August 7, 2019

Cargot, Agricola, and Dinky Bar Sale To Harvest Group Slated for This Week

By Wendy Greenberg

Princeton residents who have found that the Cargot Brasserie on University Place has closed can look toward September, when, pending an official sale scheduled this week, a new restaurant will open in its location run by The Harvest Group, a longtime New Jersey family-owned and run restaurant company.

As reported by Town Topics in April, Jim Nawn, owner of Fenwick Hospitality Group, announced that he was selling the Princeton eateries Agricola, The Dinky Bar & Kitchen, and Cargot Brasserie, plus Fenwick Catering and Events, to The Harvest Restaurant Group, which is based in Morris Plains. Harvest owns 11 different restaurants, including three Roots Steakhouse restaurants. Harvest has been serving customers for almost 20 years.

Plans are for the Cargot space to reopen in September as Roots Ocean Prime, a more “fish-focused” version of the Roots Steakhouse restaurants that have operated in Ridgewood, Summit, and Morristown for some time.

Once the potential new owner learned that Cargot was closed, Harvest CEO Chester “Chip” Grabowksi arranged for some 15-20 Cargot “back of the house” employees to train at the Morrisville Roots restaurant, and has given them pay raises and transportation to Morristown, said company spokesperson Rebecca Budd.

Some have chosen to work at Agricola and The Dinky Bar & Kitchen. The employees training at Roots are learning menu items, preparation techniques, and steps of service so they can return to the Princeton location. Harvest did not lay off any employees, said Budd, on behalf of Grabowski.

The Dinky Bar and Cargot are integral parts of the Princeton University/McCarter Theatre new arts and transit neighborhood, which includes the Lewis Center. So Princeton, which had selected Fenwick as the original operator of the restaurants, is interested in a successful transition.

Kristen Appleget, Princeton University director of community and regional affairs, noted the importance of having restaurants near University Place. “Since their opening, Cargot and the Dinky Bar have provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a part of Princeton where sit-down dining options had not previously existed,” she said. “It is apparent by crowds seen in both restaurants on performance nights at McCarter that Cargot and the Dinky Bar have become convenient locations to get a drink or a bite to eat before or after shows. Additionally, both restaurants have provided a nearby dining option for faculty, staff, and guests visiting the Lewis Center complex both during the day and in the evening.”

The Dinky menu will have some additions like hand-rolled sushi, possibly an oyster bar and sharing plates, said Budd. She described Roots Ocean Prime as an “upscale fine dining experience.” Although there is fish now on the menu, said Budd, the Princeton location will “have a greater focus on fish.” Roots is known also for steaks, and side dishes like creamed spinach and twice-baked potatoes. “It’s a special experience with great hospitality and a special touch,” she said. The exterior will likely stay the same for all three establishments. No changes are planned at this time for Agricola.

Other Harvest Group restaurants include 3 West in Basking Ridge, Addams Tavern in Westfield, Grato in Morris Plains, The Huntley Taverne in Summit, Tabor Road Tavern in Morris Plains, Trap Rock Restaurant in Berkeley Heights, and Urban Table in Morristown and Basking Ridge. Grabowksi said he and his wife Cheryl have been looking to join Princeton’s restaurants for some time. The sale is scheduled to go through this Thursday.

Fenwick also owned Two Sevens Eatery & Cantina on Witherspoon Street, which has closed.