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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 effort.

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

Opening Night, Urban Word Cafe & Theater, 449 South

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,

9 p.m.

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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