When Witherspoon Street’s venerable Alchemist and Barrister bar-restaurant completed a complete overhaul of its main dining room-bar in 2014, it boasted an expanded total of 60 beer taps, eight of which were located in the then-untouched pub room in the rear. But A&B owner Frank Armenante wasn’t done yet.

His stated goal was to have a total of 75 taps once he tackled the last part of the renovation: removing the wall between the pub and the semi-enclosed back room and patio parallel to it. True to his word, the new, fully integrated space debuted in April. Only one thing: the restaurant doesn’t have 75 taps. It has 76.

Armenante was careful to maintain what he calls “the old pub atmosphere and historical-looking bar” that customers cherish. The first stage of the renovation had dramatically changed the layout and character of the front dining areas. In contrast to the cozy, brick-walled pub in the rear, these had, throughout the restaurant’s first several decades, sported formal Colonial American décor, with floral wallpaper, Wedgwood blue walls and brass chandeliers.

In the early 2000s, the space was redecorated in contemporary American Bistro style. In 2014, the interior walls were gutted – some all the way back to the building’s original red brick — and new, larger windows and sets of French doors were installed on the side that faces the Chambers Walk alleyway. A huge, four-sided bar with 52 taps was installed, many of the taps spouting craft beers and microbrews. The ancient basement directly below was excavated in order to install the lines directly from the barrels.

While the number of seats remains the same in the pub, by removing the separating interior wall the space between tables is more relaxed and natural light can filter in from the outside. The long side facing the alley is still open to the air above a brick half-wall, but now has metal roll-downs for inclement weather. (The plastic that encased the former patio has been banished.)

Other changes include a slanted interior roof of white-painted beadboard that boasts six skylights; a new water pipe system that runs under the entire restaurant; vinyl flooring that tamps down the volume from the live music that the A&B features in the front room; and a new and more efficient air-exchange system.

Armenante, who has owned the restaurant since 1974, has christened the front room the “Alchemist” and the new back room the “Barrister.” theaandb.com.

Hoagie Haven bottling Sanchez Sauce

Hoagie Haven itself has a cult following, and so does The Sanchez, its sandwich of fried chicken cutlet with melted mozzarella sticks, fries, American cheese, and the eponymous spicy, creamy sauce on a roll from Italian People’s Bakery. (Some customers are known to ask for their Sanchez with double sauce.) Earlier this year the folks at Hoagie Haven began selling Sanchez Sauce in 17-ounce bottles, describing it online as “a hybrid between the kick of hot sauce and the creamy flavor of honey mustard. An all-purpose sauce that goes great on anything fried, meats, burgers, vegetables, seafood, French fries…” I use it in place of tartar sauce on homemade salmon cakes. Bottles of Sanchez Sauce, $10 each, are available at both Hoagie Haven and at Nassau Street Seafood, and also online at www.hoagiehaven.com, where a minimum order is 2 for $20.

McCaffrey’s opening two more stores

April 21 marked opening day for the fifth store in the McCaffrey’s chain of food markets. This local, family-owned company already has stores in Princeton and West Windsor as well as in Newtown and Yardley, Pennsylvania. But the latest store, in Doylestown, represents the debut of a new company concept called “Simply Fresh by McCaffrey’s.”

Because the Doylestown store has only 13,000 square feet of space — much less than its siblings – the company says this approach is a “best of McCaffrey’s,” and is situated in a landmark building that has been “lovingly restored.” Despite the space constraints, the company promises to deliver “the highest quality produce, meat, seafood, cheese, deli, bakery, and floral, along with chef-crafted, gourmet prepared foods,” and will maintain a full staff of department-specific experts.

Later this spring, the sixth store in the group — a regulation size McCaffrey’s — is scheduled to open in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania in a 50,000 square foot space that had been a Super Fresh.

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