Princeton Edition: Cafe Soleil

By Candace Nelson - 7:51 PM

Located on historic Mercer Street, stumb- ling upon Cafe Soleil was quite the find. Chris and I actually ran into this restaurant when we were going to Nonna's Italian Kitchen. This little cafe though isn't the easiest to experience. It's only open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. So, I thought I'd never get the chance to check it out. Luckily, since I'm on Thanksgiving Break, I am here during those times and hours and able to finally see what it's all about.

Sandwiched between other buildings, this restaurant stands out with its brightly colored flowers and sun painted on the windows. Parking is abundant here, so that's not a worry. It's difficult to see it the restaurant because of the glare from the windows, as well as the painting, so I had no idea what I was in for. When I stepped inside, I was blown away. The building is huge! It's very deep. We walked in, and tons of tables littered the floor. We walked all the way to the back, where a counter was situated, all the while feeling like the walk was awkwardly long. Local patrons looked on us as we finally made our way to the very back.

A woman at the counter told us to have a seat and she'd be out. So, we chose a table fairly close. On it was a little mirror/flower decoration and a number. We were table #20. A waitress came over to get our drink orders. We both ordered pops, and she brought back two cups and two cans. I suppose their fountain machine must haven been out of service, as I saw it behind the counter.

We looked over our menus, but I was a little stumped on this one. I really had no idea what to get . It seems the bulk of their menu is a make your own sandwich or make your own salad. They had about two sandwiches you can order - both a version of a club. I also saw that there was a small "speciality" sheet near the menus when we walked in. The waitress didn't hand us one, but I went up and grabbed it to see what other options they had. Chris noticed the top said "Free Dessert Friday." I was too excited. I'll come back to that. For this day, the special was a "quesadilla burger," which was described as being "a thick, juice burger covered in melted pepperjack cheese, paired with lettuce and tomato and southwest dressing all wrapped up in a four tortilla and grilled to perfection. Chris ordered this. While this sounded tasty, I thought I might as well make my own sandwich since that is what their bread and butter is.

I opted for a sourdough bread with turkey, provolone and cranberry mayo. I also got all their garnishes: lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle spear. Both of our meals came with a side, which were broccoli slaw, fresh fruit, chips, pea salad or a side salad. We both ordered the broccoli slaw, which was a ramen noodle based dish with broccoli, carrots and almonds in it, along with their light dressing. This was really tasty and refreshing. I never had a side like this, and I was very impressed with the creativity and flavor.

My sandwich wasn't bad either. The turkey was just like lunch meat - not chunks - and the provolone was fine. The veggies were fresh. The cranberry mayo was essentially a mayonnaise with a few cranberries laid on top - they two weren't intermingling. They were simply co-existing. But, all in all, my sandwich wasn't bad. It wasn't anything I couldn't make on my own. And considering I'm the one who ordered the individual ingredients, the creativity wasn't surprising. But this small restaurant did have some decent options at a good quality. And, hey, it's lunch, so something fresh and filling is what I was after. I was content.

But Chris' burger, on the other hand, was nothing impressive. While it sounded delicious, one bite and all I could taste was charred burger. It was way overcooked. I couldn't eat that. Luckily, he wasn't too put off by it, but it was hard for me to swallow.

We went to pay, and I had Chris mention the free dessert. She riddled off a couple options, but we decided on a red velvet cupcake and some Oreo cake balls. My cupcake was good, with tons of icing and a moist center. The Oreo balls were tasty, too. The inside was Oreo, and the outside was a white chocolate coating. For free, you really can't go wrong.

While the hours are tough, it's really a nice little dining place in Princeton. You have a lot of options to customize here, and it's a light, refreshing spot for lunch.

Grade: B
Cafe Soleil on Urbanspoon

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