Bites Nearby: The Cranbury Inn
The owners of the Cranbury Inn take a spicier approach to the restaurant business.
You could stand on a corner and look around until a restaurant sign draws you in. But we've got a better idea. Each week, Lawrenceville Patch picks a great restaurant either in town or nearby that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:
Since The Cranbury Inn was established in 1780, it has been a haven for good food and drink. Twenty years ago, when owners Tom and Gay Ingegneri took over the establishment, they knew it would be an undertaking to uphold all of the history that exists within those walls. For instance, the quaint liquor store that stands right next to the dining room entrance was once the Justice of the Peace office and the telegraph office until the end of prohibition.
Today, customers stop in to take part in the inn's history, if only for a meal. Most of the dining room chairs even date back to 1890. And regardless of how packed the place gets, things always seem to run smoothly in the kitchen, thanks to the highly experienced culinary team that is always ready to serve.
“We run efficiently and effectively,” Tom Ingegneri said while describing the concept behind the Inn. “There is a team leader, two line cooks, a prep cook, and two dishwashers. That's all we need.”
The idea of having a single chef was not appealing to the owners. A collaborative effort seems to result in a more specialized menu. “I also have an advising board that consists of chef-owners that work elsewhere," Ingegneri said. "They advise on the menu. I specifically chose the people I trust and admire in the restaurant business.”
Many couples choose to have their weddings at the Cranbury Inn as well. “We haven't raised the price of weddings in five years, and we don't need to,” Ingegneri said, and brides can request exactly what they want to have on the menu.
“A bride came in and wanted a specific seafood tortellini. I called two board members that specialize in seafood and they did not disappoint. We all sat down and did the tortellini for her to taste. When she got to the second bite, she said, 'This is better than what I expected.'”
The team buys ingredients individually and is extremely competitive.
The Inn prides itself on its classy Sunday Champagne Brunch that runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is buffet-style and offers a wide array of foods to choose from, your choice of juice and table service from the full service bar. Of course, the servers begin the brunch with an imported champagne toast, and there is unlimited champagne available throughout the course of the meal.
Serving turkey all year round is also extremely rare in the business, but it's something the Cranbury Inn continues to do for its customers. “We have our infamous turkey dinner that is available 365 days a year,” Ingegneri said.
He recalled his fondest food memory at the Inn with a chuckle. “We had a wedding two years ago in August. The couple wanted everything on the menu to have turkey in it, because they met on Thanksgiving. We did exactly that.”
If a customer requests a specific meal, Tom and Gay Ingegneri said they do their best to pull the team together. They are committed to serving their community's cravings.
“People seem to love our filet mignon with cognac cream sauce,” Tom Ingegneri said, adding that the meal is often talked about within the confines of Cranbury.
The new addition at the Inn, the elegant timber frame barn, was designed and built by Dreaming Creek in Powhatan, Va. This room is always dimly lit and used for à la carte dining as well as special occasions, and is intended as just another step toward building a more personalized eating experience.
As for the Inn's casual but customized ambience, Ingegneri proudly stated, “We're not a five-star. We're just a damn good three-star.”
Nestled in the heart of historic Cranbury, this charming inn boasts three fireplaces and has a rustic feel. Stepping inside is like stepping back in time, and owner Tom Ingegneri is quick to point out that the inn itself is listed on the national register of historic landmarks. Known for its crabcakes and turkey dinners, more exotic fare on the menu includes filet minon with cognac cream sauce and veal osso bucco. An extensive wine list is featured at the full bar.
- Location: 21 N Main St, Cranbury, NJ 08512
- Phone: (609) 655-5595
- Hours: Lunch hours: Mon - Sat, 11am - 4:30pm. Dinner hours: Mon - Thu, 5pm - 9pm; Fri, Sat, 5pm - 10pm; Sun, 2pm - 9pm. Sunday brunch: 11am - 2pm.
- Handicap Accessible: Yes
- Founding Date: 1780
- Payments accepted: MasterCard, Personal Check, Discover, Visa, Debit Card, Cash, American Express
- Food & dining options: Organic, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Low calorie, Halal, Natural, Sugar-free, Vegan, Kosher
- General services: Catering, Phone orders, Prepared foods, Take-out, Eat-in
- Menu link: www.thecranburyinn.com/menus.html
- Specialties: Crabcakes, filet minon with cognac cream sauce, turkey dinner
- ATM: No
- Parking: Free lot
- Private events: Yes
- What makes this community great?: "We are industrious and totally committed to preserving our history. We have a real historic town environment and a strong sense of identity."
- Cuisine: American
- Signature dishes: Veal osso bucco, filet minon, crab cakes
- What dish is most representative of the restaurant?: Crab cakes and filet minon
- Price level: $$
- Reservations: Accepted
- Number of tables: 90
- Features: Private Parties, Dinner, Live Entertainment, Catering, Buffet, Lunch, Brunch, Happy Hour, Breakfast, Banquets, Fireplace, Group-friendly
- Atmosphere: Elegant, Quiet, Romantic, Fine dining