Looking for a great culinary and visual experience? Morris area residents no longer have to go to New York for dinner now, according to Chris Cannon.
Cannon, a renowned restaurateur, is the new owner of Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen located in Morristown’s historic Vail Mansion. The new restaurant venture took three-and-a-half years to complete, from concept to opening day, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 21.
“This building has it’s own personality. In every step of the process we have respected the building,” says Cannon. “After so many decades of this space sitting empty, we finally have helped bring the building to the realization of what it could be.”
Cannon, who was a principal in critically acclaimed restaurants Polio, Remi, L’Impero, Convivio, Alto and Marea, has put together a team of people he has worked with before including Kevin Sippel, executive chef and Ron Morgan, general manager. “It’s great to be under the same roof with these guys again,” says Cannon.
The trio’s former restaurant, L’Impero, received three stars from The New York Times and “Best New Restaurant in the United States” from the James Beard Foundation. “I know we’ll make a powerful team in what is the first New Jersey venture for all,” he said.
Cannon has executed a four-part concept which includes The Oyster & Wine Bar, which has a casual, contemporary menu; the Vail Bar, a glamorous 1920’s-style cocktail lounge; The Rathskeller, a private event space; and The Dining Room on the Mansion’s second floor, with a regional sustainable farm-to-table focus.
The Oyster & Wine Bar and Vail Bar are set to open on Tuesday with a menu of appetizers, light fare and dinner. The Rathskeller and The Dining Room are slated to open by mid-November.
Oysters from Mantoloking’s Forty North Oyster Farms, the only oyster farm along the Atlantic Coast, are available for purchase in The Oyster & Wine Bar ($2). Other oysters ($3) include Kumamoto from Washington, Pacific from California, and Olympia from Alaska. Salumi, salted and dry cured meats, are hand sliced on a vintage 1917 meat slicer including Soppresata, Ham, Bresola and Ciauscolo ($7 each).
Step back to 1920’s in the Vail Bar, which uses the brilliance of the mansion’s architecture along with a speakeasy-style décor. Appetizers include grilled peach tomatoes with feta cheese and arugula ($12), smoked baby octopus with wheat berries and peppers ($13), as well as fried sweetbreads with pomodoro sauce and pecorino cheese ($13). Casual fare is available with such selections as a burger with mangalista bacon ($14), or smoked turkey club pork roll with banh mi pickles.
Drinks are all hand crafted with exquisite attention to detail by mixologists, lead by head bartender Christopher James. The ambiance is like stepping into a scene of the movie The Great Gatsby. The Old Fashion ($15) is served with a hand-chipped ice block and cedar-planked smoke infused into the glass. A Moscow Mule ($15), vodka, honey, lime and ginger beer, is served in a copper mug with a sprig of rosemary and a metal straw. Another drink, which seems destined to become a house favorite, is The Jockey Hollow Cobbler ($15), served in a stainless steel cobbler glass.
For more elegant dining, take the marble staircase and enjoy the element of grandeur — one of the take-aways from this experience. Once in The Dining Room, the full sense of timelessness paired with great food is revealed including floor-to-ceiling windows, which overlook the reflecting pool. Selections from the prix fixe menu include ocean trout bouillabaisse with shellfish, marsala and garlic toast, as well as foie gras torchon with red apple, spoon bread and custard.
In addition to bringing his innovative style to the area, Cannon estimates that the restaurant will bring 120 jobs to Morristown. “I am here to support Chris Cannon and hope that the venture is a huge success,” said Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty. “Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen is an outstanding investment in the community and a great added destination to Morristown.”
“I can’t imagine a more ideal location for a restaurant. Physically, it’s one of the most beautiful spaces around,” says Cannon. “There’s no way I could ever find anything remotely like this in New York City, or even in New Jersey.”
Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen
Hours: Oyster, Vail Bar: 4 to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday; lunch and brunch: coming soon (scheduled for 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
Address: Vail Mansion, 110 South St, Morristown
Cuisine: Modern American- and Italian-inspired, featuring locally sourced ingredients.
Credit Cards: Visa/Mastercard/Discover/Amex
Parking: Valet available. Metered parking spots in driveway, under the restaurant and on the street.
Reservations: Call 973-644-3180
ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE DAILY RECORD