Ever heard of an Arepa? Or a Cachapa? Neither had I. But Trenton’s only Venezuelan restaurant serves up these national specialties, along with a superb Latino-fusion menu.
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Ever heard of an Arepa? Or a Cachapa? Neither had I. But Trenton’s only Venezuelan restaurant serves up these national specialties, along with a superb Latino-fusion menu.
Tikal offers an American fusion menu: center of gravity is Guatemalan, but look for other Latino cuisines as well as Italian American standards. Full bar. Gorgeous new renovation. Friendly service.
Superb tomato pie in town, with a crisp, flavorful crust that’s not at all dry.
Antojitos y Helados (literally: Snacks and Ice Cream) is a tiny Guatemalan restaurant in the heart of Chambersburg. As a restaurant, it’s fine… the meals are authentic, fresh, and home-cooked. However, because of its tiny size (only 3 small tables) the menu is extremely limited, and you have to be prepared to wait to be … Continue reading Fire & Ice
There must be a dozen decent Guatemalan restaurants in town, yet somehow RL manages to be among the best. Maybe it’s the friendly, family atmosphere. Or maybe its the food: presentation is just OK, but the portions are huge, prices are low, and the flavor is outstanding.
Johnny’s has been operating at the same location since the early 1970s. He makes the best Trenton Pork Roll sandwich in town.
DeVito’s Pizza IV is a neighborhood joint that makes great Neapolitan-style pizza (aka NY style). As far as we know, it is now the oldest pizza joint under continuous management within the city limits, having been founded in February of 1985. Devito’s pie isn’t “gourmet”, but it’s a really well executed version of a classic pizza. The rim is crispy and flavorful, and it’s topped with ample, good quality cheese, which is a nicely balanced with the sauce and crust. The, extra large (18″) pie is also a bargain.
El Sazon is a friendly, Dominican restaurant located in one of my favorite dining spaces in Trenton: the former “Filling Station” at 501 Division St. The food is other worldly. It’s run superbly by a single family: Gloria is the chef, while her 40-something daughter, Mildred, waits tables, and her kid-sister Lily works both the … Continue reading Subtle Sazon-ing
Yes, it is (kind of) the Latino KFC. A “fast-food” chain that started in Guatemala, Pollo Campero operates one in Trenton. While originally focused on fried chicken, Campero now offers “Citrus Peruvian Grilled” Chicken as an alternative. And what an alternative! It comes PERFECTLY cooked: succulent and flavorful: without a doubt some of the best chicken we’ve ever had anywhere. Normally we don’t like to review chain stores; but when they can deliver something this good, we make an exception.
Michael’s is a decent diner that supports a very good salad bar. If you enjoy salad bars, you can get a great salad and a good, filling, fresh-cooked meal for not a lot of money. It’s open 7 days, early and late. NJ diners, collectively, should be a national institution. Where else can you get … Continue reading East meets Mid-West
OK, I admit to loving dives. Especially ones like this where the sensibilities of the owner, even wacky ones, are plain to see. It reminds me of the places I used to eat growing up, from a time when most restaurants were owner operated, and McDonald’s were found only in California. In Manhattan, you might … Continue reading Squirreled Away
Diner food, diner prices, better quality. Just across the bridge in Morrisville: open 7 days for breakfast and lunch (7-3).
A charming dive just south of the border with Trenton, Mexico Lindo is another worthy addition to the growing list of Mexican restaurants in town, serving up authentic, home-made specialties at prices that out-of-towners find astonishing.
Updated April 2017 Chencha y Chole (“C y C”) opened in June of 2015 in a distinctive, triangular shaped storefront at the intersection of Cass and S. Broad. Over the past year we’ve eaten there many times. It’s consistently good: and it’s become one of our favorite Latino restaurants in town. (Thanks to our friends … Continue reading Mountain out of a Mole de Pollo
Captain Paul’s proves that inventive entrepreneurs can make a go of even unlikely business concepts. Take the hot dog. Many spurn it as an overly processed, heavily salted, highly fatted anachronism. American cuisine at its worst. One of the culprits (though perhaps not the primary one) in a cuisine that has achieved the highest rate … Continue reading Man Bites Dog
City Deli is a somewhat misleading name for a small restaurant near the statehouse that is serving up an ambitious, home-cooked, vegetarian-friendly menu. If you’re a carnivore, don’t let the veggie-friendly tag get in the way: you’ll find plenty to eat, too. Indeed the menu is astonishingly broad, ranging from the best salad bar in … Continue reading Deli-cate Offerings
Italian People’s Bakery (“IPB”) has been an institution in Chambersburg since Pasquale Gervasio opened a bake shop in 1936. The current location on Butler St is one of the few surviving hold-over businesses from Chambersburg’s Italian past, in part because the bakery services a local chain of suburban storefronts from Ewing to Levittown to Yardville. … Continue reading Power to the Peoples
When a friend told us that we had to go to Ewing and order the “Falafel Pie” at Little Moe’s Pizza and Grill, we were skeptical. Perhaps we were imagining it wrong–thinking this would be a regular pizza (red sauce and cheese) dotted with falafel as though it were sausage. Or perhaps the falafel would be sliced … Continue reading Franken-Pie
There’s a few terms you must understand in order to properly appreciate NJ Weedman’s Joint, the utterly bizarre (but truly delicious) new restaurant that has opened directly across the street from Trenton’s City Hall. Consider these to be essential vocabulary for the straight-edged: NJWeedman: The name (and Twitter handle) of “celebrity stoner” and marijuana rights activist … Continue reading Weed and Feed
The rechristened Broad Street Diner is a superb place to get breakfast. Frankly, I haven’t tried their dinner foods, but if it’s as good as their breakfasts, it will be great.
