Southern Ocean County’s Newest Gem for Fresh Local Foods, Coffee, and Art
Living in Southern Ocean County has many advantages. We are smack dab in the middle of New Jersey’s most beautiful Pinelands with the ocean flanking us on one side and farmland on the other. We can drive to Atlantic City within 30 minutes, Philly in an hour, and NYC in less than two. But up until recently, we who crave healthier food options and enjoy a good cup of coffee surrounded by aesthetically stimulating local art didn’t have a place to call “our own.” Then on August 1, 2017, the Union Market & Gallery opened and changed all that with great food, local art, and an atmosphere that can both calm and excite all who enter.
Meet the Makers
Since 2015, Dani Corso, Jeannine Errico, and Erin Buterick of the Makeshift Union have hosted an annual Maker’s Fest in Manahawkin to showcase the work of local artists and artisans. The Makeshift Union, whose mission is to “help nurture and showcase homegrown artistic talent and business sensibilities while simultaneously providing a high-quality experience to the community,” held true to that statement to create the Union Market & Gallery.
For me, going to a restaurant is about so much more than just the menu and satisfying physical hunger. It’s got to be a culmination of tastes, smells, visuals, sounds—a whole-body experience—for me to really enjoy it. What makes the Union Market & Gallery unique is that it’s a combination: coffeehouse/art gallery/juice bar/restaurant.
At the Market & Gallery
Within the space there are several elements that create a single, fulfilling experience. Patrons can order a cup of coffee or a fresh pressed juice and wander through the shop to peruse many local artists’ wares. Last time I visited, I found reclaimed wood wall hangings, handcrafted jewelry, crocheted blankets, mini-sculptures from my favorite artist Kelly Killagain, and much more on display. The eclectic feel is ever changing with new artwork added all the time and daily food specials from PICKT, the Union Market’s in-house restaurant.
When I walk into the Union Market, I am immediately cleansed from any sour thoughts I may have been having about my day. The entranceway is lined with colorful bouquets of flora by Eastlin Floral Design. To the side is a comfy couch that calls my name. But first, a smoothie from PICKT.
An Interview with Robyn Pallotta
Because food is my favorite thing in the universe (besides family, of course) I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Robyn Pallotta, the mastermind behind PICKT. I’ve been a huge fan of hers since she opened her first restaurant and juice bar, Schwee Tea, in Manahawkin, a few years back. PICKT has a very similar, friendly feel with a small counter, daily specials, and made-to-order items. I asked her a few questions about her role at the Union Market & Gallery and here’s what she had to say.
Why did you choose Tuckerton? The Seaport?
Pallotta: Dani, Jeannine and Erin chose the building and location. Having been in a market-type setting before with Schwee Tea, I was already comfortable with that type of surrounding and offered to utilize the kitchen and do the same concept as Schwee Tea, only this time around with a completely different menu and name.
Where do you get your ingredients and products?
My ingredients come from a few sources including local farms and a distributor in the Bronx who sources from local farms. I am fortunate enough to have a good relationship with Chris Adams of Sassafras Hill Farm in Barnegat, formerly of Beachview Farms. I will be utilizing what Chris has in season in our GBGB which stands for Grain-Bean-Green-Bowl. This is exciting for me because it’s like having a different sustainable special almost every day.
What are some of your recipe inspirations?
My recipes are created from the ingredients I have on hand first and then focusing on a specific flavor. I am good at grabbing random items and making something work.
How did you come up with the Working ‘Rita smoothie?
The Working ‘Rita is one of those smoothies that you kind of throw together and then realize, “Wait, this takes just like a margarita!” It’s named that because it’s a margarita you can drink at work. I have had many people request for us to put tequila in it, but my response is just BYO!
Do you have formal chef training?
I am a self-proclaimed natural chef with no formal training. When I was younger I wanted to be a chef, until the age of 16 when I went and sat in on dinner prep at a nice Italian restaurant in my hometown and observed. Toward the end of my visit the chef asked if I had any questions for him. The last question I asked him was this: “If you could do it all over again would you be a chef?” He leaned over the counter, looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’d be a rodeo clown before I’d be a chef.” So that was enough to scare me from going to culinary school. Little did I know at the ripe old age of 16, that I could still go to culinary school and not have to work in a professional kitchen. I worked in cafes and coffeeshops but never a large, restaurant kitchen. Ten years after opening the tattoo shop (777 Tattoos) that my husband and I own, I wanted to open the cafe I’ve talked about since a child. I opened Schwee Tea to see how the area would respond. It responded better than anticipated and it’s been great ever since.
Besides the awesome foods from PICKT, the great coffee specials, the local artwork, and the gorgeous bouquets, the Union Market & Gallery also offers the following:
- Baked goods from Side Door Donuts
- Free Wi-Fi
- Ample seating both inside and out
- Events like the upcoming Viewing Party for Stranger Things season 2, Episode 1 starring our hometown celebrity Gaten Matarazzo
- Classes taught by local artisans
- Hall rental for your corporate or private events
The Union Market & Gallery at the Tuckerton Seaport
120 W Main Street
Tuckerton, New Jersey