Three very different area establishments have taken different routes to weathering the pandemic by going beyond offering their pre-COVID menu to go:

Kristine’s, 51 Witherspoon Street, Princeton.

Nicolas Démurgé of Kristine’s.

A welcome addition to Princeton’s downtown dining scene, Kristine’s has proven to be a hit with locals and out-of-towners alike, thanks in no small measure to a well-chosen menu and wine list, and to the charm and culinary skills of French-trained Chef Nicolas Démurgé.

In addition to limited indoor seating, sheltered and heated patio dining, and curbside pickup of Kristine’s regular menu, chef Démurgé has launched a weekly family meal special. Available on Wednesday through Sunday for takeout only, the special serves four generously and includes an entrée and choice of four sides. Selections vary week-to-week and are selected with foolproof re-heating at home in mind.

Price of the special varies according to entrée; Chef’s Beef Bourguignon was a recent example, a delicious value at $79 plus tax and a modest service charge. Join Kristine’s email list to find out about upcoming family meal specials, and about Kristine’s Wine Club, coming soon.

Aunt Chubby’s Luncheonette, 1 Railroad Place, Hopewell.

Situated across from Hopewell’s historic train station, cozy, friendly, sensitively restored Aunt Chubby’s is the luncheonette everyone wishes they had in their home town.

Run by Lyn Farrugia and Michelle Hamilton, Aunt Chubby’s has gone beyond its breakfast and lunch selections, currently offering chicken or veggie enchiladas with green or mole salsa for pickup on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The establishment also offers a surprisingly wide selection of grocery items for online purchase. A recent visit to Chubby’s website turned up an eclectic mix of 45 essential and gourmet grocery items that included arugula, rooibos chai tea, and rolls of toilet paper.

Thinking twice about dining outside in chilly weather? On a recent visit, I encountered Chubby’s regular Roger Thorpe, who had recently tried dining in Chubby’s sheltered, space-heated backyard. He was pleasantly surprised to find that Chubby’s had gone the extra mile to ensure his comfort. “They offered a seat cushion, a fleece blanket, and a hot water bottle! A toasty warm hand warmer certainly did enhance the dining experience. Just the idea of it…ahhh!”

LiLLiPiES Bakery, 301 North Harrison Street, Princeton.

Jen Carson of Lillipies.

Jen Carson, former instructor at the MCCC culinary program, award-winning baker, and founder of LiLLiPiES Bakery, a popular small-batch bakery located in the Princeton Shopping Center specializing in artisan breads and sweets, will always remember the day that COVID hit.

“COVID impacted us on Pi Day 2020, the day we decided to launch our cookbook,” Carson recalls. Weirdly, it worked out for us, because suddenly everyone wanted to learn to bake at home. We originally wanted to launch LiLLiPiES cooking classes along with our cookbook, but of course we couldn’t do that.”

Instead Carson pivoted and started making mixes for people who wanted to bake at home. “We started with pancake mix, then scone mix, then moved on to brownies and donuts,” she says. “The donuts are very popular at the shop, so people wanted to make them at home.”

Home baking kits and other tasty offerings soon followed, as well as The LiLLiPiES Cookbook and a selection of products from local producers like Griggstown Farm and First Field. Online ordering from the website enables customers to shop 24/7 for next-day pickup curbside or at the shop’s door. LiLLiPiES also ships “care packages” and gifts, which have proven to be popular at Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Carson notes.

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