Dinky Bar

Affaire Dinkum (The Dinky Bar & Kitchen)

The Dinky Bar & Kitchen, 94 University Place, Princeton, NJ
Su-Mo 11:30 AM-11PM; Tu-Th 11:30AM-midnight; Fri-Sat 11:30AM - 1 AM
(609) 423-2188   Website    Google Maps

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The Dinky is a tiny, sophisticated, but still casual spot for cocktails and a light meal. It’s located in the converted “Dinky” train station opposite McCarter Theatre and effectively right on the edge of the Princeton campus. Seating is at communal tables or at the bar. It attracts a diverse crowd: the typical upscale Princeton Gen-X trendies, plus more than the usual share of students, faculty, actors, production staff, and stage-hands. Note that before a performance at McCarter Theatre, it will be VERY crowded, and seating is strictly first-come, first-served. Conversely, on show days it will empty out just before curtain, making it a good time to snaffle a seat (if you’re not going to the performance).

The menu is limited, but the food is expertly executed, operated by the same restaurant group as Princeton’s much more expensive Agricola. You can sample a cheese platter or a charcuterie. There is an interesting selection of bar snacks, including several which are vegetarian (nachos) and vegan (baby kale salad). There is also a selection of “plates” which singly suffice for a light meal (heartier appetites will want a bar snack in addition, or to share an additional plate with a companion). On a recent visit (Dec 2016), I sampled the Burger ($14), and my wife ordered the Mussel Hot Pot ($13) (Note: the menu changes seasonally).

DinkyBurgerThis may be the best burger in Mercer County, though certainly not typical. It’s a thick, 5 oz patty, which makes its smallish for a burger at this price point. It comes with aged cheddar, pickle, red-cabbage relish, and a home-made aioli, a garlicky mayonnaise. The meat was superbly flavorful, and the red cabbage relish added a slightly sweet tang. How many times have you eaten a burger so good you didn’t feel a need to slather on any ketchup? This was the first I can remember, which makes it notable.

The mussel hot-pot came in a medium-sized, covered bowl. It featured a about a dozen mussels mixed in with fregola pasta (similar to cous cous), in an intense cilantro pesto sauce. Yummy.

The bar features a rotating menu of specialty cocktails, and the bartenders will execute most anything you might order. I’m not usually a cocktail fan (neat Islay single-malt is my usual spirit of choice), but I was intrigued by “The Essay” cocktail which consists of mezcal, aperol (an Italian, bitter-orange aperitif), hibiscus, lime, and chile. I loved it… the hot chile was intense, but smoothed out by the lime and aperol. Worth the $13 it set me back. My wife ordered a “perfect Manhattan” — made with a mix of dry and sweet vermouth — and reported it “perfect”.

The conversion of the old Dinky station (the spur line which connects central Princeton to the NE Corridor line at Princeton Junction) is really gorgeous. This photo was take from the back corner, so you’re seeing pretty much the entire restaurant, except for the last row of tables. It’s tiny.
Dinky Interior
For me, it’s a bit pricey for every day. Still, a great place to take a date, or meet up with someone in Princeton that you want to treat well.

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