In the business terrarium that is Princeton, the mix of retail stores, restaurants, and bars, there’s a harmonious evolution taking place. As a result, patrons of all sorts, from the dive bar regular to the well-traveled swell, can be found either mingling in a clothing store focused on sustainability or an eatery featuring local food and music.
Horseradish Kitchen + Market offers fantastic food in a venue rife with personality. Owner Matt Trotter says, “My goal designing spaces is I like to bring it back to character and then dress it up.” What you get is a mix of some of the building’s bones, one wall even showing off the original concrete behind a pair of midcentury button tufted chairs and woodburning stove, with a contemporary flair.
Large garage doors bring the outside in, and the abundance of indoor plants amplifies the effect. Then there’s the porch, which is packed during live music performances. Just off the porch is the infamous section of the Fox River known for the annual mating of the sturgeon…which, I’m told, is just as magical as it sounds.
As for the food, given its outstanding reputation, it’s rather surprising to discover that Matt doesn’t have a culinary background. He’s a self-proclaimed art nerd. “At the end of the day, it’s just stuff I would want to eat or snack on. It’s not complicated. I don’t want to be intimidating to people. I always like, as with my retail, when people come in and have that sense of discovery when they find something that’s cool or new.”
Horseradish’s biggest seller is the Capri sandwich. Tomato, mozzarella cheese, a basil pesto mayo, and balsamic on grilled Renards’ ciabatta bread. “It’s just simple with a little elegance,” says Matt. “It’s not real fussy.”
The restaurant started as a complement to Teak & Soxy, Matt’s funky retail shop that lives on in a fragrance brand available at Horseradish. The restaurant was more a food truck in the sense that the food was sold out of a food truck that didn’t work. When Alex Pearsall came to Matt with the opportunity to go all in on the fantastic food being served, their mutual food philosophies and passions for entertaining sealed the deal. Matt sees their brick-and-mortar location as the grownup version of the place he created to kick it and have drinks.
The overall experience creates something quite memorable. “Here, eating a sandwich at a swanky place, I love that tension where you think it’s going to be fancy, but it’s not that at all,” says Matt. “I think that explains a lot of the moments in here. … It’s fun to see it grow.”
Kyle Jacobson is a writer and senior copy editor for Green Lake Magazine.