Most visitors to the Princeton University campus wonder about “all this eating club business.” You may have even once found yourself asking, what precisely is an eating club? What a silly question! An eating club is an association of students given to sharing meals together. That is it and nothing more. And nothing more.
As the great German dramatist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) wrote, “Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral.” First comes the eats, then come the morals — he could almost be describing Prospect Avenue today! In this same spirit, this Zaggat survey offer both the seasoned diner and the naive freshman a new look at the oldest culinary traditions, from the ground up to the third floors. And remember that, after all, it never is too early to start worrying about eating clubs.
Cap and Gown Club
Food: 18 Decor: 26 Service: 6 Cost: Conversation
Very good sundae bar and carbs, all tucked away in secluded luxury. A fun environment but Liliputian it is not. Rabelais’s noble giants would be dwarfed by the football, basketball, and volleyball players who populate Cap. There are some exceptions to the rule, as with every club. Look for the tiny kids carrying stools around to see over the bar. Attire limited to signature sweatshirts and baseball caps (backwards) at all times. Given notice, management has recently lowered height requirements for the rides. Foam night is a must-try, forgetting any ideas of food.
Food: 21 Decor: 15 Service: 12 Cost: Semblance of a sex life
Safe place for midnight dining, in comfortably safe setting. Musical offerings and membership similarly non-threatening. Unsafe behavior formally and informally discouraged. Strong New England liberal arts educational environment yet in New Jersey! To repeat: a safe, nurturing, and accepting environment. Try their not-quite-famous, very safe specialty, the “plain yogurt.” Sunday brunches inexplicably, dangerously delicious.
Food: 10 Decor: 9 Service: 11 Cost: Evolutionary posture
Surf and turf as a way of life. Generally welcoming, though setting rather disingenuous with so-called books full of either blank pages or sprint times. Visitors are warned of overdressing, that is, skip the t-shirt. Frequent theme nights lack innovative but abound in awesome back muscles. Both material and individual distinction looked down upon by management so plan bringing the “team” along. Steak and Corona night a real guilty pleasure.
Food: 19 Decor: 20 Service: 0 Cost: Depth
Old wealth pretension marries nouveau riche ambition. Generally respectable food servant-served under leering portraits of deceased Caucasian financiers and huntsmen. Decor otherwise quite nice excepting sophomore socialites milling about and blocking means of ingress, egress. Complementary dance floor. Tap room crowded and beverage orders often unheeded, with members occasionally smoking indoors to show off status. Call ahead as reservations generally necessary excepting rainy, lonely Tuesdays. Beware “Fried-day” and the meaningless brunches.
Princeton Charter Club
Food: 27 Decor: 28 Service: 30 Cost: Steady pulse rate
Excellent food served by hand (and high-five) of head-chef and right-wing political operative William Scharf ’08 in very well-maintained architecture. Rating system nevertheless disingenuous, given crippling social proceedings when indeed even present. Dice, or C-Lo, is often played in the alley way, so gang violence is a possibility. Location, location, location; membership, membership, membership. Adherents recommend brunch for overcoming recurrent claustrophobia. Must haves: Ginnamon Toast Crunch (Gin and Cinnamon Toast Crunch), The Armada (Captain Morgan’s and Captain Crunch).
Princeton Tower Club
Food: 25 Decor: 15 Service: 17 Cost: Other, just-as-viable networking opportunities
Reliably good menu with few deviations from the straight-and-narrow. Décor crowded, best characterized by tall women and excessive tables. Dining arrangements based upon Harkness principles encourage shrill verbal competition, drinking games enforce proper distance during social interactions. Quite popular despite shorter male complaints of being overlooked. Bringing your own escort or “date” (BYOD) highly recommended. Baffling door practice of asking for a pass. Stay away from the more dramatic offerings.
Quadrangle Club (“Quad”)
Food: 14 Decor: 14 Service: 14 Cost: 14
Though edged out by Colonial Club for “safest experience,” still offers acceptable food, satisfactory decor, and adequate service all in the exact middle of the Street. “Popular” music a standby, literally. Offers complementary warming services for winter walks back to campus. Head ‘Moose Head’ Nick Cox will be happy to offer you a Jell-O shot, but forget about him holding your hair back while you vomit (and/or cry). Freshmen, townies, and new blood particularly welcome. Visitor reactions range the gamut from “Why?” to “Why not?” Improved, smoother oatmeal anticipated addition to menu.
Food: 19 Decor: 8 Service: 24 Cost: Personal hygiene
Exotic fusion cuisine of fruit and salad bar matching colorful clientele. Though recently slips in Prospect ratings, menu still enjoyable with the occasional surprise. Settings expensively and painstakingly renovated to simulate auras of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, complete with brooding intellectuals. Live bands feature on most weekends, with tap room offering eclectic music. No dance floor to speak of given awkward sexual hegemonies yet to be overcome. Try the beef at Sunday brunch (the “van Landingham special”).
Tiger Inn (“TI”)
Food: 2 Decor: 4 Service: 7 Cost: Future meaning
Twenty-four hour hotdogs and beer, special occasion hamburgers and cheeseburgers. “Wellies” recommended for intrepid diners, given signature pastime of dumping cheap beer on ‘decor’ and/or visitors. Helmets with face-shields suggested for overnight stays. Door charges not particularly worthwhile for anything found inside. Now serves pizza bagels in recent move to accommodate “Old Testament” (OT) members.
University Cottage Club
Food: 16 Decor: 23 Service: 13 Cost: Multiculturalism
Good steak and salad served to respective genders in authentic Antebellum settings. Second helpings unavailable for the gentler sex. Suggested attire minimal and/or thematic, bleached hair and permanent smiles prerequisite. Gratis service both friendly and frequent. Minorities now welcome. Affectionately termed “Snottage” by frequent and homogenous diners, thereby avoiding the more obvious “Clottage.” Like “Hooters” but soulless. Great watermelons, though.