The Vandal grabbed the attention of the Internet this past Halloween when the Lawrenceville café dressed as the restaurant from the TV show Bob’s Burgers, complete with a banner reading “Grand Re-Re-Re Opening.”
But while The Vandal’s burger is one of the most popular items (“I think it’s in everyone’s comfort zone,” says owner Joey Hilty), its menu extends past anything offered by Bob Belcher. For instance: blood-orange-glazed beets with soft, fresh stracciatella cheese; fingerling potatoes with faro; toast with a rotating selection of rich toppings, and more. Much of the fare is locally sourced from places like Penn’s Corner, Butcher on Butler and Heritage Farms. “It’s a neighborhood café,” explains Hilty, who runs the kitchen alongside Csilla Thackray, formerly of Bar Marco. “Our whole thing is using very high-quality ingredients.”
European-style counter service helps keep the prices at “that nice casual price point,” says Hilty — most items fall in the $7-14 range — and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more welcoming and helpful staff. Exposed brick, potted plants and tons of natural light give The Vandal a cozy feel: One might be tempted to hole up at a table and eat ham-and-cheddar biscuits all day.
For Hilty, who has been working in kitchens since high school, the goal is to keep things fun and straightforward. “We’re playing what we know,” he says. “We’re not trying to overreach. It’s just really simple stuff.”