The Copper Kettle Deli has been in downtown Basking Ridge for about ten years now, and during that time established itself as a popular spot to head for breakfast, lunch or a bite during the day with friends. In fact, the Copper Kettle was selected last week as our Readers Choice of favorite deli in town.
But that same week — just by chance — the Copper Kettle Deli also began serving dinner on a full-time basis.
As one of our readers mentioned, the Copper Kettle already been serving dinner on a sometimes basis in the recent past.
But now the deli's expansion into dinner service has been launched full speed ahead. A new chef has been hired, and the Copper Kettle has reset its hours to remain open until 9 p.m. on Monday through Saturday.
Copper Kettle owner Marco Elmallah said that adding the main meal of the day to his menu isn't really that much of a stretch for him.
"It's what I came from originally, the dinner business, not deli," he said when I dropped by to try dinner on Wednesday night. He said his culinary training was in preparing dinner, and he had owned a catering facility before starting the Copper Kettle Deli in 2002.
For now, the transition to becoming a dinner venue is still underway. The menu on Wednesday was handwritten, although fairly lengthy. Elmallah said a regular menu still is being prepared. However, he said dinner specials will be routine.
And the lunch staples — such as the cheeseburger and fries ($7.50) ordered by my younger son — were still available at dinner.
Marco and staff seemed more than eager to please, and it seems that some of the Copper Kettle's longtime fans were happy to be pleased. When we arrived, there was a couple sitting next to us enjoying a quiet dinner and a few of the usual gang who were chatting with Marco, as he's popularly known. Soon, a family arrived, bearing a bottle of wine — something you wouldn't see at breakfast or lunch, I'm presuming!
The cafe really does look more like a dining room at night, with candles and (something I'd never seen before) a dark night outside the windows.
Still, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived for dinner at what I'd always thought of as a local deli.
And the verdict is — we really enjoyed our meals.
The big hit of the night was the plate of giant, tender scallops stuffed with crabmeat and topped with (a rather sinful) lobster cream sauce. They were served with a selection of sauteed vegetables, in giant chunks; very good. The scallops were priced at $8 for an appetizer portion, and $18 for dinner.
My older son ordered the grilled chicken kebob over rice, also with grilled vegetables. ($13.99) The herbed rice was especially tasty, along with the generous portion of vegetables. Dinners were served with salad.
As for my younger son, the burger and fries he wanted, arriving as a generous portion, were just what he expected. After all, he's been there before with friends on expeditions "to town."
Elmallah refused to be pinned down about the type of cuisine the Copper Kettle has been serving, or will be serving in the future. He defines the menu as mainly American — but perhaps it might be better viewed as a melting pot of American cookery.
At least on Wednesday there were a number of Italian specialties (ie. veal osso bucco and pasta dishes) but also seafood — and that chicken kebob. One can guess that the menu is evolving. Who knows — maybe customer favorites will help determine what regular dishes are put on the menu.
And while dinner indoors is nice, the Copper Kettle's wraparound porch, already a draw on warm days, will undoubtedly beckon for a nighttime meal once weather permits.