Chef Christine Nunn to Open Two New Restaurants Late This Summer

The former executive chef of Picnic and Picnic on the Square will oversee the reinvention of Fairy Tale Forest's restaurant and another eatery in Hawthorne.

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We’re happy to say Christine Nunn is back on our radar. Executive chef of two former New Jersey Monthly Top 25 restaurants (Picnic in Fair Lawn and later Picnic on the Square, both now closed), Nunn has two restaurants slated to open late this summer. She says they will be “as opposite as could be.”

The first, which she expects to open by Labor Day, is attached to a project two years in the making: the reopening of Fairy Tale Forest, a small roadside fairy-tale theme park in Oak Ridge originally opened in 1957 by German Immigrant Paul Woehle. It has life-size gingerbread houses, a giant pumpkin and small cottages styled after stories from Woehle’s childhood, such as Pinocchio, Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella. The park closed in 2005 but renovation has been underway, led by Woehle’s granddaughter, Christine Vander Ploeg.

Nunn will oversee a reinvention of the park’s former restaurant, a building on the grounds that had been “a million little incarnations of a hot dog stand, really just blank space,” she says. With Nunn as executive chef, the space will be a restaurant proper, which Nunn and Vander Ploeg have aptly named Fables. No tickets to the park are required to get into the restaurant.

“The space is going to be very whimsical, with a copper ceiling,” says Nunn, who’s working on some interior design elements herself while the park team handles the overall design. “I’ve been scouring tag sales, searching for whimsical mismatched chairs, tables, silverware. It’s going to be really eclectic.” As for the menu, Nunn finds herself in slightly new territory. “It’s kind of New American,” she says. “It’s out of my norm, a bit family friendly and super healthy. But it’s still gonna have some of my signature…less healthy touches,” she jokes. “There are going to be some cool bowls, salad options.”

In her supervisory role, she will bring back her duck—“slow-roasted Long Island duck with a really cool [seasonally varying] gastrique”—and her signature lobster roll, which Fable will serve Fridays and Saturdays. “I built my career on that lobster roll!” Diners can balance indulgent choices with an organic juice bar. “I’ll be using those juices to make all different kinds of sauces,” Nunn says. “There’ll be a lot of sweet-savory going on.”

For her second supervisory project, Nunn will be executive chef of an as-yet-unnamed eatery set to open in late August in Hawthorne. She describes its menu as “crazy plays on Irish pub food, using a lot of French technique and a lot of real American ingredients.” Think Shepherd’s Pie with braised lamb shank, or her play on Irish bangers, the “Banger Burger,” loaded with “Irish bacon, poached egg, and HP hollandaise sauce.”

Nunn promises “healthy options,” but it might be hard to resist what she calls “Irish Poutine”—crispy fries drenched in slow-cooked baked beans, crisp pork belly, Dubliner cheese and tangy Irish mustard.

The drinks menu will be large. “I don’t like when Kendall Jackson is my only option,” Nunn says. “There’s going to be a really good beer program and wine program.” All of it can be enjoyed either at the 45-seat bar or in one of the three dining rooms, all done in classic pub style with dark wood. One room will have a stage for live music.

Nunn is still in the process of interviewing head chefs for both restaurants, but she says she plans to spend three nights a week in the kitchen at each location.

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