Yes, I’ll admit it. I grew up in New Jersey. Why the shame, you ask? Because there is typically a gritty pride assigned to those of us raised in the state often referred to as “the armpit of America.” But I don’t get to take part in that. Because I grew up in Princeton.
Princeton is a little enclave of anti-Jersey. Everything is beautiful and clean. Instead of malls and mega stores, there is a carefully manicured downtown, full of locally owned stores and products that cater to the kind of clientele that would think twice before going grocery shopping in their gym clothes. Spillover of students, faculty, and staff from Princeton University means that most of downtown is brushed with a sheen of academic snobbery and Ivy League pride. Here and there, you can find pockets of alternative life, in the famed-yet-still-grubby Princeton Record Exchange, for instance, or the on-the-verge-of-another-health-code-violation-but-still-irresistible Hoagie Haven, but generally most stores and eateries in Princeton are picture-perfect.
And while yes, it is a rather bougie place, with its oh-so-trendy-yet-earthy local microroaster/cafe Small World Coffee, its new versus traditional ice cream cafes, and its hip-and-tasty brewery, at least you have the chance to eat well. And eat well I did. On weekend mornings, while average New Jerseyans might have whipped up some pancakes, my European-transplant father would often go out and pick up something from our nearby bougie food store. Baguettes, croissants, bread—we had a love of European carbohydrates in my family, and Princeton was always there for us.
So was it a surprise when I read on Serious Eats that the best croissants were in Princeton? Mais, non! But I was surprised at the store commended for its flaky, buttery, crafts of perfection—The Little Chef. A tiny store that only arrived after I’d moved away, they apparently make the absolute best croissants ever. Not just in Princeton, but apparently in all of New Jersey. In fact, they’re apparently so good that they beat out all the best croissants in The City. (Apparently, they may be America’s Best Croissants, but honestly? Once you’ve beat out The City, nothing else matters.)
Perhaps it’s time to visit the old chomping grounds again.