Planet Princeton

Main Street Bistro in Princeton to close this fall

Main Street Bistro, a Princeton fixture for drinks and casual fare at the Princeton Shopping Center for more than 25 years, is being closed down for good by its new owner, Fenwick Hospitality Group.

Fenwick, the farm-focused company that owns Agricola, the Great Road Farm and the Dinky
Bar & Kitchen, purchased the Main Street Restaurant Group in April of 2016.  Jim Nawn, the owner of the Fenwick Hospitality Group,  is the former owner and operator of 37 Panera Bread franchises in New Jersey.

The Main Street Cafe in Kingston was closed in November and is now a PJ’s Pancake House. Nawn said the term for Main Street Bistro’s lease at the shopping center in Princeton will be up soon, and he decided not to renew.

“I was a customer and a fan of the bistro long before we purchased it,” Nawn said. “However, despite attempts to upgrade many aspects of the experience there – the menu, the energy, the well-worn space – we did not see an impact on guest counts and became less optimistic that it would attract new customers…Sadly we decided to close.”

The restaurant, known for its relaxed atmosphere, reasonable prices and happy hour specials in a town with lots of expensive dining establishments, will close in the fall, as will the outdoor Clocktower Cabana Bar. The catering arm of the business will continue. There is a plan to retain staff by placing them in the group’s other restaurants, representatives for the company said.

A representative for Fenwick would not confirm that Main Street’s liquor license will be transferred to the company’s new restaurant planned for 277 Witherspoon Street, Two Sevens. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant will be located in the former medical professional building next to the AvalonBay apartment complex.

“In Two Sevens, we are looking to create an engaging social space where everyone is welcome,” Nawn said. “We will continue to use farm fresh ingredients from our certified organic farm,
Great Road Farm, combined with flavors from Central and South America. We are paying
attention to affordability and seeking to make our menu scalable to a full meal or snack with a
drink to meet guest wishes throughout the day.”

Cargot brasserie, the restaurant group’s second restaurant at the historic former Dinky train station, will open in early July next to the Dinky Bar & Kitchen. The restaurant will serve “French-inspired” breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch and grab-and-go items. The space will feature 130 indoor seats, including private dining rooms and an outdoor patio that can seat 60 people.

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.

  • Robert Dana

    I think you are on to something. Their other places serve a smaller quantity of food at much higher prices. The servers pour drinks with measuring devices that would make Madame Curie jealous. They are fixated on table turn-over. They clear plates before everyone is finished.

    At the Witherspoon place, I asked for a cup of coffee after a late lunch at the bar. The guy at the bar told me there is none and that the next pot would not be made for two hours. He told me they have coffee across the street at Small World.

    True story.

  • Bob

    If you don’t want to overpay for small portions on a menu that seldom changes there are really slim pickings in town.

    How many other folks in the Princeton area, travel around to other parts of the region and simply can’t understand how Princeton can be such a casual dining wasteland? Or perhaps it’s just me and everyone else loves the restaurant scene in Princeton.

  • Pat Palmer

    As soon as the new owner bought it, IMO it was ruined. Formerly delicious (but expensive) vegan options were simply inedible. I stopped going at that time.

  • D14

    Agree! Sounds like the plan was always to lock down and move the liquor license over to where the tourists are. Leaves the Shopping Center, where there is plenty of parking, with no venue for locals to meet up and grab a drink etc. Wonder what, if anything, can be done about that.

  • Bob Bostock

    Sorry to see this go. Before it was sold, the place was always crowded. After the “improvements,” not so much. The new owners killed a good thing…but I suspect that was their plan all along.

  • Julie Rauch

    And where will people park at Two Sevens???? Hate to see Main Street close.

  • Brett Borowski

    If by “failed almost immediately,” you mean received tons of accolades while it was there from 2008 until mid-2014, then yes, that was elements. It did close down for about a year but reopened in 2015 in a newly developed space above its sister restaurant on Witherspoon Street – so the two times James Beard Award Semifinalist chef probably would agree that an upscale (no quotes required) restaurant makes more sense downtown.

  • Nick D

    The menu?!? That was a sad attempt at trying to upgrade the menu. It had maybe 2 changes per month…always taking away the good items…but that unappetizing “Pasta Panang” dish has been there consistently for years. No, it was all about the liquor license. I also agree that Princeton doesn’t need another upscale restaurant off the main drag. Wasn’t there an “upscale” restaurant on 206 near the Sunoco that failed almost immediately??

  • Robert Dana

    Boo. “Well worn space.” “Impact on guest counts.” This guy Yawn sounds like one of the efficiency experts in “Office Space.” I think I’ll pass on the Two Sevens. (More like a 2 and two 7s.) Eating in former doctors’ offices doesn’t sound so appetizing.

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