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Princeton University to Partner With Agricola Owner for Eateries at Historic Former Dinky Station

The north Dinky station is slated to be converted into a bar.
The north Dinky station is slated to be converted into a bar.

Princeton University has selected Agricola owner Jim Nawn’s Fenwick Hospitality Group as its partner to operate a bar and bistro in the former Dinky station buildings on University Place in downtown Princeton.

Nawn, who has been a Princeton area resident since 1999, owns Agricola, and formerly owned and operate 37 Panera restaurants.

The new cafe and restaurant are part of Princeton University’s Arts and Transit Project. Nawn will open a bar and bistro in the former north and south station buildings, respectively.

The transit elements of the Arts and Transit Project were completed last year and include the new, train station, Wawa convenience store, and commuter-parking. The project also includes three buildings, now under construction, that will provide rehearsal and performance spaces for the Lewis Center for the Arts and the school’s department of music.

“Fenwick Hospitality Group presented us with exciting and well-conceived concepts for two dining locations that will be important components of the overall Arts and Transit Project. The plans that they have developed will offer attractive options for commuters, theater-goers, campus and community residents,” said Kristin Appelget, the school’s director of community and regional affairs and a member of the University committee that selected the group.

“The look and design of the proposed bar and bistro will bring freshness and vibrancy to the former station buildings,” said Paul Finley, the University’s program manager for real estate development. “Fenwick Hospitality Group delivered creative solutions for both venues.”

The bar in the north building will include 60 indoor seats with 30 seats outside. In addition to cocktails, wine and beer, the bar will serve small bites for lunch and dinner.

In the south building, the group will operate a bistro with a French-influenced menu serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. There will be seating for 125 people inside and 50 outside. There will also be counter seating and a private dining room.

The bar and bistro will offer home-style dishes focusing on locally sourced and sustainable produce, school officials said. The Fenwick group owns an organic vegetable, chicken egg and livestock farming operation that supplies Agricola as well as local farmer’s markets and other restaurants.

“We are very excited about working with the University in transforming the Arts and Transit neighborhood into a new cultural, social and dining destination for Princeton,” Nawn said. “We pride ourselves on our service and quality, and we look forward to welcoming a diverse community of commuters, visitors and residents to experience what we’ll offer.”

The bar is scheduled to open in spring 2016 and the bistro in the spring of 2017. The Terra Momo Group originally was awarded the contract for the project, but later parted ways with the University.

The selection committee consisted of representatives from a variety of University offices, assisted by independent food service consultant Tracy Lawler, who is based in Princeton.

The architect for the station complex is Rick Joy Architects of Tucson, Arizona. The interior of the bar and bistro will be designed by Celano Design Studio in New York.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Mitchell Rucko

    It’s a four minute walk. To a New Yorker, a block is a minute.
    You do the math.

  • Captgonzo

    Four blocks? Try 400 feet – about 1/2 the length of a train on the Northeast Corridor. Yes you have to walk around the construction for another year or two.

  • Jay

    I am so excited. I can’t wait to pay $8 or $10 for a beer there. People will be lining up from the train station to get these amazing drinks.

  • BL

    well fortunately, I was only targeting lazy people.

    But while we are at it, the new station is more handicap accessible, so in your mind, this should be a win!

  • Wheeler

    Its not a joke for people who have different abilities and use a walker or a wheelchair.

  • BL

    don’t worry, I heard they are thinking of installing an oxygen station halfway between the two. You’ll be fine.

  • Mitchell Rucko

    More like 4 blocks, about a 4 minute walk.

  • Maybe it’ll seem closer once the new buildings are finished, walkways done, etc., and I’m sure it will all be done very nicely. But would anyone parking at the station walk up there for a basic refreshment rather than go into Wawa, which is right there, even given what’s likely to be an appreciable difference in quality? I keep looking at the plans trying to visualize…

  • PrincetonNJFang

    Thanks for sharing your views, Mr. Durkee.

  • BL

    Not close enough? What’s it, a half block away?

  • PrincetonNJFan

    The station is a very short walk from the new restaurants. This whole continued projection of the distance between the old and new stations being some insurmountable hurdle is an amazing reinvention of fact. As a longtime resident, including many years commuting, I wish the new (all weather!) station and Wawa had been constructed years ago, without the delay from all of the naysayers.

  • Not sure how this is an “attractive option” for commuters since the station is not there anymore. I suppose if you’re walking that way to the station you could dash in for a coffee/pastry rather than wait to get to the WaWa, but otherwise, not so much. Ditto for a stop at the bar on the way home.(But I do think these places will do well on their own.)

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