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To the Tavern!

The Claremont Tavern Transcends the Typical Bar Menu with Some Chef Surprises

It’s me again, your neighborhood critic, and I recently stopped by The Claremont Tavern (formerly Le Petit Chateau) in Bernardsville for the first time. I had the pleasure of meeting Steven Borton—half of the chef proprietorship—while on site. He gave me a 12-year history lesson since he took over and renovated this cozy and polished staple in town. Rounding out the chef-proprietor duo is Andrew Pantano, who graduated with Chef Borton from the Culinary Institute of America in 1991. Now, they work side-by-side in a joint effort to redefine American comfort cuisine and the casual family dining experience. 

Chef Borton hand-selected a few seasonal dishes and favorites for me to try as I sat at the tavern’s bar, which had me feeling like I was on the set of the sitcom “Cheers”—except that not everybody knew my name. A quick glance at the menu will feel like your average tavern menu—small shareable plates, hearty soups, petite salads, handhelds and entrées—but look deeper and you’ll notice these items are far from average. The combined 40-plus years of culinary experience and accolades between the owners is a true differentiator behind the meticulous design of the menu and putting their creative touch on each dish while constantly adapting. 

During my visit, it was a colder, rainy day so the chef started me off with a house favorite: the Rustic Chicken Soup. Normally, I don’t go out of my way to order soup, especially if it’s mainly broth. However, this not only warmed the soul with its flavor profile but almost filled me up! The soup came with a dense cheese tortellini that worked nicely, soaking up the broth and also had a medley of roasted vegetables, which lend some herbal aromas to the broth. I can’t forget the sweet and spicy (I have a low tolerance for heat, so it’s probably not spicy at all) sausage, which finished this dish nicely for me and added to its already hearty base. 

Next, I tried the Fried Goat Cheese Fritters, and let me tell you, this might go down as one of my favorite apps I’ve had in recent memory! Lately, I’ve been on a big goat cheese and prosciutto kick, so this played perfectly into my craving. The texture combination between the crispy prosciutto and goat cheese was flawless, and then you have that bite from the balsamic reduction cut with Bosc pears over a bed of arugula that xreally brought it all together. I highly suggest trying to get a little bit of each ingredient packed into the same bite so you can taste exactly what I’m trying to describe.   

Insider tip: Go on a Friday night to hear live music, and if you’re lucky, you may just run into Eli Manning and his family.

Food writer Kyle Getz (The Tipsy Critic) discovers New Jersey’s top spots and hidden gems. Follow his blog on Instagram @tipsycritic.

View the menu at

Rustic Chicken Soup

8 tbsp olive oil

1 lb sweet Italian sausage

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 c chicken stock

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 c of baby spinach

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 ½ c tortellini

Heat half of the oil in a large stockpot over high heat. 

Add the sausage until brown. Remove. 

Add onion, carrots and celery.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Crumble the sausage and add back into the vegetables.

Stir in chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Simmer for minutes.

Roast chicken breast at 350° F with remainder of the oil, salt and pepper for 10 to 12 minutes in the oven, the internal temperature at 165° F. Pull chicken apart into small pieces.

Stir in chicken, spinach and tortellini and cook for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Serve immediately.

Insider tip: Go on a Friday night to hear live music.

  • Steven Borton