HOME > Chowhound > New Jersey >


Are there any good bars in Central Jersey?

By way of preface - I feel the same way about drinks that I do about food. Use good ingredients and execute properly. I enjoy a pre-dinner martini. A real martini, your grandfather's martini, Cary Grant's martini. Gin, vermouth, olives, served in a modest sized martini glass. It's not alot to ask for, but somehow, it's becoming impossible to procure.

Last night at the Shipwreck, I settled for a No. 10 martini, as, like most bars in the state, they can't be bothered to stock a couple of premium gins (however, they do have 30 diffrerent vodkas even though vodka has no discernable flavor and therefore all of those premium brands taste pretty much the same!) Due to turnover, the Shipwreck no longer has professional bartenders. Upon taking my order, the drink preparer took a break from discussing hair coloring techniques with her partner, filled a shaker with ice, poured in some Gin, shook it vigorously, and used another shaker to strain it into a giant glass (along with some ice). When I aksed what happened to the vermouth, I was informed that most people order their martinis without so she doesn't use any!

As I was sitting directly in front of the station where the two young ladies were mixing, I noticed the following: shakers reused after dumping out the contents without even rinsing them out (I watched this happen drink after drink), olive juice added to vodka martinis whether the customer ordered them "dirty" or not, the vermouth bottle never left the rail, and a couple of ice cubes dropping into almost every drink as the cocktails were strained between shakers.

So now, I posit the question. Are there any good bars in Central Jersey? Real bars? Professional bartenders? Perhaps, dare I ask, even a place where Beefeater isn't the best gin?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. MGZ - Try the Bar at Nicholas. Chris the Bartender (who's also a poster on this board) will pour you a properly made drink. Good Luck.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bgut1

      +1 ....and the "bar snack" menu is.....well........the best you'll likely ever have! ;)

    2. What about the bar at Fromogerie? My girlfriend loves the martinis there!

      1. I haven't been there in along time so I can't be sure if the quality is still the same, but my family and I always loved the bar in the Bernardsville Inn.

        I also love the bar at Anton's at the Swan in Lambertville. Also in Lambertville is the Boat House, another old favorite.

        4 Replies
        1. re: flourgirl

          It's actually called The Bernards Inn (in Bernardsville) but who's counting? :-)))
          With it's unobtrusive pianist playing standards in the background, the Library Bar is quite nice. Here's a good shot of it. http://www.bernardsinn.com/content/bl...
          It's so clubby and old-time atmospheric that you expect Humphrey Bogart to come sauntering in wearing a white dinner jacket at any moment. You can order off the full menu at the bar, and the many meals we've had there, though pricey, have ranged from passable to very good. Well worth a visit. "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.' You played it for her and you can play it for me. . . If she can stand it, I can! Play it!"

          1. re: mmgpsych

            The executive chef, Corey Heyer, was previously chef de cuisine at Nicholas. We had dinner once at The Bernards Inn, but that was quite some time ago, well before the arrival of Chef Heyer. The dining room has that comfy, clubby feel as well, which I really liked. The fact that I have very little recollection of what we ate tells me it was probably fine but neither rant- nor rave-worthy.

            1. re: mmgpsych

              And you would think that I would know better since my wedding was held there in 1992.

          2. Catherine Lombardi in New Brunswick upstairs from Stage Left serves real cocktails.

            1. Try Verdigre in New Brunswick

              1. My current favs for good drinks:

                Verve in Somerville (small intimate bar--the bartender there on weeknights is also at
                Bernards Inn on some weekends) Good food, decent martini, made as I requested it.

                Pittstown Inn (Dale or Jim make the best martinis and other cocktails--good bar food also. Lots of regulars, good ambience)

                Jakes (Lousy ambience, so-so food depending on what you order, but usually really good cocktails.)


                1. I'll second Verve, mentioned above. Order the cocktail of the day and go from there.

                  1. More for the beer heads, but I would suggest in Central NJ the New Brunswick area tour hitting:

                    Stuff Yer Face: Surprisingly terrific bottle selection and of course the bolis
                    Harvest Moon: Small brewpub with great beers and upscale grub for a brewpub
                    Old Bay: The best tap selection, perhaps in the state.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: yankeefan

                      If you're in New Brunswick for those beers, then you must go to Clydez for excellent, well-made martinis. I also second the Nicholas recommendation.

