Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hold your horses! Tavern is still the best

The Black Horse Tavern was voted best restaurant for 2010 by the readers of MCW This Week, and it's easy to see why.

With superb service, a rich history and the best prime rib you're going to find in the area, it's no wonder that so many people flock to this historic location, which is next to the Black Horse Pub.

"The Tavern always has had the image as a destination restaurant," General Manager, Gary Detaranto says, "It's a place where you would go for a holiday or to celebrate communion or a baby shower or any special occasion. This would be the restaurant you went to."

It's been a destination restaurant for centuries — literally. People have been journeying to this spot since the 1700s.

Built in 1742, the building used to be a stagecoach stop between Hackettstown and Newark. Travelers had their horses shod and the carriages re-wheeled at the barn, which is now the Black Horse Pub, and then would stay overnight at the Tavern.

The Tavern has come a long way since those early days, and for decades, the caliber of the food has remained consistent. The latest innovations come from Chef de Cuisine, Juan Rodriguez.

"The combination of spices with his use of fish, chicken, duck and steak, along with his presentation and the marriage of flavors, are making people go, 'Wow,' " Detaranto says.

Although the Black Horse Tavern could be called a steakhouse, there are so many items on the menu — from stuffed north Atlantic salmon to Tuscan chicken — that it's hard to peg it as merely one kind of restaurant.

"There's an old saying in the restaurant business — that you can tell a great steakhouse by their fish," Detaranto says with a smile. "Our fish is brought in daily, and if it is not of the highest quality, we will not accept it. The Tavern only wants the best for our guests."

He recommends the Chilean sea bass, but he says all of the Tavern seafood is phenomenal. Some customers say that the blackened sea scallops are the best they've ever had.

"I know when the food comes to the table, 99 percent of the time, our customers are happy," Detaranto says. "And to have that percentage, I'm extremely happy."

Something else keeping the customers so happy is the exceptional service. Detaranto believes that everybody should be treated like royalty when they come to the Black Horse Tavern, from the moment their car is valet parked to the time they leave the building. Detaranto believes that service is everything.

"When you come here, you're taken care of the minute you walk in that door, to the minute that you leave," Detaranto says, "And that's the key to a great, successful business."

Detaranto, who has worked at many different restaurants in his time, has come to the conclusion that a dining experience should not only be about the food and the service, but also the entire package: "We're in this business to please people. We're in a people business, so we try our best to get them whatever they need or want."

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