It’s a shore thing: the catchphrase is used by any and all New Jersey restaurants that have beach-related summer specials. The pun has gotten a little stale since it first popped up in June, and I was skeptical about yet another venue offering “shore” things when I heard about the Clocktower Cabana Bar, a new summertime addition to Main Street Bistro & Bar in the Princeton Shopping Center. Nonetheless my mother and I headed to the new bar one Monday evening ready for some cold drinks, and we were not disappointed.
As its name indicates the Clocktower Cabana Bar is situated beneath the clock tower in the shopping center’s courtyard, a short distance from Main Street’s regular outdoor dining area. The bar has seating on all four sides and is covered, so patrons and bartenders are protected from the sun or rain. If barstools aren’t for you, there are also cushioned chairs and tables set up. There is no music, and the space is conducive to quiet conversations or larger gatherings.
About half of the seats around the bar were taken when we arrived at around 6 p.m., and the clientele was a mixture of young, 20-somethings — many of them friends of the bartender — and the older crowd typical at Main Street. The bartender explained that aside from the good weather, the bar has done well since it opened just over two weeks ago since many of the regulars at Main Street’s indoor bar have moved their daily happy hours to the Cabana.
The bar’s menu features a variety of cold, summery mixed drinks as well as beer, sangria, and various non-alcoholic smoothies and iced drinks. The bartender mixed our drinks right in front of us. For our first round I ordered a “Cabana Cooler,” a sweet, bright green concoction with Malibu rum, Midori, and pineapple juice served in a martini glass ($9). My mother had a Frenchtini (vodka, raspberry liqueur, and pineapple juice, $10). Both were very sweet but also cool and refreshing.
My father arrived in time for the second round, and we moved on to beer. Beer connoisseurs will happily note that the beer selection is more international and higher class than the average bar’s — no Budweiser or Miller Lite in sight. Instead, they have Dos Equis Amber, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Blue Point Rastafara Rye Ale on tap ($5.50), as well as eight by-the-bottle selections ($4.50).
My dad accepted the bartender’s offer of a free sample of the Rastafara Ale and ultimately ordered one. Though it was less bitter and hoppy than a regular IPA, I chose something at the other end of the beer spectrum: a bottle of Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, a fruity, lemonade-infused wheat beer that is perfect for the beach.
But while there is a definite laid back, beach bar feel to the Cabana, patrons also have the luxury of ordering from Main Street’s full, upscale food menu. We shared the con queso dip (two kinds of corn chips with guacamole, bean chili, shredded cheese, fresh tomatoes, and scallions, $11), a salty appetizer that went well with our sugary drinks.
Queso dip empty and glasses drained, my parents and I finally paid our bill nearly an hour and a half after we had arrived. We came thirsty and left fully satisfied with our experience. I’ll shorely be back for more before the summer ends.
Main Street Clocktower Cabana Bar, 301 North Harrison Street, Princeton, 609-921-2777. www.mainstreetprinceton.com. Monday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to closing; Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to closing. Kitchen stops serving food at 9:30 p.m.