By Caitlin V. Reidy
The Barn, previously known as “Mountain Barn,” is making big headways in its first few weeks of reopening as Princeton’s family-favorite restaurant. The restaurant has remained family-owned and oriented, and has come to life with new owners, Gabi Bennet and her mother, Carla Zotolli. Mountain Barn was a popular venue in Princeton for nearly 40 years, but unfortunately, like many other dining establishments during the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurant was forced to close its
doors due to insufficient staffing. The plan was to eventually reopen, and after months of remodeling, renovations, and refocusing menu items and staffing needs, The Barn is up and running, and pulling large crowds during its opening hours.
The first official day of business was March 2nd. Gabi said that there was a “soft” opening on February 23rd for “family and contractors” that was held as a private event. The Barn is currently operating on Thursday through Sunday, and opens at 4:00PM. Closing hours vary depending on the day.
Gabi mentioned that there were a few hiccups in the first few weeks that took place, but that “perception is good” and the restaurant has made changes to accommodate the initial complications. “Our ticket times were a bit long at first; it was the kitchen’s first time at full volume and the first time our staff had used the systems,” Gabi said. “We’ve been working through the kinks and adjusting things as needed. The staff has been amazing and people [customers] have been so great and
compassionate with us while we work out these details.”
Though currently open through Thursday-Sunday, Gabi said that she and her staff have been working throughout the entire week to make necessary adjustments. She exclaimed that ticket times have been “cut by ⅓,” and that she couldn’t ask for a better staff. “Our staff are shining stars; they’re the most unbelievable crew I’ve ever worked with,” Gabi stated. “On Fridays and Saturdays, The Barn has upwards of 500 people per evening, and we’ve received feedback on how great they [the staff and kitchen crew] are.”
When I visited The Barn on Thursday, March 16th, it was packed just moments after opening, and offered a friendly feeling and rustic vibe. The restaurant was well-staffed, and it offered new seasonal dishes, as well as a solid drink menu. I tried two of the drinks on The Barn’s new, custom menu, and they were both very satisfying in different ways. The Blood Orange Sparkle is a sweet and bubbly spritzer, but avoids being sickly sweet or heavy. I also tried the Campfire Negroni, which is a stronger drink, and has a smoky flavor
with a sweet undercurrent.
Sporting two bars, one of The Barn’s new bartenders, Stephanie Aube, recalls coming to the restaurant when she was younger for her birthday parties. She stated that she sought out employment at The Barn because its “not a dive bar” and supports a fun, family-oriented environment. And family-oriented it is. Not only were families enjoying meals at tables, but both bars sported a community-vibe and friendly atmosphere. With friendly staff and a family-owned energy that matches the original 1980’s version of the restaurant, The Barn is making a comeback based on its original values.
“We’re so grateful for the [community’s] kindness and compassion,” Gabi stated. “Come down for dinner and a drink if you’re around!”