After a $5 million, three-year renovation of a landmark property, veteran restaurateur Chris Cannon’s multi-concept restaurant is a success.
By any measure, the debut of Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen was a major restaurant opening in Morristown, New Jersey—perhaps the biggest the New York–metro commuter town had ever witnessed.
Located in the historic and palatial Vail Mansion, the landmark building took three and a half years and upward of $5 million to overhaul. With an interior boasting pricey murals, 12-foot glass windows, and marble staircases, Jockey Hollow is sometimes grand and always gracious.
“This is a hot town and to me this was the perfect location,” says Chris Cannon, a New York restaurateur with 36 years of experience who was previously a partner in six Italian restaurants in Manhattan, including two-Michelin-starred Marea. “I had to spend some money to put this place together, but I am paying a tenth of what I would pay in New York.”
Cannon says he pays $240,000 a year with an option to buy after five years. “That’s the kind of rent you would spend in The Bowery (New York City) for a pizza place,” he explains.
Jockey Hollow is a multi-restaurant concept featuring an upscale cocktail lounge, the Vail Bar; The Oyster & Wine Bar; The Rathskeller, an underground German beer hall that is also used for corporate events; and the highly acclaimed fine-dining option simply named The Dining Room.
“When I first saw the building, it totally dictated what to do with each space,” Cannon says.
Recently named by Esquire Magazine as one of the Best New Restaurants in America in 2015, Jockey Hollow overlooks a 150-foot-long reflecting pool. Before Cannon’s acquisition, Vail Mansion housed Morristown’s police, fire, and municipal offices.
Despite challenges that included a long and arduous effort to acquire a concessionaire’s permit that would allow the sale of alcohol, Cannon says the end result was well worth it.
“Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen is one of a kind. It’s big, beautiful, and elegant,” he says.
Cannon named the property in honor of the surrounding Jockey Hollow area, a unit of Morristown National Historical Park, which was twice used as a winter camp by the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
“I came across the Jockey Hollow Park and I really liked that name,” Cannon says. “I also wanted to pay homage to the area’s history.”
Under the direction of executive chef Kevin Sippel, who formerly worked with Cannon at Alto and L’Impero in New York City, Jockey Hollow’s kitchen is turning heads for its inventive, tantalizing, and locally sourced cuisine.