery items.

European Bakery

Many of the desserts at EB are available as multi-layered sheet cakes that you buy by the pound, e.g.:

  • An apple crumb cake with a bottom layer of pound cake, a layer of apple filling, topped with a thin layer of custard and then brown sugar crumbs.
  • Dark and light chocolate cake layers with hazelnut cream icing
  • Cheese cake
  • Pound cake topped with whole pineapple rings in gelatin
  • and many more…

The cakes are always well made, though not always to American tastes. For example, their “cheese cake” is more like a cream cheese pound cake: very dense, but not as creamy as most Americans would want. But it would be fantastic if you served it with strawberries or a fruit salad, or added ice cream, as it’s one of the best pound cakes you’ve ever had.
A word of warning. EB seems to bake more cakes than they turn over rapidly, so they’re not always at peak freshness. Be careful what you order, and select cakes which look like they’re freshly baked.

EB is across the street from the Cosmo Food Store, its mortal competitor. Cosmo is principally a grocery store, with a large and well managed bakery department, wheras EB is principally a bakery, with a bunch of other items. Both are great.

EB has a private parking lot, with its entrance just past the store off Brunswick Avenue.

Baked Time (Franca Bakery)

Franca Bakery 1245 Princeton Avenue, Trenton (609) 695-6051
(Directions) Also in the Trenton Farmer’s Market

It’s a sad commentary on Trenton’s old-line bakeries that they don’t do a consistently better job than the bakery departments of major grocery chains. I’d say Wegeman’s does a much better job than most Trenton bakeries, and even Shop Rite does about as well.

Franca’s is clearly the best of the old-line Italian bakeries, beating Shop Rite, though not (consistently) Wegeman’s. However, there are enough quality items, at very attractive prices, to merit inclusion on this website. The original store front on Princeton Avenue appears stuck in a time warp, reminding me of the places I used to visit as a child.

Franca’s does some lovely, crusty peasant breads, a mean sfoliatella (a ridged, chewy, triangular pastry filled with a lemony ricotta filling), and a decent cheese cake. There may be other good items as well; I’ll confess to have sampled only a few.
Franca Bakery

At the root of the problem is that Trenton bakeries seem to have decided that they need to keep prices low even if it means reducing quality. A pastry in most Trenton bakeries is $1-$1.50, less than half of what you’ll pay at Panera Bread or Witherspoon Baking Company in Princeton. Certainly, the main-stream demographic of Trenton doesn’t support many up-scale businesses. On the other hand, it’s a death spiral. Why go out of your way to buy from a bakery at all, if the quality is no better than Shop Rite’s?

Franca’s hasn’t been totally immune to this trend (old timers tell me that their Easter cake is a shadow of it’s former, glorious self), but it has resisted it more than most. For the stuff that remains good, it’s a great deal.

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