Chesapeake Tavern: A Beloved Restaurant in an Historic Building

In 2017, owner Keith Holmes brought the Long Valley seafood spot back to life in its original home.

Calamari at Chesapeake Tavern. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

Sitting at the bar at Chesapeake Tavern in Long Valley, I overheard someone say that George Washington had once stayed there. Although the charming structure with its striped awning covered windows and wrap-around porch dates back to the 1780s, there seems to be no documented evidence of our founding father’s visit, though Albert Einstein was a regular at the establishment’s Sunday chicken dinners in the 1930s.

The little blink-and-you-will-miss-it burg in western Morris County boasts a number of well-preserved pre- and post-Revolutionary War era homes and buildings, as well as stone ruins from a time when it was called German Valley, before the anti-German sentiments of World War I caused the village to change its name. The Tavern itself was known for over a hundred years as the German Hotel before a long tenure as the Long Valley Inn.

Current owner Keith Holmes also has some history at the locale. Back in the 1980s, when it was called the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Company, he worked as the general manager, and executive chef Anthony Theesfeld started his career there as a dishwasher when still a teenager. Holmes previously owned Redwoods, a few miles down the road, and currently owns and operates St. Moritz in Sparta. When the location became available, he jumped at the chance to bring Chesapeake back to life with a lovely renovation that includes original woodwork and a soothing taupe color scheme. And in July 2017, he re-opened it as the Chesapeake Tavern.

The chef’s three-course tasting menu, available Monday through Thursday, is a nice deal at $24.99. The half-price bottles of wine on Thursdays, from the selection of several dozen, is another bargain, but we opted for a cocktail special called Pineapple Express, an interesting and refreshing mix of super smoky mezcal, pineapple juice, agave and cilantro, while waiting for our table.

"Seriously 'Best Salad' Ever" at Chesapeake Tavern. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery
Shrimp and grits. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery
Key lime pie. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

The corn meal and Grana cheese dusted fried calamari was our favorite appetizer, served with both chipotle aioli and a spicy pineapple mango chutney. We also ordered the Seriously Best Salad Ever, but found that even topped generously with crabmeat and a delicious truffled vinaigrette, the name did not live up to its claim. The salad’s frisée and kale were tough, the sunny side egg overdone and the bacon lardons chewy.

On the upside, the jumbo shrimp and cheesy grits were a perfect balance of flavors and textures, combining the rich buttery sauce with salty and smoky andouille sausage, earthy green onions and juicy bits of tomato. Those looking to customize their own mix of tastes will love the “Create Your Own Entrée” section of the menu, which offers tuna, salmon, shrimp, scallops, cod or chicken breast with scampi, lemon butter or chimichurri sauce.

Key lime pie seemed to be the perfect choice for a post-seafood palate cleanser, and we weren’t disappointed by the smooth tangy custard topped with blueberry sauce and fresh whipped cream.

Chesapeake Tavern may be a good distance from any body of salty water, but with super friendly service and an array of fresh fish and seafood, it’s a great option for those who are landlocked.

Chesapeake Tavern, 1 West Mill Road, Long Valley, 908-867-7102. Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Thursday 11:30 am-9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am-10pm and Sunday 12 pm-8:30 pm.

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