Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thomasena's Grows Up, Moves to East Front Street

Thomasena's Takeout is now located at 241 E. Front Street,
home of the old (and popular) Cafe International.

BENNINGTON, Vt. -- Venice Johnson updated his Facebook page last night, and his friends in Trenton went nuts with more than 1,000 impressions, 20 Likes and 10 comments:

Three weeks after Johnson closed Thomasena's at the corner of Spring and Calhoun in the heart of West Trenton, New Jersey, he's opening again, but downtown, in a place 3 times the size at 241 East Front Street, home of the former Cafe International.

Thomasena's Grand Opening begins at 1 o'clock.

"I've been looking forward to this for 3 months," Johnson said during a phone call this morning. "The team is ready to go."

With the help of Trenton impresario Tyrone Miller, I brought the story of Venice Johnson's new eatery to Trentonian TV (here) in April 2012, then to the Sunday front page of the square rag a week later, when the corner joint celebrated its first month of existence.

Tyrone Miller (right) with Thomasena's proprietor Venice Johnson

Venice Johnson in front of his2012

The menu was vast, breakfast sandwich to deep-fried basa, everything made to order, and the most popular selling point that brought the flock was fish and grits for 5 bucks.

Not so fresh was the lack of seating -- none -- not to mention the 500-square foot space felt like a boiler room, all the time.

"It was small, and it was HOT!" Johnson said with a laugh.

The space at 241 East Front, he said, is bigger and better. "We have 20 tables -- but we can seat up to 80 people."

Johnson grew up in West Trenton, on the same street he'd open an eatery years later as an homage to the grandmother who raised him. But "West Bubble" can't sustain itself these days, let alone a popular restaurant, so the restaurateur upped and left to another part of town that will appreciate his efforts.

"I am nervous losing the neighborhood clientele," he said, "but we're opening ourselves to a broader audience."

A fella by the name of Ed has become the new head cook, replacing Donald Riley.

Toasted ravioli and cheesy broccoli rice are new specials that will be added to the menu if customers rave. Of course, fresh fish and grits will remain a Thomasena's staple, the only difference being a $1 bump in price. "That's still cheaper than anywhere else -- and we have $5 sandwiches as opposed to $7 sandwiches elsewhere in town."

Johnson said Thomasena's new ambiance at 241 East Front offsets any price bumps.

Plus, customers will appreciate Thomasena's customer service -- another reason Johnson believes his eatery is headed in the right direction.

"As long as you have the right players on your team," he said, "you'll win a championship -- and we have a championship team."