Residing across Newark’s sports and entertainment capital, the Prudential Center, in a formerly abandoned broken-down warehouse, the wholly exquisite EDISON ALE HOUSE has taken the downtown area by storm.
Due to Hurricane Irene, Edison Ale House had a ‘soft opening’ (instead of grand opening) on August 26th, but local politicians, businessmen, and families quickly regaled this seamlessly designed metropolitan hotspot. Part of Mayor Cory Booker’s citywide renovation, this ‘traditionally minded contemporary hybrid restaurant-sportsbar’ maintains a first-rate steakhouse feel.
Tucked inside Edison Place’s one-way street, the eloquently detailed 5,000 square foot space borders the equally charming Loft 47 cocktail bar and Brick City Grill, newfangled upscale eateries worthy of the multifarious clientele representing this ethnically diverse Gateway City neighborhood.
“It’s all about the execution. We want the menu to be the top-to-bottom best. We want the best sandwiches. We don’t want mediocrity. Everything’s made from scratch,” hands-on co-owner, Eddie Becker revels. “You could taste the difference. We don’t have to broadcast how good our burgers are.”
The red-bricked, black-tinted windowed, amber-lettered exterior may seem unassuming, but the gaslight-lined walkway leads to a soft earth-toned interior, with its sublime mahogany furnishings and ample 71-foot bar (Newark’s largest) chiefly specialized by Queens-raised visionary, Becker. Its resplendent copper-tinned ceiling radiates off the porcelain-tiled wood-styled main floor and wood-pitted copper-inlayed raindrop-like bar top. Down the hall from a semi-private dining area are two sterling tile-floored bathrooms featuring vintage granite-topped copper sinks that utilize a classic upside well-watered stream.
Better yet, the modular bar system allows instant access to plumbing and electricity just by pulling off the panels. Moreover, the stainless-steeled, silicon-sealed layout protects against odorous water damage to the broad-ranging bar. No stone has been left unturned.
As we down a few blueberry-pied, phenol-spiced, Graham Cracker-backed Blue Point Blueberry Ales, Becker takes me downstairs to the basement level storage area. Large new American Panel walk-in aging boxes store meats, vegetables, and kegged beers. Becker stresses the importance of fresh ingredients every step of the way. There’s even a few oil recycling bins providing “cheap money” to keep Green. But the true challenge for a new restaurant is to keep the food original, exciting, and consistent.
“Americans accept average food too much. We want to blow people away. When Dinosaur Barbecue rib joint comes in next year, that will test our resolve,” Becker says.
As we head back upstairs, I grab a seat at the bar and get ready for one of the best full course meals imaginable. A leather-branded menu with Thomas Edison gaslight insignia provides tonight’s offerings. After taking a sip from my floral-daubed, topical-fruited, bitter-hopped Flying Fish Hopfish India Pale Ale (prominently glazed by illuminating cantaloupe, melon, pineapple, peach and apricot tones), the sensational appetizers arrive.
The fulsome pretzel sticks awaken the tastebuds when dipped into the champagne mustard vinaigrette or aged cheddar sauce alternatives. Crisply crunched Bavarian Black & Tan Onion Rings, dipped in Yeungling beer, benefit greatly from superb clover-honeyed sesame seeding, setting up the best-selling Fillet Mignon Bites topped with garlic presimien, freshly melted mozzarella and homemade steak sauce.
The main course, Country Chicken, jumps off the dish with a juicily moist mouthfeel deepened by the underlying mashed potatoes and string bean/ asparagus-laden tomato sauce. Too full to try my sweet dessert follow-up, I got home this rainy eve to share the zestful strawberry-pureed, black chocolate-covered, cheesecake lollipop with my wife.
Though Becker claims it took eight months to setup the beautiful mahogany-walled mural behind the bar and there were minor delays for the prepping and permits, Edison Ale House would make the referential Thomas Edison proud.
“We set a goal to open on time and then did so,” well-mannered General Manager Tom Blume offers. “People are creatures of habit. They don’t want to drive somewhere if they could walk to a place they enjoy. There’s a comfort zone. They could get in and out quickly. A large part of our business will be lunch and happy hour. There’s a feel good fit. You could have a beer and unwind. When Disney On Ice comes through, the warm earth tones will have an inviting feel for kids. Despite 60% bar and lounge area, families with young children will feel at home on the other side of the glass partition.”
On top of everything else, at the rear is a stone-facade brick oven for reasonably priced New York-styled pizza, perfectly affordable for cash-strapped parents stuck with ridiculously high energy, insurance, and tax bills. For those in a rush, there are twelve seats at this backend hearth.
While Blume was groomed for his supervising position at Providence-based Johnson & Wales Culinary Art School, head chef John Manzo ran a family-owned Italian restaurant in Union. And the courteous staff they’ve assembled will please clientele.
Craft beer enthusiasts will delight in Blume’s thoughtful tap selection, which includes Magic Hat #9, Long Trail Ale, Blue Moon Belgian Witbier, Tommyknockers Maple Nut Brown Ale and top-shelf product from Victory, Brooklyn, Sam Adams, and Southampton. His well-selected single-batch bourbons, specialty martinis, signature cocktails, plus red and white wines will whet the whistle of any liquor-loving devotee.
Students from nearby Rutgers-Newark University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Seton Hall Law School have already sojourned to this highly recommended regularly. But perhaps the biggest crowds still await, as the hockey season is about to begin and the New Jersey Devils clearly will have a shot at the Stanley Cup.
“When the Devils and Rangers rivalry heats up, we’ll raise the music louder,” Blume concludes. “Besides, we’ve already, in the space of a couple weeks, got clientele coming back for more because it’s enjoyable.”
What was once a nasty beat-up eyesore I previously mocked (when hometown Ramsey High School won the state hockey tournament two years hence at the Prudential), has turned into a sufficiently sustained backyard alley across from one of America’s finest arena-sized venues. There’s no doubt Newark’s on the upswing. And Edison Ale House tops the list of places to dine and wine when perusing Jersey’s largest metropolis.