The Barnsboro Inn
699 Main Street
Barnsboro, Gloucester County, New Jersey
(Note 12/2004 - Restaurant under new management.)
By The Artful Diner
Special to New Jersey Online
October 11, 1999
Situated at the intersection of five main roads in Mantua Township, this charming inn has been wooing wayfarers since 1776, when John Barnes petitioned the judges of the Gloucester County Court to license his house as a tavern. And modern travelers -- my wife and I included -- continue to be seduced by its cozy atmosphere, moderate prices, down-home service and Chef Danielle Crocket's tempting continental fare.
The building has undergone numerous changes since John Budd built the original log structure in 1720. And if you really want to get a feel for the place, be sure to pause for a drink in the low-ceilinged bar. The bar itself dates from the 18th Century and is kept company by a host of rickety wooden chairs and old metal radiators. The decor is somewhat tacky, but charming nonetheless. In addition to the liquid libations, you may also partake of a modest repast if you so desire. Choose from the likes of clam strips with cole slaw and fries ($3.95), a grilled patty melt served up with beer batter fries ($5.95), or portobello mushroom and plum tomato steak wrapped with provolone cheese ($6.95).
Once in the restaurant proper, should you be enjoying the evening au deux, I would strongly suggest that you prevail upon your hostess to seat you in the diminutive front dining area. Undoubtedly a converted porch, this section is reserved for couples, and accommodates only six at that. While some may find the space rather narrow and cramped, it is also quite bright and cheery and allows you to escape the large parties and rambunctious children that often inhabit the more spacious interior dining rooms.
The wine list is not terribly exciting, but it does hold a few reasonably priced possibilities. For Chardonnay fans, the ever-reliable J. Lohr Riverstone is available at $21.00 per bottle. From Italy, a crisp and refreshing Pighin Pinot Grigio ($19.00) is also a good bet. For those who prefer red, and are not averse to parting with a bit more of their hard-earned cash, I would suggest the Franciscan Oakville Estate Cabernet ($34.00). The restaurant also features two special wines each month. Most recently, diners were treated to a Kunde Chardonnay ($26.00) and Fess Parker's excellent Pinot Noir ($28.00).
The menu contains a little something for everyone: a host of standard starters and entrees and also a printed catalogue of more gastronomically intriguing daily specials. Among the appetizers, you will find such familiar items as clams on the half shell ($4.95), jumbo shrimp cocktail ($7.95) and mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat ($8.50). But for the more adventurous of palate, I would recommend such special delicacies as the grilled scallop and fried green tomato Napoleon embellished with a very nice sun-dried tomato pesto glaze ($7.95). The sauteed jumbo shrimp wrapped in prosciutto ($7.95) are also quite good. They are set atop a bed of musclun greens and drizzled with an invigorating fried garlic vinaigrette.
Soup is also an auspicious opening move here, and the establishment's snapper soup ($3.25 cup, $3.95 bowl) is justifiably famous in these parts. The roast tomato/carrot bisque ($2.50 cup, $2.95 bowl), a daily special enhanced with just a touch of heavy cream, was extraordinarily flavorful, albeit a smidgen on the glutinous side.
A house salad accompanies your meal: a nice variety of mixed greens, although they can look a bit weary upon ocassion. And another pet peeve of mine... even in the midst of the Garden State's glorious growing season, it was quite obvious that the anemic tomato wedge had made its pilgrimage from afar. On the other hand, the homemade blue cheese, creamy Caesar and sun-dried tomato dressings are all top drawer.
One glance at the entrees making their way to table and you realize that beef is big here -- and it is extremely well prepared. The filet mignon, for instance, may be had au naturel; a la Diane, sauteed with brandy and garlic sauce; or moutard, baked with Dijon mustard and herb bread crumbs and served up with a delicous white wine sauce (all $18.95). And if that isn't enough to tempt the carnivores among us, prime rib ($18.95) is available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Additionally, veal and chicken dishes are very much in evidence, all rather extravagantly sauced. As mentioned above, however, the daily specials are, in my opinion, infinitely more appealing. You will discover such stimulating items as hickory smoked rack of lamb ($26.95) spiffed up with a yummy green tomato jam, or the roast pork "Waldorf" ($17.95), featuring blue cheese, apple and walnut stuffing, and served with a provocative spiced beet glaze. A pecan-crusted filet of ostrich ($19.95) has even been known to make an occasional guest appearance.
Various appetizing species of finny creatures are also quite prominent among the specials; and seafood, like beef, is something the kitchen does extremely well. The broiled Florida red snapper ($19.95) keeps easy company with a warm potato, roasted tomato and arugula salad, and both are excellent. The broiled California sea bass ($19.95) is equally tasty; and the balsamic roasted fennel with sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese provides the perfect crowning touch. The roast halibut with cherry tomato and crab ratatouille ($19.95) is also up to the mark... although the crab does tend to get a bit lost in the sauce.
In many establishments, veggies receive short shrift... but not so here. Ms. Crocket's offerings are not only homey and well prepared, but they are also first-rate complements to her commendable entrees. On one occasion, delicious sliced buttered potatoes dotted with peas and scallions were accompanied by Harvard beets; on another, roasted dill potatoes shared the spotlight with a splendid combination of carrots and parsnips.
Desserts ($4.50) are all homemade, courtesy of the chef and owner Michael Aliberti, and they are well worth the calories. Be sure to sample the chocolate Chambord mousse cake, or the luscious cheesecake island swimming in a sea of raspberry sauce. Yum.
To say that the Barnsboro Inn is a bit off the beaten track is certainly no exaggeration. But should you reside in the area, or happen to be passing through on your way to Philadelphia, Atlantic City or Cape May, make it a point to stop by and enjoy the pleasant hospitality and excellent cuisine.
Hours: Lunch: Tues - Sun. 11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Tues - Sat, 4:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sun, 3:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.; CLOSED ON MONDAY EXCEPT FOR THE BAR.
Credit Cards: All major
Smoking: The restaurant is smoke free. However, smoking is permitted in the bar, which is separate from the restaurant.
Parking: On site
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
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