—The historic former home of the decades-old Memphis Pig Out in Atlantic Highlands has finally completed its long-awaited transformation into the Atlantic House. The space was purchased by Marilyn Crocker and her kids Richard Crocker and Katherine Crocker-Lange and has been completely refurbished and reopened, with a European-influenced, local, seasonal, modern menu and craft cocktails. The renovation took longer than expected—close to two years, but the restaurant quietly opened its rooftop on June 26. Now fully open, the space is lighter and more open than Memphis Pig Out, with natural, nautical slate-blue tones, exposed original brick walls and wooden beams from the more than century-old building, and additional windows filling the restaurant’s two floors with natural light and salt air from Sandy Hook Bay. The restaurant’s executive chef is Brendan Neville, a Warwick, New York, native who graduated Johnson & Wales and cooked at restaurants such as Mulberry and Vine and, most recently, Cooper’s Craft and Kitchen, both in New York City. In addition to influences of season, local produce and sea, expect a few distinctly British touches like a Scotch egg appetizer and fish and chips—owner Marilyn Crocker is originally from England. Richard Crocker had formerly been involved in restaurant partnerships, including Hudson Hall in Jersey City and Asbury Festhalle and Biergarten in Asbury Park. The restaurant is closed Mondays and does not currently accept reservations. The Atlantic House, 67 First Avenue, Atlantic Highlands; 732-865-9400
—If New Jersey tends to prefer pizza in one establishment and health food options in another, Healthy Garden & Gourmet Pizza is the exception. Last Friday, the mini-chain opened by the Michnik family over a decade ago opened a fourth location, in Collingswood (adding to Voorhees, Moorestown and Piscataway). If you’re not sure organic/healthy belongs in the same sentence (or menu) as pizza and burgers, Healthy Garden wants to convince you: the menu goes from breakfast options like an organic avocado egg sandwich and keto-friendly low carb platter to penne vodka, a Garden Beauty salad, gluten-free spinach flatbread and (of course) pizza, which comes any way from Rustica to Heart Healthy Veggies to The Works, because this is Jersey, after all. They also offer a monthly juice program. Open from 9am to 9pm. Healthy Garden & Gourmet Pizza, 747 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood; 856-477-2227
In the Works:
—It’s still a ways out, but a proposed five-story restaurant and banquet hall just south of the Mantoloking Bridge recently cleared a massive hurdle with the Brick Township Board of Adjustment, which ruled that banquet halls are permissible on the site. The proposed 78-foot tall space would overlook Barnegat Bay, with 45,000 square feet comprising a restaurant on the first and second floors and banquet halls on the top three floors. The project’s main backers are banquet hall developers, but among them is Chip Grabowski, who has over a dozen restaurants in New Jersey through Harvest Group.
The board’s approval is just one step in several for the developers. They still need approval to double the maximum height typically allowed for that site as well as a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection. Objections to the project included concerns over traffic, run-off that could pollute the bay, and the aesthetic impact of such an imposing building on the bay area. No address yet, Brick.
—Turns out it took Oprah to get a True Food Kitchen in New Jersey. OK, that’s not entirely true. But Oprah Winfrey did recently invest in True Food Kitchen and the Arizona-based, anti-inflammatory health-food-focused restaurant founded by Dr. Andrew Weil; and True Food is finally expanding into the Garden State, specifically as part of the renovation of the Shops at Riverside Square, Hackensack. The opening date isn’t until spring of next year, so no word yet on whether Oprah will cut the ribbon herself. True Food Kitchen, The Shops at Riverside Square, 390 Hackensack Avenue, Hackensack; no phone yet.
—Legal Seafoods at the Mall at Short Hills is taking a summer vacation of its own. As of early this month, the location, which opened in 2003, closed for a serious renovation and makeover. There’s no exact reopening date yet, but the restaurant website says late August. As for the new look, expect a nautically-inspired vibe with sleeker contours and sharp lines, but plenty of natural tones and delicate grace notes to keep things light and airy. Legal Seafoods, 1200 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills; 973-467-0089
*As The Record‘s Esther Davidowitz reported on Monday, The Twisted Elm in Elmwood park has suddenly closed. The restaurant, which opened in 2011, was an early proponent of the gastropub style in the state. Not much is known about the reason for the restaurant’s sudden closure, though as Davidowitz reported, chef David Morales himself was told only last Thursday by Twisted Elm owner Jimmy Rogers. Morales, who’d been cooking at Twisted Elm for three years, took to Instagram to bid a formal, if frustrated, farewell shortly after hearing the news. It apparently caught him by surprise: that same day he’d just posted a photo of a stuffed pork rack with the hashtags #twistedelm and #supportnjlocals. The Twisted Elm, 435 River Drive, Elmwood Park.Click here to leave a comment