At Princeton, food is of the utmost importance. This is not an overlooked fact. Eating clubs, study breaks, “We should grab a meal!” The Nassau Street restaurants are nestled tightly into this ecosystem. Here are a few formative restaurants for your Princeton experience.

An aside: as far as rom-coms go, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before doesn’t even crack the top 50. I’m quite unsure whether this is a hot take or not, so you can fight me about that later. But Lara Jean’s letters do serve as a nice template, so we shall proceed.

1. Olives

When I was younger, I was scared of olives because I never anticipated the pits that accompanied some types. My teeth would close in and then—crack. Every. Single. Time.

Over time, I have resolved this non-issue. I’ve even found a new Olives, though there is only one, and it is a store.

I’ve also found a striking similarity between my childhood olives and the Olives on Witherspoon: consistency. Whether it’s sandwiches from a student event, Free Food Listserv leftovers, or just a spontaneous snack, Olives slaps. Every. Single. Time.

You can’t really go wrong. Pop in for the #6 breakfast burrito or a chicken salad, and in two minutes you’ll step back out onto Witherspoon with the goods. Olives is ideal for whenever, wherever, and with whomever.

Dear Olives,

You are a rock, and I am into that.

2.  Tacoria

Consider the following: a lazy RoMa brunch, then a slow walk to East Pyne for the Sunday afternoon grind. The sunrays make their way across the wooden floor; hours pass and pass again. Your stomach insists it is food time once again. But your laptop clock refuses to agree—only 3:30?? Compromise: snack. So you de-headphone your friends and wander onto the sun-kissed pavement together. You collect your goods then return to lounge by the fountain.

Tacoria’s chips and guac are listed under “Small Bites & Drinks.” This is a mistake. This is a big-bite-only household. One must treat the chips and guacs with the same big-bite respect as one would the burrito box or the tacos. And in a few big bites, the chips are gone. But then back to work, and everything is right again.

Dear Tacoria,

Thank you for being the glue that holds my weekend afternoons together.

3. Bent Spoon x Halo Pub x Thomas Sweet

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to classify the ice cream trifecta of Princeton. Bent Spoon could definitely be the hipster aunt who you don’t quite understand but is unmistakably cool. Halo Pub is the minimalist grandpa who only does a few things but does those things to perfection. Thomas Sweet is the family-loving dog: beloved by all and always around for a good time.

Raspberry thyme, blood orange, avocado & lemon. These flavors carry big Bent Spoon / Hipster Aunt energy, and an adventurous (or a heavily procrastinating) weekday afternoon is optimal for a trip here. At Halo Pub, I can stick to the basics, but the basics are good—they have vanilla, but it's elevated to Tahiti Vanilla Bean. And with Thomas Sweet, I can confidently get soft serve swirls, put gummy bears in my vanilla until they’re rock hard and fun to chew on, and enjoy ice cream like an eight year old again.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think how this trio cannot be so easily classified. Each has elements that highlight the others. Princeton ice cream is a community, and each plays its role. I am content to leave it at that.

Dear Princeton Ice Cream Community,

Choosing a favorite is like choosing a favorite child. (I probably have one, I just can’t say.) I love you all!

4. Little Chef

The saddest fact of my Princeton experience is that I did not discover The Little Chef Pastry Shop until this past February. Though I have never woken up early enough to snag a coveted raspberry croissant (the daily batches run out in an hour), the plain ones have been enough to blow me away.

I could wax poetic about how good Little Chef is. It might take a few pages, but I could. Or I could let publications like the New York Times and Serious Eats do it for me.

If there ever was a reason to wake up at the ungodly hour of 8:30am on a Sunday, flop out of bed into the nippy winter air, and precariously sleepwalk your way across Nassau for a few bites of food, it would be this. Little Chef has danishes and tarts, and endless arrays of cakes. But I’m only after that one thing. Hopefully I will be back to Tulane Street soon for a raspberry croissant.

This is a directive to all the incoming freshmen: seek out Chef Edwige Fils-Aimé and his craft. You will not be disappointed.

Dear Little Chef,

I cannot wait to come back. Please save a raspberry croissant for me.

5. Thai Village


Pack three long tables together; crane your neck out and say hi to your friends across the way; chat with your neighbors about ideas for the club; classes are good howboutyou? lots of work for sure! food arrives (too many plates of pad thai to count, some holy basil pork that looks delightful, and your ginger fried rice), and the night outside the window darkens; conversations become more comfortable, and you laugh a little louder (the DJ says your name a little prouder); the awkward couple in the corner stares and half-wishes they were in college again; dinner concludes and off to Firestone, full and satisfied.

Ah, Thai Village, the team dinner hub of Princeton. Every semester, like clockwork. What more is there to say?

Dear Thai Village,

No matter what happens, I always come back to you. It’s you. It’s always been you.

6. Small World

Truthfully, I do not drink coffee. I don’t even study in coffee shops for the ~ vibe ~ all that often. But somehow I still have some affinity for Small World.

The one item I do enjoy from Small World is their turmeric ginger tea. It’s the best kind of spicy—initially nose-scrunching, then throat-warming, and finally sinus-opening. Turmeric ginger tea, however, is not why I feel compelled to write about Small World.

It’s something about the sun rays emanating from the SW logo, or something about the fact that I have certain friends constantly clutching the unmistakable red paper cup. Small World is always there, and there’s immense comfort in knowing that. But I don’t even drink coffee.

Dear Small World,

I don’t think I’m in love with you; I think I’m just in love with the idea of you. And I think that’s okay.

7. Hoagie Haven

If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it just might be a MacDaddy from Hoagie Haven. (Granted, that would be a pretty short life.) Crispy and gooey mac n’ cheese bits, bacon cheeseburger wedges, french fries, honey mustard and Sanchez sauce—sounds like a well-rounded diet to me!

Procuring that MacDaddy is all about confidence. It takes confidence to round up your friends and assert that you are all making the half-mile trek in the middle of the night. It takes confidence to step into the packed store and place yourself in the mob masquerading as a line. It takes confidence to half-shout your order to the Haven crew and squeeze your way to the cashier. It takes confidence to ask for buffalo fries in addition to your fourteen-inch hoagie because, well, you want them. Hoagie Haven is all about confidence. And it is so, so worth it.

The monstrosity that is a whole hoagie is both beautiful and fear-inspiring. Beautiful because it is 2 AM, and you are absolutely famished, and this is the only thing that can save you. And fear-inspiring because it is 2 AM, and you are absolutely famished, and this is the only thing that can save you.

Dear Hoagie Haven,

You are my one true love. (And my employer, but that's beside the point.)


Originally published for the Princeton Museum here.