The new Office Tavern Grill, which opened in Morristown last June, replacing and upgrading what for years had been The Office Beer Bar & Grill (click here for the related story), serves flatbreads. It does not serve pizzas. Why? “People’s idea of pizza is pretty set,” Kevin Felice, executive chef of 40 North, the group that owns the seven Office restaurants, told me after my visits. “We wanted to leave the window open to be more creative. And the flatbreads are not a true pizza shape; they’re rectangular.”
What he didn’t say is that the flatbreads are flat-out terrific. The Margherita is a pizza manqué, but the sausage and stout (Italian sausage, chorizo, Shropshire English blue cheese and stout-braised onions) is imaginative (Shropshire blue? I love it, but have never seen it on a pizza or flatbread) and irresistible. So is much of the Tavern Grill’s new menu, carefully plotted to please the palates (and wallets) of young men and women on the rise.
That means, for one thing, serious salads made with greens of splendid quality. There isn’t a slacker among the six choices at dinner (seven at lunch). You can add chicken, shrimp, chimichurri skirt steak or salmon to any of them, but most make a nice, light meal on their own. Don’t scoff at the baby kale salad just because it’s über-trendy. With dried cranberries, toasted almonds, orange sections, parmesan and apple-cider vinaigrette, it’s a $9 winner. I marveled at the quality of the tuna in the sashimi ahi tuna salad, the edges seared and rolled in black sesame seeds, the insides ruby red.
I could write a story just about the months-long process Felice went through to get the burger right, cycling through many blends, grinds and buns before settling on 100 percent chuck for its beefiness and a soft brioche bun. Suffice it to say, mission accomplished.
A pub needs fun nibbles, and the TG has ’em. To name two: outrageous sweet potato nachos piled with melted white cheddar, onion fritters, green chilies and pulled pork with crema and apple-butter barbecue sauce ($11), or six-to-an-order deviled eggs with ginger beer and stone-ground mustard whipped into the creamy yolks, topped with bits of crispy pork belly ($8). Who could refuse? Not I.
Belgian mussels ($12) were a split decision. Excellent frites, small but fresh mussels, but a stout broth harshened by large whole garlic cloves, virtually raw.
With many tiny temptations to choose from, it’s easy to overlook entrées, but they deserve a look. I ordered the seared Atlantic salmon medium rare, and that’s how the very fresh fillet was cooked. The dish came with roasted corn, roasted red pepper and Brussels sprouts. The corn was decidedly dense and chewy. Fresh corn in late October? Probably not.
Felice said he considers his chicken and waffles a signature dish, but the boneless meat (essentially extra-long nuggets) was bone dry, the waffle dull and dense. Stout-braised short ribs were not as tender as the best chefs have led us to expect. But a $22 special of hop-braised lamb shank over cheddar grits was a huge, tender, total treat. A cheddar-and-ale soup special was tilt-the-bowl stellar. Both were on the Wisconsin leg of an innovative specials menu the TG calls Road Trip USA. Every month, the list honors a different state and includes beers from that state. Fun idea. Can’t wait for South Dakota!
Sadly, maple doughnuts were dense (seems to be a pattern), chocolate cake adolescently sweet. But the TG makes a good root beer float, using Saranac root beer and Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
The TG has spirit, both on the plate and everywhere you look. In quality as well as quantity, you get a lot for not a lot of money. How many places can you say that about these days?Click here to leave a comment