G.K.’s Red Dog Tavern Debuts in Morristown

In a dining destination town like Morristown, it’s not hard to find a good meal (though it is sometimes hard to find parking). There’s excellent sushi, delectable French Thai, exotic Persian and Afghan, sizzling steaks, and plenty of pasta. And now, with the grand opening of G.K.’s Red Dog Tavern, you’ll find an inviting, friendly pub that steps up the atmosphere and the menu offerings above the standard bar & grill model.

G.K.’s, the newest venture by the Keller family that has run the venerable Rod’s Steak & Seafood Grille for 60 years, officially opened its doors on June 2 but kicked off the night before with a special sneak preview event showcasing some of its unique menu items, gleaming new interior (look up to admire the fantastic pressed tin ceiling), and enthusiastic young chef.

Jeffrey Orel, lured away from the McCormick & Schmick enterprise in D.C. to run the show at the Red Dog, seemed like a kid in a candy shop as he described his delight in planning the casual menu in the “slow food” tradition that celebrates taking time to prepare “good food while spending time with good friends.” His goal is to create great dishes from simple, locally sourced ingredients that you can sit and enjoy whether you’re with family or dropping in after a business meeting. His secret weapon? “They got me a smoker!” Orel exclaims, with all the excitement of finding a shiny new bike under the Christmas tree.

Baby back ribs and pulled pork sandwiches from said smoker are two highlights of G.K.’s eclectic, playful menu. The Lamb Burger (pictured below) is another specialty that features a tender, nicely spiced patty with a bright, creamy garnish of spinach, red onion, feta, and tzatziki. Pair it with a side of classic frites and a thick milkshake (though the decadently sweet Red Velvet shake, with actual cupcakes blended into chocolate ice cream, might be best saved for dessert) and you’ll get a sense of Orel’s fun-food approach.

Chimichurri Meatballs, on the appetizer menu, made with ground turkey and served with a crumble of feta and a gorgeous, zingy green chimichurri sauce, are a treat even kids might enjoy in addition to the “junior citizens” menu selections of sliders, grilled cheese, hot dogs, chicken fingers, pizza, and simple penne pomodoro. G.K.’s Lobster Roll and a Crab Cake sandwich served on brioche are great options for non-meat eaters, along with grilled flatbread like the delicious “white” pizza I sampled that featured spinach, artichoke, got cheese, mozzarella, and red pepper.

True to its roots as a nostalgic swinging-door saloon when Gerard “Rod” Keller (G.K. himself) converted a rustic log cabin into Rod’s Ranch House as he first kicked off his restaurant venture on the Madison Avenue site in 1951, the Red Dog Tavern will feature a wide selection of artisanal ales and specially selected imported and domestic tap beers, as well as an expansive wine list that promises 40 wines under $40. And like its granddaddy Rod’s, with which it shares its location, it also offers a slate of top-grade steaks that are dry-aged on site, as well as raw bar and seafood entrees.

G.K.’s Red Dog Tavern will be open for lunch Monday through Saturday, 11:30am – 4pm, and dinner 4pm – 11pm. Dinner only on Sunday, 4 – 10:30pm. An easy location to reach (only steps away from the Convent Station train stop) with plenty of free parking (hurrah!), G.K.’s is an exciting addition to the Keller family enterprise and a tempting draw for those seeking elevated pub grub without the sports bar blare.

G.K.’s Red Dog Tavern: One Convent Road, Morristown; 973-585-5700

Deanna Quinones is the Jersey Bites Regional Editor for Morris County. A freelance writer, blogger, and unrepentant chocolate addict, Deanna spent 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area where life was good and the burritos even better. She recently returned to the Garden State and now resides in Morristown, where she and her Texas-born/Jersey-raised/California-found husband are raising two wild and wonderful kids. An experienced book marketer, award-winning greeting card writer, and entertainment writing dabbler, Deanna can be reached at deannaq@optimum.net. (photo credit Pete Genovese/The Star-Ledger)