Owners of restaurants and other eateries have slogged through some very tough times. Now comes the promise of relief with the 25% green light for inside dining. But business people are cautious. They remember the previous okay which was quickly rescinded.

When the pandemic hit, restaurants faced a lock down. Owners opened up carside, curbside, deliveries and outside dining. Then came the promise of opening up the inside. This was followed by another inside lockdown. Now, again, comes the 25% green light for inside.

This is no way to run a small business — or a government. The owners of restaurants and eateries are keenly aware of this. In a pandemic, when appropriate, the individual’s responsibility is to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash hands. Guidelines, not edicts, are fitting.


“I plan to resume indoor seating soon,” says Christina Whitehead.

Indoor seating at her Polka Dot Cafe is very limited, and for the time being she is holding off on inside seating. Meanwhile, she is celebrating the cafe’s one year anniversary.

“Starting for Mother’s Day, I set up an outside bake sale tent,” she remembers. “People could pick up and go. Or they could use the outdoor seating — but there is no service outside.”

People stop at Polka Dot Cafe for hot dogs, sandwiches — and much more. The chunky chicken salad sandwich is very popular — or choose almond butter with jam, egg salad, even peanut butter and jelly or a BLT. Patrons wanting her tubs of homemade ice cream is “over the moon,” she notes. Coffee here is by Sky Roast, locally roasted artisanal brew that won Best Coffee in Bucks County last year.

On Friday nights, visitors pre-order her pot pies. Choose from chicken, beef or macaroni and cheese. And don’t forget the chocolate chip cookie over a brownie. Or take home other cookies, maybe scones, and more brownies for later munching.

Also, Polka Dot Cafe has an online store. Stock up on different types of artisan loaves of bread. Christina is also at the weekly Clinton Community Farmers’ Market, held Sundays, 9 to 1, at 65 Halstead St. (library parking lot).

For more information, call 908-638-9066 and visit PolkaDotCafeNJ.com. It’s located at 76 Main St. at the Columbia Trail, High Bridge.


“We’re holding off reopening inside,” says Nicole diLanzo. “We can handle diners inside, but it won’t be next week.” She plans that for later.

Caution is the watchword here. You can take your food and sit at outside tables, or you can order for curbside pickup.

Nicole diLanzo and Eileen Hawk opened Liv & Charlie’s Real Food establishment at 5 N. Union St. in Lambertville two years ago. They are just starting their third year.

“We have eight tables outside where people can sit and eat,” she explains. “There are no reservations, but we suggest people call ahead.” Those tables can fill up fast.

Liv & Charlie’s serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday, 9 to 2. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

The early morning menu here includes buttermilk pancakes, Belgian waffles, eggs (any style), and several types of omelets.

“Popular orders are for either the challah French toast or the southwest omelet,” says Nicole. Or choose the craftsman omelet, made with egg whites, turkey sausage, spinach and pepper jack cheese. Round it out with a house baked muffin or a Brooklyn bagel.

Soups and salads will tempt your taste buds for lunch. Paninis and sandwiches are variously stuffed with chicken, turkey, ham, barbecue brisket, and more.

Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items and dishes are served.

For more information, call 609-397-0009 and visit LivAndCharlies.com.


“Yes, we are now open for indoor and outdoor dining, as well as curbside pick up,” says Erin McPherson. Erin and husband Matt McPherson operate Matt’s Red Rooster Grill in Flemington.

Indoor dining is now limited to 25% capacity. Since this restaurant normally can seat 100, it means that only 25 can now be accommodated inside. Reservations are necessary.

“Indoor dining is upstairs only,” notes Erin. “But we also offer seating on the porch and in the tent.”

Matt’s Red Rooster Grill occupies a restored Victorian house located at 22 Bloomfield Ave. Chef Matt works at an open wood-fired grill preparing dishes featuring locally grown and harvested farm fresh ingredients. His famous wood-fired Romaine heart dish has received many accolades.

The menu is varied. Choose from dry aged steaks, baby back ribs, Griggstown marinated chicken, cedar plank roasted salmon, and more. You can bring your own bottle, or choose from a selection of wines from Hunterdon’s own Unionville Vineyards.

Matt is a Hunterdon native and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. This restaurant was recently selected by Open Table as a Best Overall top 10 restaurant.

For reservations and more information, call 908-788-7050 and visit MattsRedRoosterGrill.com. The restaurant opens at 4 p.m., Thursday to Sunday.

Al Warr may be reached at 610-253-0432 or AlWarr16@gmail.com.

Easing into reopening restaurants – nj.com

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