TRAIN TRANSFORMATION: The Dinky Bar & Kitchen, formerly the Dinky train station on Alexander Street, is scheduled to open at the end of July, with 54 seats indoors and 26 outdoors, fully renovated kitchen area where the ticket office used to be, and drinking and eating area in the old waiting room. (Photo by Henry Gilpin)
The Dinky Bar and Kitchen, the next addition to the Arts and Transit neighborhood taking shape on Alexander Street, will open at the end of July in the renovated building that formerly housed the old train station.
“Cocktails, wine, beer, spirits, snacks, small plates, neat eats” reads the sign in front of the building under construction. According to Jim Nawn, owner of Fenwick Hospitality Group, which is developing the project in partnership with building owner Princeton University, patrons can look forward to “a comfortable bar environment in an interesting old building.”
The stone station house was constructed in 1918 in the collegiate gothic style, and includes the ticket office, which will be the kitchen area of the new establishment, and the domed-ceilinged passenger hall, which will include 54 seats and a bar with some counter-height tables, and 26 additional seats outside. The original train station was closed permanently in August 2013, with the new station and ticket office opening one block southeast on Alexander Street in November 2014.
“It’s a beautiful building in a lot of ways,” said Mr. Nawn, whose Fenwick Group also owns Agricola, Main Street Restaurant Group, and the Great Road Farm. “We are aware that good food needs to be part of the service” he continued, and also mentioned that the fare would offer “ingredient-inspired” food from the Great Road Farm, “including fresh produce, pickled and preserved items, charcuterie items made by our butcher, and cheese and meats in a local, farm-inspired context — sharable food, served on smaller-sized plates.”
The bar and grill, interior designed by Celano Design Studio of New York, will be open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.
Also in the works as part of the station complex designed by Rick Joy Architects of Tucson, Arizona, is a full-scale restaurant, to be housed in the larger, southern station building, formerly used for freight storage. It is scheduled to open by the middle of next year and will seat about 150, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
July might be a quiet time on Alexander Street, with both McCarter Theatre and the University on summer schedules, but Mr. Nawn is optimistic about the prospect of the Dinky Bar and Kitchen “starting slow to get the operation going,” then “coming up to speed in the fall.”
”When something new comes along,” he said, “it may attract attention and be busy even in summer.” Mr. Nawn looked forward to the completion of the Arts and Transit project next year, “The station complex will be a great amenity for the community,” he stated, “a quality bar, grill, and restaurant for commuters, students, theater-goers, and others.”
In the meantime, Mr. Nawn mentioned “a number of projects underway” at Main Street (comprised of the Main Street Bistro in Princeton Shopping Center, Main Street Eatery and Gourmet in Kingston, and Main Street Catering in Rocky Hill), which Fenwick acquired four months ago.
He noted a “need for some refreshing and renovation” and mentioned adjustments this summer in the menu and cosmetic changes to the bistro, but emphasized “this is a process. We hope people are patient.”