For those set to embark on New Year’s diets and cleanses, you may want to stop reading here. Or at least be warned that the international array of new inexpensive and quick-but-not-quite-fast-food options in and around downtown Princeton may tempt you to cheat on your diet before it even begins.
Luckily for me and my partner-in-taste-testing husband, we embarked on our culinary tour well before the New Year and our non-existent resolutions. We made four stops: 30 Burgers on Nassau Street, Middle East-inspired Mamoun’s Falafel on Witherspoon Street, French-influenced Jammin’ Crepes on Nassau Street, and the Mexican-themed Taco Truck in the Princeton Shopping Center.
The spate of new restaurants started in the summer with 30 Burgers, which opened its doors on Nassau Street in July. As its name suggests the menu features 30 different variations on the all-American hamburger, with the 30th being a rotating daily special. All of the burgers, with prices up to around $10, are made to order, and the traditional ground beef patty can be substituted with chicken, turkey, or vegetarian versions. Standard sides — french fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings — are also available.
Since everything is cooked to order a wait of 10 to 15 minutes is standard for eat-in or take-out. On the day we visited for lunch we had no trouble finding seats at one of the handful of booths in the space, which had formerly housed Uncle Louie G Italian Ice. My chicken burger with avocado and cheese, with a side of sweet potato fries, and my husband’s beef-based burger and fries left us with greasy hands and full stomachs.
30 Burgers, 124 Nassau Street, Princeton. 609-497-7570. www.30burgers.com. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Those in the Middle Eastern know looked forward to Mamoun’s Falafel, which opened in the former Princeton Mattress space on Witherspoon street this fall. The eatery, with five existing locations including one in New Brunswick, offers lamb and chicken kebobs as well as vegetarian items such as falafel, hummus, baba ganouj, and tabbouleh as a sandwich ($4.50 to $7.75) or on a platter ($7 to $12). Other specialties include mango juice, tamarind juice, and Mamoun’s spiced iced tea (all $2.25).
The restaurant was quite crowded when we visited for lunch, and we realized as we waited in line that finding a seat inside would be impossible. Despite the wall-sized menu available to diners as they wait in line, the unfamiliar menu items slow the line down as the cashiers answer questions. Once we had ordered our falafels, though, we waited only about 10 minutes for our number to be called. And while seating space inside was at a premium, benches outside were readily available.
Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant, 20 Witherspoon Street, Princeton. 609-454-5936. www.mamouns.com. Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
While some waited for falafel, others waited for crepes. Jammin’ Crepes, a long-time fixture at the West Windsor and other farmers markets, opened its first bricks-and-mortar location at 20 Nassau Street in October. The restaurant’s rustic interior includes an open prep area and a narrow aisle of tables for two. While the line can be long at peak times — as it was when we stopped for lunch on a Saturday shortly before Christmas — there is plenty to distract you, including several chalkboards full of menu items and shelves full of Jammin’ Crepes jams and preserves available for purchase.
The menu emphasizes local ingredients and includes a range of breakfast crepes with bacon, eggs, and the like; sweet crepes with chocolate and fruit spreads; and savory crepes with vegetables, meats, and cheeses. All are in the $10 range. The menu also includes baked goods, salads, and Small World Coffee. We both went the savory route — a turkey club crepe for me and a B.L.T. crepe for him.
We were told that our food would take about 20 minutes, and we were given a playing card (nine of spades for us) that would be called when our order was ready — a clever alternative to giving numbers that also assures you can’t tell how many people are ahead of you. The crepes were worth the wait, though we again headed to the handful of tables outside to eat because the restaurant itself was jam packed (no pun intended).
Jammin’ Crepes, 20 Nassau Street, Princeton. 609-924-5387. www.jammincrepes.com. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m to 4 p.m. Closed Monday.
The Taco Truck — so named because it started as a food truck before expanding to physical storefronts — opened its third New Jersey location in the former Learning Express space at the Princeton Shopping Center in December. Like a Chipotle or Qdoba, the menu includes standard options of tacos or burritos with chicken, beef, pork, or vegetable fillings ($7 to $9) with optional additions of cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. Other options include tortas — toasted sandwiches — quesadillas, and nachos.
We each opted for a chicken burrito and tried out the ginger and lemon-lime fountain sodas ($2), which are made with all-natural cane sugar. Also available are bottles of Mexican Coke. There was only one other group in the restaurant when we visited at midday on the Sunday after Christmas, so we had no problem finding stools at a table, and our burritos were quick to arrive and quick to fill us up.
The Taco Truck, 301 North Harrison Street, Princeton Shopping Center. 609-580-1382. www.thetacotruck.com. Daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Several thousand calories later, our tour is done, and it may be time to reconsider our non-existent New Year’s resolutions. To get back on the healthy eating track we have to look no further than Nassau Street, where another entrepreneurial food enterprise is getting ready to open its doors.
Arlee’s Raw Blends, offering raw cold-pressed juices, is the brainchild of Arlee Moore, who started spreading the word about the health benefits of raw juices after a successful post-pregnancy juice cleanse. With nowhere to purchase such juices in the Princeton area, Arlee and her husband, Brian, realized they could fill a niche and are now setting up shop at 246 Nassau Street — just in time for a New Year’s cleanse.
Arlee’s Raw Blends, 246 Nassau Street, Princeton. 609-954-9690. www.arleesrawblends.com.