New Jersey is home to many incredible, unique restaurants. We’re also home to years of history. When fine dining and local history mix, it makes for an interesting combination. As you sit and enjoy your meal, you’ll be taking a bite out of the past. Imagine all of those who stood in the same spot and the varied lives they’ve lived. It’s not only fun to think about, but you’ll get a delicious meal while doing it.
1. Grenville Hotel & Restaurant, Bay Head
Built on land purchased for $400 in 1886, this historic hotel and restaurant was the first in the area to have an elevator. The photo above shows the hotel in 1903 and 2015.
2. The Brick House, Wyckoff
Built in 1851, this restaurant has had many expansions over the years, but still maintains its original charm. The solid oak beam that serves as the fireplace mantle is authentic, as are many of the brick walls.
3. The Black Horse Tavern & Pub, Mendham
In business for over 270 years, The Black Horse was originally a stage coach house. Once owned by the founder of the borough, this restaurant takes pride in its local produce and products.
4. Yankee Doodle Tap Room, Princeton
The Yankee Doodle Tap Room adjoins historic Nassau Inn. The tap room dates back over 250 years, with the inscription over the hearth being penned in 1756. It reads: "Rest Traveller, Rest, and Banish Thoughts of Care; Drink to Thy Friends and Recommend Them Here." You'll also find the largest Norman Rockwell painting in the world here.
5. Chef Volas, Atlantic City
This hidden hotspot has been in business since 1921 and survived for decades only through word of mouth. Tucked away in a basement, the address was kept secret for years. Popular among celebrities, this spot serves up spectacular Italian food in a welcoming environment. Reservations are required.
6. Cranbury Inn, Cranbury
Thrillist has labeled this inn the oldest restaurant in New Jersey. Established in the mid-1700s, this was originally a tavern but now serves as a fine dining establishment. The inn was a rumored stop on the underground railroad. The deed for the property was issued by King George III.
7. The Clinton House, Clinton
Established in 1743, this historic spot is near the famous Red Mill and Hunterdon Art Museum.
8. Knife & Fork Inn, Atlantic City
Established in 1912 as an exclusive men's club, there was a separate ladies lounge on the 2nd floor, and the 3rd and 4th floors were used for gambling and other illegal activities. During prohibition, they openly defied liquor laws, continuing to serve alcohol at the bar. It was eventually raided and membership declined, though it is once again a popular spot. Enoch “Nucky” Johnson was a Knife & Fork regular.
9. Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern, Ho-Ho-Kus
Built in 1790 as a private home, Ho-Ho-Kus Inn has also served as a church and a resting house. It was a favorite dining spot of former President Richard Nixon.
10. Historic Smithville Inn, Smithville/Galloway
The original Smithville Inn was built in 1787 and served patrons traveling between the Philadelphia/Camden area and the Jersey Shore. It was a popular destination until the mid-1880s. Much of the structure was moved to Brigantine, but several rooms remained. The current structure still maintains the historic significance.
11. Stockton Inn, Stockton
Built in 1710 as a private residence, the site was chosen with the help of local Lenni Lenape Indians; they warned the homeowners that surrounding areas flooded. A tavern license was issued in 1796, and the property was expanded in the 1830s. During prohibition, this restaurant operated as a speakeasy and was frequented by famous guests including Clark Gable, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and F. Scott Fitzgerald from the 1940s-1960s.
12. Ye Olde Centerton Inn, Pittsgrove
This local favorite dates back to 1706! Not only is the inn over 300 years old, but it has a haunted history, as well. Staff and visitors say that a young girl can be heard crying in the upstairs dining room, and that a former maitre d’ creates cold spots in the kitchen area.
13. The Sergeantsville Inn, Sergeantsville
Built as a private residence in the early 1700s, the home was expanded in the 1830s and became a grain and feed store. Before the restaurant opened in the 1900s, this spot served as an ice cream shop, grocery store, and pelt trading center.
14. Cold Springs Grange Restaurant, Cape May
Built in 1912, the restaurant was originally a meeting hall. Listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the Grange Restaurant is the only building in Historic Cold Spring Village which stands on its original site.
15. Cubby's BBQ, Hackensack
The owner of this restaurant, Bobby Egan, served as an unofficial ambassador to North Korea. In a strange series of events, he managed to serve up great ribs and foreign relations. Many diplomats have dined at this establishment.
16. Lambertville House, Lambertville
Built in 1812, this building is on the National Register of Historic Places. A popular stagecoach stop between New York and Philadelphia, Presidents Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant have stayed here. Enjoy a full bar, outdoor patio, and small plates provided by Dish Catering.
Of course there are many other New Jersey dining spots rich in history, but the details aren’t always easy to come by. For example, Barnsboro Inn in Sewell was established in 1720 and licensed in 1776, but not much else is known. What is your favorite historic hotspot in New Jersey? Share what you know in the comments below.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Stockton Inn has since closed and is currently for sale.