Once upon a time, Trenton housed a very well-regarded Bagel Shop on South Broad Street, run by the entrepreneurial TC Nelson (now the proprietor of Trenton Social). Since the closing of that shop in 2003, downtown Trenton has been bagel-less. Sure, you can get bagels at one of any number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises–but those … Continue reading The Bagels Are Back
I was taking an Uber ride home from the Trenton Train Station with a very sweet driver who said he was originally from Pakistan. I asked if he had tried Shan’s Restaurant in Trenton, and he said it was a favorite. But had I tried Afghan Kabob and Grill, he asked? And with that, I knew I had a tasty trip ahead.
It is hard to find a good source for Asian ingredients around the city of Trenton. For years, I’d been driving up to the Asian Food Market in Plainsboro, which is a traffic-filled ride along Route 1. It’s a market with an impressive selection, but poor service and a not-so-clean environment. So when I stumbled upon H Mart in Levittown, PA, I was delighted. It’s closer, cleaner, and features a surprisingly decent Korean food court style restaurant inside of it. A true find.
Crown Fried Chicken is the dive that you expect it to be–or maybe even more so. There are two greasy tables in the corner, but most of the traffic here is take-out. The interior is dominated by a massive menu that wraps around the entire counter–and doesn’t mention falafel at all. (Eventually we did see a small sign in a far corner of the room that mentioned the falafel, but only after we’d eaten.) If you know to ask for it, they’ll happily dish up some falafel for you–and it’s pretty darn good.
Mauceri’s is an “old line” Chambersburg pizza joint now under Latino management (as most are). In our limited sample, the pizza is pretty good… the ingredients taste fine but the crust is disappointing. But it’s not a place to make a special trip for. So why are we reviewing? In a word: pupusas! The chef is from El Salvador, the traditional home of these wonderful, stuffed tortillas, which may be the best in town.
Your host, waitress, manager, cook, bus-boy, and dishwasher at Casa Lupita is Alicia, a charming Mexican woman who speaks fluent English. The menu is a little inconsistent, but the best of her food is superb, home cooked Mexican. Casa Lupita also serves some of the best, home-made salsas in town.
The new Trenton economy is on display at Fuente del Buen Gusto every day. Frankly, it’s not the best Guatemalan food in Trenton. Not that FdBG’s food is bad; it’s actually pretty good, but much of it is served off of a buffet, and it suffers a bit from sitting around. However, you won’t find many other places in town that are busier. The joint is usually packed with working men and women from the neighborhood. I suggest that anyone who wants to understand the new Trenton economy should show up here during the week just to check it out.
On May 16, 2015, we’ll be joining the Trenton Council of Civic Associations for a “small plate” restaurant crawl through Chambersburg, sampling the best of the Latino Revival, as well as some of the area’s wondrous Italian food and richly flavored Jamaican cuisine. Each of the twelve restaurants we will visit will be serving a special menu of appetizer sized small plates (for $3-$5), featuring the best of their menu. Tickets to the event are $10/adult at the day of the event, and $7 in advance (kids under 12 can get a free ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket–and uniformed police, fire, EMS, and Dept of Corrections officers will also be given free tickets). Tickets will give you parking assistance, a guidebook and map of the restaurants, and access to those special small plates. You can explore on your own or travel as a group, and you can visit the restaurants for lunch and dinner anytime between 11AM-8PM. Any profits from ticket sales will be donated to a local charity. If you haven’t tried gooey pupusas, pillowy sopes and huaraches, fragrant callaloo, and luscious Trenton guacamole, this is your chance. It’s not your momma’s Italian food (except here, which is exactly your momma’s Italian food!).
Located right on the border of Trenton and Hamilton, Olde Liberty Tavern is a basic dive bar, but with Trenton-style prices which makes it a bargain for central New Jersey.
If you’re looking for a friendly diner to have a leisurely breakfast in downtown Trenton, look no further than Sunrise Luncheonette. This modest cafe has humble decor and decent food, but its chief selling point is the relaxed atmosphere. Step inside, and you’ll instantly feel like you’re a regular returning to a favorite joint, welcomed by the owner and greeted by your (new) friends.
Gyro Express is a small, immaculately clean take-out joint with a straight-forward menu: chicken or lamb gyros, or felafel, which you can have prepared as a salad platter or a sandwich. You can also get Samosas (which aren’t homemade, but are quite good despite that), and baklava pastry for dessert.
