A New Look, New Menu for Former Two Sevens Restaurant
NEW HOSTS: The Meeting House, previously known as Two Sevens, is now owned by married couple Amar Gautam and Amanda Maher, who have three young children and want the reconfigured restaurant to welcome families like their own. The Witherspoon Street eatery next to Avalon Princeton is being renovated to reflect a warmer, more casual aesthetic, with a less expensive menu.
By Anne Levin
When The Meeting House restaurant opens its doors later this month, new owners Amar Gautam and Amanda Maher are expecting some pint-sized patrons to be part of the first-night crowd. Formerly known as Two Sevens Eatery and Cantina, the space at 277 Witherspoon Street has been redesigned to be more family-friendly than its predecessor, while still appealing to hip diners who might be out for dinner or drinks.
“This will be a community-based restaurant with a burger on the dinner menu, a great $9 glass of wine, and a great beer selection,” said Gautam. Added Maher, “Having three kids of our own, we’re going to say to people, ‘Your kids are not just allowed here, they are welcome here.’”
In a recent tour of the sprawling space, the strikingly attractive couple — he’s 47, she’s 42 — seemed energized by the dust and deafening din of construction. The restaurant has a new entrance, and the formerly open kitchen has been enclosed.
The sleek expanse is being softened with lots of wood, rugs, greenery, and more light. “The style is classic, though not particularly stylized or stylish,” said Maher, who is actively involved in the project with Philadelphia-based designer Isabella Sparrow. “It will definitely be warmer and cozier. My hope is that you get a really warm, lovely feeling when you walk in.”
The couple moved to Princeton two years ago from New York City. Raised in South Brunswick, Gautam was a human resources consultant who owned a Manhattan bar for several years. Maher, originally from Short Hills, was a lawyer who earned a doctorate in political philosophy, which she now teaches part-time at Drexel University.
Somehow, they have found time to plan a new restaurant that they hope will fill what they perceive as Princeton’s need for more affordable places to take the kids for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
Two Sevens closed in October 2018. Former owner Jim Nawn of the Fenwick Hospitality Group announced plans at the time to reopen with a newly defined concept. Six months later, Nawn announced the sale of the group’s other three restaurants, Agricola, Cargot, and The Dinky Bar & Kitchen, to the Harvest Restaurant Group. But Two Sevens was not part of that deal.
Gautam and Maher had patronized Two Sevens during its brief existence, and had become acquainted with Nawn. “We had been thinking about doing a hospitality thing here, and I had met with him because I was curious about things like liquor licenses,” said Gautam. “He was a lovely guy. We’d see him in passing. And then they [Fenwick] reached out.”
The couple took their time before decided to buy the restaurant. “We had to think about it,” said Gautam. “It’s a big space, and it’s not in the downtown. So that was initially intimidating and scary.”
These days, the couple consider the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood location an asset. “We have 140 parking spots with a security camera,” said Gautam. “Parking is free, with validations. The more I came here, the more I realized what a plus that was.”
Heading The Meeting House team as front-of-house manager is Dago Villanueva, formerly the general manager at Agricola. The menu will be focused on simple American cuisine, using seasonal ingredients bought from local farms. Weekend brunches will feature “really good pancakes, bacon, homemade sausage, and that kind of thing,” said Gautam. The kids’ menu will have “really good, healthy food,” added Maher. “The veggies you see on our adult menu will show up on the kids’ menu. They won’t be eating overpriced junk food. It’s an approach that makes it enjoyable for everyone.”
The family-friendly focus is only part of the equation. “We also want this to be the place where we can go for date night,” said Gautam. “We might have live music and jazz. We’re bringing on an events person.”
The basement level, which the former owners did not utilize, is part of the current plan. It includes a stage area, a large room, and a section that can be used for private parties. “We have this massive space downstairs, and we want to make it accessible to all kinds of families no matter their income level,” said Gautam. “We want local sports teams, schools, and community groups to use it. We’re still developing the cost but it will be significantly less, as far as minimums go, than most restaurants in town. It’s not just for a corporate, fancy dinner. We want to have a mix of events, a mix of people hiring out the space and what we put on.”
The opening date for the restaurant is targeted for November 20, but not yet set in stone. For more information, visit www.meetinghouseprinceton.com.