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New Jersey

Windsor Grand Cafe, Rt 130 East Windsor


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Restaurants & Bars New Jersey

Windsor Grand Cafe, Rt 130 East Windsor

eapter | | Jul 19, 2013 08:37 PM

After months of "Opening Soon" signs, and "Now Hiring All Positions" signs, the sign read "Now Open" so we went.

The Windsor Grand Cafe sits on the site of the old Clairmont [not related to the REAL Clairmont] Diner on Rt 130, just south of Rt 571. Prior to the Clairmont, the USA diner was located here in all its various incarnations. Sitting as it does, less than a mile south of the Americana Diner (an extremely popular place, lord knows why) things have been hard on diners at this location. The Windsor Grand tries very hard to pretend it isn't a "Diner" but so far, if you'll pardon the pun, the location is still hard on it's "diners."

The place looks very nice - the basic layout is the same but it's been cleaned up and sparkles. The dusty old carpet is gone, the place setting look like knock-offs of fancy dinnerware, and every surface shines. The menu looks like it has 30 pages, but there are but four, bound in layer upon layer of clear, heavy plastic.

There are no "Diner dishes" on the menu. I mean the kind of dish you judge a real Jersey diner by. No meatloaf. No Chicken Croquettes. No open-faced turkey or roast beef sandwiches. Okay, so it's not exactly a diner, and it doesn't serve comfort food, so what is it? Well, the closest neighbor it resembles in terms of menu is the City Streets Cafe, almost directly across the street. The menu abounds in $30 entrees and $11 appetizers, but frankly, so far you're not even getting good diner food.

Service was abysmal but that can be expected on the first weekend a place is open. Our server was both incompetent and inexperienced (they should have kept that "Now Hiring All Positions" sign out a little longer) and forgot to put in the order for one of the appetizers. She also mixed up the side dishes so badly that we were charged for an "extra" side on one order while another order didn't get the side that came with it.

All that said, had the food been remarkable, all would have been forgiven, but alas, it was merely fodder. A Mozz/Tomato/Roasted Pepper appetizer with balsamic was uninspiring. The Mozzarella was creamy but bland; the balsamic was cheap Shoprite quality. The bread was good, and was perhaps the high point of the meal. A fruit salad entree was good sized, fresh and nicely presented, but I'm not sure that counts as cooking. The crab cakes were sauteed, and just a trifle underdone. Lots of crab meat, which was nice, but they were done in a too-hot pan - the crust (which was too thin) was done long before the interior was completely warmed, and there was no seasoning to speak of.

The coleslaw looked exciting, made with red cabbage but lacked any vinegar, seasoning or creaminess. The fries were okay; the onion rings a bit better, but the cheeseburger with onions and mushrooms was a disaster. I always ask for "Medium" in a new place until I can gauge how they define their "doneness levels" but tonight, half the burger was extremely rare, and the other half medium rare. The flattop obviously has hot-spots and nobody has learned them yet. The halves not being equally done is an opening-week kind of mistake, but that NEITHER was anything close to true medium was either a lack of concern for the customer, or complete incompetence. The place wasn't crowded - any diner short-order cook with experience could have done better.

Perhaps they are trying to under-season to appeal to the senior citizen demographic, but judging by the people I saw there, that isn't their clientele.

They have a liquor license, which will appeal to some. The wines are fairly priced with several available by the glass. Dinner for 3 (1 appetizer, 3 entrees, 2 glasses of wine) was $78 plus tip.

I could eat lunch for a week on that at the Hightstown Diner, only 5 minutes away, and have better food while doing it.

We may try it again in six months to see if the owners have made any changes, but frankly anyone who thinks being a "City-Streets-Wannabe" is a good thing is probably not going to improve.