With the addition of a full kitchen, the owners of the Ivy Inn have revived the era when Princetonians can buy a sandwich and beer in town and spend under $10.
Two weeks ago, the bar at 248 Nassau Street began offering its new pub-style menu, with prices ranging from $3 to $10. In addition to traditional bar favorites like burgers, pizza, buffalo wings, and mozzarella sticks, the menu offers soups, salads, sides like sweet potato fries, and a variety of sandwiches to please meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
“Every college town should have a place where you can get a good burger and a drink at a reasonable price,” said Ivy Inn owner Rich Ryan of the new menu. “I’ve always envisioned begin able to offer lunch and dinner and I’m happy we finally made it happen.”
The investment in a full kitchen and other upgrades like an outdoor patio were made possible with the help of new business partner Geoff Aton, a former Wall Street options trader.
On his commute home from New York every weekday, Aton used to ride his bike from the Dinky station and make a pit stop at the Ivy Inn to for a drink before heading home. He was looking for a new career close to home a few years ago, and in mid 2011 the two decided to become business partners.
“Our goal was to offer quality food, but at a price where people won’t max out on their credit cards,” Aton said. “It’s hard to go out in Princeton and not spend more than $100 to feed a family of four. It’s also nice to have a place to go where you can be casual if you want. It’s about good portions and great people here.”
The Ivy Inn was first opened at 254 Nassau Street by Ryan’s uncle, Richard McCluskey, in 1966. McCluskey bought the former Flying `A’ gas station site in 1973 and moved the bar there, where it has remained ever since. Ryan, a graduate of the Princeton High School class of 1994, took over running the bar after his freshman year in college when his uncle died. Ryan later finished his degree at Rider University.
The bar, where Justin Timberlake recently filmed a scene for the movie “Runner, Runner”, offers darts, a pool table, and a jukebox, and is known for its cheap drinks and friendly bartenders. Food is now offered starting at 11 a.m., with the last call for food at 9 p.m.
Ryan and Aton said even though the prices on the menu are a bargain, they have not skimped on quality. The Ivy uses the same meat purveyor as several top Princeton restaurants and the beef is not frozen.
The most expensive item on the menu is a rib eye steak sandwich for $10. Burgers, served with ancho chili mayo, are $8. A pork roll sandwich is $6.The vegan crab cake sandwich, made with seitan and lemon garlic sauce and served on a roll, is $9. Macaroni and cheese is $6. The bar will also offer special menu additions every week.
Visitors who stop by the Ivy Inn during the Super Bowl this Sunday can sample the new menu at a free buffet. Based on customer feedback, the menu could be tweaked a bit.
“So far the response has been great,” Ryan said.