Corporate Angels

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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the August

22, 2001 edition of U.S.

1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Can the ‘Net Solve The Lunch Dilemma?

Looking for a new place to have lunch? Internet site

Citysearch (www.citysearch.com) lists 3,172 restaurants

within 50 miles of downtown Princeton. Inc. magazine includes the

site in an article in its July issue on online dining guides. The

business magazine’s rundown is aimed at business travelers. Looking

at the nationwide sites Inc. included, and at a couple of local

websites

too, turns up the fact that no one site offers all the information

hungry Route 1 corridor office workers need at lunch time. Taken

together,

however, the online resources provide lots of information.

Inc. faults Citysearch for having "little for suburbanites,"

but, hey, 3,172 restaurants seems like a pretty good number. In fact,

no other online restaurant guide comes close to listing as many

eateries

within an easy drive of Princeton, and some list not many more dining

spots than there are tines on a dessert fork.

Citysearch can be searched alphabetically — not very helpful;

how many people say "Hmmmm. Let’s try a restaurant that starts

with a `B’ today? — or by cuisine. The search begins at whatever

location you indicate as ground zero, and moves out geographically.

Under Italian restaurants, Citysearch lists 1,589 choices within 50

miles of 08542, the zip code for downtown Princeton. Romano’s Macaroni

Grill (2.51 miles away) comes first. The Winepress in Kingston,

Casabono

in Skillman, and the Olive Garden on Route 1 are all there. But where

is Teresa’s Pizetta Caffee on Palmer Square? Seems like an omission,

but a little hunting turns it up under "pizza restaurants," which

is not terribly accurate, although the popular restaurant does serve

pizza along with its extensive list of entrees and salads.

Citysearch turns up 4,944 more pizza restaurants within 50 miles of

downtown Princeton. It counts 120 such dining spots within 10.43

miles,

including the venerable Conte’s on Witherspoon Street, and lots of

chain outlets. At 11.60 miles, there are 160 pizza restaurants. Go

out 13.72 miles, and the number is up to 199 — number 199 is

Domino’s

pizza at George’s Road.

Talk about time killers! It’s fun just to run the searches. Great

fodder for a trivia game. (How many Mexican restaurants are there

within five miles of downtown Princeton?) Another good feature is

a "map this" icon on every listing. Click, and up comes a

detailed street map pinpointing the location of the restaurant. On

the down side, descriptions of the restaurants and their menu choices

are skimpy. Users are invited to submit reviews, but few appear to

have done so. A random survey of 10 popular Princeton-area restaurants

turned up no reviews at all.

This "user review" feature appears on nearly every dining

website, but reviews are about as scarce as white tablecloths at

McDonalds.

Even when they appear, substance often is lacking. On CuisineNet

(www.cuisinenet.com), for instance, only seven Princeton-area

restaurants

are listed, and that includes Quilty’s, which moved on years ago.

There are reviews for just two — PJ’s Pancake House and the

Alchemist

& Barrister. LadyIsATramp reviewed both. In her opinion, PJ’s, at

which hordes wait patiently on the sidewalk for a table every Saturday

and Sunday, regardless of the weather, has "its share of crying

babies and fussy toddlers…Definitely not your choice if you’re on

a low fat diet." Her review of the A & B is not much more

insightful.

She writes "If you’re not too concerned with atmosphere, then

this is a good place to go if you’re into a diverse menu."

CuisineNet’s reviews are representative of what most dining sites

post, and no other parts of the site offer much redemption. The site

gives addresses and phone numbers, and not much else, not even

thumbnail

staff-written reviews. Restaurants are rated, but the ratings are

based on comments of a very small group of people, and sometimes just

one person.

DineSite.com (www.dinesite.com) is listed as a standalone

website in the Inc. article, but now appears to be linked to

CuisineNet.

The two share editorial content and have identical home pages.

