Hours: M-F, 7:30 AM to 11 AM; 11:30AM - 1:30PM
Gravitas: Decor: Cost: Proximity:
The Mates Inn has got to be just about the most bizarre institution on this website, and an oddity that could only be found in Trenton.
It’s a restaurant located at the NJ Department of Corrections’ administrative campus, operated by inmates in the Culinary Arts job training program of the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility.
- It’s a unique experience.
- The food’s pretty darn good (not extraordinary, but surprisingly good).
- It’s dirt cheap.
I went for lunch recently and ordered a chicken breast sauteed with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms, in a light butter sauce. Quite well cooked-to-order, and served with mixed veggies and potatoes. $5.90. Add a soup and salad bar for $1 (soup was home made crab bisque). Oh, by the way, there’s no tipping allowed.
Your wait staff is all male, and generally personable young offenders who are trying to get some job skills during their incarceration. All of the inmates working at the restaurant committed non-violent crimes, and are carefully screened and supervised.
By the way, when you pay your bill, you must use a special, Mates Inn debit card, as the inmates aren’t allowed to handle money (or credit cards). When you finish your meal, you go to the “cashier” near the entrance. He’ll total your bill and tell you what you owe. If it’s your first time, you ask him to give you a blank debit card. Then you take it over to the machine on the wall, stick in the card, and feed bills to the machine to load up the card ($1, $5, $10, $20s are all accepted). Then you bring the card back to the cashier, and he’ll debit it for your meal (+ $2.30 for the card, which you keep and can reuse for future visits).
The Mates Inn does a fairly good business: mostly NJDOC administrative employees that use it as a campus cafeteria, but also a fair number of neighborhood folks who recognize a good deal when they get one. It’s located right near Cadwalader Park, so you may want to combine this with a trip to the Ellarslie Museum.
It’s truly confusing to locate, so I’ve provided the following aerial map, and will explain here:
You’ll need to enter the NJDOC administrative campus via a prominent driveway on Stuyvesant Avenue, just west of Whittlesey Road. Don’t be put off by the guardhouse. Just roll down your window, and tell the guard you’re going to the Mates Inn. He’ll wave you right in. Then, make the first left, first right, first left, first right, and park past the Inn (which will be on your right). See the photo below:
American | Restaurants
13 thoughts on “Jail Break(fast) and Lunch Too!”
You need to provide ID to get in through the gate. They accepted cash.
Food was excellent. Will go again!
Wish they did dinners….. can not get there for earlier meals
My office is planning another outing to have lunch at the Mates Inn. The price is right, the food is excellent and the service was terrific! This is a wonderful service that the Department of Corrections staff has provided to the community. We need more of these types of restaurants to help change lives. I hope these young people go places with this fresh start to their lives.
In response to Tom Pyle’s inquiry, the editor is correct. The campus was the girls’s reform school. My mother taught there – her first job out of college in the auspicious year of 1929.
I was on the DOC Administrative Campus yesterday to get an ID for religious volunteer work for which I have been approved. The campus looks like an old school, complete with a chapel building. What was that campus used for before it was DOC?
Editor’s comment. Someone told me it was the Girl’s “reform school” in the old days.
I loved everything about Mate’s Inn!! It truly is an amazing gem that is hidden in Trenton. My husband and two boys’ enjoyed the genuinely nice host, waiter, and chiefs.
I was a little skeptical about going into a Corrections facility, but I was pleasantly surprised. The restaurant itself was very well maintained and inviting, from the welcoming outdoor carpet to the immaculately clean bathrooms and dining area. The staff was also amazing. They were all very respectful and sweet.. And to top it all off the food was amazing!! 5 stars from us!!!
I went to the Mate’s Inn today, for the first time, with several co-workers. Lunch was excellent and *very* reasonably priced (the total for five people, with five entrees and two desserts, was approximately $35). I look forward to my next visit! It may be my new favorite lunch spot in Trenton.
March 14, 2012
Enjoyed a wonderful lunch today with friends from work, and what’s better than good food and good company? The food was very good, service good and workers were very polite and helpful. This is a hidden treasure in Trenton, NJ. What a wonderful opportunity for these young men to gain knowledge needed to re-enter society in a fulfilling capacity.
Thank you and we will be back-especially for the amazing Weiner Schnitzel!
I had lunch at the Mate’s Inn last week with my girlfriend. My breaded flounder was superb. It was a large, thick fillet that was perfectly cooked, with a tasty breading. I passed on the french fries that came with it and substituted excellent mashed potatoes and OK string beans, at no extra charge. All this and an iced tea for $6! My girlfriend had a very nice steak salad–tasty pieces of grilled staek on top of a huge salad. I’m surprised more people don’t eat there.
I was an actual inmate that work there.I worked there back in 09 for a 3-4 months and i enjoyed myself.hah I was getting paid 3.75 and hour for 8 hour shifts.The food is really good thought.
We plan to have lunch there tomorrow (10.20.09) and are looking forward too all the attractions.
Ok-looking forward to a meal @ this place. Of course, I found out about it for obvoius reasons. I just want to say “thank you” to DOC for offering this opportunity to young offenders who made a wrong turn in the road and at least are re-building self-worth and preparing for their new life once released.
I’ve been to Mates Inn a few times and wish I could get the weekly menus by email (hint, hint). When the food at Mates Inn is good it’s quite good, especially the soup of the day, usually garnished with fresh herbs and a lot of butter.
Starbucks has in fact infiltrated one of our humble delis on Broad Street, keeping a low profile lest Cafe Ole turn out in arms.
Watch out! We support our local business!