Lambertville’s popular Marhaba restaurant is about to get a sibling of the same name in downtown Princeton. Owners Karim Elsharabasi and Tracey Branson have taken over the space that had been Cheeburger, Cheeburger and are hopeful that the new place will be up and running in February.

Like the original, Princeton’s Marhaba (“marhaba” means welcome in Arabic) will offer classic Middle Eastern dishes in a casual BYOB setting. The Nassau Street space is approximately double the size of the one on South Union Street in Lambertville, and will be able to seat approximately 100 patrons. “The kitchen is bigger, too,” says Ms. Branson, “which means we can expand our offerings.”

Those offerings will include Middle Eastern-style brunch on weekends, a number of nightly specials, and Middle Eastern-style tajine dishes. Branson also hinted that the couple hopes to pull off what she terms “a big surprise and first in Princeton” — assuming, that is, they can source the needed equipment and a chef who specializes in the unnamed area of expertise. (Personally, I’m rooting for house-made pita.)

Like its sister restaurant, Princeton’s Marhaba will feature belly dancing on Friday nights, which Branson says is a big draw in Lambertville.

Last October, Branson and Elsharabasi opened New Hope Gyro Co. in the space on South Main Street that had been Tahas Gyro. “It’s more of a take-out shop,” Branson says of the Pennsylvania property. “It specializes in gyro, schawarmah, and falafel sandwiches and is open late. We think of it as ‘Marhaba Express.’” The shop is open from noon to midnight.

As for Princeton, Branson and Elsharabasi are in the process of sourcing equipment and furnishings, hiring staff, and running the permits gantlet. They are hopeful that the doors will open sometime in February, and feel confident they will be well received. “At least once a week someone asks me when we’re opening in Princeton,” Branson says.

Asian Fusion coming to former Tusk space

If you’ve been curious about the construction activity currently underway at the former Tusk, here’s the scoop. Another pan-Asian restaurant, Aja Asian Cuisine and Lounge, is replacing it, the third venture of brothers-in-law Jason Lin and Chuan Tan. The pair is behind Aja Asian Cuisine & Lounge, which in 2013 replaced Fuddrucker’s on Route 1 in New Brunswick, and Ganga Asian Bistro in Matawan, which they opened in 2009. “Aja” means welcome in Hindi.

They hope to open in March or April. The restaurant will seat about 240, and includes 2 party/conference rooms. One seats 15; the other 40. It will have a full bar and a sushi bar. It will not have live entertainment.

Entrepreneur planning Mother’s Day march

“I’m a mother and wife and daughter and sister and aunt and friend who lives in Princeton New Jersey,” begins a recent Facebook posting of Linda Stanley Twining. Her name should be familiar to local residents for two reasons. For one, she has been a busy sales associate with Weichert Realtors since 2009. But Twining is also, along with Princeton resident Kathy Herring, the founder of Twin Hens Pot Pies, which started as a local frozen delivery business back in 1998.

Their line of award-winning frozen pot pies (including a gluten-free version) are now available in hundreds of stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and Dean and DeLuca, as well as on Amazon.

In her post explaining her reasons for initiating the March on Washington, Twining wrote: “Since 2009 I’ve been thinking about organizing this event ever since the Sandy Hook shootings in CT and the time has come to take action.”

Twining went on to write that she wants to see assault rifles banned and gun sales prohibited to people on terrorist watch lists, and would also like to see widespread background checks. “I know these regulations alone will not stop gun violence, but they certainly won’t hurt the situation. If one life is saved, in my opinion, it’s worth our trouble…I’m asking for anyone who would like to join me on the Washington Mall, Mother’s Day, May 8th 2016,” she wrote.

“This march is for everyone to join in. This is for Father’s, for kids, for grandparents, EVERYONE who wants to let our law makers know that we would like to see a change to our gun regulation and that we are taking action to make this happen. I will be talking to my congressman to help get this organized.”

Twining is also working to secure the date with the National Park Service, after which she will expand her outreach, probably via Facebook. “We have some momentum going and I’m quite excited about the event. Stay tuned,” Twining says.

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