Today marks the passing of one of Princeton’s great traditions, dining at Lahiere’s. In its 91 years, Lahiere’s became a treasured institution on Witherspoon Street. Their food used to be strictly French, but in later years evolved into creative American cuisine. The cozy bar was known as the place to go for civilized drinks. Compared to other, newer places, Lahiere’s always felt pretty formal, although the staff was in truth plenty warm.
As I grew up, Lahiere’s was where my parents and their friends went for special occasions (sometimes with us kids), and where I lunched with friends on visits back to Princeton during the time I lived out west. My mother and I used to go there when dad went on extended fishing trips with his buddies. We laughingly called those “revenge dinners,” and were thrilled to be dining at Lahiere’s while Dad ate God-knows-what on some smelly boat or dockside shack.
For the gown part of town, parents with children on campus took those kids to Lahiere’s when they visited. And many a faculty dinner, often with visiting speakers or a faculty candidate, has been held at Lahiere’s over the years – where will they go now? If you think about it, there are few upscale restaurants within walking distance of campus, and (preferred for business dining) with a liquor license.
We will miss Lahiere’s, although it seems we couldn’t sustain it in the end, although I can certainly understanding a family saying it’s time to go, to sell the building and go on to enjoy the rest of your life. Restaurant work is hard work, and you’d like to retire from it and reap the financial rewards while you can still enjoy yourself. (My father didn’t want to sell Oriental rugs forever and who can blame him?)
I hope whatever takes Lahiere’s place carries on the tradition of fine dining in that location. But I’ll have to turn around quickly to see a bygone era recede into the shadows tonight.