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The Artful Diner writes restaurant reviews for nj.com. To receive e-mail notification when a new review or article is posted, send a note to artfuldiner@verizon.net.

New Jersey Restaurant Review

Braddock's Tavern
39 South Main Street
Medford, Burlington County, New Jersey
(609) 654-1604

By The Artful Diner
Special to New Jersey Online

Braddock's casual romantic rusticity, copious wine list and crackerjack service have been wooing scores of patrons for nearly two decades. And although this lovely restored historic inn has grown significantly over the years, adding several banquet rooms and a second kitchen to adequately attend to their needs, the food served in the restaurant proper has remained remarkably consistent. While Chef Joel Gaunt's traditional American fare with European flair would never be considered cutting edge, it is both bounteous and robust. Choose with a bit of circumspection, and you will have a most enjoyable experience.

This eatery presents diners with a number of possible accommodations. The space on the first floor is particularly agreeable, boasting several cozy corners within its candlelit precincts. The second floor can be somewhat more bustling, unless you happen to snare a table on the enclosed porch, which is an excellent location for those who prefer a bit of peace and quiet while ingesting their vittles, and also affords a bird's-eye view of Medford Village's picturesque main street.

Those who suffer from an inordinate fear of restaurant wine lists can breathe a sigh of relief, as Braddock's has done a great deal to ameliorate their angst. Vintages are listed according to category (light- to full-bodied, fruity to dry, etc.) rather than by geographic location; these categories also suggest appropriate pairings with items noted on the printed menu. More restaurants should adopt this extremely beneficial practice.

But while the wine choices may be extensive, they are also rather pricey. Upon closer scrutiny, however, there are still a number of bargains to be had. A very refreshing, slightly off-dry Johannisberg Riesling from Washington State's Chateau Ste. Michelle is available at $5.00 per glass or $18.50 per bottle. Markham's Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is also an excellent option at $8.25/$20.50. If you prefer red wine, I would suggest Australia's Jacobs Creek Shiraz ($6.95 per glass) or Sebastiani's Sonoma Zinfandel ($9.25/$27.00).

One glance at the menu should be enough to convince you that, for the most part, counting calories here is an exercise in futility. A typical appetizer, for instance, is the extraordinarily rich "Four Cheese Pub Pie" ($7.95). Flaky puff pastry is layered with cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, sauteed onions, basil, parsley, and then topped with mozzarella, cheddar and Swiss. Should you entertain a "devil-may-care" attitude with regard to your lastest cholesterol test, this delicious opener is definitely worth a try. The "Seafood Strudel" ($10.95) is of similar ilk. Morsels of crab, shrimp and scallops are baked in puff pastry and then set adrift on a savory sea of Mornay sauce.

On the other hand, if you're partial to a somewhat lighter prelude to your meal, I would suggest the West Indies black bean soup ($2.95 cup/$3.95 bowl). Black turtle beans are teamed up with just the right combination of herbs and spices in a heady ham stock and crowned with chopped egg and onion. And there's just enough residual heat to gently tantalize the taste buds. A new addition to the menu, the "Garden Grill" ($7.95), is also highly recommended. Seasonal garden veggies -- zucchini, fennel, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and portobello mushrooms -- are grilled and dressed with an enticing red onion vinaigrette and topped with feta cheese.

Entrees tend to follow the same culinary path as many of their predecessors: prodigious portions embellished with a variety of overly succulent sauces. Thus, you discover such flamboyant offerings as "Lobster Governor Livingston" ($26.95), portions of lobster sauteed in brandy, cream and Gruyere cheese; "Tavern Chicken Supreme" ($18.95), an ample boneless breast poached in white wine and butter and served up with mushrooms in a cream sauce; and "Veal Burlington" ($21.95), sauteed medallions in an opulent port wine sauce.

Even a number of unsuspecting finny creatures fall victim to the saucier's heavy hand. A perfectly grilled salmon filet ($23.95) is set atop a fabulous mound of mashed potatoes abounding with chunks of lobster and surrounded by a red wine reduction awash with heavy cream. Any two of these items might conceivably provide a positively marvelous feast... but the prospect of all three sharing the same culinary space is more than the overworked palate can bear.

Unless your innards happen to thrive on this kind of gastronomic grandeur, I suspect that you will find the kitchen's relatively uncluttered creations to be the better part of valor. Carnivores, for example, would do well to stick to basics, namely the prime rib au jus ($23.95). The grilled filet mignon ($23.95) topped with an herb crust and served up with a red wine reduction is also a pretty safe bet.

When it comes to denizens of the deep, the simply broiled sea scallops ($19.95) should certainly take precedence over more elaborate preparations. Also be on the alert for the daily seafood specials, as they are usually less ostentatious than many of their counterparts on the printed menu. Recently sampled, for instance, was an exquisitely grilled halibut filet ($23.95) topped with kalamata olives, capers, chopped tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil. Equally commendable was the grilled tuna ($23.95). It arrived precisely as ordered (medium), sliced and artfully arranged on a luscious bed of sauteed bok choy.

Desserts are pretty much standard issue, most of them making their way from the far reaches of the banquet kitchen. If you must indulge, cast your lot with either the hot apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream ($5.25) or the fresh strawberries ($4.25). Espresso ($3.00), however, is quite good and provides a most enjoyable closure to your meal.

Since the overzealous use of rich, weighty sauces appears to be the chief culprit here, I would urge you to avoid these enthusiastic esoteric emulsions and to be somewhat selective in your choice of appetizers and entrees. Do so, and you are sure to partake of the very best that Braddock's Tavern has to offer.

Cuisine: Traditional American with European accents
Hours: Lunch: Mon - Fri, 11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Mon - Fri, 5:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sat, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sun, 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.; Sunday Brunch: 11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Casual
Smoking: Separate nonsmoking section; cigar and pipe smoking permitted in the bar only
Reservations: Recommended
Parking: Onsite
Alcohol: License; extensive wine list
Price: Moderate
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Specials: Theme dinners, wine tastings and cooking classes held throughout the year

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