New Jersey’s Gov. Murphy announced Monday that restaurants can reopen indoor dining Friday at 25% capacity. While many will return to favorite restaurants and dine indoors, others will continue to enjoy outdoor dining, with some venturing out for that first alfresco meal.
If eating at a restaurant — even outside — has felt a little like being offered an apple by a snake, you may be pleased to discover a dining experience that not only exudes safety, but wraps it in lush surroundings. That would be the Garden Terrace at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club in South Orange, helmed by celebrity chef David Burke.
When you arrive, masked of course, you give your name and have your temperature taken, as well as your phone number (this is for contact tracing, should the need arise). You are then escorted to a white-clothed table, generously spaced from other tables, on the club’s circular driveway or a terrace above, where you are invited to take off your mask, peruse a paper menu, order a drink, gaze out at the tennis club greenery and begin to breathe a little easier.
I started with the Hipster Margarita, a jalapeno and coconut tequila concoction, and began to slowly exhale some of the nightmare of the past six months.
Then we were off to the appetizers, the lobster dumplings for him (“awesome,” said the guy whose reactions normally run from “okay” to “fine”) and for me a French Cake, a sushi construction smothered in spicy sauce, which practically made me cry in joy.
For the main course, I chose a special, soft shell crabs, which were prepared crispy and light. My husband chose the roasted branzino, which only earned his “okay” rating. Other highlights on the menu we didn’t try included a barbecued short rib main course and, as appetizers, tuna tartare tacos and David Burke’s famous clothesline bacon, which pre-Covid, used to grace the club’s bar on a stand, with a handy scissors, allowing you to serve yourself.
Light desserts — berries with whip cream and grilled peaches — topped off the experience.
To be transparent, we were treated to this feast on the house; it would have run about $130. But given that our restaurant spending has dropped to practically zero, we agreed we would happily go back on our own dime — although we’d probably not splurge on the barbecued short rib ($45) or the 30 day dry aged bone in ribeye ($70). And it would be possible to take in the atmosphere more reasonably with a $21 DB Burger and a $7 Alagash. There is also a happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 7 pm, where the price of the DB Burger drops to $12 and beers are mostly $4. There are salads and other appetizers as well.
Note: Reservations are required. If you are not a member of the 140-year-old tennis club, you will be charged a $10 annual dining membership at your first meal. Sushi is only available on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
David Burke Orange Lawn, 305 N. Ridgewood Road, South Orange, 973-552-2280
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