Morristown, NJ hosted their annual Restaurant Week a few weeks back. Many of the eateries in town participated however; the structure was a bit different then you would see at the NYC Restaurant Week. The New York event highlights a pre-fixed menu that is the same price at every restaurant. The perk of this format is that the more exclusive restaurants you may not typically be able to afford suddenly become attainable attractions. The downfall is that you may be overpaying at some of the more moderately priced establishments.
Morristown took a different approach. Every participating restaurant provided a deal whether it was 10% off a meal, a free dessert, a pre-fixed menu, etc. This format also comes with its pros and cons. Morristown’s Restaurant Week also included deals for wine shops and casual style dining restaurants. Good deal or not, I used this week as an excuse to get out and try new places in town that I had not been to. I made a list of restaurants I wanted to experience and based on their “deal” I made my selections. First up would be Washington St. Bistro.
Washington St. Bistro has been open for about a year now. I hadn’t heard too much about the restaurant but their pre-fixe Restaurant Week menu caught my eye. Their self-proclaimed meal inspirations are “colonial faire”. Comfort food selections like meatloaf, cassoulet and roasted chicken are featured on their short listed bill of fare.
Upon entering the restaurant you get a feeling of warmth. The room and décor were simplistic but; it fits the concept. The dining room was small; serving only about 12 tables. There was also a large chalkboard displaying the nightly specials on the center back wall.
Once we sat down our soon to be waitress dropped by our table. She politely informed us that she was the only waitress on staff and apologized in advance for any delayed service. There were 7 occupied tables in the restaurant and most of us had walked in within a few minutes of each other. As a former waitress I know things can get hectic however, I really appreciated her giving us that heads up. It did take quite a while for us to get the evening started. We waited for 10-15 minutes before water was poured and our drinks were ordered. The wait spanned another half an hour before our appetizers came out but after that our main dish was not too far behind. Had the waitress not provided us with an advanced apology I would most likely have been a little disgruntled.
The food was well worth the wait. It was American cuisine with a very down to earth, homey, feel to it. I felt like it was “mom’s cooking” but elevated. My other favorite part of their menu was the fact that everything was labeled whether it was gluten free or not (Hooray for another gluten free friendly restaurant!). More than half the menu was gluten free including my main course selection that featured orecchietti pasta (double hooray for fun shaped gluten free pasta!).
I do need to backtrack for 1 minute to get back to the Restaurant Week portion of the night. Washington St. Bistro had a tempting pre-fixe menu as their deal for the week. The only problem was that their regular menu had even more appealing options. There was a very slight difference in price but it was not enough to hold me back from getting what I truly wanted on the menu. So I forwent the Restaurant Week deal for the regular menu.
The restaurant is a BYOB establishment however; they do offer some fun non-alcoholic options. You can choose from some of their old-time soda’s (I opted for some good old root beer), warm or chilled apple cider, or fresh brewed iced teas.
I started off my meal with a wilted kale and brussel sprouts salad. It was served warm with thick slab cut bacon and hazelnuts. It was dressed very mildly and could have used something with a bit of acidity but other than that the salad was delicious.
For my main course I selected the orecchiette with duck confit, honey roasted squash, spinach, walnuts, and a truffle scented duck jus. The flavors of this dish were best described as, “Fall” in a bowl. The savory components were topped with a duck jus which was reminiscent of gravy. I was mopping up this sauce with my duck and pasta to try not to waste any.
My boyfriend got the grilled maple chipolte glazed pork chop with smoked Gouda grits. The grits were to.die.for! They were dense with a smoky flavor that really hit you and of course… gooey cheesy goodness. I found myself reaching across the table to continuously steal bites of these. The pork chop was simple, not smothered or topped but the humble seasoning really highlighted the juicy and succulent meat.
We were both too stuffed to indulge in any dessert however, we were informed that all but one were made in house. This will definitely be something I will need to make room for on my next visit. The one other thing I would love to see is a Spring/Summer menu at Washington St. Bistro. The dishes that were offered were clearly more hearty, stick to your ribs, type meals and it highlighted a lot of Fall/Winter seasonal produce. I can only imagine what this restaurant will do with the vibrant Spring vegetables coming into season.
Experiences like this one are why I love Restaurant Week. It encouraged me to eat outside of my regular spots and find a new one to add to the list.
…all for the love of the dish