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Review updated 1/3/15. Cafe 72 has been open for years in its pleasant little location near the Trenton/Mercer Airport, going through several changes of ownership though always retaining the same name. Two years ago, it was purchased by the owners of Cugino’s Italian Specialties (at Pennington Circle), and now it does a brisk breakfast and lunch business.
Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of great breakfast in Trenton. Sure there are some diners (such as Mastoris and Pat’s) and other assorted options (you can view them all by clicking on our breakfast tag), but finding a place that goes beyond the breakfast basics (eggs, pancakes, omelettes, bacon) is rare. That’s what makes Cafe 72 unique. Despite it’s casual luncheonette atmosphere and bargain prices, it is aiming to higher culinary heights (if not always achieving them). What are we talking about? Think Belgian waffles filled with sun-dried figs and topped with blueberry chutney and cannoli cream, cajun-seasoned shrimp and creamy grits with onions, peppers and finished with a sunny side up egg (pictured at right), or portobello mushroom towers with sliced tomato, poached eggs, provolone, and basil hollandaise (pictured above). The menu is supplemented by a variety of specials; on a recent visit we sampled the fresh ricotta donuts with blueberry chutney (pictured above), and boy were they fresh.
It’s best to call ahead for a reservation, especially on a weekend. There isn’t much space inside to wait for your table, so you may end up waiting outside, where they have some ineffective outdoor heaters and plenty of complimentary coffee. The atmosphere is casual enough that you can bring a family, but certainly a step above the traditional diner decor. They are also open for lunch (with a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and grilled cheeses, as well as some standard-looking salads. We haven’t yet sampled the new lunch menu, so if you’ve been there feel free to include a comment.
Prices are excellent, everything is several dollars cheaper than what you’d find for a comparable meal in Princeton, Philly, or NYC. Though the plating is pleasant and the food is inventive, the meal isn’t transcendent. This is better than an average diner, but fine dining it isn’t. The proportions of the individual components aren’t always quite in balance, the potatoes aren’t perfectly seasoned, and the flavors don’t always pop. But the food is fresh, the service is great, and the menu is more inventive than most. Unlike many of the downtown Trenton establishments, Cafe 72 is open 7 days a week (rather than just M-F). Is it the best breakfast you’ll ever have? Probably not. But it’s better than many, and that’s enough to keep us coming back.