Awards do not come easily in the restaurant business. Michelin, AAA and Forbes tell us who the best is (and Wine Spectator when it comes to vino), and there are only a select few of local establishments that make the esteemed cut. The Bernards Inn is in rare company, as it is the only restaurant in New Jersey that has made the Forbes list of the top restaurants in the United States. AAA counts just 11 restaurants in its Four-Diamond rating in our state. While you may hear that trophies are handed out just for showing up, it’s clearly not the case when it comes to dining. We’ve spotlighted three of the state’s top restaurants here for the next time you need to book a table to impress.
Nestled within Crystal Springs Resort, Restauraunt Latour is elegance personified. While its sophisticated food is worth the drive alone, the wine list is unmatched. “Outside of New York City, Restaurant Latour is the best dining experience in the New York Metro area with a once-in-a-lifetime wine cellar experience and evolving culinary programming,” says chef Anthony Bucco, director of food and beverage.
Restaurant Latour has been a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner since 2006, and in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Wine Enthusiast named it one of the 100 Best Wine Restaurants in the United States. “Restaurant Latour combines the luxury of contemporary dining, an amazing wine cellar and attentive service. No restaurant in our market can match it at such a high level on all three,” says Bucco.
While the restaurant is a favorite for guests celebrating special occasions, it is perfectly suited to groups as well. Larger groups can do a buyout for up to 36 guests and there are two rooms for private events in its Wine Cellar: Bordeaux room for up to 26 guests and Grand Cru room for up to 10 guests. “Our Wine Cellar, rich in history and ultraprivate, is the perfect backdrop for a business meeting or social event,” says Bucco.
Bucco adds that groups respond most to the attentive service, noting, “our service is what leaves the lasting impression. In the end that’s what’s really important, after the luxury has been consumed, the hospitality continues!”
The Pluckemin Inn’s country charm is proof that award-winning restaurants need not have a Miami-inspired design to match their haute cuisine. This Bedminster AAA Four-Diamond winner also bears an awardwinning wine list. “While we are known for creative seasonal food and attentive service, we are mostly known for our incredible wine selection,” says Tal Itzhaki, director of operations. “We are one of only 80 restaurants awarded the Grand Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator (since 2011). With over 10,000 bottles of wine stored in our temperaturecontrolled wine cellar and 30,000 more bottles in our on-premise storage facility (temperature controlled as well), there is a wine for every palate and every budget,” he adds.
Pluckemin Inn is also well-versed in private dining. “Private dining is a big part of our business. We hold over 350 private events a year for groups as small as 10 guests and as large as 60,” says Itzhaki. Pluckemin Inn has two private rooms in the wine cellar that can hold parties from 10 to 20 guests. The second-floor dining room accommodates groups of up to 45 guests for cocktails. The main dining room is also available for partial or full buyouts, handling groups of up to 64 guests. “Everything we do here is done with our guests in mind. While we are very proud of every award we have received throughout the years, what makes us most proud and satisfied is seeing our guests come back to dine with us again and again.”
Many restaurants claim they offer farm-totable cuisine, but how many can claim they are a table at the farm? Ninety Acres, part of the Natirar estate in Peapack-Gladstone, does just that. This award-winning restaurant is the brainchild of Bob Wojtowicz, the man behind the restoration and expansion of Natirar.
Ninety Acres has been making a name for itself for seven years. The restaurant is housed in the estate’s former carriage house and garage and has been shined to a polish. The handsome interior is elegant without any pretense and the details—from the wood sculptures crafted from trees taken down to restore the mansion to the handcrafted long table in the Cognac Room (available for private dining and meetings for 20 people seated)— are worth the second glance.
“From May to Thanksgiving, everything on the menu comes from the farm,” says Wojtowicz. The farm is located on the 12 acres surrounding the restaurant and serves as a lovely backdrop. Guests are invited to use Ninety Acres as they would their own home. With a kitchen available for cooking classes and demonstrations and a wine school, many groups choose to spend an entire day here. “We have many groups come for a half-day meeting, then a half-day cooking class,” adds Wojtowicz, who notes that the cooking school’s room capacity is 40. Space is limited to 12 for hands-on workshops and 20 for interactive demonstrations.
As for Ninety Acres success, Wojtowicz thinks it’s about the whole experience. “It’s not any one thing. We work really hard to keep it beautiful. The food and menu changes often and is high quality, and our staff is very friendly. It’s the combination that makes it work so well.”