One of the best kept secrets on the outskirts of Asbury Park is the Grand Tavern in Neptune, NJ. Located in the building that once housed the Sudsy Mug Saloon, this eclectic eatery first opened its doors in 2016. The Grand Tavern’s fresh take on classically inspired tavern fare ooteminds all those who visit that life certainly is grand.
Constantly evolving and not skimping on fat, butter, and cream, the Grand Tavern’s menu consists of seasonal small plates, entrees, and a couple of dessert items. Along with their regular menu that changes every two month, they also feature weekly small plate specials that will make your mouth water just by viewing them on Instagram. When I dined at the Grand Tavern, I ordered a pumpkin agnolotti special as a small plate and a corned beef short tib with warm corn bread for my entree. Both dishes were rich, decadent, and delicious—I savored every bite.
On Jersey Bites’s second visit, the menu had changed and we were immediately drawn to the fried rabbit terrine served over aioli and baby greens from Kula Urban Farm in Asbury Park and FarmArt in Philadelphia. Crunchy, creamy, and gone in about two minutes flat.
For the entree, it was a difficult decision between the braised lamb with brown butter celery root puree, celery root remoulade, and cherry jus and the milk-braised pork with green cabbage and fried sage. In the end, the lamb won me over. The meat was pull-apart tender and the celery root coleslaw provided that nice crunchy contrast: really inventive and suprising.
For dessert, the Grand Tavern offers its own rendition of a pancake. Oftentimes this is the only dessert item on the menu. Being that this is their signature dessert, I had to try it! Here’s how it works: You are served a hefty, cast-iron-skillet-cooked cake turned upside-down with ample amounts of vanilla butter, berry compote, maple syrup, and powdered sugar. I dare you to eat the whole thing!
With a creative, seasonal cocktail list, tap and bottled beer, and an extensive wine list—there is a plethora of drink options. As a wine and cocktail lover, I opted to start with a seasonal cocktail and had a glass of the pinot noir special with dinner. Both options were superb—the cocktail was vibrant and refreshed the palate and the wine paired perfectly with my short rib.
On our second visit, we enjoyed the Espress Yo-self, upon receiving a recommendation from the bar manager, Erin Lamb. This boozy cocktail is a luscious combination of espresso infused rye, Averna, and maraschino liquor. Dangerous and delicious.
The other cocktail we had to try—this with one Jersey roots—was One Bad Apple, which stars Laird’s Applejack and is combined with Averna, sweet vermouth, lemon, and grenadine. It’s garnished with a dehydrated apple slice. Highly recommend this one.
The interior of the small, 52-seat dining room and bar is a mix of rustic and hipster. The ambiance is cozy and warm, with a lodge-like atmosphere. There are animal heads mounted on the walls, exposed beam ceilings, leather banquettes, and candlelight throughout.
The large mahogany bar and wooden accents bring character to the small dining area.
Beyond the bar is an open view of the kitchen as well as outside seating at communal tables, weather permitting, adding another 40 seats including the outside bar.
The restaurant is owned by Paul Holzeimer and Ashley Coyte, both of whom worked at Pascal and Sabine in Asbury Park. Holzeimer also serves as The Grand Tavern’s executive chef. A Culinary Institute graduate, he has cooked at both Sirena Ristorante in Long Branch and Porta in Asbury Park.
Executive Chef Dean Schreefer was at the helm on our Saturday night visit and we were in the very capable hands of bar manager Erin Lamb for our cocktail. Lamb trained under the talented mixologist Adam Flocke (now general manager of The Dinky Bar & Kitchen in Princeton).
The Grand Tavern
1105 6th Avenue