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Apr 11, 2013 01:28 PM

Good BYOs near Bridgewater, NJ?

I'm going to be in Bridgewater (at the Marriott) for a weekend function in early May and will have Friday night free to enjoy a good meal and a great bottle of wine (or three) from my cellar. I would be very interested in finding a good BYO where anywhere from three (probably) to 8 (unlikely) of us could dine.

I live in DC, so I have access to some of the best and most varied ethnic food in the country. What I'm looking for instead is a good chef driven restaurant where a great bottle of wine will fit in well with the meal.

While I won't rule out Italian, I'm not particularly interested in pasta/pizza (mainly for diet reasons) and because I will be bringing some great PNs and Cabs, don't particularly want Asian cuisine (I can get that at home.)

I prefer someplace that does BYO regularly and does it right, (decent glasses) but more important is great food. Price is not an issue, and I can dress up if necessary. I don't want to have to drive for an hour to get to dinner, so someplace within 20-30 minutes of the hotel would be appreciated.

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  1. Sounds like you are not price sensitive and just want an exceptional meal with friends - so why not just take on the corkage fee in a top end restaurant - I would highly recommend 40 acres, about 15 minutes and one of te most dramatic places you will ever go for dinner - I live in the area and unless you are bringing your own wine glasses and decanter I can not really think of anywhere that will make you happy

    6 Replies
    1. re: carlylecat

      I was under the impression that unlike here in DC or Maryland, NJ restaurants with alcohol licenses did not offer corkage. I don't mind paying a corkage fee, I do it all the time here. The point is that I want good food to go with some very good limited production wines that I have that are just begging to be shared.

      1. re: dinwiddie

        Then, the place to go is the Blue Bottle Cafe. Bring your best and enjoy a great meal.

        You can thank me later - well, maybe if you have a nice Anderson Valley PN (say a Navarro, we'll call it even ;-)

        Fwiw, I've audibled on my son's graduation dinner and will be dining here (with a party of 6) in May. Logistically, it's far easier than trekking to Lorena's which is a bit of a haul for a small caravan of folks.

        1. re: JustJake

          I'll look into it and see what the wife says.

          As to the wines, I do have some nice Anderson Valley PNs, mostly Goldeneye and Navarro, but also lesser knows like Black Kite Pinot Noir Angel Hawk Reserve (an amazing wine) and some Savoy Vineyard PNs (and Chards) from a couple of different producers like Benovia and Radio-Coteau.

          However, depending on who attends, I was thinking of bringing some Kosta-Browne and Loring PNs, maybe a Shane or Dain Syrah, and some Cabs. I've been hoping to share some older Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Cabs with my brother in law as he would appreciate them.

          Which is why I'm looking for someplace where the food will equal the wines.

          1. re: dinwiddie

            totally agree with JJ, Blue Bottle is an excellent choice and your array of wine will find some excellent pairings (Black Kite and Navarro more my style than KB or Loring :)

            I just received an e-mail with the brand new Spring Menu which sounds delicious, it has NOT yet been posted to the website. With owner Rory due any day, she has a lot on her mind :).

            If anyone is interested in seeing the Spring Menu, let me know.

            1. re: tom246

              Tom, if you could, I'd appreciate 'eyeing it' as the winter menu is still on the website.

              1. re: JustJake

                JJ, here is the e-mail from the owners, Rory (pastry chef and manager) and Aaron (chef) followed by the new Spring menu. No gnocchi on this menu, heresy :) but will be back for the summer. BB celebrated their 7th anniversary recently and much of that was in some bad economic times. Good for them!

                Greetings Friends of Blue Bottle,

                We have lots of exciting news at the restaurant to share! First off, Happy Birthday Blue Bottle. We celebrated seven fantastic years of great food and service on March 23rd, 2013! The new spring menu is now in place and will continue through the month of June. It's true that the gnocchi are once again hibernating for a season, but I'm sure they will reappear in July for the summer menu. The appetizer and entree selections are copied below the email, and as always, visable on our website,

                Mothers Day, May 12th, is just around the corner, and we are now accepting reservations through the end of May. We will serve our a la carte dinner menu for Mothers Day, opening at 2pm and taking final reservations at 8:30pm. As this is always a very popular day, be sure to get your requests in as soon as possible to reserve seating.

