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Update on Ryland Inn (NJ)


The following article appeared about a week ago in the NJ Star-Ledger. Based on various sources whom I trust, the information is pretty accurate BUT does not discuss all the problems that came together to cause a 'perfect storm' for this restaurant.


  1. It is very difficult to believe that the restaurant will reopen. I am dissapointed that Mr. Shelton is trying so hard to hide the truth. Insurance problems? Structural Problems? None of these would cause you not to mow your grass or tend to your award wining garden. When I saw the new menu on his web site in January, I knew things were bad. One of the wines listed was Yellow Tail.

    1. I think this will be the next "Four Seasons...55 and up" development. No offense...my parents live in the Renasiance in Monroe. wooo hooo

      :) Hope I made everyone happy!!!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Angelina

        Yes, I believe I heard the restaurant is being turned into the clubhouse :-)

        1. re: sivyaleah

          ha ha ...thank you....sivyaleah....I only think of you as "Ms. Westfield" because you are so on the money with places by you!! ha ha...maybe you should move by me, RGR, seal, bgut1.......just a thought!!!


          1. re: Angelina

            Thanks :-)

            Well, with the flooding problems, they could put a pool in too...

            I'm glad I saw this before they pull our posts for going off-topic.

            1. re: sivyaleah

              Well, our very own Angie and Sivy Comedy Show. LOL

              Craig Shelton had put the Ryland Inn up for sale. I think that was a couple of years ago and I doubt he had developers in mind. Obviously, nothing came of it. I've never been a fan. We went there a couple of times for special occasions, but the food never wowed me. Before the closure, my husand and I had discussed trying the bistro menu. Looks as though that's not going to happen....

              1. re: RGR

                Hey, RGR, are you sure that the Inn itself was put up for sale? A couple of years ago, some land right next to the Inn was definitely for sale and this sparked all kinds of rumors that the Inn itself was being sold. As I recall, the land was sold and developed. Even now, there is a separate parcel of land nearby that is for sale.

                Since my original post, there has been some activity on the property. The grass has been cut and today there were a couple of guys "whacking weeds" and tidying things up. I believe the restaurant will reopen but it will be completely different from The Ryland Inn of old. Whether Craig Shelton is still involved remains a mystery.

                1. re: ambrose

                  Hey, ambrose,

                  Yes, I'm positive that Shelton put the restaurant up for sale some time ago. Obviously, nothing ever came of it. Afaik, he is still the owner.

      2. Interesting note in last week's Hunterdon Democrat that the Township of Readington has renewed the liquor license for The Ryland Inn. Well, whatever form the new restaurant takes, it will apparently have the same name and will serve booze, even if it's only Miller Lite and Yellow Tail!

        1 Reply
        1. re: ambrose

          Thanks for keeping us updated, ambrose. I was not a fan based on what I found to be disappointing cuisine the few times we had dinner there, which was years ago. I had been considering giving the bistro side a try before the recent closure. It will be interesting to see if it re-opens just as it was, or if Craig Shelton decides to go entirely down the bistro route.

        2. $$$ Money is probably at the root of Rylands problems.........the land, the taxes, maintenance, must have cost a ton !!...........Shelton couldn't hack it anymore.......at least their hacking the overgrown weeds and grass

          1 Reply
          1. re: LEOFONT

            I spoke with one of the managers about three years ago in reference to a design project they were considering. He made it clear at that meeting that they were having a great deal of trouble getting most people to see the restaurant as something other than a special occasion restaurant- that basically, their "regular" customers weren't regular enough. (I didn't think it was necessary at that point to point out the fact that the extremely high prices for Hunterdon County might have had something to do with it. Obviously the main reason they opened the grill room - an attempt to increase traffic, especially midweek.)

            So yes, add this in with the huge burden of maintenance and taxes, which only goes up every year (especially in NJ...) and you can see the writing on the wall.

              1. re: dawnfawn

                It bothers me that after all that Craig Shelton has done for dining in NJ , there is no support for what he is going through. To say " its about time it closed" is a shame. If it were not for Craig New Jersey would still be a culinary wasteland. He raised the bar in NJ and the only thing other chefs (myself included) was to try and keep up.A little respect would be nice. scott

                1. re: avidcook

                  Great point avidcook. I wish Chef Craig all the best.

