FLORHAM PARK — We may not be able to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in the manner we are all used to, in this age of COVID restrictions, but if you are looking for a safe, lively, energized, fun place to go that also offers a menu with a nice selection of tasty pub food, as well as an extensive selection of libations, you might just want to head out to Florham Park Thirsty Turtle.
Opened in August of 2012, in a former Trader joe’s location, it was a bit tricky finding the restaurant. It is located, in what I found to be a somewhat hidden location, in the rear of numerous other stores in the large Regency Plaza mall, right off Columbia Turnpike and James Street. Once you find it, there is plenty of parking, and it is a bright, appealing, and attractive-looking building. It appeared busy for a Thursday evening, with workers bringing take-out orders to waiting cars and a few people who did not make reservations waiting for seating. Yes, I would make reservations coming here, obviously because of the limited indoor dining capacity. Fortunately, I did make reservations, and on entering, our very pleasant, friendly, and welcoming Hostess, Jenna, happily escorted me to a nice, comfortable corner table.
Though not what I would personally consider an authentic Irish Pub, the Thirsty Turtle serves that need and is what I would refer to as a gastropub, a term coined in London in 1991, basically a combination of the word’s pub and gastronomy, notable for an emphasis on serving high-quality food, as well as a great selection of various craft beers (bottled and tap), and other alcoholic drinks (wine, martinis, ciders, libations). If you love a pub atmosphere featuring a wide range of quality beers, the Thirsty Turtle certainly hits that mark, with 22 rotating tap-best seasonal choices, complete with an impressive selection of local craft and new releases; well-prepared cocktails, or just a relaxing, casual venue where you can enjoy a nice casual lunch or dinner; then this might be just the place for you.
With a comfortable looking, long bar, with plenty of seating, and once we put this pandemic behind us, the Thirsty Turtle would clearly be an outstanding place to catch a game with friends or just a comforting place to stop in and enjoy something from their carefully thought-out menu, which seems to have something to meet everyone’s taste. After all, what could be better than a refreshing, ice-cold beer, mixed drink, and finger foods while all being enjoyed at your favorite pub.
As must be said, it was clear that this pub was exceptionally clean and was carefully following all the pandemic required health safety guidelines. Nice atmosphere, putting off a
great sports bar vibe, with widely spaced seating, comprised of large family-style booths and individual tables for four. The sound quality was great, relaxed lighting, and quite a few (I counted 7) large screen televisions (sound off) carefully placed throughout the bar area. Attractive décor throughout, with a lot of wood accents and tastefully decorated to set the mood. It was clear that this was also a family-friendly environment and all the patrons were clearly enjoying themselves. It was kind of sad to see the beautiful bar sealed off with those plexiglass barriers that we have all gotten used to seeing, but it was nice to watch the bartenders still working their craft, preparing a variety of tantalizing cocktails.
And, they have an equally attractive back-room area which looked like a perfect place for a business or family function. The Thirsty Turtle is certainly an appealing venue. This relatively new, modern look and feel of pubs have come a long way from my small dive bar many years ago when the only food items were pickled, hard-boiled eggs and sausages, which were in jars simply placed on the bar, and which tasted surprisingly good when you were drinking, and not to forget, one of those little rotating hot dog broiler things for when you wanted to go gourmet. Of course, you must be a little older to remember those treats.
Once seated, our waitress, Tricia, quickly greeted us and took our drink order, which arrived promptly. Kudos to Tricia for her attentiveness, professional and friendly service. Obviously, a great and efficient wait staff certainly enhances the entire perception of any restaurant. My groups’ appetizers started with us sharing the Irish Nachos (potato crisps, bacon, cheddar & Monterey Jack, scallions, red peppers, Guinness sour cream), Filet Mignon Spring Rolls (queso fresco, caramelized onions), and the Chicken Pot Stickers ((Sesame mustard sauce, soy reduction, scallions).
The Irish Nachos were delicious, nice crunchy, crispy chips, gooey cheese, just the right amount of salty and cheesy bite at the same time, and the Guinness sour cream seemed to put it over the top. The Chicken Pot Stickers were exceptionally good; a nicely filled dumpling with savory, nicely spiced chicken; and the Filet Mignon Spring Rolls; not your traditional spring roll, but prepared perfectly with a kick, nice juicy bites of steak complemented by the spring roll wrapper, the white Spanish cheese, chopped scallions, and sweet caramelized onions. Great appetizers and plenty of each to share for our starters. Of course, since Saint Patrick’s Day is soon to arrive, I had to start off with a Guinness, while my guests had an Arnold Palmer and a Blue Moon.
For my Entrée, and based on reviews, I chose to try the interesting Pretzel Burger, an 8-ounce premium Angus burger served on a toasted soft pretzel roll, topped with American cheese, bacon, Russian dressing, and shredded lettuce. It was a good substantial burger. I enjoyed the various textures and flavors of the ingredients, the crunchiness, and saltiness of the bacon, with the crunchy and chewy taste of the pretzel roll, complemented with the cheese and dressing, made for a tasty and satisfying meal. I could see why this is one of their most popular items on the menu. All our entrees came with nice crispy French-fried potatoes and a pickle. By now I was ready to try one of their craft beers; the Smuttynose Finestkind IPA. I am not normally a big beer drinker, so it is hard for me to judge, but it was nice, cold, and refreshing.
Others in the group went with the Filet Mignon Kabobs; twin kabobs, marinated filet, onions, red peppers, fries, and coleslaw. My opinion was that the meal was as delicious as it looked and sounds. He does not like coleslaw, so I jumped at the opportunity to try that and found it to be a nice, creamy, cold, and crunchy treat. And, finally, The Cuban Sandwich, which is new to their menu, slow-roasted pork loin, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, Cajun aioli, chipotle BBQ sauce, sliced dill pickle, Cuban baguette, and fries. Reportedly, that sandwich was also well prepared and delicious.
They do have a dessert menu, but for this time around we skipped the usuals and went with their Espresso Martini. Wow, decadently delicious. The perfect ending to a fun evening.
Honestly, I am confident that I could have gone with any of these entrees, or any of the items on the menu for that matter, and have been completely satisfied. Overall, I would have to give high grades for the delicious food, good service, nice ambiance, and overall satisfaction with the Thirsty Turtle from this visit. As I said, I have been here before and I will certainly be back.
As an end note, I did reach out to the owner of the Thirsty Turtle, who was not available on my visit, to ask him about any special plans they may have for Saint Patrick’s Day. Jim, the owner, did say that because of the restrictions they are not sure what they will be able to do, but that they are presently in the planning stages for whatever specials they will have for the celebration. But, be assured, even though nothing is available for publication as of this writing, they will have something special planned for the day’s menu.
Open 7 days a week for Dining and Curbside Pick-Up, Delivery, Parking Lot, Wi-Fi, casual, Outdoor seating, even Gluten Free Selections
Thirsty Turtle is operated under Growth Restaurants, which also owns The Famished Frog in Morristown, Bamboo Grille in Basking Ridge, and Meadow Wood Manor in Randolph.
The Thirsty Turtle Eatery, 186 Columbia Turnpike, Florham Park, NJ 07932. Phone: (973) 845-6300. Click here for the website.