While coffee shops in Princeton are not an anomaly, Café 44—located at 44 Leigh Ave. across the street from the new location of Tortuga’s Mexican Village—is unlike any of the other options.
It opened on March 3 and, according to manager Matthew Miller, is modeled after the cafés of the West Coast.
“I wanted a café you could walk into and there’s not just pastries, there’s a full menu,” he said.
The Bordentown resident has been in the café business nearly his entire life, almost as long as he’s known Jennifer Jefferis, a family friend and owner of both Tortuga’s and Café 44.
Given his wealth of experience working in cafes, Jefferis offered to let him stay in the location and open a café when she moved her restaurant across the street last winter.
Miller quickly took up the offer, and set to work.
“We did everything fresh in here,” he said. The “we” refers to him and his father, who helped put in new floors, bring in couches, install new countertops, buy new equipment and paint the walls.
With its new décor, including rotating artwork by local artists, the café feels homey. The main room has tables and chairs, while the side room is filled by two big, comfy couches, a low coffee table, assorted magazines and a bookshelf with a wide variety of books.
One draw of the café is that it serves breakfast all day, with omelets ranking as the most popular orders. Dessert by Sweetmama’s, a local baked goods company, is also an option, and the place is packed during meal times.
Currently, Café 44 is open Sunday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., but as word spreads and more employees are hired, Miller hopes to add live music on Friday and Saturday nights and serve dinner a few times each week.
Another draw is the local focus Miller gives to Café 44.
“I order as much as I possibly can as fresh as possible,” Miller said.
His ingredients are organic, local and from New Jersey, because “that’s what Princeton is all about.”
Café 44 is off the beaten track of the downtown shops, which Miller sees as an advantage. He avoids the hustle and bustle of the crowds, and also the expensive parking. It also allows him to be a part of the community where he’s set up the café, and has been able to benefit from the community’s relationship with Tortuga’s, which sends a lot of customers his way. Miller also makes a point of advertising for other independent local businesses.
“Every comment on Yelp has been good,” said Miller, referring to the popular user review and recommendation website. That and Facebook have been the biggest draw-ins so far, though the 44 cent coffee on the establishment’s April 4 “Address Day” promotion was a big hit, as well. Look out for another draw as the weather gets warmer:
“I have full intentions to have ice cream this summer,” Miller said.
Cafe 44 is located at 44 Leigh Ave. in Princeton. Phone: (609) 924-3900. On the Web: cafe44princeton.com.