Little do many know that nestled in the heart of New Jersey lies a foodie’s haven. Beside being a college town, Princeton offers one of the best gastronomic scenes I’ve ever experienced. From upscale bistros, to comfort breakfast spots, to dozens of bakeries, the town satisfies just about any craving you could desire at a range of price points.

As a devout foodie myself, I’ve made sure to try just about every spot there is. So, without further ado, let’s break down every place you must visit while in Princeton. Whether you’re a student or a visitor, whip out this handy guide for the best food recommendations based on what you’re looking for. 

Photo by Lina Singh

1. When you're looking for a hearty breakfast to start the day: Olives Catering

You’ll never walk into Olives on any morning without a line out the door and to-go orders being called in left and right. With a variety of breakfast options from their pork roll (a New Jersey classic) to avocado toast, to their infamous “BBB (best breakfast burrito)”, Olives offers both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike plenty of options for a lazy Sunday breakfast to enjoy with a coffee from Small World right next door.

What to order: The #6, “Best Breakfast Burrito” is a student favorite as it is with my parents every time they visit! This heavenly wrap is filled with: bacon, egg, cheese, avocado, and salsa verde. It’s like a classic BEC, but elevated. While I prefer my #6 on a wrap, you can also opt to have it made with an everything bagel or a croissant.

Location: 22 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542

2. When you need a cozy study environment with delicious coffee and baked goods: Small World Coffee

A social gathering spot more than a coffee shop, Small World is popularly frequented by students and townies alike. Not only is the quality of their coffee and imported pastries from The Gingered Peach (a local bakery) top-tier, but their staff are extremely friendly and they’ll be sure to uplift your mood as soon as you step foot in the door. Students, this is a fantastic place to work (if you can get a table!) where you’ll be sure to bump into classmates.

What to order: On warmer days, I love their “Nola”, which is a New Orleans-style cold brew with vanilla syrup and chicory. During the holiday season, my go-to is “The Scrooge”, which is a peppermint steamer with a shot of espresso. Otherwise, you can never go wrong with a classic latte or cappuccino. If you’re looking for a snack to accompany your drink, my favorites are the “Grandma’s Apple Cake”, carrot cake, and their everything bagel with cream cheese.

Location: 14 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08540

3. When you’re craving authentic Indian cuisine: Chennai Chimney

Tucked around a hidden corner on Nassau Street is an authentic South Indian restaurant, Chennai Chimney. From dosas to samosas, Chennai offers a range of eats for your next dinner out with friends or family. Dishes are served family style and best enjoyed shared. Though they have takeout, I recommend dining in their well-decorated space that reminds me of when I visited India.

What to order: The masala dosa is a must-order — presented as a massive “Indian burrito” with an array of dipping sauces, this is guaranteed to be a fan-favorite appetizer. For main dishes, my friends and I devoured the coconut shrimp curry and chicken tikka masala along with some freshly baked garlic naan.

Location: 19 Chambers St, Princeton, NJ 08542

4. When you want some Chinese food with a kick: SC House

SC House is quite literally just that: a free-standing house that offers delicious Sichuan dishes. The ambiance inside feels like a comfortable, family-owned restaurant. The last time I visited, they even gave our table mooncakes on the house. From dumplings to soups to rice and noodle dishes, this spot is a student favorite. Though many of the dishes are better suited for those with a higher spice tolerance, there’s something for everyone on the menu.

What to order: SC House’s Wontons in Spicy Chilli Sauce and Pan Fried Dumplings have got to be my favorites on the menu. On a cold winter day, I could eat an ungodly number of these as a meal. For an entree, try their Sizzling Hot Plate Pepper Beef or their Soy Sauce Chicken over Rice.

Location: 238 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ 08542

5. When you’re looking to go out for brunch: Maman’s

Maman’s is a NYC-based French bakery that recently opened a new location in Princeton. Not to be confused with Mamoun’s, a delicious middle-eastern falafel restaurant in town! The vines, ornate ceramic plates, and oak furniture that fills Maman’s space truly makes it feel like you’re dining in an indoor Parisian garden. The glass pastry case is filled with fresh croissants from chocolate-pistachio to ham and cheese, and the kitchen behind it prepares brunch and lunch items such as salads and sandwiches. This will definitely be a popular new addition to the Princeton food scene as a great brunch spot that’s sure to impress visitors.

What to order: Their specialty ham and cheese croissant was elevated with a layer of mustard, pickle, and fried egg on top. I scarfed that down with a delicious honey lavender latte (one of many unique coffee flavors they offer at the coffee bar). Next up on my to-try list are: the egg ratatouille and their famous nutty chocolate chip cookie that was featured on Oprah’s favorite things!

