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This article by Kathleen Spring was prepared for the July 2, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Out to Lunch: Chambers Walk
Chambers Walk Cafe is one cool haven on a hot afternoon.
The sidewalk tables in front of the Lawrenceville eatery and catering
company were deserted on a recent Thursday as the thermometer reached
languidly toward triple digits. But inside, brick walls, low lights,
string music on the stereo, and a sleek lunch bar, topped in black
stone, radiated cool, as did the decorations — understated black
and white photos, some of water scenes and others of ice-covered trees.
My lunch buddies and I scoped out Chambers Walk after friends and
co-workers sang the praises of its dessert bar, salads, and creative
sandwiches. Following the protocol, we went to the desk at the rear
of the restaurant to place our orders. But, faced with too many appealing
choices, we retreated to a window table to decide. After tagging the
chilled minted fruit with tomato soup as a definite, and hesitating
to order anything else before checking out the desserts, I wandered
over to the lunch bar in the middle of the wide room.
I was curious about why a substantial portion of the dining room was
empty and asked a white-clad gentleman who appeared as I was looking
over the brownies and giant cookies, which sit between the lunch bar
and the open kitchen. He explained that the restaurant had been able
to get approval for only a limited number of tables from the township,
but that a green light to fill up the space was expected soon.
Then, what the heck, I introduced myself. It turns out that I was
speaking to Mario Mangone, who, along with his wife, Laura, owns the
restaurant. He had nothing but good words for Lawrenceville Main Street,
a non-profit that has been a major force in turning a nearly-deserted
main street into a corridor of cafes. Mangone says that the concentration
of eateries — including Fedora, TJ’s Pizzeria, Maidenhead Bagel,
Acacia, and the newly-opened Lawrenceville Inn — is good for everyone’s
In the catering business for 15 years, the couple decided that a restaurant
would be a good fit, and jumped on the large space when Center Fruit
Gourmet moved out. Some townspeople were not happy to see Chambers
Walk’s predecessor go, says Mangone. "They sold toilet paper and
things like that," he says.
Easy access to household essentials is good, but it seems that economics
of scale has moved them away from downtowns everywhere and out on
the highway. Meanwhile, it becomes easier to savor a great variety
of non-essentials, like Chambers Walk’s brie and green tomato marmalade
stuffed wrap sandwiches, for example.
Comfortably seated at a dark wood table, my group surveyed the room.
A small, raised section of dining room, resting on wide-plank floors
was to our left. With floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the
Lawrenceville School campus, it is a sunny, cozy perch. Banquettes
run along two walls in this section, which contains about five tables.
The majority of the cafe’s tables are arrayed along the long brick
wall and in front of another set of windows in the main part of the
Our orders came within minutes. The cold soup was an outstanding blend
of flavors with a rich texture and a delightful overlay of mint. The
portion, at just $2.95, could have been a meal. The veggie burger,
served on a ciabatine roll, was praised by the vegetarian member of
our party, who declared that "it’s not like a regular veggie burger.
It’s got a lot of taste to it, and it’s not salty." At $6.75,
the veggie burger includes lime hummus, pea shoot sprouts, local organic
greens, and sun-dried tomato mayo.
The salad in the combo lunch, at $6.95, was barley and wheatberry,
a mix of frisee lettuce, golden raisins, and cider vinaigrette. The
sandwich — from the "design-your-own-sandwich" section
of the menu — was roasted turkey breast with tomato, dijon mustard,
and smoked pepper chutney. Other combination options, at the same
price, are soup and half-a-salad and half-a-sandwich and soup.
My sandwich, the smoked turkey bacon and brie with green tomato marmalade
in a sun-dried tomato wrap, at $7.25, was the best of the lot. In
fact, the marmalade and brie, coupled with the sun-dried tomato wrap,
would have been outstanding all by themselves. The sandwich could
easily be shared, or a half could be taken home for supper. I’m trying
to think of any sandwich I have ever had anywhere that was as good,
and I’m coming up empty.
Not a Lawrenceville resident, I can’t say whether our fine meal makes
up for the lack of a source of bleach and cat food within walking
distance, but for Route 1 area workers on a lunch break, Chambers
Walk fits the bill. There is so much room that a business meeting
could be conducted with no fear of confidential information leaking
out, and the partial self-service ensures that anyone who needs to
get back to the office fast can do so.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Lawrenceville 08648. Mario Mangone. 609-896-5995; fax, 609-896-0445.
Lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30
p.m. Major credit cards. BYOB.
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