Nestled in a quiet corner of the cozy End of Elm restaurant perusing a list of the gastro-pub’s signature cocktails I found myself stumped. Unable to decide on just one amongst a tantalizing list, I deferred to the head chef of the Morristown eatery, Thomas Donohoe, who quickly suggested their best selling cocktail, the Lady Killer. Owner Paul Haley also chimed in that I should sample another favorite, the Big Bully. In a few short minutes I was presented with both and after a sip of each I quickly began to understand why the new lounge has stirred up so much talk.
Located in close proximity to the Morristown train station, End of Elm features a list of unique cocktails, an array of craft beers and a menu with a plethora of items, each sounding better than the last. I was lucky enough to sit down with two of the men responsible for this fantastic addition to the Morristown food scene.
Having read up on Donohoe’s history in the industry, I was incredibly surprised by the humility Donohoe addressed his own accomplishments with. Speaking simply of his time working with master chef’s such as Jonathan Waxman of acclaimed New York restaurant, Barbuto, and Tomas Keller, the head chef at the French Laundry—a restaurant consistently ranked number one in the country—he shared with me that he began working in restaurants at a young age.
“What drew me to pursue a career as a chef was the repetition, the precision and the creativity that goes into creating a dish and being able to make people happy with my food. Making people feel at home in your home,” he said.
The buzz surrounding End of Elm focuses a lot on the gastro-pub’s menu, which features small, sharing plates between three and five bites.
“When you’re eating a big plate of food, after a few bites, your palate becomes dulled to the flavor. With smaller portions you get more bites with different flavors and textures and get to taste more of the menu,” he said.
Eager to sample some items, Donohoe presented me with four divine items from the menu. The first was the Exotic Mushroom Torta, an open faced sandwich of grilled rustic bread with three types of sautéed mushrooms, gruyere fondue and a soft cooked egg. When cutting the sandwich, the golden-yellow egg yolk flowed onto the mushrooms and soaked into the bread, creating a wonderful sauce of sorts for the dish. After scooping up every last mushroom, I moved on to the Pan Seared Scallop. Above a light and airy rhubarb and pistachio purée sat a perfectly cooked seared scallop, topped with fresh slices of avocado and orange. The dish was light and fresh, and all the ingredients melded beautifully.
Last, but absolutely not least, were lamb and duck sliders from the Trio of Sliders. Each was simple, yet delectable. The lamb on the first slider was magnificently cooked and when combined with the thick, flavorful Greek yogurt, brought your senses on a trip straight to the Mediterranean. Following the lamb was the duck paired with fig preserves. The sweetness of the preserves cut through the fatty flavor of the duck impeccably, creating a perfect sweet and savory mouthful.
Turning back to the drinks that had mystified me from the start, Haley, who devised most of the signature drink recipes, walked me through each. The Lady Killer is a mix of Double Cross vodka, elderflower liqueur, simple syrup, and lemon and blueberry liqueur that opens with a mix of the lemon and vodka flavors and finishes with the sweetness of the elderflower and blueberry.
Similarly, the Big Bully is a true star. A surprising combination of gin, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeño, the Big Bully at first taste, seems a simple and light mix, but then gives a kick from the jalapeño—leaving you with a lovely warmth following every sip.
As I gathered my things to leave—pleasantly full and eager to return— I asked Donohoe what he would want people to think of when they hear ‘End of Elm’. After a few moments of thought he said, “Fun. Just a fun, comfortable place with a high quality, creative, ingredient driven food and drinks.” Mission accomplished.