Sprig Market Cafe is a New Jersey ran catering and food service business that is described as “chef driven”. What they provide is a high volume of food but without a lack in quality. However, they provide another service once a week that piques my interest even more.
Each and every Thursday night, Sprig Market Cafe runs what they coin a “Speakeasy Dinner” out of the space occupied by Dry Dock Bistro in Kearny, NJ from 6:00m PM to 8:00 PM. Here, creativity is king. By day, the Dry Dock serves as a cafeteria style food service area for local workers and patrons, but by 6:00 PM each Thursday night, the space is transformed into a space to serve a five to six course tasting menu, complete with a bar and open kitchen.
Admittedly, I was confused going into the meal.
I knew nothing about where it was, and I had not even heard a word of it prior.
However, my skepticism and confusion immediately faded upon sitting down at the bar for my meal. In true “Speakeasy Fashion”, they rely primarily on word of mouth.
Each week, a new menu theme is conceptualized to be served to guests. I happened to walk in on a night themed by French classics. What they did best was ride the line between remaining authentic and true to the classics, but without being overly familiar and neglecting to take risks.
Course one: an assortment of classic french cheeses complete with a raspberry coulis. In my opinion, this is always a preferred way to start a meal.
Course two: potato leek soup— one of my all time favorites. Thankfully, it was extraordinary, and switching the bacon out for prosciutto was a welcomed change.
For my third course, I was served a warm duck pate on toasted brioche. The dish was warm and rich, and had a much needed roasted endive and radicchio salad close by on the sideline to provide a sharp punch of acidity that was wonderfully complementary.
Shortly after pan roasted arctic char with a citrus beurre blanc, Swiss chard and gruyere croquettes was much of what I look for in an entree. And the skin being left at a tooth-shattering crisp was well appreciated.
To complete the savory portion of the meal was a take on the classic Coq Au Vin. Made popular in The States by none other than Julia Child, this is always a dish that comes with high risk when serving it in a restaurant. The chicken thigh was tender and moist from the slow red wine braise, and accompanied by golden beets, carrots, and the classic button mushrooms. Being served atop wild rice was something I was not used to, but it did anything but bring a negative aspect to the dish— in fact, it improved it.
Finally, dessert. An admirable raspberry mille feuille, with orange cream, raspberry, and candied cilantro.
Not only is the food being served at The Speakeasy Dinner up there in quality, but the price it is set at is practically a steal. At $50 for six courses, I would be surprised if anyone could find me a meal more worth it for your money in New Jersey. Not all tasting menus should be inaccessible, and what the people running The Speakeasy Dinner are doing here at such an affordable price is truly remarkable. This is an experience both for people well-versed in the dining scene, and newcomers who want to begin to get their feet wet. The risk when dining here is low, and the reward is through the roof.