Not many people are up for the challenge that comes with restoring historic buildings, but Chris Cannon is definitely not your average person. This well-known restaurateur is responsible for some of Manhattan’s top restaurants (Marea, Palio, L’Impero, Convivio and Alto). Cannon is also a resident of New Jersey, so when the historic Vail Mansion in Morristown became available, he knew it was time to embark on his next project a little closer to home.
The grand Vail Mansion, set right on the main street in Morristown, was built between 1916 and 1918 for Thomas Vail, the president of AT&T. The Italian Renaissance palazzo-style mansion was intended as a private residence upstairs and a museum for his extensive art collection downstairs, but he tragically died before he was able to move in. His family sold the building to the town of Morristown and it functioned as a municipal building for many years until Cannon’s purchase and subsequent three-year renovation (downstairs you can still see the holding cells).
And what a renovation it is…the traditional exterior belies the handsome, modern interiors. Divided into three unique spaces, Jockey Hollow Bar & Restaurant offers a different approach to dining. The first floor is home to The Oyster & Wine Bar, where the menu focuses on a raw bar with oysters, clams, shellfish and composed crudo dishes, plus a full selection of house-made charcuterie and artisanal cheeses. The large copper communal table is front and center, with banquette seating lining the perimeters. This room seats 10-14 and can be reserved for private events with advance notice.
Also located on the first floor is the 1920s-style Vail Bar, where a glamorous style (think red leather couches and intimate tables) rules. The original fireplace hints at the past, while an original piece of video art hangs above and brings patrons to the present. Gorgeous details – gleaming wood bar, stunning floors – are everywhere. The Vail Bar is manned by NJ’s celebrity mixologist Christopher James.
Next, climb the grand staircase to the Dining Room, the centerpiece of Jockey Hollow. The dining room, split into two smaller rooms and one large central room, is located in what was intended to be the master bedroom for Mr. Vail (the two smaller rooms were the his and hers bedrooms, common during that time period). The Dining Room’s menu, sourced locally, will certainly become one of New Jersey’s top tables.
While the Dining Room will most likely not be open to buy-outs, those looking to plan private events here will find The Rathskeller. A Rathskeller, German for “council’s cellar,” is a bar or restaurant in the basement of a city hall. This private event space is the only part of Jockey Hollow that did not open on October 15th…renovations are still underway and are expected to be completed in November (though bookings are accepted now). The room can be divided into two smaller rooms seating up to 40, or book the entire room to seat up to 90. The Rathskeller has a separate entrance and private bathrooms for those who want a truly private event.
Jockey Hollow Bar & Restaurant will be open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
For more information:
973 644 3180