Picture the scene: A crackling fire, wooden, rustic decor, views of the expansive valley and lawn — in the middle of nowhere. Sound like heaven? To Sussex County locals, this is a little slice of home, and to city dwellers, a foodie getaway. The Walpack Inn is a restaurant in Walpack Center on Route 615 in Northern NJ that has been “socially distant since 1949”, as they term it. This popular local spot open for the last six decades boasts freshly-baked bread, steaks galore, and views for days. And in the age of COVID-19, the restaurant has created what is now known as “The Walpack Out” — dining outdoors in the beautiful green pastures with space galore. Here’s more about this longstanding hidden gem The Walpack Inn about an hour from Hoboken + Jersey City that is worth a trek north from the city.
(Photo credit: The Walpack Inn)
“I moved here when I was 12 years old with my family from Rutherford, New Jersey,” Jim Heigis, owner and son of original owners Louise and Adam, shared. “My grandparents were local farmers, my father, Adam, tended bar, and my mother, Louise, was a great cook. She is still remembered for her spaghetti and meatballs and homemade fruit pies.” Jim took over for his parents after he graduated from hotel + restaurant school at the age of 23.
Rustic animal-filled decor adorns the walls, plant installations hang from the ceiling, bright open windows display views of the backyard, which is a mountain valley and field of all your forest and country getaway dreams. Wooden paneling and designs with a historical feel surround visitors.
The OGs to the Walpack Inn know that Jim Woolsey played piano there until he was in his late 90s. Those who frequented back in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s remember his bluesy tunes and vibes till his passing. Today, the piano still sits where he played.
The locale has undergone some expansions from its original size, and now, outside during “Walpack Out”, the COVID-19-style pivot for dining outdoors, Edison lights are strung across the property lending to a festive ambiance, and there’s abundant wildlife, especially at dusk.
This has been the case for years, but with COVID-19, like many businesses, Jim + his family had to adjust, and opted for outdoor dining on their expansive back lawn acreage, as well as a concert series. Reservations are required, which you can do so here).
^ Jim and his pups setting up the stage
The menu is American-style steakhouse, but with a home-y vibe. Steak, chicken, fish, some vegetarian options for entrees, and a salad bar to get the meal started the right way. Specials change nightly, and the food is always on-point, but above all, the noteworthy standouts are the bread, huge, thick, cake-like loaves that are served warm to guests at the start of the meal sliced up, as well as the homemade pies from the kitchen. The bread is so legendary that the Inn sells kits for diners to recreate the experience at home.
^ Crumb pies
^ THE bread
As for the future of the Inn? It’s an evolving place, as Jim said, “The Inn has always been a work in progress and with the help of my wife and two daughters we will continue to do our very best to accommodate all of you who share our love for this magical valley.”