I grew up in New Jersey and, even through all the teasing, I am still quite proud to have grown up in a place where I was neither sheltered nor thrown into the streets, surrounded by mountains, and 45 minutes from NYC, Philly, and the Beach. NJ gets a bum rap, but I’m happy it’s where I’m from.
Every time I go back to visit my parents, food becomes a big deal (whether home cooked or a night out). The destination of choice near my father’s is a great, reliable, friendly place called The Stirling Hotel. It has been around for over 100 years and has that “lived in,” comfortable feeling. I think the main picture on their homepage defines it well:
The place itself has a tented outdoor space (heated in winter) and a cute outdoor bar served from within a small barn-like area. Inside it’s a bit cramped, with an entry hallway where everyone has to turn sideways to allow people to pass from the outdoors/kitchen/hostesses/waitresses/etc but it works out. They have a lot of old furniture inside with antique stoves and solid wood chairs in a tavern-like atmosphere. The inside bar could also use a bit more room, but the selection is always one of my favorite parts. They have unique beers on tap and I can trace many great discoveries to their bartenders recommendation. I know I had my first Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale there, opening up my eyes to the glory of pumpkin beer (though nothing beats Smuttynose on draft).
I have probably been to The Stirling Hotel at least two dozen times over the years. It used to be the place we stopped for dinner when I lived in NJ after volunteering at The Raptor Trust (a wild bird rehab center where I volunteered with my dad, who is still there, for about 8 years). Now it’s the place we go to pretty much every time we go home, especially if my younger sister is with me. It’s become our family’s go to place.
My dad is such a regular there that he knows the owner, Tom, personally. We usually have different servers, however, they’re always nice and have a good friendly feel. Our waiter this time around was Anthony, and he had such a fun personality that I’ll give him a special shout out here. He spoke in about 4 languages (terribly yet hysterically) and managed to dance his way through the service. I don’t think a few locals quite knew what to do with him, but he kept us laughing. He even mugged for a picture with a rooster.
Now onto the food! Well.. first the beer. I ordered an Ayinger Weissbier. It was so good that I wrote it down. I love my white beers, but this one was extra special. Lots of honey and overall deliciousness.
Now the Specials menu at The Stirling Hotel was something I always went for, and they used to have an almost daily special of these artichokes that were to. die. for. I could eat them for my meal ever day of the week. Unfortunately, they have been missing from the menu each time I’ve been there recently.
So, alas, with no artichokes, we ordered mozzarella sticks for the app. They were fine, but nothing special. Not too greasy though, so that made me happy. (I’m not a huge fan, so maybe I’m not a good judge?)
After spending the day moving my boyfriend, Mike, from his place in Brooklyn into my apartment, and storing stuff at my father’s place in NJ, I was craving some classic home-style Noms for my entree. I went with the classic half mac and cheese (comes with garlic bread, perfect for sopping up the cheese) and an order of sweet potato fries (always VERY good there). I usually like a mac and cheese with a little less liquid, the cheesy garlic bread made it up to me.
Dad went with a half rack of ribs (that’s a half!) and I was delighted to find out that they were tasty without being spicy. The portion seemed good for him and we all commented that it was a tasty sauce.
Mike went with (shocker) the burger. It is a good burger, and I don’t think this one disappointed. Interesting that lettuce and tomato is served a-la-carte, but it worked well. (Besides, three of us ate for the price of two in typical NYC prices, including beverages).
I actually don’t think I’ve had dessert there before, but this tiring day called for some sweets. Mike and I split an enormous brownie sundae. The brownie was warm (Nom Nom Nom) and it had just the right balance of brownie to whipped cream to ice cream.
Dad ordered the peanut butter bliss pie and it was deliciously peanut buttery, and if I’m going to eat chocolate ice cream, this is the kind I want it to be.
As a dessert lover, however, my one recommendation would be to up the ante on the chocolate syrup. A little Ghiradelli goes a LONG way.
Overall, the food here is reliably good in a great atmosphere with great beer. Beyond that, it’s comfortable. I look forward to going here every time I’m home.
Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10