DineSite’s

specialty is covering the dining scene in small communities, and it

does list more Princeton-area restaurants than does CuisineNet, but

not many more. It has about 12 listings. It is hard to figure out

how the selections were made. Sunny Garden is listed along with

George’s

Ribs and Roasters, Small World Coffee, and Karen’s Korner. Again,

there are few visitor reviews, and precious little information of

any kind.

Fodors.com (www.fodors.com) skips Princeton altogether.

The only choice within the Garden State is the Shore with Atlantic

City.

Food.com (www.food.com) is a new twist on a service many

start-ups have tried — and failed to get very far off the ground.

The site links users to eateries offering take-out and delivery. The

idea is click, and then sit back and wait to open the door to dinner

or a late-night snack. Off to a slow start in the Princeton area,

Food.com lists only a few take-out spots, and most of them have either

closed or dropped out of the Food.com network.

Menus.com (www.menus.com) has a fine idea. The website

lists exhaustive menus, including each meal, take-out options, and

— most helpful of all for office party planners — complete

catering menus. Type in "Princeton" and 109 restaurants come

up, but some are only "Princeton" by a very long stretch,

one that reaches all the way into the hills at the northwest part

of the state. Still, this site has dining options few others list.

Tiger Noodles on Nassau Street opposite Wild Oats is here, as is

Olive’s

deli on Witherspoon — home of amazing chicken salad and an

excellent

apple cake.

Menus.com, however, could use that mileage feature on Citysearch.

The first listing to come up under "Princeton" is Allileo’s

Kitchen in Denville, a town that only a native of Montana or some

similarly wide-open state could consider anywhere near Princeton.

The next listing, Chez Alice on Nassau Street, hits the target. Not

only is the gourmet take-out shop right in the heart of the area,

but its listing is wonderfully complete. Its offerings are divided

into categories, even going so far as to break out for fowl (seven

choices, including Ostrich loin at $19.90 a pound) and poultry (16

choices, each with prices and a complete description).

Included with the menus is a map, phone number, hours of operation

— and that ubiquitous "add a review" feature.

Restaurantrow.com (www.restaurantrow.com) is billed

as "the world’s largest dining guide." It lists 150,000

restaurants

in over 8,000 cities. But only 24 of them are within five miles of

downtown Princeton, and that includes two Burger Kings, two Dominos

pizzas, two McDonalds (including the mini-Mickey D’s in the Wal-Mart

store at Nassau Park), one Papa John’s, two Pizza Huts, one Subway

sandwich shop, and one Wendy’s.

The site allows users to make reservations online — at least in

theory. There is a charge of $4.95 per reservation, unless users sign

up for an account at $7.95 per month or $22.95 per quarter, each of

which entitles subscribers to unlimited reservations. Restaurants

on the site — in addition to all those fast food joints —

include the Triumph Brewery, the Red Lobster on Route 1 South,

TGIFriday

at the MarketPlace mall, Tre Piani, and Acacia.

The hostess who answered the phone at TGIFriday said she has never

heard of the site, and added, "we don’t take reservations."

At Tre Piani, chef and partner Jim Weaver said "I didn’t know

we were on the site." None of the people available to answer the

phone at Acacia had ever heard of the site, either. This site might

very well be invaluable to diners in big cities trying to score a

table at a hot restaurant, and could be a good bet for a night out

in New York or Philadelphia or for business travelers, but it is of

little use locally.

Zagat.com (www.zagat.com), featuring the same extensive

user-ratings that made its paper-bound restaurants so popular, is

beautifully organized and fun to browse. Searches can be done by a

number of criteria, including business dining, cuisine, or

neighborhood.

Lists guide users to the "Most Popular" restaurants and those

with "Top Food." Alas, Zagat’s raters are either unfamiliar

with Princeton-area restaurants, or aren’t crazy about many of them.

Among the very few restaurants in this area that made the

"Top"

lists are Acacia in Lawrenceville, SoHo on George in New Brunswick,

and Rats in Hamilton.