                  1. re: avidcook

                    Although I was not a big fan of the Ryland Inn, you make a good point that Craig Shelton has made a significant contribution to the fine dining scene in NJ. However, I would take issue with your statement that without him, NJ would be a vast culinary wasteland. The Frog and the Peach, which brought fine dining to our area of NJ, opened well before the Ryland Inn. And chefs who worked in The Frog's kitchen then went on to work in other notable restaurants and even open their own. I believe I'm correct that one of those chefs is David Drake, whose eponymous restaurant is currently one of the best in the state. Also, the brothers Foy, John and Dennis, were fine dining pioneers, again, long before Shelton arrived. Still, he deserves much praise for his accomplishments and, like bgut1, I hope that when he does re-open the Ryland Inn, it succeeds. I will certainly give it another try.

                    1. re: RGR

                      Remember, David Drake trained under Craig Shelton.

                    2. re: avidcook

                      Avidcook, I believe you used to work for Craig Shelton. Unfortunately, Americans love to kick people when they're down and we're seeing this in the numerous negative comments on this site and others about Shelton. The one from dawnfawn is relatively mild.

                      Shelton had told many people, and at least two publications, that he is hoping to reopen and I think he will. I just hope he is not so consumed by pride that he is making a huge mistake.

                      By the way, I agree with your previous comment about Nicholas!

                      1. re: mountebank

                        I did indeed work for and with Craig Shelton for a number of years. I do agree that reopening the Ryland Inn might not be in his best interest, but I will give him all the support.....at least from a distance.

                  2. Looks like The Ryland Inn is for sale. There is a very large For Sale sign outside the inn stating that CB Richard Ellis is handling the sale. I am not referring to the sign, which has been up forever, on some adjoining land.

                    The Ryland Inn web site still says it will reopen after Labor Day. It does not say what year.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: ambrose

                      I couldn't believe it; I saw it with my own eyes. Not just one sign, but two.

                      1. re: ambrose

                        I was in Oldwick today (having lunch, of course!) and detoured down to Route 22 to see what was going on. I saw only one sign but the number doesn't really matter.

                        When I got home, I checked the Richard Ellis web site but couldn't find anything about the sale. Seems odd but perhaps these things go on behind closed doors.

                        Really sad.

                        1. re: mountebank

                          There was an article in the Hunterdon Review this week about the sale. Apparently Shelton's got some things in the works. We'll see.

                          1. re: eggontoast

                            I rarely see the Hunterdon Review so thanks for mentioning this. Here's the on-line link for those who are interested...


                            I've read the article twice and I THINK I understand what Craig Shelton is saying! I do find it peculiar that every time he talks to the press it's someone different.

                      2. There is a report on nj.com's restaurant forum that The Ryland Inn will reopen in the spring of 2008. I have not been able to verify this. Anyone know what's up?

                        There have been lots of rumors flying around Hunterdon County about what form the Inn might take if it ever reopens. The one constant in these rumors is that it will not be anything like what it was five years ago.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: ambrose

                          For what it's worth:

                          From page 107 of the January issue of NJ Monthly: "Ryland Redux" Short article says "Craig has partnered with four investors who own hotels oversees to reopen this spring." Goes on to say they'll refurbish the complex of 10 buildings and will open a 30 room inn, bakery and other ammenities. Also says Shelton has a new online business selling custom blended high end coffees and has a pic of Craig holding a bag of his coffee. I guess they won't be offering Maxwell House at the Inn?!

                          1. re: Foody4life

                            Thanks for the info. I believe Craig has been selling gourmet coffees for some time. I remember a link to this business on the Ryland Inn web site.

                        2. I had been searching to see when The Ryland Inn would reopen and saw this site. I have been a regular customer of The Ryland Inn and known chef Shelton for many years. It saddens me to see negative posts about the restaurant and Chef Shelton. Craig Shelton is a true culinary visionary. His approach to food and dining is in my opinion matched by only a few elite chefs. He had set the culinary bar at a new level here in NJ. And, most of all, he had stayed true to his beliefs of how food and dining should be, despite operating in a diificult area without the high traffic and glamour of NYC. I had the pleasure several times of being invited to work in his kitchen with his staff although I am not a "professional" chef. The lessons learned were priceless. My life has been enriched for knowing Craig Shelton and for the many dining experiences that I had at The Ryland Inn. I wish Craig and his family the best and would support him in whatever future endeavors he pursues. And, I pray that he will continue to enrich The NJ culinary scene with his immense talent.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: ksteve1111

                            ksteve1111 - Welcome to this board and thank you for your post. I don't think anyone will disagree with you that Chef Shelton is a talent as well as a trailblazer when it comes to fine dining in the state of New Jersey. Obviously, the opinions diverge when it comes to the level of cooking and service at the Inn in the years preceding its closure. In my case, I had dined there in its "heyday" and while good I left there unimpressed. In the subsequent years since I had no reason to return due to the many reviews noting the mediocrity of the experience. I wish Chef Shelton the best of luck with his reopening and would be happy to try the restaurant again if positively reviewed by my trusted Hounds. Good Luck.

