Tucked into the back corner of Hulfish Street is a new café called Maman that opened in November 2022. Maman has a warm, airy atmosphere perfect for a catchup with friends or a coffee-laden study session. The interior is brightly lit by the many windows lining the perimeter, and the mixture of long mess tables and smaller seating arrangements create an asymmetrical, open plan. The café has a clean aesthetic, with a few flower arrangements and patterned dishware to accent the minimalist layout of the space.
Maman is a great spot for breakfast or lunch, as the kitchen closes before typical dinner hours. The menu includes a mix of sandwiches, salads, and soups, but they also offer an abundant list of coffees and a wide array of pastries for a quick afternoon snack.
However, Maman is not just a cozy café: it also offers decent options for people with dietary restrictions, including those who maintain a gluten-free diet like myself. Here’s a rundown on the gluten-free experience at Maman:
For a light lunch, I highly recommend the salad selection — especially the “raquel kale caesar salad.” The menu is very clear about the options that are gluten-friendly and how they can make dishes gluten-free, if needed. To make this salad gluten-free, for example, I simply requested no croutons. Even without the croutons, the salad had a fresh liveliness that made it a perfect lunch. The bitterness of the kale contrasted with the sweetness of the tomatoes, while the pickled onions added a welcomed tanginess. The roasted chicken was nicely seasoned and made the light salad a more hearty meal.
On a chillier day, the “katie chicken sandwich” is a satisfying, warming option for lunch. All of the sandwiches at Maman can easily become gluten-free with a substitution for gluten-free bread at a small surcharge. As someone who recently began eating a gluten-free diet, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the gluten-free bread. Admittedly, the substitute doesn’t have the same taste and texture as ciabatta, the original bread used for the sandwich. Instead, the gluten-free option is a piece of sliced bread with a neutral flavor and a slightly crumbly texture. Still, out of all the gluten-free bread I have tried so far, this one is still my favorite. Additionally, Maman layers a host of other flavor profiles to complement the bread. The mild basil aioli, sharp arugula, and sweet roasted red peppers develop a balanced flavor portfolio. On a whole, Maman makes a concerted effort to create equally delicious options for their gluten-free customers.
The greatest gap in the menu at Maman for the gluten-free crowd can be found at the pastry counter. I have been to Maman a few times since its opening, and I have yet to see a gluten-free pastry. After consulting the online menu, I deduced that there are no gluten-free options for pastries at all, although there are a few vegan choices and pre-packaged gluten-free sweets.
However, the expansive selection of coffees compensates for the lack of gluten-free pastries. Situated on an entirely separate menu from the food options, Maman has a sprawling selection of coffees: from a warm cappuccino to a selection of iced drinks for a balmy day. I tried the iced mocha and loved it; the strong coffee was nicely complemented by underlying notes of chocolate.
Although the prices are admittedly high, I highly recommend Maman as a quaint breakfast and lunch spot for all customers, including those with dietary restrictions. However, I would recommend visiting the café either slightly before or slightly after the lunch rush hour. Since Maman provides satisfying culinary experiences, it attracts great crowds. Subsequently, I found myself standing awkwardly with a cappuccino filled to the brim in hand, waiting for a table to free up. There are outdoor seating options nearby for warm days, but the tables are limited when the weather is rainy or cold, so be prepared for wait times.
Take the walk to Maman, grab a sandwich or salad, and soak in the peaceful atmosphere of a small, friendly café for a quiet, relaxing afternoon in Princeton.
Isabella Dail is a member of the Class of 2026 and an associate editor for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.