The dining scene in Princeton is getting more and more diverse. And it appears that the Fenwick Hospitality Group, the creative urge behind Agricola, the Dinky Bar, and Cargot, is leading the charge. Its newest venue, Two Sevens, opened to the public in December.
The name Two Sevens is a play on the address, 277 Witherspoon Street, and the restaurant is a welcome addition to the 280-unit AvalonBay apartment complex. Judging from the numerous new businesses that have popped up recently, the far end of Witherspoon is becoming the place to be.
Two Sevens calls itself an “eatery and cantina” and the snacks, tacos, small plates, and shareable dishes are all inspired by the cuisines of Central and South America. But this is quite different from the classic Mexican fare, and the Witherspoon area is already very well represented in that cuisine.
Chef Patrick Lacey has taken the kick of Latin spice and run with it. There is more of Tribeca to their tacos than Tijuana, and they are great. One sampling that we had was a tostado of grilled octopus and chorizo sausage with salsa veracruzana ($10). I could happily have demolished an entire plate of them. Also memorable is the coffee-cumin rubbed ribs with marinated cucumbers ($12) with the meat sliding off the bone. Diners are also greeted with the largest pork cracklings ever seen looming on the bar and tables.
Salads are varied, such as the Jicama with lime vinaigrette, chipotle crema, and cilantro ($11) or chopped Romaine with rotisserie chicken, black beans, avocado, and spicy buttermilk dressing ($14). Larger plates are available including short rib chimichurri ($25), or grilled snapper with salsa roja and watermelon radish ($26). The entire menu is served all day.
Kitty Bernardo, the artisanal bartender, has created a special tequila libation called the Amalia just for Two Sevens. Her creations can be found at the Dinky as well. The signature margaritas are traditionally sour, salty, and lethal. Several draft and bottle beers are available ($5-$7). As a special treat, Two Sevens offers large format cocktails that contain four to five drinks per order. Seasonally Infused Tequila Soda is $44 and Sangria is $49. I’m tempted by the Make Momma Happy Punch ($56), which has mixed rums, vermouth, cranberry, pomegranate, and bitters. Ole!
The premise is to share plates, and the menus are printed in typical tapas style. You pick your dishes and write down the number of plates of each. Portions can be shared by two people easily. This style of dining works well in theory but bear in mind that the various choices come out from the kitchen as they are prepared. If some in your party do not want what arrives first, there can be awkward moments when some folks are just watching others eat, or folks are polite and wait for another dish to arrive while the first gets cold. It is an uneven process for dining with more than one or two friends.
Two Sevens is definitely a great place for a quick solo bite, a casual date night, or friendly gathering. Dining need not break the bank by any means. A downstairs area will soon be open with a separate bar, stage, and video capability, perfect for a private party or celebrating the World Cup. Take-out will be available, complete with a comfortable waiting area. The industrial chic decor is peppered with pops of color, and the bar is a large horseshoe with some, but not a lot, of elbow room. We saw families with kids as well as couples at the tables, so there is something for everyone down the far end of Princeton town.
Two Sevens, 277 Witherspoon Street, Princeton. 609-921-2779. www.twosevensrestaurant.com. Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Bar open Sunday through Wednesday until 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday until midnight with late-night menu available.