Dining Discovery: Kingwood Tavern

This new pub in rural Hunterdon County brings fresh ideas and flavors to familiar food, and adds notable wine and cocktails.

Mini-chicken and waffles at the new Kingwood Tavern in Kingwood, Hunterdon County, New Jersey
Chicken and waffles at Kingwood Tavern.
Photo: Andrea Clurfeld

In the semi-private side room of a rural roadhouse in Kingwood, Hunterdon County, sit a dozen members of a “pub club.”

They are here at Kingwood Tavern, our server whispers, because this is what they do: Visit cool taverns.

Actually, Kingwood Tavern isn’t cool, and that’s its beauty. Opened last year by Ben Rosenthal, who has a background in the beverage industry, it’s about mostly humble food given a bit of flourish; a wine list that’s quietly trendy; a Manhattan that’s perfect; a setting that’s simple, yet evocative; and a scene that welcomes locals as well as those who can find the place by navigating less-traveled roads out of Lambertville, Frenchtown and Flemington to this spot on Route 519.

Upon arrival, most grab a three-for-$10 platter of bar snacks. Choose from six options. We went with deviled eggs, finished with a slice of jalapeno; fried pickles, not a smidgen oily; and Brussels sprouts flecked with bacon, and were quite pleased. They went well with a small-bubbles Cremant de Limoux from Côté Mas in the Languedoc region of France.

When Rosenthal popped by our booth to share his philosophy of a desirably eclectic wine list (under the Full and Round section of the white list, there was a 2014 Gai’a Assyrtiko Wild Ferment from Santorini, Greece, a sweet deal at $40), we felt like instant insiders.

Meanwhile, tucked inside the mini waffles were slabs of chicken, waiting to be dunked into sriracha maple syrup. Heat-and-sweet ratchets up so many Southern favorites, don’t they? A trio of porks–ground pork, pork roll, pork paté–lapped up the sriracha aioli in a Vietnamese Po’ Boy on a baguette with pickled vegetables, cooling cukes and a carrot-and-jicama slaw. It was another slightly tweaked classic from chef Peter Van Antwerp, and it was lip-smacking good.

Vietnamese Po' Boy at Kingwood Tavern in Kingwood, Hunterdon County, New Jersey.

Vietnamese Po’ Boy at Kingwood Tavern. Photo: Andrea Clurfeld

So was a special salad of sushi-grade salmon barely seared and served on more of that quenching slaw with a faintly tart take on a chutney. Who wouldn’t want this for dinner at their neighborhood joint?

There are daily dinner-entrée specials: Thursday is prime rib night; Friday, surf or turf, with seafood or beef choices that change weekly; Saturday, smoked brisket; Sunday, “grandma’s” spaghetti. There’s a checkerboard of a ceiling directly above the busy bar and a honeycomb tile floor. Are you charmed yet?

Thought so. And you haven’t yet introduced your friends to the Kingwood Manhattan. Be polite; don’t gloat.

Kingwood Tavern, 650 Route 519, Kingwood. 908-777-5000. Open daily, except Mondays, for dinner. Sunday supper starts at noon.

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