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In the News: Starters: The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern

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December 11, 2009

BY AMY KUPERINSKY

From NorthJersey.com

After an extensive renovation that has updated its historic appeal, the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn has reopened under new ownership and a new name, the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern.

The most obvious change to the inn, following a $1.5 million renovation that started in July, has been the addition of color to normally colonial-white walls. On the ground floor, crimson washes over the inn's crystal room. While its original ebullient chandelier remains, it's been made current by a chic shade across from a large, subtle temperature-controlled, 1,000-bottle wine cabinet. Upstairs, the inn's 27-seat chateau room, prepped with a projector for business meetings, is swathed in creamy beige.

At the inn's revamped library bar, formerly called the lounge, a depiction of George Washington peers out at visitors, while across the room, a whimsical bookshelf lined with classic novels and games sits next to mismatched, homey furniture. In front of a modernized, sleek bar, the original chairs remain, refinished with embossed red croc patent leather.

"You sort of have that old-world gentleman feel," said co-owner Laurie Hamm.

Just adjacent, the brand-new tavern portion of the restaurant in the former taproom is the most modern space in the inn, which dates from 1790. Yet even there, references to its centuries as a community institution hang on the wall, many donated by local residents, one of the first Ho-Ho-Kus baseball uniforms, school photographs and both paintings and photographs of the inn over its storied tenure at the center of town.

"It's such an important part of this town," said co-owner Gordon Hamm, a borough councilman and 15-year resident.

Following the redecoration and addition of the tavern, the couple sought to lower prices and focus on family-friendly dining. At the tavern, customers can order pizza or calamari for $9. For regular dining, appetizers from executive chef Bryan Gregg include an onion tart with Gruyère cheese and caraway crème fraiche and Nova Scotia lobster salad with pain perdu, Marcona almonds and tarragon, with oysters also available in half- or full-dozen servings.

Laurie Hamm said the restaurant is working to emphasize locally raised foods, as well as meats that are antibiotic and hormone-free, so entrées include chicken potpie using chicken from Wyckoff's Goffle Poultry Farm, and Niman Ranch rib-eye, which is served with garlic potato purée and truffle-creamed spinach purée. For dessert, pastry chef Patrick Muller's selections include warm chocolate brioche pudding with passion fruit sorbet and raspberry compote and an apple crumb tart with caramel baked apples, pecan streusel and pecan bourbon ice cream.

To suggest a new restaurant, e-mail pitcher@northjersey.com.