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Tavern 5 Keeps it in the Family

The Pompton Plains restaurant is a neighborhood gathering place with an upscale twist.

Article by Adam Bulger

Photography by John Agnello

Originally published in Wayne Lifestyle

For years, the Carbone family dreamed of opening their own restaurant. In the decades the family lived in Pompton Plains, every time they drove down Newark Pompton Turnpike, they kept thinking they saw a terrific restaurant space that wasn't living up to its potential.It was the perfect spot to make their dream reality. 

“It was a cute little place on the turnpike,” Tavern 5 owner Debbie Carbone says. “I always said if that place goes up for sale we should get that and make it a neighborhood restaurant.

Sure enough, the restaurant, then called Gilly's, went up for sale and the Carbones made the space their own. The Carbone family bought the space in 2015 and set to work making it match their vision for their restaurant. Out went the old restaurant’s dated decor and fish tank. In came wood tables, leather seats, Edison lights and exposed brick. The old restaurant’s cumbersome, round bar was replaced by a new bar area designed to facilitate lively and neighborly conversation. 

By the time Tavern 5 opened its doors to the public in June of 2016, it looked and felt like the restaurant the Carbones always wanted to open: an upscale neighborhood tavern with a warm, welcoming dining atmosphere for the entire family and an outdoor dining experience you can’t find anywhere else in the area. 

Just over five years after it opened, Tavern 5 is still going strong. They weathered the storm of COVID thanks to the loyal customer base and their food's ability to travel well in takeout containers. This fall, the Carbones and their staff are excited to get back to business as usual and do what they do best: serve simple, well-crafted food in a friendly neighborhood environment. 

The secret to Tavern 5’s success is simple. The Carbones made a restaurant where families feel at home. And that keeps them coming back. It’s a place people from the neighborhood walk or ride bikes to, knowing they are gathering in a place where they feel comfortable. 

The second you walk in the door at Tavern 5, it’s obvious it’s family-owned. The atmosphere, service and menu display the warmth and familiarity that wouldn’t be possible at a chain restaurant.

Many of Tavern 5’s employees have been with the restaurant for a long time and have forged strong relationships with all the familiar faces who’ve come to love Tavern 5’s signature atmosphere. Tavern 5 servers know the food and drinks regular customers like and can recommend new things based on what they’ve enjoyed in the past. But staff and customers talk about more than food or drink orders. In fact, those interactions frequently feel closer to conversations at a dinner party between close friends, with customers sharing things that are going on in their life, from weekend plans to vacations.  

Tavern 5’s design is rustic industrial with a warm and inviting atmosphere. It mixes tried and true comforts with modern touches, creating a perfect place to catch up with friends over sought-after craft beers and creative seasonal cocktails. The bar’s square design keeps conversation flowing by giving bar patrons access to  comfortably talk to people next to or across from them. 

While the Carbones keep the emphasis on family dining, beer aficionados and cocktail enthusiasts won’t be disappointed when they stop in for a drink. Tavern 5 keeps 12 beers on tap, with three of them constant and the rest rotating out to make way for craft and locally brewed drafts that often can’t be found anywhere else. And lovers of bourbon, vodka and other spirits rave about Tavern 5’s changing menu of mixologist-designed seasonal cocktails. 

While Tavern 5 is the Carbone family’s only restaurant, it’s far from the family’s only business. Entrepreneurship runs in the family, with one business rolling into another. Tavern 5 patrons dining in Tavern 5’s lush, green outdoor space are sure to notice the influence of the Carbone family’s landscaping, irrigation and lighting business. The restaurant’s outdoor greenery and live wall are precisely manicured and maintained with expertly engineered irrigation systems. Careful thought clearly went into the trees and hedges, which foster a sense of privacy without making patrons feel closed-in. 

With Tavern 5’s outdoor area’s greenery, overhead Edison lights, and tasteful pergola, it’s easy to forget you’re sitting outside a restaurant. Aside from the tables of happy diners and the neon sign with the restaurant’s name, the experience of the outdoor dining area feels like you’re enjoying a meal in a neighbor’s backyard.

With its family-friendly feel, it’s no surprise that kids love Tavern 5. The restaurant is a local favorite for casual family meals and birthday parties. And don’t take our word for it. The kid critics are raving about Tavern 5. The Carbone family shared that a third grader wrote about how much she loved Tavern 5 in an elementary school essay assignment about favorite restaurants. 

Parents love Tavern 5 as much as their kids. While other restaurants get caught up in creating overly complicated culinary creations and forget how much people embrace well-crafted straightforward food, the Tavern five menu is made to be accessible to everybody. All of the dishes are simple and delicious, made from ingredients that don’t require an advanced degree in Top Chef studies to understand. 

Looking for something tasty but not-too-fancy to pair with a beer or a martini? Tavern 5 offers homemade seasonal American favorites like burgers, salads and sandwiches along with stone fire oven-cooked pizza. The Tavern 5 burger is a signature dish, with avocado, bacon and pepper jack cheese topping a special blend of meat freshly delivered from superstar butcher Pat LaFrieda. In the mood for Italian? Pasta dishes like linguini bolognese are regular features on their menu. 

Everything on Tavern 5’s menu is made from scratch, with hand-selected, freshly prepared ingredients, from their arancini and spring roll appetizers to their entrees’ freshly cut vegetable sides. It’s the kind of place people return to weekly—or sometimes twice or three times a week—to keep trying items from the menu or enjoy Tavern 5’s weekly and seasonal specials. 

Tavern 5’s sandwiches, salads and pizzas are perfect fits for families looking to enjoy a straightforward meal. But if you’re out for a special occasion and want a meal to match, Tavern 5 has got you covered, too. Their scallops, short rib and pork chop entrees are surefire hits to mark celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, and more. Speaking of special occasions: there’s some good news and bad news. With COVID over, Tavern 5’s backroom—which opens right to the outdoor area—is again open for baby and bridal showers on Saturday afternoons but  bookings are going fast.

Luckily, you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy Tavern 5. They’ll welcome familiar faces any time, a fact that keeps their loyal customers coming back again and again.

“They’ll come on a Tuesday, they’ll come on a Saturday,” Carbone says. They’ll bring their friends. And everybody has that same feel of that family atmosphere.” 

Tavern 5 is located at 710 Newark Pompton Turnpike Pompton Plains and can be reached by phone at 973-835-1426 and found online at tavern5.com.

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