John & I discovered Clinton, NJ last year. We absolutely FORBID you taking an interstate to this small charmer, a village more than a town! The ramble is half the fun!
“Downtown” Clinton is several blocks of cozy shops & restaurants, easy to get to although most seem to have a step up (at least four steps up to Fourchette – forgot to count). The Hunterdon Art Museum has wonderful wooden steps AND an elevator.
We start out with breakfast at Fred’s in New Hope. A few things to know about Fred’s – 1) it is a breakfast club, so it requires a key for entry BUT they are very forgiving & will welcome you in without one (tell them you’re friends of John & Deev); 2) there are NO markings to tell you where it is, so you better figure it out ahead of time; 3) parking is on the street or at an off-street lot at Parry & Main, but you can drop people off & then park in metered spaces. The only thing better than the food are the terrific, salt-of-the-earth people on both sides of the counter.
If you’re not up for Fred’s, it’s too crowded, or it’s after 11:00 a.m., there are dining spots along the various routes. Or wait until you get to Clinton.
Neither John nor I can imagine a place we more like to meander on a perfect fall day. The ONLY way we roll into town is to turn left off of Rt 513, IMMEDIATELY after the CLINTON HOUSE Restaurant & Bakery, then cross the one-lane bridge into “downtown” Clinton.
Or stay straight after the turn & go to the Red Mill Museum Village, a delightful treat, sight of special events & a community gathering place (09/22 is a free movie night – Beauty & the Beast, not sure which version). Perched on a pond, the Red Mill defines picturesque.
We confess – our only Clinton experience is with Main Street, but we are branching out on our next visit. Until then, or to steep yourself in the many shopping & restaurants we’ve left unmentioned, check out the Clinton Guild – covers them all!
Even John gets a kick out of Addicted & Added Touches by Mary, which infuses FUN into fashion. unky fashion! In addition to what you’d expect to find at Balic of Clinton – selections from the Balic Winery down in Mays Landing – you’ll also find all sorts of vino-related accessories, gourmet yums, even coffee & tea (check ahead about tastings). Oh for the day I can afford a pair of comfy shoes from Bearpaw Leather! Praise be, I can comfort myself with a splurge at Heartstrings or its enchanting neighbor, SweetPeas; ~ enter both at your own risk of falling in love with EVERYTHING. As you would expect, Jayne’s is not your usual Hallmark store – possibly the best anywhere! Naturally, our hearts sing as soon as we walk into The Wild Radish gallery. Citispot was the very first shop we visited when we first stumbled across Clinton & remains our favorite spot for a reviving cuppa!
One place we know for sure is our 2nd favorite stop in Clinton – we adore Fourchette. Such cheeses breads soups – their Parisian pedigree shows!
Fourchette’s 5 Tips for a Sublime Cheese Plate
1. Make sure you have enough cheese: We recommend ¼ lb of cheese per guest – that’s just four bites!
2. Don’t confuse your guests: 3-4 selections of cheese is the maximum
3. Pair wisely: one kind of cracker or bread; one kind of seasonal fruit; one kind of jam or honey; perhaps some interesting nuts. That’s it!
4. Serve it uniquely: use a wooden serving board, a specially made slate, or a beautiful platter and don’t forget that each cheese needs its own serving knife!
5. Choose a theme: explore one kind of genre (think triple crème); choose a milk and showcase its range (sheep’s milk cheese from creamy to aged); or highlight a particular region (cheese from the Pyrenees)
These are just a few of the delights found between the bridge across the pond (what a beautiful waterfall!) & our destination of destinations – the Clinton Book Shop. Oh calm, my beating heart! We could load up with sips from Balic of Clinton, nibbles from Fourchette & settle in for a long, leisurely read. Much as I love New Hope’s Farley’s, the Clinton Book Shop has more elbow room – a choice yet fabulous range & selection of books, but with breathing space. Can you tell I adore these fellows? They are the best, so much more than proprietors – they are book connoisseurs who savor the authors & illustrators they showcase. Harvey loves his shop, his customers, his community & it shows in every nook & cranny of this bibliophile heaven. We suspect that this shop was the magnet drawing us to discover beguiling Chester.
There are so many spots I haven’t mentioned in this delightful destination – my apologies! It is small wonder Clinton has been designated the “gold standard” for NJ’s downtowns – it embodies a sense of place rooted in community involvement, honoring its cultural and historical roots yet promoting a vision for the town’s future. A town totally worth ramblin’!
ROUTES we’ve taken…
√ New Hope PA up either side of the Delaware River to Stockton, NJ to 29N to 523E to 579N to Pittstown Road (right)
√ New Hope to Stockton to 29N then almost immediately to 519 to 513E
√ New Hope up either side of the Delaware River to Frenchtown (will be “Ramblin” there in next Sat’s posting!), then head east on 513