Refined New American Favorites at the County Seat in Newton

The atmosphere may need updating, but the food is on par with any fine-dining experience around.

Seared Scallops with corn and crab hash. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

Until the current chef/owner purchased the County Seat in Newton—indeed the County Seat of Sussex County—about 10 years ago, it was primarily a watering hole where locals could get standard bar fare with their drinks. When the long-standing establishment changed hands, the large bar was dramatically down-sized and the menu was very much upscaled.

Despite the physical renovations to the 66-seat dining room, the décor still borders on shabby, and not in a chic way, but the kitchen continues to deliver a wide range of dishes made with top-quality ingredients in complex and creative ways.

Avocado toast with shrimp, lobster and smoked salmon. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

With 20 entrees and a dozen weekly specials on the menu, there is something that will please nearly every palate, including the additional salad and sandwich items. On a weeknight visit, there was only one friendly waitress who also served as the bartender, so we had plenty of time to peruse the various options.

From the many appetizers, we were tempted by the tomato bruschetta made with gorgonzola or grilled octopus served with tomatoes, olives, hot peppers and Manchego cheese. Instead, we opted for the special avocado toast, which featured three thick and crispy slices of bread slathered thickly with mashed avocado. One was topped with a large juicy shrimp, another with plump lobster claw meat and the last with generous slices of smoked salmon.

The main course listing left us equally torn with an Oscar filet mignon topped with crabmeat, and the ginger-glazed, rice paper-wrapped salmon, both sounding wonderful, but we went for the falling-off-the-bone braised lamb shank nestled in super creamy mashed potatoes and a pool of lightly salty rosemary au jus, and a special of pan-roasted diver scallops, offering four big and bronzed scallops in lobster cream sauce over sweet potato corn hash with big lumps of crabmeat. The combination of sweet and salty was perfectly delicious, but the crab was too cold in comparison to the rest of the piping hot dish.

Lamb shank. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

Even the desserts are freshly made and interesting. We expected a cold slice of sweetness from the pecan-bourbon gateau, but instead we were pleasantly surprised by an individual light and airy molded cake, served warm with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Although the staffing was minimal, our server never missed a beat throughout the satisfying meal.

The atmosphere at the County Seat could use some serious updating, but the food is on par with, if not above, the norm at any fine-dining restaurant around.

The County Seat, 64 Water Street, Newton, 973-383-0235. Open Monday 4-9:30 pm, Tuesday-Thursday 11:30 am – 9:30 pm, Friday – Saturday 11:30 am – 10 pm.

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  1. Don Thomas

    Good review. We are regulars at the County Seat, and agree that the biggest challenge is always deciding what to have! Owners Chef Roger and Tracey are absolutely dialed in on their menu selections, which are always a delight.

  2. Maureen Snellen

    Been visiting The County Seat for over 30 years always a fun place. The food has always been good but now it’s definitely top shelf. Hardest thing to do is decide what to have when everything looks so good. I’m there several times a month and always enjoy. Highly recommend to anyone traveling through Newton to stop in.