                Speaking of celebrating Mothers... Our owners, Rory and Aaron Philipson will be welcoming their own new addition to the Blue Bottle family. Their first child, a daughter to be named Mia Grace is due any day now so if you don't see Rory on the floor in the upcoming weeks, she will probably be at home enjoying some tender first moments with her newborn. Our new floor manager, Corinne has taken the reigns most nights at Blue Bottle and is doing a remarkable job while Rory is out on maternity leave. And Joyce, aka 'Mom' and soon to be Grandma has been spotted on a more regular basis to help out with hosting detail as well...

                Fathers Day... Since this will be Aaron's very first fathers day, we are giving him the day off from cooking and will remain closed on Sunday, June 16th.

                Graduation Parties? We know how important these lifetime achievements are and want to help make them as special and memorable as possible. Customized catering, whether at your house or here at the restaurant is a great way to top off a special day with awesome food! Rory will be back to baking just in time to fill all of the specialty cake requests and Aaron is already hard at work putting together ideas for upscale barbecue accompaniments, hors d'oeurves, and full catering menus to complement your event.

                As always, the restaurant will close for a summer vacation the week of July 4th. June 29th will be our final dinner service for the spring menu and the new summer menu will debut for our reopening on Thursday, July 11th. Catering and private parties will also be suspended during our vacation.

                Happy Spring! We hope to see you soon!
                All our best,
                Your Friends at the Blue Bottle Cafe


                Spring Pea Soup with Minted Crème Fraiche*

                Hoisin Glazed Pork Belly with Butterhead
                Lettuce Cups and Spicy Kimchi

                Pan Seared Crabcake with Fennel
                And Apple Salad, Cider Aioli

                Portabella Mushroom Flatbread with
                Housemade Ricotta, Duxelle, and Crispy
                Rye Toast, Frisee and Truffle Vinaigrette


                Blue Bottle Salad: Mixed Baby Greens,
                Sliced Red Grapes, Toasted Hazelnuts, Red Wine
                and Honey Vinaigrette, Shaved Manchego Cheese*

                Asparagus Salad; Cooked, Raw and Pureed,
                Goat Cheese Mousse, Lemon Zest Bread Crumbs

                Local Baby Lettuces, Baby Artichokes, Roasted
                Red Peppers, Ciliegine Mozzarella, Garlic
                Chips, Smoked Pepper Vinaigrette*

                Gluten Free Dishes are Followed with *
                Please Inform Your Server of any Dietary Restrictions or Allergies
                We Will Do Our Very Best To Accommodate Special Requests

                Black Pepper Fettucine, Pork Guanciale, English
                Peas, Grana Padano, Onion Cream, Fried Egg Yolk

                Pan Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops, Chick Pea
                Panisse, Fava Beans, Red Pepper, Spinach,
                Leeks, Meyer Lemon Gel, Fish Cream

                Seared Griggstown Chicken Breast with Crispy
                Chicken Arancini, Asparagus, English Peas,
                Garlic and Celery Root Chicken Jus

                Sautéed Atlantic Fluke, White Asparagus,
                Carrot Cardamom Puree, Roasted Parsnips,
                Baby Carrots, Lobster Nage*

                Pan Roasted Painted Hills Flat Iron Steak,
                Crispy Potatoes, Marrow Custard,
                Broccoli Raab, Sauce Bordelaise*

                Duo Of Lamb: Boneless Lamb Loin and
                Braised Lamb ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ with Baby
                Carrots, Turnips, Lamb Reduction*

                Griggstown Quail with Butter Poached Lobster
                Tail, Saffron Braised Endive, Fingerling
                Potato, Mushrooms, Fines Herbs Sauce*

                Pan Seared Lake Trout, Pear and Fennel
                Wild Rice, Oyster Mushrooms, Bacon Foam,
                Pumpkin Seeds and Golden Beet Sauce*

    2. I don't believe you will find an excellent BYO within 30 minutes of Bridgewater. A Toute Heurre in Cranford, a bistro setting with outstanding farm to table themed food may be the closest. Blue Bottle Cafe in Hopewell, also a bit further.

      Non BYOB that may fit your bill:

      Ninety Acres
      Peapack Gladstone, NJ

      Pluckemin Inn
      Bedminster, NJ

      Ryland Inn
      Whitehouse Station, NJ

      Tewksbury Inn
      Tewksbury, NJ
      You may also find possibilities in New Brunswick.

      1. A beautiful time to be in NJ. I'd recommend the Blue Bottle Cafe which is in nearby Hopewell.

        This is the place you want to go.