Zagat.com lists 98 choices under business dining in New Jersey, but

doesn’t allow visitors to narrow the search more than that, either

by town name or distance, as many other sites do.

The Princeton Packet website (www.pacpub.com) features

full, professionally-written reviews for restaurants in the immediate

area and as far afield as Highland Park, New Hope, Newtown, and

Freehold.

Searches are by cuisine, and not by town. New reviews are highlighted,

and each review contains basic dining information.

At www.princetoninfo.com, the website of U.S. 1

Newspaper,

website dining guide lists restaurants from New Brunswick through

Trenton, west to Skillman, and across the Delaware into Yardley.

Searches

are by town, cuisine, or special feature, including historic, outdoor

dining, fireplace, brunch, entertainment — or any combination

of these criteria. In some cases, listings link to full length,

professionally-written

reviews. All listings contain staff-written descriptions of the dining

experience, including decor, ambiance, and type of cuisine.

As with many dining websites the princetoninfo.com site gives diners

the chance to add their own comments (or vent their anger over an

egregious dining experience). Each listing links to the posted

comments.

And the diners are not shy about expressing themselves.

A dream dining guide might include U.S. 1’s search feature, the

Packet’s

extensive reviews, Citysearch’s mileage calculator and maps, Zagat’s

user ratings, and menu.com’s unabridged menus. Until some ambitious

entrepreneur combines these features, surfing around among the

websites

is a good way to find new places to entertain clients, celebrate

Fridays,

or explore some of the 3,172 restaurants (more than in the entire

state of Montana?) within an easy drive of Princeton area offices.

Top Of Page
Corporate Angels

<B>A-1 Limousine has raised $5,410 for the Susan

G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The money was raised through a

softball game with radio station WPST held in July at Armstrong Park’s

baseball field in Ewing.

Nearly half of the money was raised by A-1 employees who obtained

pledges from their family and friends. Key contributors were Tammy

Azzolini and Susan Vorwick, who raised more than $950, and John

Massari,

who donated $240. The Starr family, owners of A-1, doubled the money

pledged.

UPS Foundation, the charitable arm of United Parcel

Service,

has given a $25,000 grant to HomeFront, the Lawrence-based nonprofit

that helps families, many of them homeless, get back on their feet.

The money will be used to construct a state-of-the-art food panty.

"This grant will allow us to construct a much-needed food pantry,

large enough to allow families to choose food from shelves, not just

receive pre-packed bags," said Celia Bernstein, HomeFront’s

operations

manager.

Top Of Page
Donate Please

HomeFront is looking for 100 good people to outfit a

homeless

child for back-to-school. In July volunteers from that organization

fanned out, writing down sizes for 668 children who are homeless,

or living in motels, or in families too poor to buy them some or all

of the universal first-day-of-school staples — sneakers, a

backpack,

a new outfit, fresh notebooks, and money for fall field trips.

So far HomeFront’s volunteers have uncovered about 568 people who

want to help the kids feel like all their classmates — in a word,

spiffy — when the school bell rings. That leaves 100 children.

Give one of them a hand, HomeFront asks. Or better yet, talk your

whole office into a pitching in.

Call HomeFront’s hotline at 609-882-1544 to get information on the

first-day-of-school needs of a child who could use a little help in

getting ready for that big day.

Top Of Page
Volunteer Please

Literacy Volunteers of America in Mercer County

are in "great need" of tutors to help their basic literacy

and English as a second language students. Tutors must attend seven

classes, beginning Wednesday, September 12, and held from 6 to 9 p.m.

The first session takes place at the Hamilton Library. Other sessions

rotate between that library and the Weaton Pointe Library in East

Windsor.

There is no cost for the training sessions. Participants will earn

certification in basic literacy and in English as a second language.

Call June Vogel at 609-393-8855 for more information.

Top Of Page
Business Meetings

For the complete calendar of events in central New Jersey, go to

www.princetoninfo.com/us1evts.html


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