It’s the season of food and gratitude, yes, but meaningful mealtime is something else entirely at Stirling Tavern in Morristown, where a monthly “Community Supper” has been held ever since the restaurant opened in late 2016. The Stirling Tavern is an off-shoot of the Baldassarre family-run Stirling House, and their Community Supper is a continuation of a tradition borrowed from the original. Each month, a portion of the proceeds from one dinner service is donated to a local charity. The next one is scheduled for December 2, benefiting Morristown’s Nourish NJ (formerly known as the Community Soup Kitchen and Outreach Center).
It’s really as simple as that—and easily replicated, meaning any restaurant looking to integrate into their communities and build meaningful local connections, should pay attention. Not only is it a simple model—“carefree charity” from a logistical/staff perspective—but it’s super easy on customers. “Whether you know it or not, if you’re dining with us that night, you’re being charitable,” says Stirling Tavern general manager Nick Casino.We caught up with Casino—right in the midst of holiday prep—to ask about the dinners, their format, and the impact on the community, and the restaurant. (Spoiler alert: like with any good deed, it benefits the giver, too.)
Table Hopping: When did the Community Supper program begin?
Nick Casino: The Stirling Hotel has been doing Community Suppers for years and years… We just continued that here. Being a small family-owned business, anytime the Morristown community at large can benefit, that’s a benefit to us.
TH: What’s the basic template for the supper?
NC: Community Supper is the first Monday of every month, the entirety of dinner that evening. We’ll pick a different local charity for each one. And then basically that evening, if people want to come in and donate they can, but no matter what, a portion of the dinner proceeds that night go towards the charity.
TH: So it’s not something a diner has to choose to participate in?
NC: Exactly. Regardless of whether you know or just come to dinner, if you come in and eat, a portion are going to go to the charity of choice for that evening.
TH: How do you pick the organizations?
NC: We have lots of people that reach out to us to do various events, actually, not just Community Supper. So we’ll learn about them that way.
TH: What are some charities you’ve worked with?
NC: We’ve done Homeless Solutions, Christmas is for Children, Sustainable Morristown, Morris Habitat for Humanity, we’ve done the Seeing Eye, which trains seeing eye dogs. One of our employees, Steve, works with the New Jersey South Hills Pet Rescue, so we did something for them. We’ve done the United Way Jersey Battered Women’s Services, Community in Crisis, which deals with drug and opioid addiction, and Good Grief, which is just around the corner from us, and they help families—mainly children—deal with a death or loss.
TH: Is “around the corner” the idea? Does that help create relationships with more of an interactive dynamic?
NC: We try to do local organizations. I don’t want to say we “stay away from” national charities, but we do prefer something that’s local and more grassroots. You can see the effects more easily. Good Grief, for example, started out as a Community Supper and now, based off that, they come in every few months and host a little support group every few months in our small private group. We like really integrating, building relationships in the community like that.
TH: Would New Jersey be the limit, then?
NC: We try to stay even more local than even just New Jersey, closer to Morristown, Morris County, the North Jersey area. Though we’ve done Community Food Bank and stuff like that for sure.
TH: What about the night of? Is the menu the same? The service?
NC: We don’t do any specials or anything. This is our regular dining menu. We’ll mention it in a blurb on the menu and have our servers mention it. We’ll see if a diner is interested in donating out of pocket. A lot of people involved with the charity will come in for dinner on those nights. And the community does get excited for them.
TH: But even if you’re not aware, you’re contributing—that’s part of the beauty of it, a sort of psychologically relaxed charitable initiative?
NC: Yes! Regardless of whether you know it’s happening or not, a portion of your check is going towards the charity. You’re charitable, whether you like it or not!
TH: All you have to do is eat, then?
NC: Eat a lot! Yes, please! Eat and drink plenty!
Your next opportunity to eat and drink plenty for a good cause is Monday, December 2, when the Community Supper will support Nourish NJ. According to Casino, Stirling Tavern has it Community Suppers booked up through the Spring of 2020. Stirling Tavern, 150 South Street, Morristown; 973-993-8066Click here to leave a comment