Tico’s Eatery & Juice Bar is a unique gathering place in Princeton. Located at 33 Witherspoon Street (corner of Witherspoon and Spring Street), it offers all-natural juices, super smoothies, and a variety of fresh, made-to-order sandwiches, including wraps and paninis, as well as tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and enchiladas.
In addition, breakfast, with omelets, egg, cheese, and bacon sandwiches and more, is available at this popular establishment.
Opened in July 2006, Tico’s is owned by Ammel and Renee De Bernard. Originally from Costa Rica, Mr. De Bernard explains that “Tico” is a nickname for a Costa Rican person. He has emphasized the Costa Rican focus on fresh fruit and vegetables in his restaurant.
“In Costa Rica, fresh fruit is always available. We eat it all the time, and we also have many fruit juices and smoothies.”
Smoothies and Juices
Carrying this tradition forward at Tico’s has been a big success. Even during the darkest days of the Recession, Tico’s kept going, with smoothies and juices always popular. Now, things have taken a turn for the better, Mr. De Bernard reports.
“The juice bar business has grown 400 percent in the last two years. It is 100 percent natural juice. We don’t add water or sugar, and we make it right in front of the customers.”
And there is a lot more than OJ! Strawberry, peach, watermelon, pineapple, mango, cantaloupe — to name just some, and customers can also request their own favorite combinations.
Smoothies, available with fresh fruit and frozen yogurt, or as frosties with ice and fruit only, also have a variety of choices. “Tropical Storm” with mango, strawberry, orange, and banana; “Costa Rican”: mango, pineapple and banana; “Jamaican Jammer”: pineapple, strawberry, orange, and banana — and many others — are sure to please on a hot summer day. Some customers make it a point to sample each smoothie, says Mr. De Bernard.
One of the most popular is “The Green Monster”, he adds. It includes organic kale, organic spinach, celery, cucumber, green apple, lemon, and ginger. It is available in 16-ounce and 24-ounce servings, as are all the juices.
Mr. De Bernard is very particular about the fruit and vegetables he includes, and as he says, “I go to the produce market and pick out the fruit and vegetables myself. Some fruit, like the pineapples, comes from Costa Rica.”
Informal food, including breakfast and lunch choices, features sandwiches, salads, soup of the day, quesadillas, burritos, paninis, enchiladas, and tacos, among other options.
Tico’s has a Latino flavor, with the tacos, burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas, but it is not exclusively “South of the Border”, says Mr. De Bernard. The paninis add a touch — and taste — of Italy, and hummus is a Middle Eastern favorite.
Many customers come in more than once a week for their favorite juice and smoothie, as well as their lunch of choice. Among the popular quesadillas are the chicken and cheese, BBQ chicken (with chicken, cheddar, black beans, corn, and onions), and the Veggie Deluxe, with roasted red peppers, portabella mushrooms, spinach, cheddar, and feta cheese.
Tacos, burritos, and enchiladas are all made to order, and many combinations are available. This is also true of the paninis, and favorites include Tico’s Signature Panini — Caribbean-style marinated steak with sauteed onions and cheese; Napa Valley Chicken Panini, including grilled chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, marinated portabella mushroms, sliced tomatoes, red onion, and parmesan pepper corn dressing; also, Turkey Habenero Panini with oven roasted turkey, roasted red peppers, red onion, baby spinach, Monterey Jack cheese, and habanero sauce.
Mr. De Bernard has been careful to keep his prices reasonable. Breakfast sandwiches start at $2.95, paninis are $7.45, lunch sandwiches $6.49. tacos and enchiladas $5.95, juices from $3.99, and smoothies $4.29.
“I’m really trying to make a difference for people,” he says. “What I really enjoy is interacting with customers and seeing them happy with what we have here. If I can help them become aware of the need for a healthier diet, that is important.”
Mr. De Bernard, who is also a wood worker with a Master’s degree in furniture restoration, has been working with a dietician to offer 3-day and 5-day juice cleanses. “This is very helpful for digestion and can also help in weight loss,” he explains. “We’re the healthiest place in town! The shelf life of anything we have is 30 minutes. There is no shelf life! Everything is completely fresh. I want people to be aware of things like expiration dates and also of how your food is made and the ingredients. This is so important for your health.
“We also work hard to keep up with what the world wants,” he continues. “We keep updating all the time. I want to be a real part of the community. I’m here to stay! This is not about getting rich for me. My satisfaction is with the community getting healthier. There are a lot of smiling faces here, and I have gotten to know so many of the customers. This is the real pleasure.”
Tico’s can seat 26 at the restaurant, and take-out is also available. In addition, he now has a juice truck, and can make juice and smoothies for special events, and he is also regularly at the Trenton Farmers Market.
Restaurant Hours are Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Customers may call ahead to order. (609) 252-0300. Website: www.ticosprinceton.com.