Every town in the world has restaurants and brothels that come and go. There’s always reasons why they come and go, but what remains is the history and the memories of what used to be.
The Somerset Hills has a great history or bars and restaurants that have come and gone. Some last the test of time, and others cave in to the change in attitude, trend, or a demographic shift. We’ll go back all the way to the pre-revolutionary war and see what you might know. We’re going to make this an interactive post so when we get more information from our readers and our research, we’ll add to the article. To test your knowledge, we’ve even created a “match game quiz” at the end to test your knowledge. Post your score when you’ve tried it!
Before the war, the Somerset Hills had two areas, Bedminster and Bernards Township. Bedminster was charted in 1740 and Bernards Township followed in 1760. These two township have carved themselves up over the years and now makes up Bedminster, Bernardsville, Bernards Township, Far Hills, and Peapack and Gladstone. Since travel was difficult, while there were only two townships, there were taverns and hotels throughout the region. Some of the most notable establishments were the Bedminster Hotel, The Parker Tavern (Vealtown/Bernardsville), Widow White’s Tavern (Basking Ridge), and Bouillons Tavern in Liberty Corner. Only the Parker Tavern and the Bedminster Hotel survive today as a Delicious Heights in Bedminster and a retail space in Bernardsville. Kind of impressive if you think about it.
Across the landscape there are a few favorite locations that won’t quit when it comes to trying to provide food, rest, and libations to both residents and tourists.
Today, the Somerset Hills towns are filled mostly with upscale experiences with typically higher end prices. Gone are the “shot and beer” and “pool halls” of yesteryear. Where were those places? You talk to some of the older locals and they’ll tell you. Places like, Freddy’s Tavern , The Thirsty Turtle, the Pluckemin Inn, Michael’s, Bill’s Coral, Shady Grove Inn, The Townhouse Restaurant, are just a few that have either reinvented themselves or come and gone.
The area is a lot different then it was in the 1960’s. A longtime resident of Basking Ridge said ” Do you remember when Eddie Murphy, Rosie O’Donnell, Joe Piscopo, Sam Kinison, Robert Wahl, and Bob Nelson all performed at Freddy’s?” Thinking to myself I thought, geeze I remember that bar, but really?
Playing stand-up comedy in Bernardsville, New Jersey? Well it’s true. Eddie Murphy did play during the longstanding Sunday Night stand-up comedy series at Freddy’s on 1 Mill Street, Bernardsville which was long known as the Old Stone Inn, the establishment became Freddy’s from 1978 to 1996, featuring live bands and nationally known comedians. $4 bucks got you in for a night of entertainment, but there were strict rules about heckling since they were packing 200 people that sat 5 feet from the comedians.
Above: While not Freddy’s – it was pretty close to this back in the 70’s
Freddy’s is now an upscale steakhouse restaurant called Rudolph’s on 1 Mill Street in Bernardsville. The historic structure is still around today and dates back to 1849 and has been a tavern throughout its history. Its guests include Gov. Woodrow Wilson, later President of the United States, who dropped by for lunch before speaking at Olcott Square in October 1911. At that same location was the Old Stone Hotel (1849 ), Freddie’s (1978) , The Old Stone Tavern (1996), Equus (2007), Cabellos (2015), and now Rudolph’s (2016).
Two Basking Ridge Hot Corners
High Turnover Locations
The Staple Three
There are only a few establishments that have stood the test of time and remain doing what they started out to do. There’s the Bernards Inn (1907) in Bernardsville, The Grain House (building goes back to 1758) at the Old Mill Inn in Basking Ridge and The Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, a historic name that goes back to Jacob Eoff back in the 1750’s. In the 1980’s it used to be a total dive and was rebuilt and reintroduced in 2005 and serves as a higher end restaurant and bar.
A reader wrote, “how could we not have Pistilli’s in Bernardsville”
We got a number of notes not to forget Albert & Josie Pistilli’s Pistilli’s, Italian Restaurant on Morristown Road in Bernardsville, a local landmark that closed in 1998 after the property was bought by a local bank. Founded in 1949, just weeks after the property purchase in 1998, it was gone. Then Mayor Hugh Fenwick said “We cut our teeth on root beer and pizza there. It was an institution. It wasn’t just a restaurant.” And we have an update. In 2015, while the original Pistilli’s of Albert & Josie Pistilli is gone, Ahmed Zeiden opened The Grill in a new building right nextdoor to the Bank of the Somerset Hills. Back then it was all owned by the Pistilli’s. The location continues!