Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown

Bringing the Star Power

Chris Cannon knows how to throw a party. He knows how to turn on the star treatment. And he knows how to serve up a damn good meal.

The high-wattage restaurateur’s newest endeavor, Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, opens its doors in Morristown today and if you love food, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

There’s already been plenty of press about the multi-million-dollar facelift given to the historic Vail Mansion to create this new four-part concept restaurant, and Inside Jersey magazine has already named it among the state’s 10 most important restaurants. As the opening date slipped from September into October, eager foodophiles have been buzzing about when they’ll finally get the chance to walk through the doors. Well, the wait is over.

What can you expect when you visit Jockey Hollow? Chris Cannon promises stylish surroundings and spectacular dishes, casual elegance and a celebratory atmosphere. “The whole point is the juxtaposition of formality and accessibility,” he explains. “I want people to come in and try something new. Have a dozen oysters and a beer for under $20. It’s accessible.”

Chris Cannon with Rosie & Lowell Saferstein
Chris Cannon (right) with NJ Monthly‘s Rosie Saferstein and Lowell Saferstein

Cannon, who spent years making his name in the NYC dining scene, is committed to establishing destination dining that draws deeply on location. “We’re going to make New Jersey into a totally different destination,” says Cannon. With a farm-to-table approach, the menu crafted by Executive Chef Kevin Sippel will feature produce from Ralston Farm in Mendham and oysters from Forty North Oyster Farms in Mantoloking, while the extensive bar offerings will include Ramstein beers from the High Point Brewery in Butler among its selections. Desserts will be created by Morristown’s own Andrea Lekberg, who helms The Artist Baker, and acclaimed NYC pastry chef Erica Leahy.

“When you go to the greenmarket in New York City, 80% of what’s there is from New Jersey, and New York manages to take credit for most of it. That’s total bulls—t,” Cannon cracks. “I’ve opened a lot of restaurants. The most beautiful and most resonant is here. We’re celebrating culture, celebrating New Jersey.”

The Oyster & Wine Bar is now taking reservations for dinner. Lunch service will follow shortly, and the official opening of The Dining Room at Jockey Hollow will not be far behind. General Manager Ron Morgan explains that “four weeks or so from now, we’ll begin holding private events in the downstairs Rathskeller. Last to open will be the Dining Room upstairs, which we plan to launch in November just in time for the holidays.”

With the opening being today, it’s a great moment for me to share a sneak peek at what awaits you inside the lovely Vail Mansion. As a lucky guest invited to a recent media event, here’s what I found:

Gorgeous settings …

The Vail Bar at Jockey Hollow
The Vail Bar, a 1920s-style cocktail lounge
Jockey Hollow Restaurant Dining Room
Upstairs dining room
Dining Room at Jockey Hollow
Art-filled dining area

With whimsical touches …

Artwork in Vail Mansion
Ground Control to Major Tom

Sophisticated cocktails and wine and beer lists crafted by knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff …

Cocktails at the Vail Bar
Head bartender Chris James pours a spicy “shrug”
Explaining the origin of Miraval Rose
Explaining the origin of Miraval Rose (hint: google Brad Pitt)

Inventive, seasonal dishes beautifully presented …

Seafood plate at Jockey Hollow
Fresh clam appetizer in the Oyster Bar
Roasted Cauliflower Agnolotti at Jockey Hollow
Roasted cauliflower agnolotti with Romanescu and Colatura butter
Roasted Sirloin at Jockey Hollow
Roasted Sirloin with radish carbonara and kale
Brown Butter Pecan Cake at Jockey Hollow
Brown-butter pecan cake with roasted apples and buttermilk sorbet

A little gossip, maybe some fancy footwork …

Chris Cannon with guests at Jockey Hollow

Chris Cannon with Rosie Saferstein at Jockey Hollow Restaurant
Chris Cannon gives “Table Hopping with Rosie”‘s Rosie Saferstein a dining room danceRosie Saferstein & Chris Cannon at Jockey Hollow

Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen is destined to be a hotspot, even in a town that already boasts a vibrant culinary scene. Comparisons are being made to Peapack’s Ninety Acres and its “table at the farm” aesthetic, but Cannon’s vision is to create something entirely unique. He tosses off references to established Manhattan icons like Balthazar, Blue Hill, and Blue Ribbon but is firm in his conviction that Jockey Hollow will carve its own niche in the greater metro area. “This will be the most fun place not only in New Jersey but in New York, too!” he proclaims with a wide, welcoming smile.

Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen
110 South Street

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 (photo credit Pete Genovese/The Star-Ledger)