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Urban Word: Eyecatcher
This article by Tricia Fagan was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 24, 1999. All rights reserved.
Here at the Urban Word Cafe there are gold stars on
the spacious dining room floor — and a gleam of stardust in impresario
Roland Pott’s eyes as well. After more than three years in planning,
the new cafe opens with a Friday, March 26, performance by singer-songwriter
Marco Joachim. The grand opening weekend, Friday and Saturday, April
9 and 10, will feature Danny Rio, formerly of the band Kingfish. A
"movie and dinner night," Friday, April, 2, features the movie,
"Henry Fool." Urban Word’s debut marks the first stage of
an ambitious one-stop cultural center being developed by Pott and
his partners John Hatch and David Henderson on Broad Street, Trenton,
under the auspices of their company, Trenton Makes.
Looking over the cafe last week, it was almost ready to go. Architects
Hatch and Henderson have incorporated ideas gleaned from visits to
nightspots in Australia, Oregon, Philadelphia, and Washington state
to create a space that is at once contemporary and historic, trendy,
yet comfortable. Throughout the two room cafe, brick walls are exposed,
soaring ceilings feature the dark wood of the original floor joists.
In the bar room, which seats 20 comfortably, the smooth floor is the
original brick from the days when the space was the kitchen of Scotty’s
Steak and Lobster House.
The bar itself is an eyecatcher. The facade of the counter is a soft
curve of brushed steel, with three more sheets of bowed steel forming
an arching canopy overhead. Pott points out that the attractive red-stained
bar top is actually constructed of high quality plywood — directly
inspired by trends in Australia where there is a heavy emphasis on
using inexpensive materials to achieve a high-end look. The eye is
drawn to clean blocks of primary colors throughout the space. Walls,
table tops, and the matching upholstery on an eclectic assortment
of chairs are all done up in rich, adult versions of those childhood
favorites, yellow, red, and blue.
Pott notes that the group has tried to work with area artisans and
businesses at each stage of development. Special touches, like a mural
by Trenton graffiti artist Leon Collings, reinforce the personal —
and local — flavor of the cafe. The multi-textured, handrolled
finish on the dining room’s star-spangled floor — which the developers
themselves helped to paint — bodes well for the personal attention
a cafe visitor can expect. With 70 people seated in the dining room,
it may be difficult to get a good view of the floor, but it is worth
The same attention to detail and quality is also evident in conversation
with the general manager of the cafe, Cynthia Holland. She has developed
a menu for the restaurant that follows her own philosophy of "basic,
simple food that tastes delicious and is also good for you." A
card promoting highlights from the menu includes brie and roasted
vegetable sandwiches, fish and chips, and "a great burger."
Entrees of the day will also be served.
Holland hopes to introduce a seasonal flair with menu specials, for
example, offering gazpacho and fruit soups in the summer, and more
hearty potato or beet soups in the winter. She ascribes to the theories
of chef Alice Waters, the West Coast restaurant pioneer who advocates
the use of fresh, local produce — organically grown whenever possible.
She has already begun discussions with Trenton-based Isles Inc., which
maintains a small farm at Mercer County Community College, and other
area organic farmers.
That attention to high quality, home-grown products extends to the
bar, where two of the four beers on tap will be from local breweries
— River Horse and Flying Fish. Wines, available by the bottle
or the glass, are provided by a distributor specializing in affordable,
high quality vintages from smaller, family run vineyards of France,
Italy, Spain, and the United States. The coffee bar features Small
World Coffee beans. Bread is from a Burlington bakery.
Outdoor seating will be available. A sculpture garden is planned for
the space that runs from the parking lot in the rear of the cafe to
Broad Street. Erica Stanga is creating a metal cityscape to gate the
outdoor courtyard, and is also working with some original Roebling
rope wire to build a decorative bridge span between the cafe and the
adjoining performance building. Diners can take advantage of the Mind
& Soul Bookstore, just opened at the back of the cafe.
A 100-seat movie theater, in-house bar, and an art gallery are all
in the planning stages for the building adjacent to the cafe. Pott
says that they hope to open the theater in late summer, but will definitely
have the space open in October when their Broad Street neighbor, the
Mercer County Arena, opens. A third building will be developed for
arts and entertainment-related businesses and groups.
Pott envisions the space as a place where people can get together
for conversation, great food, quiet entertainment. "I think that
cafes are for artists and lovers," he says with smile. If you’re
an artist, a lover — or if you’re neither — check out this
new spot. Word — the Urban Word — has it that this will soon
be the place to be.
— Tricia Fagan
Broad (at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue), Trenton, 609-989-7777.
New York folksinger Marco Joachim, cousin to folk legend Ramblin’
Jack Elliot, is the headliner for debut night at the urban cafe; hometown
singer-songwriter Ambrose Lui opens the show. Friday, March 26,
Hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.
to 1 a.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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