Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the May 29, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Out to Lunch: Trenton Marriott
As a Trenton resident and booster, I went to review
Archives, the restaurant in the city’s much-ballyhooed new Marriott,
with a positive bias. I wanted to like the place. Even so, the restaurant
blew me away — and did so well before I got anywhere near the
hostess station in the main dining room.
The lobby is just so comfortable, welcoming, and yes, downright resort-like.
It reminded me of the colorful lobby in the hotel in Celebration,
Disney’s prototype city of the future in central Florida. There is
a similar festive feel, lots and lots of great seating, and plenty
to look at, including colorful paintings by central New Jersey artists.
I walked in the front door right behind two briefcase-toting women
who headed straight for a waiting friend. They exchanged greetings
in front of floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on an long expanse
of lawn bordered by flower beds, through which a path, lighted by
gas lamps, meanders. Then they settled into comfy armchairs for a
Overstuffed chairs and couches, mostly in deep reds and greens, some
solid, some in subtle floral patterns, divide the main lobby into
two sections. One features a fireplace, and the other a grand piano.
Each offers an ideal setting in which to wait for the arrival of friends
or business colleagues gathering for lunch. Perhaps this impressed
me so much because I have spent hours pacing in front of restaurants
— or shoe-horned into VW Beetle-sized reception areas — waiting
for friends to arrive for a lunch appointment.
Getting away from the office is rarely easy, and parking anywhere
along the Route 1 corridor poses challenges, so the gathering-everyone-in-your-party
thing generally is a tad trying. What a pleasure, I thought right
away, it would be to gather the group in this Marriott. Considerably
smaller and more intimate than its big brother hotels up Route 1 to
the north, the Lafayette Yard Marriott doesn’t even require complicated
logistics, which are sometimes necessary in the larger places with
their multiple restaurants, lounges, and waiting areas.
Walk in the door of the new Trenton hotel, and your dining companions
will be easy to find — and most certainly will be comfortably
seated and enjoying the atmosphere.
Past the main lobby area, are two more casual common rooms. The first
contains a long table, several smaller seating areas, and a wide-screen
television. This is the least attractive area, with the long table
pressed up so close to the big TV that anyone interested in watching
near-life-sized golfers or hoopsters would not have a great viewing
Just beyond is a two-room bar area, the first room furnished with
a long, curved banquette, small tables, two wall-mounted televisions
tuned to CNN, and a warming station for Happy Hour munchies. The bar
itself is perfect for quiet conversation or solitary dining. Made
of dark wood, it has room for 10 or 12. On a recent late-afternoon,
one gentleman in a golf shirt was having a light meal, and a few bar
stools away, a group in business attire were having an animated conversation
The dining room itself is right next to the bar. It is larger than
I expected, with several seating areas that flow into one another.
A low wooden wall, painted in high-gloss white outlines the room,
while chandeliers consisting of dozens of small, cobalt blue tensor
lights provide a punch of color. The effect, again, is more resort
than corporate hotel.
Tables, covered in starched white cloths, are well spaced, allowing
for private conversations and easy navigation by diners and waiters.
Toward the windows, which overlook pleasing greenery, are curved banquettes
in a yellow-going-to-gold tone. A matching, oversized banquette provides
a visual divider for the largest dining area. Beyond that main area
is a smaller section of tables, which look into an open kitchen. Also
in this area — right in front of the kitchen, is a buffet station,
which is used at lunch and at breakfast.
The lunch buffet, already popular according to a hostess, is $12.95.
Choices vary. On a recent Tuesday, the buffet featured wonton soup,
stir-fried ginger beef with asparagus, salmon with Oriental pineapple
sauce, stir-fried vegetables, penne pasta with snow peas and shittake
mushrooms, jasmine rice, and a full salad bar. Dessert and soft drinks
are included in the price of the buffet. Typical dessert offerings
include carrot cake, marble cheesecake, and coconut cake.
Described as "Historically-Influenced American Cuisine
with New Age Flair," the lunch menu begins with appetizers —
priced from $4 to $9.50 — and soups, at $4.50 and $5.50. A hostess
says the portobello fries — wedges of portobello mushrooms fried
and served with a horseradish dipping sauce — are one of the most
popular items on the menu. Other appetizers include barbecue pork
barrel tidbits — braised in micro-brewed beer, twisted vegetable
quesadila — another favorite — and Buffalo wings in an apple
cider dipping sauce.
There are a number of salads on the menu — priced from $5.95 for
a classic Caesar to $13.95 for a steak cobb salad, which is a 6-ounce
strip steak served over greens with maple pepper bacon, egg, avocado,
tomato, and a peppercorn-blue cheese dressing. Sandwiches, priced
from $7.95 to $13.50, include a vegetarian cheese steak ($7.95), grilled
filet mignon medallions topped with sweet onion jam and bacon strips
for meat eaters ($13.50), and a slow-roasted turkey sandwich ($7.95),
which is emerging as an early favorite.
Entree prices begin at $9.95 for vegetarian penne pasta, also popular
in the restaurant’s early days, seafood scampi ($12.95), pan-seared
bass ($13.95), and roasted chicken with artichoke-mushroom ragout
($12.95). Wine suggestions sit alongside entree listings on the menu.
Desserts on the menu are similar to those included with the buffet,
and run about $4.95.
Still finding its audience for dinner, the restaurant already is extremely
busy at lunchtime, particularly during prime time — noon to about
2 p.m. It opens for lunch at 11 a.m. (breakfast is served beginning
at 6 a.m.) and stops serving at 2:30. A hostess suggested those in
a hurry to get a table and be served quickly would do well to come
early or late. "Two o’clock is perfect," she says. This would
be especially true for a large group. Reservations, she says, are
taken for groups of eight or more.
For larger groups, there are also private dining rooms and dining
areas available at no extra charge. The most inviting private area
is the one in the bar section. It provides a long table — and
a certain amount of privacy — for a group of 10 or 12, but is
also in an attractive area with lots of good people watching possibilities.
The other private areas are separate, windowless rooms behind closed
doors just off the main dining room. They could feel a bit claustrophobic,
but would be well suited to groups desiring complete privacy.
The advantage of the private areas for smaller groups is a cut-down
in the frenetic, loud chatter that can emanate from a gang of office
buddies celebrating a birthday or retirement.
Despite nearly 10 years of living in Trenton, I still get lost downtown.
Yes, I am directionally challenged, but I have heard this complaint
from more competent pathfinders. I was surprised, therefore, to find
the new Marriott so quickly and easily. Exiting Route 1 at Market
Street, I followed signs for "Downtown and Lafayette Street"
and was there in a jiffy — only about two or three minutes from
I easily found free parking on the street right outside, in an inviting
neighborhood of two-and-three-story brick buildings in pristine condition
right next to the War Memorial. On-street parking is not so easy to
find during prime lunchtime hours, but there is an attended garage
adjacent to the hotel. A hotel representative says the restaurant
is now setting up a validation system that would give diners free
parking. Now, parking is free for the first half hour and a dollar
or two for longer stays.
Not only is Archives an outstanding find for anyone doing business
in Trenton, but, truly, it is well worth the drive down Route 1 for
office workers looking for a good meal in an setting that makes getting
together with friends, clients, and colleagues in a comfortable setting
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Lafayette Street, Trenton 08650. 609-421-4000; fax, 609-421-4002.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.