In an economic downturn, the first things to go are the luxury items, like eating out. But, if the amount of people going out and enjoying the many dining establishments are any indication, Morristown is bucking that trend.
"On the contrary," says France Della Donne, director of development for Morristown Partnership, responsible for community relations, recruiting businesses and revitalizing the main business district. "The numbers our restaurants are seeing are greater than they were this time last year."
Among the new tenants, Roots Steakhouse and Urban Kitchen are set to open for business in the new 40 Park development, across from the Green, by the end of the year. The two restaurants are part of the Harvest Restaurants group, which includes another Roots Steakhouse in Summit, Tabor Road Tavern and Grato in Morris Plains and Trap Rock Restaurant and Brewery in Berkeley Heights. In addition, J. Hinari Sushi on Pine Street and Sweet Lucy's Bakery, also on South Street also are set to open later this year. Zebu Forno, which closed nine months ago after being open for less than a year, just recently re-opened for diners at 9 South St. Raul's Taco Town, a second location through the owners of Raul's Empanada Town on Morris Street, is expected to take the place of Saigon Vietnamese on Elm Street, which has closed. Kebab Fusion, billed as an "eastern mediterranean cuisine" establishment at 27 South St., has also put up signs seeking employees for the "coming soon" eatery.
When it comes to dining options, Morris County's county seat is flourishing. The numbers are, according to Morristown Partnership: 77 restaurants and more than 30 delis, cafes and grocery stores that call Morristown home. Options include Afghan, American, Cal-Mex, Caribbean, Chinese, Columbian, Cuban, Eclectic, Ecuadorian, French, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Pan-Asian, Salvador, Tex-Mex, Thai and Vietnamese, "not to mention our cafes, delis and steakhouses. Because of the wide variety of cuisines offered in Morristown's restaurants we coined the phrase 'Think Global, Dine Local' to use in promoting our first 'Downtown Morristown Restaurant Week' held this past April," Delle Donne said.
In 2009, the township ushered in several new dining options, including Cuban cuisine at Cha Cha Cha's Cuban Bistro, on Washington Street and Hibiscus Restaurant, an upscale Caribbean eatery, located inside the Best Western Hotel at 270 South St. Tart & Tufo, which serves frozen yogurt by Yogorino of Italy, also arrived on South Street last year.
27-year-old Somerset County resident Tracy Silverman said she likes Morristown on a personal level. Her Sweet Lucy's Bakery, 56 South St., has a planned opening of November. It will be a 14-seat, open kitchen gourmet bakery specializing in wedding and celebration cakes, and bakery fare like cookies, cupcakes, tarts and more. Everything will be baked fresh daily, said Silverman, a Bucknell Math and Economics degree graduate who also attended the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City.
"Morristown is the type of town I'd like to spend most of my time," she said. Silverman believes that as Morristown grows, more businesses will come, and it will be a nice alternative to New York City. "There is a small town feel here, and it will continue to grow," says the former Connecticut resident who moved to the area in 2008.
Another establishment soon to open is J.Hinari Sushi at 5 Pine St., adjacent to Sirin Thai and across from Dublin Pub. J. Hinari will feature Korean, Japanese and American fusion cuisine. Jae Y. Shin, a chef of 15 years who also owns the seven-year-old Hinari Sushi in nearby Springfield, didn't look far when selecting a spot to increase his establishment ownership.
"I like to prepare food," the South Korean-born Shin said. "In Morristown, there are no Korean restaurants. Some sushi restaurants have Korean food, but I feel there's a lot missing." The chef said he plans on filling the void.
Despite some restaurant closures recently, including Camille's Sidewalk Cafe on South Street and Saigon, new restaurants continue to want to make Morristown their home, in no small part, Delle Donne said, is the town's status as a destination on multiple fronts, from "business, government, medical, historical, cultural and recreational."