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History Lesson: Where Thoroughly Modern Fare Is Served in Traditional Atmospheres

The next time you dine at your favorite restaurant, take comfort in the fact that what you're served is neither calves' head soup nor ox heart.

Not so for General George Washington, who may have eaten this typical colonial fare during rest stops in New Jersey throughout the Revolutionary War.

"From day one, New Jersey has been a multicultural state, a microcosm of the country," says James Lewis, reference librarian at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark. "During the Revolution, this state was literally the breadbasket of the 13 colonies. Our farmers provided the bulk of the wheat, rye and oats to make bread, thus making New Jersey invaluable."

A large part of the Revolutionary War was fought on the battlefields of New Jersey. Many historians cite Washington's triumph over the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton as a victory that changed the tide of the war.

New Jersey can also take pride in the venerable inns and eateries that have endured over the years. Despite renovations and architectural updates, one can still experience a sense of history while dining on contemporary fare. Here is a sampling of these landmarks spanning the 17th to 20th centuries.

  • Stage Left, 1924; 5 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick (732) 828-4444
    Chef Anthony Bucco's stylish, market-driven American cuisine includes such dishes as pan-seared halibut with dumplings and pea greens in a citrus beurre blanc and pistachio-studded chicken breast with heirloom squash and arugula in a pistachio pesto. "We are very careful to find wholesome, exceedingly flavorful ingredients and to handle them in such a way that they speak for themselves," says Bucco.

    Stage Left opened in 1992 in one of the ground floor storefronts of a historic 1924 two- story building. The original masonry ground floor facade has been replaced by shimmering oak French doors. The elaborate architectural detail on the second level remains intact.

    Over the years, the perennially popular Stage Left has grown to occupy three of the four refurbished ground floor storefronts. The owners are in the process of opening a new restaurant that will occupy the entire second floor.
  • Bloomfield Steak and Seafood House, 1670; 409 Franklin St., Bloomfield (973) 680-4500
  • The Black Horse Tavern & Pub, 1742; One West Main St., Mendham (973) 543-7300
  • The Cranbury Inn, mid-1700's; 21 South Main St., Cranbury, (609) 655-5595
  • Grain House Restaurant at the Olde Mill Inn, 1768; 225 Route 202, Basking Ridge (908) 221-1150
  • The Inn at Millrace Pond, c. 1769; 313 Johnsonburg Rd., (off Route 519), Hope, (908) 459-4884; (800) 7-INN-HOPE
  • The Ebbitt Room, the Virginia Hotel, 1879; 25 Jackson St., Cape May (609) 884-5700

Stage Left | 5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 | T: 732.828.4444
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