Horseneck Tavern: Colonial Name, Modern Food

Horseneck Tavern in North Caldwell was named for a 14,000-acre parcel of land that Newark settlers bought from the local Lenape tribe in 1702. The tract was shaped, as you might guess, like a horse’s neck. Entering the tavern, which opened in the fall of 2016, you might expect a rustic colonial look, but in fact the style is distinctly modern in décor and menu.

We were seated promptly at one of the striking, curved cherry-red leather banquettes and were handed a printed list of specials. A server quickly offered us choices from a basket of house-made breads. These were fresh and good, but would have benefited from warming.

Horseneck offers 10 red wines and 10 white wines by the glass and a larger number of bottles. There are six draft beers, about twice that number of bottles or cans, including a gluten-free and a non-alcoholic beer and a hard cider. There are 10 signature cocktails. It also offers flights of wine, bourbon, scotch and American whiskies. On the first page of the drinks menu one reads…

“If you ride with Uber, your first two drinks are 50% off! We offer Military and Civil Service discounts.”

 First courses are so generous they could easily make a meal. Beer-battered grouper comprised six fingers of tender fish and a pile of crunchy shoestring fries.

Fried grouper at Horseneck Tavern in North Caldwell, New Jersey.

Fried grouper

A tender, oversized beef meatball, served on silky potatoes with a red wine sauce, arrived cut in half to reveal Fontina cheese oozing from the center. The dish delivered an alluring balance of flavors and textures.
Fontina-stuffed meatball at Horseneck Tavern in North Caldwell, New Jersey.

Fontina-stuffed meatball

A choice of lighter little snacks included marinated olives, spiced almonds and pickled cucumber.

The staff was eager to please, yet did not smother us. They gladly agreed to substitute cavatelli pasta for the gnocchi usually served with the lamb Bolognese. The dish was topped with black-pepper ricotta, which offset the earthy flavor of the lamb. Overall, however, it needed more sauce.

Lamb Bolognese with cavatelli at Horseneck Tavern in North Caldwell, New Jersey

Lamb Bolognese

Other main courses range from a burger to lobster pot pie and a 40-day, dry-aged ribeye steak priced by the ounce.

For dessert we had bread pudding, a special. It was served cool and unfortunately gelatinous, making us wish we had gone with the root beer float with sassafras gelato, served with what was billed as a warm chocolate chip cookie.

Horseneck Tavern, 11 Bloomfield Avenue, North Caldwell, 973-287-6850, Open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, lunch Saturday and Sunday.

Photos: Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

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