If Roots has a guiding philosophy in their cuisine, it seems to be delicious, elegant, comfort. They serve food you want to eat, cooked to perfection and served exquisitely. Their ramen warms the soul, the vegetarian version served with a spectacularly poached egg, soft and pliable white with an oozing yolk, filling the bowl with tongue-coating richness. The dim sum and greens are astonishing little bowls of flavor and delight–with care and precision even in the plating of the smallest items. We’ve sampled many of the noodles (including the street noodles, the drunken noodle, and the pad thai) and they are superb. The sushi is served with perfectly seasoned rice and elegant care. The soups are rich and belly-warming, with waves of flavor that wash over your tongue. Even the house-made kimchi is astonishing. The only disappointments so far have been in the dim sum section of the menu–we loved the Shanghai buns, but the bean curd and vegetable dumplings were only middling, as were the soup dumplings (good, but we expect more layers in the flavor of a soup dumpling).
For most of the second half of the twentieth century, and for a few years post-millennium, there were two DeLorenzo’s in Trenton. One established a national reputation… that was the one on Hudson Street, which closed in 2012. The other DeLorenzo’s was on Hamilton Avenue, founded by two brothers of the Hudson Street founder. This DeLorenzo’s is THAT DeLorenzo’s. While not quite the transcendent confection that used to be found on Hudson Street, it’s still a more than adequate tomato pie, with a crispy crust with a little bit of char, and high quality ingredients.
Thomasena’s offers neo-soul food and sandwiches for lunch every day of the week, and for dinner W-Su. If you can wait until 9 AM, you can also pick up a hot breakfast. Some food is served “cafeteria style” from a steam table, and some is prepared to order in the kitchen. I particularly like their jerk chicken, and the Mac & Cheese is, well, heavenly.
Trentini’s Restaurant has been quietly serving decent Italian fare at its storefront in the Roebling Market ever since its founding in 2002. Trentini’s looks like a standard pizza joint (and the pizza’s OK). But walk past the pizza parlor into the back room, and you find yourself in a quiet, immaculately clean, and intimate dining room with waitress service. With most of the old-line Chambersburg restaurants gone, it’s one of the few options for good Italian within the city limits. And it’s a real bargain.
The revived Warren Street–Trenton’s own “restaurant row”– used to host a wonderful coffee shop, Cafe Ole. This year, Cafe Ole shut down their walk-in restaurant, functioning solely as a catering business now. Ever since that closing, we’ve been lacking a place to go for a quiet morning cup of coffee downtown–somewhere that wasn’t a diner or a restaurant, but had a coffee shop feel to it. Now there’s a new kid on the block, the E. Front Cafe. Technically not on Warren Street, E. Front Cafe is is right around the corner (appropriately on East Front Street). The cafe provides a humble and cozy coffee shop vibe, a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown life. With a remarkably friendly staff, and an eclectic menu at “Trenton prices” (i.e., significantly less inexpensive than comparable joints in our neighboring towns), it’s a welcome addition to the Warren Street family.
E Front Street 2The best thing about E. Front Cafe is the atmosphere. It’s an quirky mix of tables and booths and odd little trays on wheels, along with scattered phrases written on the walls, a giant American flag, and a hand-written menu on white board. But there’s something delightful about it, and if you find yourself sitting by the window, you’ll enjoy your breakfast or lunch by a warm (though artificial) fireplace. It’s a nice touch.
The Food Court at the Capital Center is a great (hidden away) place downtown to sit down and get out of the weather, and maybe even buy some food. It’s nearly charming, with tall ceilings, tiled floors, and comfortable chairs. If you need to kill a couple of hours between appointments, you can buy a cup of coffee or a sandwich, and be quite cozy while you work on your tablet or laptop. No one will bother you.
What’s one of Princeton’s high-end restaurants doing on Hidden Trenton? Mediterra is a pricey restaurant where a single entree can easily set you back $20-$35, and it’s customary to order some starters and at least a few glasses of wine (each priced above $10). Sure, their Mediterranean cuisine (with both Italian and Spanish specialties) is delicious–but it’s hardly hidden, and it’s certainly not a bargain.
But walk into the restaurant on a Monday-Thursday between 4:30pm-6:30 (or better yet, after 9PM), and bypass the hostess for the large communal tables to your right. There, you’ll be greeted with a “tavern menu,” featuring a delightful array of tapas. And during those wonderful hours, all of those tapas are only $2 each. After 9PM, many of their wines (typically priced between $10-$15) are only $7 per glass. It’s a terrific deal, and well worth a visit if you happen to be in Princeton at the right moment.
Dedicated Hidden Trenton readers have known for years about our enthusiasm for Papa’s Tomato Pies, a Chambersburg icon that recently joined the Italian flight to the suburbs (you can now find them in Robbinsville, NJ). But…much like the branches of the famed DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pie family, Dom (great-grandson of the original Papas founder) has finally founded his own independent branch of Papa’s Tomato Pies. And he’s picked a most unusual location–inside the cafe and food court of a Risoldi’s supermarket.
La Parrilla (grill, in Spanish), is one of the City’s newest Guatemalan restaurants, the city’s most vibrant (and increasingly most competitive) segment. Located in what used to be a tomato pie restaurant, La Parrilla emphasizes grilled meats and seafood.