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Dining Out: Real food on North Union Street

Liv and Charlie don’t work at the restaurant that bears their names, but you might meet them occasionally when they stop by the Lambertville, N.J. restaurant.

They are Olivia and Charlotte, the nieces of Nicole DiLanzo, who owns Liv & Charlie’s Real Food with her partner Eileen Hawk. And if a pint-sized server stops by your table and asks what you want to eat, you can bet it is one of them.

The partners opened their breakfast, lunch and brunch restaurant on Sept. 1, taking over the spot where Annie’s Gourmet was located. They met while both were working at Caffe Galleria down the street.

“We learned we worked well together and decided we wanted to open a place together,” said DiLanzo, who also is a piano teacher.

Hawk is well known in the restaurant community as the former manager of Caffe Galleria and the former baker for both the café and the City Market. For her, cooking and baking are labors of love.

“I always liked to feed people at my house,” she said.

Her style works. Customers tell her that her homestyle cooking “tastes like they are sitting in their grandmother’s kitchen,” she said.

Liv and Charlie’s serves breakfast all day, a full lunch menu, and brunch specials on weekends. The regular breakfast menu includes omelets, pancakes, French toast, Belgian waffles, breakfast sandwiches, and the traditional two eggs any style with potatoes and toast.

For lunch there are at least two soups including the restaurant’s signature fire-roasted tomato basil soup, salads, paninis and sandwiches. Customer favorites include the pesto-grilled chicken with fresh mozzarella, artichokes, roasted peppers, spinach and pesto aioli.

Also popular is the slow-cooked barbecue brisket with cheddar and red onion.

The partners already have a reputation as a favorite restaurant for vegans and vegetarians as they always have tofu, seitan and tempeh bacon on hand to substitute for meat in any sandwich.

Liv and Charlie helped craft the children’s menu, filling it with their favorites: grilled cheese, mac and cheese, cheeseburger, chicken fingers and fresh-cut vegetables with ranch dip.

Hawk does all the baking, making a variety of cakes and cookies throughout the week. Customers quickly demolished a Jewish apple cake she made recently, prompting her to bake another. Regular customers also know that Thursday is chicken pot pie day – eat in or take home this homestyle favorite.

The partners make everything they can from scratch at the restaurant, and buy local and organic products whenever possible.

In just a few months they already have built up a steady clientele and the restaurant is especially busy for weekend brunch, when they look for Hawk’s special sticky bun Belgian waffles on the menu.

5 N. Union St.
Lambertville, N.J.

Winter hours:
8 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.-Mon., closed Tuesday.

Breakfast $4-$8, soup $4-$6, paninis and sandwiches $7-$9.

Customer favorites:
pesto chicken sandwich, barbecue brisket sandwich, Cuban sandwich, Southwestern omelet, Belgian waffles, pancakes, homemade hot chocolate.