Here’s the thing about a prix fixe: they’re not all created equal. Not by a long shot. Prix fixe—literally meaning “fixed price”—menus, can be used in a variety of ways. Some restaurants use them as a way to draw in new diners, some use them to attract regular diners to different days or times, and some only trot out prix fixe menus when holidays like Mother’s Day or New Year’s Eve demand them.
But from a dining perspective, prix fixe menus can be good to look out for all year long. The trick is knowing how to gauge what you’re looking for, what’s on offer, and—that “prix” part—whether that price is really a value. To get you started, we’ve rounded up some of the better deals* and dishes available, prix fixe, in Jersey. The “Perfect Prix Fixe” designates our choice meal, based on the current published Prix Fixe menu available online. Options, as ever, may vary in real life.
*Prices are all before tax and tip and don’t include beverage options, which are sometimes available at an extra cost.
Polished “Power Lunch” in Lawrenceville
Young-and-hungry chef Chris Voigtsberger has cooked in some ultra-polished kitchens—Eleven Madison Park and Degustation in New York, Ninety Acres and Blue Bottle Café in New Jersey. Now at the helm of his own (deceptively modest) outpost, Acacia in Lawrenceville, Voigtsberger is still doing polished, hyper-seasonal cooking—he’s just doing it his own, comfortably thoughtful way. Lucky for you, that means a three-course “Power Lunch” that can function as a brisk, foodie pick-me-up but also has all the finesse and seasonal character of the regular dinner menu—for just $20.
Breakdown: $20, three courses, available during lunch hours.
Perfect Prix Fixe: Artichoke Bisque with Chili Oil and Scallion, Ricotta Dumplings with Peas, Asparagus, and Mushroom Fricassee, and dessert of the day.
Acacia, 2637 Main Street, Lawrenceville; 609-895-9885
Upscale Early Bird in Cape May
Even if you can’t claim one of the nine rooms at Peter Shields Inn, you can still eat a really nice, beachy prix fixe dinner with stunning views and a whole lot of lovely Georgian architecture. The prix fixe here is an upscale take on the old school early bird special—available from 5 to 5:30pm—but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Executive chef Carl Messick worked at the helm of The Ebbitt Room (part of Curtis Bashaw’s Cape Resorts) as well as White Heron restaurant in Stone Harbor, and the Early Dinner menu has the polish to show for it. Desserts look especially (elegantly) devilish.
Breakdown: $40, three courses; Sunday to Friday, seatings between 5 and 5:30pm
Perfect Prix Fixe: Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with compressed cucumber and mango; Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Melted Leeks, Potato Gnocchi, Wild Mushrooms, and Charred Onion Puree; and Warm English Date Pudding with Caramel and Vanilla Ice Cream
Peter Shields Inn & Restaurant, 1301 Beach Avenue, Cape May; 609-884-9090
Fab French Fix in Westfield
It doesn’t matter if you speak French or count profits in Euros—just hit up this “French Business Lunch” at Chez Catherine in Westfield, make time for a nap after lunch, and worry about business later. Yes, it’s just two courses—“business” lunches are meant to be fairly quick to eat, after all—but these are refined, elegant, judiciously rich French plates so you’re more likely to leave feeling as wonderfully stuffed as an éclair. Not to mention one of the great steals of any prix fixe, you can soak in as much of the restaurant’s chic, charming ambiance as you like, free of charge.
Breakdown: $28, two courses, available during lunch hours
Perfect Prix Fixe: Moules de l’Isle du Prince Edouard, Pancentta, Red Pepper Broth, and Chives; Poulet au Citron et Basilic (Chicken with Lemon and Potato-Basil Puree)
Chez Catherine, 431 North Avenue West, Westfield; 908-654-4011
Sleek Supper in Edgewater
The Sunset Prix Fixe at Haven in Edgewater is only available Monday through Friday, which is perfect, because everything about it makes you forget it’s Monday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday, etc.). First there’s that view, the stunning New York City skyline glimmering—so quietly!—across the river. But take a look at the menu and you realize you’re in for more than sleek urban visuals. Haven chef Ibrahim Sanz carries the edgy/playful touches of his regular modern American menu over to the prix fixe. Add a few unexpected combinations—think Burrata with Medjool Dates and Elephant Garlic or Braised Omaha Lamb Shank with a Shiraz Goat Cheese Emulsion—and you’ll forget it’s Tuesday night supper, and relatively affordable.
Breakdown: $56 for three courses, Monday through Friday from 5 to 7pm
Perfect Prix Fixe: Pretzel-crusted Fried Calamari with Mustard Scallion Remoulade; Grilled Colorado Short Rib with Tajin Crispy Potatoes, Himalayan Salt-Cured Egg Yolk, and Au Poivre Sauce; and (what else) New York Cheesecake with Berries and Chantilly Cream
Haven, 2 Main Street, Edgewater; 201-943-1900
Seductive Mini-Feast in Maplewood
You could get a two-course prix fixe for $29, but we figure if you’re in a restaurant like Lorena’s, you might as well ante up another $19 and get more selection with three courses (considering the selection—it’s worth it). And unlike handbags and sports car leases, this is a safe splurge. Ultra-seasoned chef Humberto Campos’ menus are creative, playful, and precisely curated, and the three-course prix fixe is no exception. Bonus points, considering the regular Spring Dinner Menu entrees alone can clock in at up to $42 (for Venison Sirloin with Carrot-Ginger Emulsion and Juniper-Cocoa Game Jus), this is as good a dining deal as you’ll find.
Breakdown: $29 for two courses, $48 for three courses; available during regular business, Tuesday through Thursday
Perfect Prix Fixe: Spring Pea Soup with Herb Oil and Brioche Crouton; Roasted Angus Beef Sirloin with Brussels Sprouts and Peas, Shallots, Potato Puree, and Beef Jus; Mature Cheese Plate with Honeycomb, Sliced Apple, Raisin Puree, and Sliced Baguette.
Restaurant Lorena’s, 168 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood; 973-763-4460
Seafood Splurge in Morristown
da Pesca distinguishes itself from the rest of Jockey Hollow Bar & Grill in Morristown with a focus on seafood—locally sourced, lovingly-prepared seafood, we should say. Quite possibly one of the best ways to do some top-tier seafood dining this far inland is their slightly splurge-y four-course prix fixe. Yes, it’s $86, but it’s also four courses—not to mention it’s not really a risk to trust your dinner to chef Craig Polignano. Bonus points, because of da Pesca’s investment in local sourcing, your beautifully-executed fish dish even comes with the name of the fisherman responsible for getting it to your plate.
Breakdown: $86 for four courses, $116 for six courses (the whole table must participate), available during regular business hours
Perfect Prix Fixe: Chilled Poach Scallops with Marcona Almonds, Green Almonds, Rhubarb, and Verjus; Salt Cod & Ricotta Raviolo with Egg Yolk, Nettles, Potato, and Beurre Blanc; New Jersey Skate Wing with Roasted Cauliflower, Browned Butter, Grapes, Hazelnuts, and Capers.
da Pesca at Jockey Hollow Kitchen & Bar, 110 South Street, Morristown; 973-644-3180Click here to leave a comment