A break in the cold this week was welcomed whole-heartedly by the IndyEats staff. Temperatures hitting the low 60s in mid-February may seem like a tease to some, but the warm weather had us feeling hopeful that spring was right around the corner and ultimately prompted a visit to one of our favorite places to pass an afternoon: Double Brook Farm in Hopewell.
The grounds at Double Brook are home to Troon Brewing, Sourland Mountain Spirits and Brick Farm Tavern, and, thus, arguably the best food and drink experience in the entire state. The ability to take in a serene, pastoral landscape while enjoying some exceptional cuisine, spirits and beer provides patrons with a set-up that is, for our money, unparalleled.
To truly enjoy all that Double Brook Farm has to offer, we recommend affording yourself at least a few hours to dine, imbibe and explore the grounds—this is not a quick lunch spot. In fact, with great hiking and walking/biking spots so close by at Sourland Mountain Preserve and Mercer Meadows, respectively, you’d do well to make it a day-trip.
Plan ahead: If you’ve yet to visit Double Brook, a little planning goes a long way. When the weather starts to get consistently pleasant, don’t stroll into Brick Farm Tavern with your date and expect to be seated without a reservation. Pick a weekend day that works with your schedule, call the restaurant a week in advance and reserve a table during lunch service—say 2 p.m. (this way you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a post-meal, “golden hour” drink by the pond, or walk off a big meal).
Sourland Mountain Spirits: Get to the farm at least 30-45 minutes early to explore the grounds a bit and—if you’re smart—grab a pre-lunch cocktail at Sourland Mountain Spirits’ cocktail bar. All of Sourland’s cocktails (made with spirits distilled on premises) are outstanding, but if you like gin, give the Lavender Haze a try; super refreshing in the warm weather and a perfect first drink of the afternoon.
Troon Brewing: If by some incredible stroke of luck you arrive at Double Brook and see a line outside of Troon Brewing, we suggest a slight pivot to the aforementioned plan: definitely still send your party over for a cocktail at Sourland Mountain Spirits, but please make sure somebody gets in that Troon line. We don’t care if you love, loathe or are totally indifferent towards beer, it’s damn near impossible to just happen upon an occasion where Troon, which notoriously distributes its renowned beer with last-minute social media blasts, still has cans for sale. If you don’t actually want to drink what you purchase, you must know at least one person who is a craft beer enthusiast; gifting a 4-pack of Troon is a surefire way to turn that person into a best friend real quick. Simply put: their beer is world-class.
Brick Farm Tavern: Now, conversely, if Troon is closed upon your arrival (which will almost certainly be the case), worry not; your reservation at the Brick Farm Tavern doubles as a golden ticket to the only establishment with multiple Troon offerings on tap, in addition to a handful of other excellent NJ craft brews.
Generally we take issue with the term “farm-to-table” (overblown, yuppie-fodder), except when a restaurant goes to great lengths to bring ingredients from their farm to your table. That’s exactly what you’re getting from Brick Farm Tavern; much of what’s offered on their menu is grown on their 800 acres in Hopewell or sourced from other farms in the area. Local, sustainable, ethical—all terms that are integral to Brick Farm’s concept. What does all of this actually mean? Well, depending on your philosophy, it’s either: a restaurant that serves incredible food or a community institution you can support in good-conscience. We like to think it’s both, but don’t let us indoctrinate you.
The food and drink menus at Brick Farm Tavern are a bit of a fluid situation with items coming and going based on what’s fresh or in season. Two items we can endorse from the lunch menu that seem to be featured consistently are the empanadas (always combining interesting, seasonal ingredients) and croque madame. The latter is a straightforward, classic sandwich (essentially a French grilled cheese with ham, topped with an over-easy fried egg) of which we’ve seen many impossibly stupid interpretations over the years. This is not the case at Brick Farm. The only thing stupid about this croque madame is the person trying to eat it with their hands (me, I tried). If you’ve never had one, Brick Farm Tavern’s will spoil you.