The Cassidy Bar & Kitchen opened in Maplewood in fall 2018 in the Clarus Building, a controversial addition to the heart of downtown Maplewood. South Orange natives and Maplewood residents Tom and Jennifer Carlin set out to create a restaurant that would simultaneously serve the local need for a casual burger and a beer and attract food-forward diners craving something new. Did they succeed? In my view, yes.
burger at the bar at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
“Craft” is a frequent theme throughout the offerings of The Cassidy, starting with the drinks. I am not normally one to begin with beer, but I will to illustrate my point: half of the beers on tap are New Jersey craft breweries, including newcomer SOMA Brewing’s “Reservation”. There are twenty-five (!) wines by the glass, allowing wine lovers to taste around both the old and new world. The cocktails are interesting without being over the top. I like the Cool Cucumber or the Meyer Lemon, both featuring my favorite liquor-mixing flavors. Friends observed challenges early on when attempting to go off-menu for cocktails in terms of ingredient availability. In fairness, that is increasingly common as bars look to focus on ingredient quality and mixology inventiveness versus the traditional cocktail set.
Fiddleheads and Scallops at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
Continuing the craft theme, the menu rotates throughout the seasons to feature local ingredients. Unlike a lot of places that claim to focus on local seasonal fare, The Cassidy team is preparing a menu that consistently highlights the best of New Jersey produce and protein. Whenever you see scallops in summer, order them. I love the spring variety with charred fiddleheads, a highly localized vegetable foraged only for a few short weeks in the spring; do not pass up the classic combo of Barnegat scallops and Jersey corn.
Jersey scallops and corn at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
There are also a few menu staples I love. Starting with appetizers, go for the duck duck duck charcuterie, the buffalo cauliflower, or the chopped salad to start. Although hidden at dinner thanks to the separate “bar” menu, the burger is always available and always delicious. As the evenings warm up, we look forward to a beer and a burger on the outdoor terrace overlooking downtown Maplewood.
hanger steak with fried egg at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
The hanger steak is always a good choice, whether prepared with a red wine demi glace and blue cheese, or as currently served with a fried egg and crab fried rice. A few delicious items that seemed more permanent but have dropped from the menu include the monkfish osso bucco, the crispy soft farm egg salad, and the crispy duck ramen. We can only hope for their return.
duck ramen at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
Time for dessert, which is easier to enjoy here thanks to the mini ice cream sundaes. The size will entice you; the fancy flavor combinations will bring you back for more. We have loved them all, even the most eclectic. The winner? Smoked chocolate ice cream with toasted hazelnuts and marshmallow fluff, a sophisticated twist on s’mores. I am not sure how they managed to capture the delicious part of campfire ‘smoke’ in a spoon, but they did.
pancake brunch at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
Did I mention the excellent brunch? While there are threads of traditional brunch to be found, not a single dish will bore you. Try the eggs benedict with artic char, a delicious salmon alternative, or the fried chicken with a home fries “waffle”. More in a ‘lunch’ mood? I love the adult grilled cheese with raclette, bacon and tomato on toasted sourdough. My personal favorite is the chilaquiles; while not as good as those found in more southern locations, they are pretty darn good for these northern parts.
My kids (young and old) cannot choose between the waffles and pancakes, and mom is admittedly dying to try the new coffee waffle with mascarpone and toasted hazelnuts. Add some Pimm’s cup and bubbly sangria to top it off, and enjoy live jazz on Sundays. Perfect menu to serve up a family-friendly #sundayfunday. Looking for more brunch restaurant options? Check out more of my brunch recommendations here.
chilaquiles for brunch at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
Like most new restaurants, service was not perfect at the start. While they were (and still are) warm, friendly, and enthusiastic, there were issues with timing and coordination with the bar and kitchen. I mention this not to criticize, but to encourage a little patience as we enjoy the flood of new restaurants in the area. As more join our community, I hope my fellow new-restaurant dining companions can tolerate that those who jump to try new places are often the guinea pigs as the serving team finds their stride. The Cassidy was no different, and big improvements have already been observed.
Artichoke flatbread at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
Full disclosure: my research tells me the noise level has been an issue for some. I have never experienced a problem while enjoying The Cassidy at moderate to even high crowd levels. However, I can see how it could become a little noisy in the bar area on a rocking weekend evening. When the bar is full, those seated in the booths (which in my view are the best tables) could start to struggle with conversation. If quiet conversation is what you are after, be sure to sit in the more separated “restaurant” zone.
buffalo cauliflower at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
With something for just about anyone, The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen adds a much needed middle-ground option between “cheap and cheerful” dining and fancy fare. I am happy to have another option on “the list” for a glass of wine and a cheese plate with a friend. In my view, it was the perfect new addition to downtown Maplewood and the northern New Jersey dining scene.
The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen
160 Maplewood Avenue ⋅ Maplewood, NJ ⋅ (973) 762-5433 ⋅ www.thecassidy.net
spinach fettuccine at The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen | photo by jenn kosar
In the neighborhood? Join me on SOMA Eats Local for a discussion on the best of the dining out scene in South Orange, Maplewood, and surrounding towns.