                              1. re: RGR

                                Since the Ryland Inn is about 15 minutes away, we stand ready, willing and able to either take one for the team or be the herald of a gourmet gospel.

                                1. re: mmgpsych

                                  I will stand in your shadow as we climb those venerable steps into those hallowed halls awash with the scent of fresh apples and browned butter.

                                  1. re: currymouth

                                    I look forward to reading mmgpsych and currymouth's reports. Thanks for taking one for the team folks.

                                    1. re: bgut1

                                      It's a dirty job but....................

                                      1. re: currymouth

                                        I must first admit my relative ignorance to the subject matter. I was merely seeking insight as to the future of the restaurant since I observed the "For Sale" signs when passing by some weeks (months?) ago. I had occasion to dine there twice, the last time being a Valentine's Day wine pairing in 2001. Thought it was one of the most pleasurable dining experiences ever. But what would I, a former busboy at Al Stamm's Rendezvous know?

                                          1. re: currymouth

                                            Craig Shelton finally answered the question in his blog on the NJ Monthly website:
                                            "After months and months of tackling due-diligence issues, my lawyer was finally able to issue a contract to sell the Ryland complex. The buyers agreed to refurbish the property and reopen it in stages that would eventually include a restaurant and other facilities.

                                            The contract is under attorney review by the buyer. I cannot discuss the terms of the deal other than to say that I have agreed to remain involved in the business and that one of my conditions was that all gift certificates that were valid at the time of the flood will be honored."

                                            1. re: BigGeorge

                                              BigGeorge, I saw the article on Shelton's blog yesterday and read it several times in order to confirm my initial conclusion, namely "don't hold your breath". The full article contains additional information, the most telling being that Shelton is now backing off previous predictions that the Inn will definitely reopen.


                                              1. re: ambrose

                                                Me thinks the ryland Inn is dead

                                                Shelton now has a job at a caterer in Whippany

                                                Renowned chef Craig Shelton, 47, the guiding force behind the once glamorous and now-shuttered Ryland Inn in Whitehouse and a multiple James Beard Award winner, has joined Ome Caterers in Whippany, a full-service off-premises organization, where Shelton will be its executive chef and director of operations.


                                                1. re: Yellowshirt

                                                  A friend of mine told me that his father-in-law attended an event catered by this company. He described it as "very high end" and truly outstanding. This occurred recently and Shelton was apparently involved.

                                                  Regarding The Ryland Inn itself, I don't know if it's dead but if it does rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes, I doubt very much that it will be anything like what we remember. It's interesting to note that in the article you cite Shelton says "It doesn't mean I've left the Ryland". Quite frankly, I don't know whether to believe him or not. Shelton unfortunately has become like the boy who cried wolf. I would really like to see him back cooking at the Inn but, as I said above, I'm not holding my breath.

                                                  1. re: ambrose

                                                    ...or this catering gig could be a temporary distraction until the legal eagles are done...this isn't a pro who sits still.

                          2. If you have nothing to do on May 28, and have been thinking about buying a restaurant, here's your chance. According to this week's Hunterdon Democrat, the Ryland Inn is scheduled for a sheriff's sale on that date. Here's what the Democrat article says:

                            "The famed Ryland Inn will be up for auction at a sheriff's sale on Wednesday, May 28 in what owner Craig Shelton says is the bank's attempt to protect its interests and speed up the sale process.

                            He thinks the action, taken by Valley National Bank, holder of a mortgage, might have the effect of motivating his prospective buyers to move on the real estate transaction. Mr. Shelton says he's still very optimistic about one of the four possible deals in particular. He has been seeking to sell the property, which includes the restaurant that has been closed since February of last year.

                            The approximate amount due the bank is $3.9 million with interest and costs of this sale. A deposit of 20% of the purchase price in cash or certified funds is required at the close of the auction.

                            Auction of the mortgaged, 10.34 acre-property is set for the Sheriff's Office in Flemington."

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ambrose

                              More information from today's Star-Ledger. Sad story.