Location: 43 Hulfish St, Princeton, NJ 08542

6. When your parents are in town and footing the bill: Blue Point Grill

The Blue Point Grill is a Zagat-rated restaurant a bit farther away from campus that features an extensive selection of fresh seafood in a lively environment. Their menu changes daily to reflect the freshest catches that range between the east and west coast. If you check out Blue Point on a Monday, you’ll be able to enjoy their “Sushi Mondays” with rotating sushi specials. If you plan to dine in on a Friday or Saturday night, be sure to make a reservation as they do get quite busy.

What to order: To start, their jalapeño and lime grilled shrimp and steamed Maine mussels are delicious. As far as entrees go, my family most enjoyed their Salmon and Black Sea Bass. We also indulged in the “Cookie Lava Cake” for dessert and it was absolutely to-die-for.

Location: 258 Nassau St Princeton, NJ 08542

7. When you want to treat yourself to takeout: Sakura Express

Ever want to treat yourself to a sushi roll for dinner? Sakura Express has got you covered. Plus, most rolls come with complimentary miso soup or salad. Not a fan of raw fish? They also offer other Japanese classics from rice bowls, to udon, to teriyaki bentos.

What to order: With so many awesome rolls to choose from, it always takes a while to pick something. I’d recommend going for one of their specialty rolls: the Salmon Lover Roll. Filled with salmon and avocado and topped with spicy mayo, eel sauce, caviar, and torched slivers of salmon on top, this roll is a popular favorite for good reason.

Location: 43 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542

8. When you want an authentic croissant better than what you’ll find in Paris: The Little Chef

Location: 35 Palmer Square W, Princeton, NJ 08542

The Little Chef is a tiny pastry shop tucked away on Tulane Street owned by Parisian pastry chef Edwige Fils-Aimé, who bakes everything himself and oversees the entire shop. The shop is best known for the croissants, which come piping hot fresh out of the oven around 9am every morning. Be sure to head over early to snag one though (and bring cash) as they only accept cash and do sell out fast. Check out publications on The Little Chef by the New York Times and Serious Eats.

What to order: Though I’ve never personally tried them, the raspberry croissants are supposedly incredible. But from the chocolate and almond croissants I’ve tried from the shop, it’s safe to assume anything that comes out of Chef Fils-Aimé’s oven is absolutely delectable. Unlike other croissants I’ve tasted (including many while in Paris on my study abroad this past summer), the Little Chef’s croissants have a softer, denser interior and a crunchier exterior, and the fillings themselves come in unique flavors and are of high quality.

Location: 8 S Tulane St, Princeton, NJ 08542

9. When you’re craving Mexican food: Tacoria

Ah, Tacoria. Packed with students on any given Friday or Saturday night, this bustling Mexican joint offers flavor-packed tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and a salad (if you’re feeling healthy). You can always opt to order takeout and enjoy in your dorm, but I always prefer to dine inside in their vibrant setting. They also offer a variety of sauces from habañero, to salsa verde, to chipotle aioli, so that you can customize the flavor to your liking.

What to order: On days when I’m starving, the pollo asado burrito with guac never fails me. Otherwise, their burrito box resembles that of Chipotle’s and is a deconstructed version of the heartier burrito that’s easier to eat. The pork al pastor and carne asada fillings are equally delicious — you honestly can’t go wrong with any of the protein options, including the vegan golden crusted avocado!

Location: 110 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ 08542-4516

10. When you’ve got a sweet tooth: Bent Spoon

The best ice cream shop in town is as controversial as it gets for us Princeton foodies. Between Thomas Sweet, Halo Pub, and Bent Spoon, everyone’s ice cream preferences — whether rich and gooey or light and airy — are covered. Personally, I’m team Bent Spoon for a few reasons. For one, they offer locally-sourced, vegan ice cream that’s not only lighter (and healthier) than traditional ice cream made with heavy cream and preservatives, but doesn’t sacrifice on the flavor or texture. Second, they allow you to choose two flavors in one order, which is perfect for indecisive eaters like myself. And, the flexibility allows you to curate an ice-cream combo that’s personalized to your flavor preferences.

What to order: While their flavor menu changes daily, don’t miss out on some of their most unique seasonal flavors from blueberry mascarpone, to maple carrot, to raspberry apple cider. If you aren’t feeling as adventurous, two of my favorite classics that pair incredibly well together are the vegan dark chocolate and coconut sorbet.

Location: 35 Palmer Square W, Princeton, NJ 08542

And there you have it. 10 of my top food spots in Princeton, New Jersey. From casual to upscale, and from spicy to sweet, there’s just about something for everyone. This is far from an exhaustive list of the best restaurants in town, but use this as a guide to try some new places and discover your next go-to!