It almost makes you believe in reincarnation. Metro North is the welcome new life for the beloved venue once known as the Rusty Scupper on Alexander Road. The location, close to town and train, blessed with ample parking, was for more than 30 years a popular destination for all who wanted a good watering hole with good food.
But the Scupper ran aground in 2004, and the building sat vacant for more than three years until JL Ivy made a one-year appearance. Fans of the location began wondering if another ship would ever come in.
Earlier this month the owners of the Metro Grill on Scotch Road in Ewing reanimated the Scupper site (the Metro North name is a reference to the Ewing restaurant, not to the commuter rail line). The new management has not changed the interior of the Alexander Road space to any great extent.
The ample bar still greets you as you enter, this time graced with the now de rigeur large screen TV. Another one of these conversation killers is in the spacious lounge surrounding the open central fireplace. This area offers very comfortable overstuffed couches, chairs, and tables and is a great place for gathering with friends. If a casual meal while watching the game is your aim, this is a very welcoming space. Those who are not sports nuts but who would like to meet up for drinks after work will be hard pressed to escape the big screen televisions. But I was told the upstairs bar will be reopened and with luck that will not have the flickering distraction of sports TV.
For more leisured dining, the main restaurant is mercifully segregated from the incessant sports and retains the more dressed up feel under silk hangings and subdued lighting. The coveted outdoor dining is still available. My friends and I arrived about 8:30 on a Friday night. The bar was jumping with diners waiting for tables and others out for a comfortable drink. We waited for only 15 minutes before taking advantage of the summer-like night and opting for an outside table.
The menu is extensive without being all things to all people. It is easily divided into options for grazing and full dinners. First up is a varied selection of small plates and salads, ranging from $8 to $12 for a full antipasto. Whether you call them appetizers, tapas, or whatnot, the variety is enough to enable you to make a whole meal of lighter fare. The salads are offered in two sizes, just right for a side or a main course with the choice of additions like chicken or shrimp. Several pasta options at $13 to $21 are listed for those wanting an Italian taste. Classic grill offerings are available with pork chops at $19, filet mignon at $28 and sirloin for $25.
An interesting twist is the salmon and tilapia offered in a choice of five different styles, tilapia at $19 and salmon at $20. Chicken and veal is not forgotten and veal saltimbocca, not often seen on menus these days, is $21. Next is a variety of tomato pies ($8 to $9) as well as hearty sandwiches and burgers, both meat and vegetarian, around $10.
We chose a little bit of this and a little bit of that. One friend picked a couple of the small plates, fried calamari ($7) and an eggplant tower ($8).
My other friend zeroed in on the pasta and had the ravioli ($13), which is presented as one massive spinach pasta pocket with rich tomato topping, a visual treat. It was gone in a flash.
I had mushroom calebrese ($7) to start and the putanesca tomato pie, which had a crispy thin crust. The three of us were delighted to find that we were able to have a lovely meal including drinks for under $100, including tip.
Because Metro North is just getting started, with only a soft opening, there were some unfortunately glitches in technology with the computer so that orders were not making it to the kitchen. We did have a long wait for the first courses but that will be cured over time, no doubt. The use of the space offers the choice of completely casual dining near the bar for the gang as well as the more formal option of quiet dining for date night. The acoustics are such that conversation is easy in either space. Casual or dressy, Metro North will be cheered as the return of a favorite haunt.
Metro North, 378 Alexander Road, Princeton. 609-454-3121. Hours: 7 days a week, Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. til 11 p.m.