        Directions can easily be had (it's but 18 miles and a 25 minute trip through some nice countryside). I attach a recent thread on this wonderful restaurant and a recent menu (looks like their winter menu - I would suspect that there will soon be a changeover to an early spring menu by the time you are here in NJ - btw, do make a reservation):

        1. If you really want to go to a BYO restaurant, then I'm with those who have recommended the Blue Bottle Cafe. Fabulous food, and they will know how to handle your wine. If you don't want to drive that far then I would go to da Filippo's in Somerville. It's about 10 minutes from your hotel.

          Regarding corkage fees in NJ, the situation is not the same as you describe it for DC and Maryland. By law, BYO restaurants in NJ are forbidden from charging corkage fees. Restaurants that have alcohol licenses may charge corkage fees and they can be steep. For example, I know that Ninety Acres and the Pluckemin Inn charge $35/bottle. I don't know about the Ryland Inn and the Tewksbury Inn.

          If you do go to a restaurant that has a license, you should as a courtesy make sure that you are not bringing a wine that is on their wine list. You could probably get away with this but it would not be appreciated.

          6 Replies
          1. re: ambrose

            I am not wedded to a BYO, it arose from a misunderstanding of the law in NJ. Here in DC, MD, and VA, corkage if only permitted if the restaurant has a license. BYOs are not permitted without a BYO license. I'm used to paying corkage fees of up to $25 (the legal but not always observed limit in both DC and MD) so I have no problem paying for such in NJ. As you not, I should not bring something that is on the restaurant's list, but then that is just good manners for bringing a bottle anyway. What I am bringing from my cellar is not likely to be on anyone's list, they tend to be produced in quantities of less than 200 cases. Looking at the wine lists of the restaurants you have named (at least what is on line) only Ninety
            Acres has any of the wines I would even consider bringing, and they have an absolutely amazing list. I might have to consider going there my next trip just to sample the list.

            1. re: dinwiddie

              in that case (interest in sampling a wine list on a future trip), I'd recommend a place 10mins from your hotel: The Pluckemin Inn

              The Pluckemin Inn has one of the very best wine cellars in NJ. Food is of a high caliber and service is excellent.


              Note, unfortunately they do not allow you to bring your own wine.

              1. re: Foody4life

                That is definitely a very nice wine list. Might have to consider that seriously.

                1. re: Foody4life

                  Foody4life, has The Pluckemin Inn changed its policy about bringing your own wine? They certainly used to allow this and I found a number of on-line references from 2012 saying that it was permitted. I had forgotten, however, that you could take only one bottle per couple.

                  1. re: ambrose

                    I'm not sure about bringing a bottle - probably best to call ahead. We've always enjoyed digging deep into their almost bottomless cellar and finding hidden gems!

                    This is what's on their website FAQ's:

                    *May I bring my own bottle of wine?*

                    Unfortunately not. Many establishments will offer a corkage service, but we prefer to open only our own bottles. You will find the extensive collection has a wine option for every taste and budget.


                    1. re: Foody4life

                      Thanks for this. They have definitely changed their policy. I had not thought to look in the FAQ section of their web site. I wonder why they don't mention it in the Wine section.

            2. While Blue Bottle is my fave, it is not an easy ride from Bridgewater. Some good places that are easier to get to are Matt's Red Rooster in Flemington and Brian's or D'Floret in Lambertville.

              2 Replies
              1. re: madgreek99

                ????? It may not be the straight shot down #206 into Lambertville but BBC can be had via Rte. 22 West to 206 South for about 10 minutes, hang a right onto #601 in Belle Mead, (another 5-7 minutes) hook another right onto the Georgetown Franklin Turnpike (County Rd #518) and drive into Hopewell.

                It's a shorter drive than Lambertville (and quite easy with GPS); Any restaurant with Dennis Foy's fingerprint is a good one and I've heard very good things about Brian's - then again it's May, and New Hope/Lambertville is a 'bear' to find parking and it will be jammed come nice weather on a warm/good weather weekend. Matt's Red Rooster -- with one look at the menu telling me it's more your standard steak and chop house than New American - looking at the regular menu, there's nothing that I would want to open a good bottle of PN for.

                1. re: madgreek99

                  Imho, Matt's is no longer what it was. We stopped going a couple of years ago because the steaks were pretty ordinary. I think it had more to do with the quality of meat used by the restaurant than with the cooking.

                  Do agree about Brian's and D'floret. Would still choose the BB over either one however.