                      Cask 591 in Long Branch used to make good martinis. But then if you go that far south, you MUST go to Mix for the strongest, most innovative martinis around. I like the atmosphere (most of my friends don't) but one cannot deny the potency of those martinis.

                      1. re: aacharya

                        Never heard of "Mix". Where it it located?

                        1. re: Barbarella

                          71 Brighton Avenue Long Branch, NJ


                          1. re: bgut1

                            Thanks to everyone for their responses. Many of the places suggested were a bit far to travel considering the purpose of the trip; however, we did make the drive to Harvest Moon to sample the homemade beers. Not the best I have ever had, but certainly an enjoyable experience. Ironically, I discovered that Harvest Moon has a very good gin selection.

                            For those of you also interested in professionally made cocktails, I would endorse both Trinity in Keyport and Market in the Middle in Asbury. Real simple syrup, fresh herbs, freshly squeezed juices, Hendricks . . . Plus the food's good! Cheers!

                            1. re: MGZ

                              And thank YOU for the tips! There actually is a town of Asbury, NJ, by the way, so to be overly clear: Market in the Middle is in Asbury Park.

                              1. re: The Engineer

                                Just to clarify.....Asbury is a "place name" not an official municipality/town. It is located within the political boundaries of the township of Bethlehem in Hunterdon County.

                                1. re: RobertinRedBank

                                  Robert - If you really want to be technical about it, there are several other "Asbury's" in NJ including: Franklin Township (Warren County) and Woolwich Township (Gloucester County). Oh and BTW, the correct designation is "unincorporated communities".

                                  1. re: bgut1

                                    Bgut1, if you're ever near Asbury in Warren County, you should really try Rosa Luca's Italian Bistro. I have a feeling the restaurant is actually in Hunterdon County, but the mailing address is Asbury.

                                    I think you'll find Rosa Luca's is superior to most of the Italian restaurants in Monmouth County!


                                    1. re: ambrose

                                      Thanks ambrose. I'll add it to my list and try it when I'm in the area.

                                      1. re: ambrose

                                        To be really - really clear.

                                        1. The correct term for places like Asbury is "Placename" - If you get yourself an official Jersey roadmap, you'll see 2 typefaces. Legal (incorporated) municipalities names are printed in all upper case letters.

                                        Placenames are printed with initial upper case and the remainder lower case THUS: ASBURY PARK, Asbury.

                                        2. The legalese name for placenames is "Localities" and they can be found listed by counties on the State website.

                                        3. RosaLuca's is NOT in Asbury (placename). Placename Asbury is the name of the nearest post office (08802) - the one that delivers mail to the restaurant.

                                        4. The placename of RosaLuca's is Jugtown Mountain (slang) or West Portal - to say anything else marks you as a person who "ain't from around here!" like like calling Routes 1 & 9 Route Nineteen! (I've heard that from out-of-towners!)

                                        5. RosaLuca's is among my all-time favorite Italian eateries & I've been sampling the food in Italian eateries since 1947. Go there and enjoy!

                      2. As another monday off found us is the Park (dare I call it Asbury), we had drinks at the Beach Bar in the Convention Center - mediocre bartender, but good ingredients and selections. I had a No. 10 cucumber gimlet - great idea, not so great execution - fresh juice, though. At $9, I might not order one ever again, but it provided me with the genesis of an idea I think I can develop. Regardless, given that the place is basically an open air bar on the beach, it can't be beat for a daytime cocktail (I could have almost cast into the surf from my seat!)

                        1. If you want a great bar with great food, Chester house in manville, but for great drinks best tap selection around head across the street to Northside in manville

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Mikesans

                            I love reading the chowhounds threads! I never saw this one. So I enjoyed all the posts till the last few..glad you revived it!

                            1. re: pinksalt

                              I'm sure if you go to Ave or Rooney's on the Long Branch oceanfront, they will accommodate you.

                                1. re: pinksalt

                                  Sorry. I meant to reply to the original post.

                                1. re: pinksalt

                                  Pinksalt, the reason you never saw this thread is because it's so old it was on the Mid-Atlantic board (before we had a New Jersey board).

                                  Some kind soul moved it to the "new" NJ board.

                                  1. re: ambrose

                                    That's pretty funny, I thought the mods put in the title (moved from mid-Atlantic board) when they move a thread?

                                    1. re: ambrose

                                      Ahh! Thanks! I love reading everyone's memories of this area!l Happy to be a NJ girl!