Zagat's annual survey (www.zagat.com) of New Jersey restaurants recently named the best eateries in Princeton and – surprise – students probably will not be dining in any of the top three unless their parents come to town.
Leading the pack of local restaurants are Lahiere's, Le Plumet Royal and Quilty's – none of which offer meals within a price range that would be compatible with the average college student's limited budget.
Charles Monaghan, a former food editor and restaurant reviewer at the Bergen County Record edited the New Jersey Zagat survey.
Monaghan said he merely compiles the thousands of comments and ratings that pour in from amateur restaurant reviewers across the state, and added that he has dined in Princeton many times.
He said he would advise students to head for Mexican Village, Theresa's Pizzetta Cafe and Triumph Brewing Co., restaurants that he said have a good "price to quality ratio."
In contrast, an average dinner at Lahiere's, located on Witherspoon Street, runs between $40 and $50 per person, said David Wagner, the restaurant's general manager. "When we do most of our business with students is around graduation," he said.
Theresa's, an Italian restaurant in Palmer Square, placed fifth in the poll. An average dinner costs about $20 per person, probably making it the highest-rated eatery that University students can afford.
Theresa's hostess Joan Maxwell said about 20 percent of her customers during an average week are students.
Alchemist and Barrister
Alchemist and Barrister, where an average meal runs about $22, falls in the upper price range of eateries that students can afford. The Witherspoon Street restaurant, which placed sixth in the survey, serves students mainly when their parents are in town, according to manager Jim Vazquez.
Alchemist owner Tom Schmierer was unavailable for comment, but his niece, Beth Schmierer '01, agreed the restaurant's prices are a bit steep for the average student. "I would say that it's more of a restaurant that you would go to with your parents," she said, "or if you wanted to step up a notch from the Princeton food."
"It's a good place to get a good, solid meal," added Schmierer, who has eaten there several times since the beginning of the school year. "My uncle likes it when he gets students in there."
And, yes, he will treat you if you go with his niece.
Monaghan also gave high marks to one local eatery that was not included in the Zagat survey – Downtown Deluxe, a soul-food restaurant located on Leigh Avenue.
"I thought I had one of my best meals I have had in Princeton there," he said, noting that the prices were inexpensive.
He added that the Annex and P.J.'s Pancake House, restaurants whose low prices make them popular with University students, serve "perfectly okay" meals.