For years, Checkers Food and Spirits on South Warren Street has been known as “the place to go” in downtown Trenton for burgers, pork rolls and other pub fare, as well as beer, wine and spirits. After 35 years in the restaurant business, and at age 65, owner Tom Fowler decided it was time to slow down. In October 2021, he made it official and sold the iconic bar and restaurant.
Looking back over the years, Tom recalls that Checkers was not only a popular spot to grab a quick lunch or a drink after work, but part of some of Trenton’s most beloved events, from the Pork Roll Festival to the Patriots Week Pub Crawl. He fondly remembers how, during the 1990s, Checkers was the “go-to” place to hang out before, during and after The Philadelphia International Championship, a prestigious bike race that came through Trenton each year.
“The bike race was one of my fondest memories,” he says. “It was probably the most fun day, with a party in the parking lot and music playing.” He loved seeing the streets cluttered with people, four, five, six people deep.
“Thirty-five years is a long run. Running a restaurant is a lot of work,” he notes.
A new club, with a Latino vibe, will be opening in the coming weeks. Tom wishes the new owners and business the best of luck, and looks forward to visiting soon.
“I am thankful to all of our customers who patronized the restaurant for 35 years,” says Tom. “Everyone knew everyone, like the show ‘Cheers.’ We were like a family. I appreciate you.”
Thank you, Tom Fowler, for the memories, the incredible burgers, the fun atmosphere, and also for your many years of service to such organizations as the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and Anchor House. We wish you well in your next endeavor, at Woodside Presbyterian Church in Lower Makefield, Pa., and as Director of Hospitality, running a culinary program for children.
“I started (working at Checkers) when I was 20 years old. I am now 50. The best part of working there was the people. I became closer with them, and they are a part of me. Not much has changed as far as the people go. Well respected and I have it back to them. We became one family. Folks are going to miss their friends here. This was home away from home.” —Lisa
“We appreciate the many years that Checkers has been the foundation of downtown. Tom and the crew can never be replaced, and we wish them the best as they continue in their personal endeavors. And they do have the best burgers.” —Willard
“I worked at Checkers every Friday for seven years. He was my boss, landlord and friend. It’s weird not hearing the gate go up.” —Joe
“Checkers was (the TV show) ‘Cheers’ to me. I would dance when the music was good. Tom would make me a great lunch.” —Irene
Be the first to know what's happening in downtown Trenton. Sign up for TDA's Here & Now newsletter and email updates.