Friday, May 8, 2009

Bring Your Appetite to the University Diner in Union

By Millicent K. Brody

To-die-for chicken soup with matzoh balls. Spinach pie filled with feta cheese layered with crispy phyllo dough. A freshly tossed Greek salad with grape leaves, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, onions, lettuce, and calamata olives. Sole Francaise done with a light lemon-butter sauce. These are just some of my favorite dishes at University Diner in Union.

University Diner is owned by George Makras and his brother, chef Peter Makras. The brothers have been in the diner business for over twenty-nine years. Because of the popularity of their matzoh balls, the place is frequently touted as the “Matzoh Ball Diner”. The diner is also known for its hot turkey sandwich with gravy, homemade mashed potatoes or French fries, and cranberry sauce.

Aside from locals who visit on a regular basis, the University Diner is home to regulars who come from as far as Staten Island, Connecticut, and the Jersey Shore.

“Our retirees always return for our matzoh ball soup, and one of our best selling dishes, our lemon chicken,” says George Makras.

“Our lunch specials are extremely popular,” adds Greg Makras his son. “Selections include a half sandwich of white meat chicken salad, tuna, or egg salad, or grilled cheese, each arrive with a cup of house made soup. You may order Yankee bean, lentil, beef barley, minestrone, pea, and of course, matzoh ball soup.” ($4.95/cup).

If your tastes run more towards sandwiches, the diner also offers more than twenty different wraps and paninis for $8.95. The sandwiches all come with a cup of soup, drink, and dessert.

Of course, they also serve breakfast. Along with specialty omelets, steak and eggs, Belgian waffles, and pancakes, the breakfast special includes juice, 2 eggs with bacon, sausage, or Taylor ham, coffee, and toast for only $5.95.

Don’t leave without ordering dessert. My favorite is their house-made cherry pie with delicious vanilla ice cream. Folks also love their rice pudding. I’ve seen customers pour at least 6 or seven small creamers on top of their rice pudding, which always arrives with whipped cream. If that doesn’t do it, then order the bread pudding, which also arrives doused with whipped cream.

Although you’ll probably go home with more than enough food to feed a neighborhood of doggies, the average dinner bill for two is no more than $23.00, (not including tax or tip). In these times, that’s a deal that’s hard to pass up!

University Diner
580 North Ave., Union
FYI: Major credit cards accepted. Gift certificates available

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Apocalyptic Wine

By Maureen C. Petrosky

I almost spit my wine out when I heard Paris Hilton thought she couldn’t get swine flu because she didn’t eat pork. I was even more surprised when my neighbor kept her kids home from school today because of the reported cases in the tri-sate area. Seriously, aren’t we used to this idea of the yearly plague yet? In the past few years we’ve been scared of SARS, West Nile, Mad Cow, and the Avian flu, and that’s just off the top of my head. Yesterday, my mother honestly asked me if I had enough food in my home to sustain my family for six weeks. I’m more concerned about having enough wine.

The initial idea of backyard bunkers, stockpiling meds, and barricading myself in my home didn’t appeal to me. But then I decided to look at this glass as half full. Luckily, thus far, I have avoided all of the above illnesses and for those of you just as fortunate, let’s look at the positive side of swine flu. A lockdown could actually be very productive for me. Maybe then I would have a chance to get through the six books on my nightstand. I could play Scrabble, organize my wine, pull some clothes together for the Purple Heart, and finally locate that label maker. All of this, however, will not be possible unless I have enough wine. So I urge you to check your stash and head out today to secure enough reds, whites, and bubbles to sustain you and yours through this current healthcare crisis. (Remember to ask for a case discount!) It isn’t an apocalypse yet, so be positive, be prepared, and when you get home wash your hands before you pour!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Girls' Night Out

By Brianne Harrison

Now that spring’s officially here, it’s time to emerge from a long hibernation, get out, and have some fun. I can think of few better ways to do that than to grab a few girlfriends and head to historic Princeton for Girls’ Night Out in Palmer Square on Thursday, May 14.

Girls’ Night Out will feature exclusive promotions and discounts, free gifts, and food, all courtesy of the restaurants and shops of Palmer Square. After you shop till you drop, stop by New Jersey Life’s rejuvenation station, where you can listen to live music, enter to win prizes, and receive an NJL tote bag and magazine.

Participating shops and restaurants include Banana Republic, Bucks County Dry Goods, Kate Spade, Design within Reach, Lace Silhouettes Lingerie, Mediterra (which is offering a complimentary Sangria!), Princeton Corkscrew wine shop, Spruce, Winberies Restaurant and Bar, and Zoe. For a full list of participating businesses and their offerings, visit To RSVP for this event, click here.

Girls’ Night Out is a free event and runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m., Thursday, May 14.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Here's a Concept: School Gardens in the Garden State

By Pat Tanner

Grassroots efforts across the state - often led by volunteer parents - have quietly and effectively been planting school gardens, incorporating gardening into elementary school curricula, and working with cafeterias to bring in fresh ingredients from local farms.

This became abundantly clear a few weeks ago when a network of 30 groups - including chefs, parents, teachers, farmers, foodservice providers, and government and nonprofit agencies - came together for the first statewide Farm to School conference.

Among the speakers were individuals who run successful school gardens in Lawrenceville, Margate, and Princeton. By “successful” I mean they get kids enthused not only about growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers but also about preparing them and – most important of all – eating them. Happily.

Dorothy Mullen spoke about her work as a founding member of the Princeton School Garden Co-op. She discussed “getting to yes” on establishing gardens in public schools - a Herculean but attainable task that in involves virtually the entire school community. Her group has posted an impressive 50-page how-to guide at

The conference was held at The Lawrenceville School where executive chef Gary Giberson has received national recognition for his efforts in bringing farm-fresh foods into dining halls. Giberson demonstrated the fruits of his labors in dramatic fashion by providing the day’s lunch, many of the ingredients for which were locally sourced. Below is one delicious example.

Gary Giberson, Chef, Lawrenceville School and President, Sustainable Fare LLC.

8 ounces couscous
8 ounces vegetable stock, heated to simmering
1 medium red pepper, seeded and diced small
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced small
1 cup broccoli florets, blanched and chopped finely
1/2 cup red onion, peeled and diced small
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix the hot vegetable stock with the couscous in a medium saucepan and stir. Let set for 10 minutes. While the couscous is still warm mix together the remaining ingredients and toss. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Serves 4 to 6.