A Meal at McLoone's Boathouse Restaurant
Jointly owned venture between Tim McLoone and Essex County is warm, welcoming and inviting place for a meal.
At first glance, the interior of McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant, the newest component in the South Mountain Reservation complex, is reminiscent of an enormous country inn.
The 12,000-square-foot restaurant, a joint venture between Essex County and restaurateur Tim McLoone, features multiple gas-fueled fireplaces in each room. During our visit, the fireplaces were set at a high setting for both effect and warmth.
The restaurant seats 250 guest in rooms decorated with dark wooden walls and model ships. The outdoor area seats an additional 85-100 people and overlooks the Orange Reservoir, owned by the township of Orange.
The restaurant is just the latest installment in a series of improvements in the South Mountain Reservation complex -- including the Treetop Adventure Course at Essex County’s Turtle Back Zoo, a zipline-inspired obstacle course and the Safari mini-golf Adventure, a 19-hole African-themed mini-golf course.
During our visit, the dining room was nearly completely filled with customers while waiters, waitresses and busboys quickly cleaned and re-set tables.
We began our meal with a roasted garlic hummus appetizer ($8.95) with toasted homemade pita chips. The dish arrived as advertised – plenty of garlic mixed in pureed chickpeas. The pita chips were served crispy with grill lines across the face of each chip.
The menu offers a variety of seafood, chicken and traditional dishes – including burgers. McLoone’s also offers a children’s menu for kids 12 and under.
We couldn’t have planned it better when Mother Nature provided a beautiful sunset, replete with the final rays of the sun shining through the woods of the reservation.
Our unobscured views of the sunset out the multiple dining room windows around us allowed us to enjoy a vista that included a body of water with ducks gently swimming in the water.
Shortly after the sun dipped below the horizon, we ordered our entrees.
We chose the Chilean sea bass with champagne sauce ($28.95), a full pound of baby back ribs, known as the Rack ($22.95) and a Boathouse (turkey) burger ($9.95).
The Chilean sea bass was “a special treat” for our guest, who said the fish was something she wouldn’t normally order. It was cooked to order medium rare and was accompanied by wild rice and string beans.
In addition, the fish was requested with the champagne sauce on the side because our guest said she wanted to taste the “true quality of the fish.” Overall, she said, the fish tasted a bit like scallops and had the same consistency. Our guest said her only recommendation for the sea bass was the fish needed some sea salt for flavor.
The Baby Back ribs featured 10 slow-roasted ribs with spice rub that practically fell off the bone. The ribs were meaty, juicy and tasty and left us wishing for more. The portion was topped off with onion straws, garlic mashed potatoes and the aforementioned string beans.
When enjoying ribs, it is normal to expect the meal to be a bit messy. With the rib meat falling off the bone, the hardest part wasn’t worrying about the mess, but rather making sure the diner didn’t miss any of the delicious meat.
The turkey burger was served on a soft Kaiser roll with French fries and a pickle. The burger was cooked well done as requested. The meat was juicy and the fries were seasoned nicely with both salt and pepper.
For dessert, we shared a delightful piece of chocolate thunder cake ($9). The cake featured chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate shavings on a cake plate with raspberry puree and adorned with a strawberry.
Some items to note about McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant:
• The restaurant offers a semi-private dining area for parties or special events.
• The parking lot was crowded the night we visited. Parking is free in assigned spaces.
• The restaurant has a liquor license.
• The bathroom matched the décor of the restaurant and was handicap accessible.
• Christmas music was piped into the dining room the night we visited. At times, however, the music got a bit overwhelming and made it hard to talk during our meal.
• McLoone’s serves both lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch.
• The wait staff opened the door to the outdoor deck several times while we were there to take cigarette breaks during our meal. When the door opened, the cold air chilled the restaurant.
• The outdoor deck has a gas-fueled fire pit for customers wishing to sit outside in bad weather.
• Reservations are recommended.
McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant
9 Cherry Lane
11:30a.m. to 10 p.m. - Monday through Thursday
11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. - Friday and Saturday
10:30 a.m. (for Sunday Brunch) to 10 p.m. - Sunday