$2 tapas M-Th (4:30PM-6:30PM, 9PM-11PM), regular hours M-Th (11:30AM-10PM) F-Sa (11:30AM-11PM), Su (12PM-9PM)
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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.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, you’ll know that tapas are the widely popular Spanish “small plates,” originally served as bar food and now transformed into a wonderful, and very varied, cuisine. Restaurants love them because the portions are small and the mark-up is (typically) quite high. To make a meal of them, you have to order many, and the bill escalates quicker than you expect.
Fortunately, for $2 each, you can afford to feast at Mediterra without thinking twice.
These aren’t the best tapas we’ve ever had, but they’re pretty good, and for the price they are excellent. The bacon-wrapped dates, served with whole grain mustard yogurt, were a favorite at my table (and not just amongst my guests–the communal tables promote great conversations and we ended up sharing our recommendations with the strangers next to us). We greedily devoured the gooey zucchini and manchego empanadas, the perfect falafel (which comes in a vegetarian version or with a shrimp and olive tapenade) and the soul-comforting papas bravas (a traditional dish with potatoes and aioli). My omnivore companions enjoyed the Moroccan chicken wings (though my guests compared them unfavorably to those at the neighboring “Yankee Doodle Tap Room”), the tempura cauliflower, and the albondigas (meatballs in marinara). The only dud of the night was the prosciutto and seasonal squash–the squash was overcooked and the small portion went unfinished. We left seven of the tapas untested–clearly we’re due for a return visit.
The deal isn’t nearly as good in the afternoon, when the wine is quite pricy. But if you come primarily for the food and limit yourself to a glass or two, it’s still a bargain. And with a restaurant of this quality, the wines that you are getting are quite good. In the evening, with $7 glasses of wine, it’s a steal.
Of course, if you want spend $50+ per head, you can always make a reservation and sit at their tables (where you can order tapas and their many full dishes). But if you want a great deal, don’t ignore the tapas. Just get there early–those communal tables fill up fast!