The 300-year-old iconic Stockton Inn in Stockton, New Jersey, is experiencing a major transformation that pays homage to its illustrious past while, at the same time, advancing it into the 21st century. The driving force behind this transformation is owner Mitch Millett, who purchased the struggling Inn in 2012.
Mr. Millett’s initial goal was to bring the Inn back to its former glory. Over the past two and one half years, the building has undergone a complete physical makeover, including new roofs, new electrical service, new kitchen equipment, extensive restorations to the historic murals, new furniture, and upgrades to the dining rooms and the Dog & Deer Tavern, one of the first taverns in New Jersey, which secured its operating license in 1796.
In its recent past, the Inn was known primarily as a popular wedding and banquet venue. “It became clear to me,” notes Mr. Millett, “that this property was ill-equipped to be both a banquet venue and a serious à la carte restaurant, at the same time, in the same space.” A major decision for the new owner: orchestrate banquets or operate a serious restaurant. Mr. Millett decided on the latter. In December 2013, he shut down the banquet and lodging operations and began the process of building a destination dining establishment.
In late July 2014, he closed down the restaurant to do a complete reset. During the interim, he hired an entirely new full-time-only staff of restaurant professionals. The “new” only-20-table-restaurant is now open for dinner five nights a week, Wednesday – Sunday, with alfresco dining on the Inn’s expansive outdoor garden patio in warmer weather.
In August 2014, Mr. Millett tapped Chef Alan Heckman, formerly of the Washington Crossing Inn, to execute an imaginative, progressive menu that remains true to the Inn’s Colonial inspirations. Chef Heckman, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, notes that his philosophy is to utilize locally sourced produce at its natural peak paired with complementary ingredients and seasonings, which fits in perfectly with the Inn’s Colonial inspired focus.
As part of the transformation, Mr. Millett also enlisted wine and spirits expert Brian Freedman to revamp the restaurant’s beverage program. Mr. Freedman has successfully reworked the wine list to include approachable vintages that marry well with the Inn’s seasonally changing menu. In addition, he has also put together a selection of reimagined classic cocktails, as well as a rotating variety of the area’s craft beers to complement the cuisine.
For more information about the Stockton Inn, or to make reservations, please call (609) 397-8948 or visit www.stocktoninn.com.