Century-Old Inn and Restaurant to Join Chef David Burke’s Collection of New Jersey Culinary Ventures

Chef David Burke at the entrance to The Bernards Inn
Chef David Burke at the entrance to The Bernards Inn, photo credit David Burke Hospitality Management

Chef David Burke is pleased to announce he is adding the historic The Bernards Inn to his collection of unique, award-winning New Jersey restaurants. In July, he entered the partnership with its owner, Hampshire Destination Properties, LLC, a subsidiary of The Hampshire Companies.  Hampshire’s vision is to preserve and revitalize historic and noteworthy properties that help capture the unique character of downtown communities while delivering one-of-a-kind destinations worth visiting. They plan for a Fall opening.

“This is one of New Jersey’s greatest, iconic properties. We are bringing it back to its glory days,” promised Burke.

The 116-year-old landmark property is located in downtown Bernardsville in the heart of a tony bedroom community in the rolling hills of Northern New Jersey’s horse country. The area is also home to the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation, USGA Museum, Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey and Somerset Country Club among other notable properties.

This is Burke’s ninth restaurant in New Jersey and his 19th worldwide.

“We are excited to partner with Chef David Burke given his excellent reputation for owning and operating numerous award-winning restaurants,” said Alex Imperatore, owner and Senior Real Estate Manager with Hampshire Companies, Morristown. “We feel it is time to raise the bar and infuse the Bernards Inn with new energy and an updated concept. With his culinary achievements, creativity, finesse and solid professional connections, we believe Chef Burke is the right professional to help us achieve our goals.”

David Burke Hospitality Management will oversee the food and beverage service component of the AAA Four Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel. Later, Burke and his executive team will manage the hotel’s operations and its 20 luxury guest rooms.

The Venue

The property includes a main bar and lounge area, two yet-to-be-named restaurants: a larger, main fine-dining restaurant with 120 seats on the upper level; and a smaller 100-seat area, formerly known as the Silver Vault and Wine Pantry, on the lower level. For this area Burke plans for a more casual atmosphere with a small plates menu and it will be used for private events. There is also a banquet hall — a favored intimate wedding destination — for private, elegant affairs with a 200-seat capacity. Bernards Inn also includes a lovely, plant-filled outdoor dining patio with 30–40 seats.

The bar and lounge area are currently under renovations. However, lunch and dinner service will continue in the main dining room and wine cellar, and on the patio.

The Look

For the décor Burke plans to echo the area’s equestrian theme and also one he embraced at his Red Horse restaurants in Rumson, New Jersey and White Plains, New York. While all plans for the property are still in the development phase, Burke said he is looking to breathe new life and fun into The Bernards Inn, while respecting its historic nature and its dedication for serving local ingredients.

An example of this is Burke’s exploration into adding some decorative elements to the patio similar to the distinctive jockey statues once seen at New York City’s legendary culinary landmark, 21 Club, now permanently closed. Burke also has future plans to renovate the hotel’s guest rooms as well.

The Location

The property is located across the street from the NJ Transit train station, where Manhattanites arrive and a porter greets them to carry their bags the short walk to the Inn. The Inn is also a convenient 35-minute drive from Newark Liberty International Airport; 55 minutes from New York City; and 90 minutes from Philadelphia.

A Bit of History

Throughout its 116-year history Bernards Inn’s reputation as a gracious destination has remained rock solid as its stone foundation, which can be seen in the wine cellar. The Bernards Inn has had numerous owners and renovations throughout the years, however, the staircase that was once in the original Plaza Hotel in New York City, still remains today. The Inn has persevered through several devastating events including a fire, two global pandemics, floods, and Prohibition. In fact, it was a popular speakeasy and rumored to have been raided several times.

Looking Ahead

“We are looking forward to creating a must-go, top of its class and quintessential dining experience focused totally on the guest experience,” explained Burke. “I have a great respect for New Jersey’s historic businesses and I get a kick out of infusing them with new vigor and fun ensuring they continue into the future. When I walk in the Bernards Inn I feel its greatness like an old stadium or theater. I think, wow, if these walls could talk.”