Blooming Grove Inn

The Trentonian – 3/5/17

The Blooming Grove Inn in Ewing celebrates over 275 years of history.
by Jeff Edelstein, The Trentonian

The Blooming Grove Inn in Ewing is … well, it’s blooming. There’s plenty I want to say, and virtually none of it connects in a typical narrative fashion.
So with that in mind …

The Outsider
I’ve been with The Trentonian since 1999. I’ve made myself a fixture in the community by force of will. The Greater Trenton area is my home, and I plan on staying here forever. That said, I’ll always feel like a bit of an outsider. I grew up in Parsippany, so I was a “New York” kid. Many other New Jerseyans identify with Philadelphia. Here, in Mercer, people who grew up here are … Mercer.

Which is why I say we should give Steve Jordan a big ol’ Mercer welcome. He’s the owner of the Blooming Grove Inn, he’s 33, he grew up in Bensalem and went to college at Temple. An outsider to these here parts. But he saw an opportunity in Ewing three years ago, and now he’s all-in on our area. How all-in is he?

The Quarters
You know where Jordan lives? In the Blooming Grove Inn. Apartment is upstairs. You convinced yet this guy is committed to this area?

The History
The restaurant, located on West Upper Ferry Road, is on land first purchased in 1741 by Richard Green. It was known as Blooming Grove Farm. In the 1860s, the building the restaurant is in was built, probably used as an inn. In fact, there are still hitching posts on the property. By the early 1900s, it was a restaurant, by the 1920s, a speakeasy. In 1950, it became Mary Marks Ewing Manor, then it was passed to the Lieggi family, then it became Paulie’s Anna Rose, and now, fully refurbished from wall to wall, the Blooming Grove Inn.

The Speakeasy Past
Let’s talk about booze: Full bar, including what Jordan calls the “Brown Bar,” an homage to the inn’s speakeasy past. He’s got over 60 scotches, whiskeys, and bourbons to sample. Now that’s a bar (and also a probable Uber trip home for me one night in the near future).

And get this: When he was building the new bar, he knocked out a shelf and found a beer can, signed and dated from 1941. Cool. And spooky. Because …

The Ghosts
“There’s ghosts,” Jordan said. “I hear things. I never discounted ghosts, but I don’t buy into a lot of it either. But yes, I’ll come down in the morning, and out of the corner of my eye I feel like I just missed somebody. They walk across the rooms and into the kitchen. It’s a weird feeling. Like I said: It feels like I just missed them.” Is there a way to combat ghosts? Who knows. But perhaps that’s why there’s Carolina Reapers growing out back.

The Garden
Forget farm-to-table; Jordan is going from “backyard to your plate.” He’s got a garden in the back, so many of the herbs and vegetables are fresh in the temperate months. He also decided to plant numerous varieties of hot peppers back there, including the Carolina Reaper, which holds the Guinness Book of World Records title of hottest pepper in the world. “People ask about it, want to try it, so I’ll cut a piece the size of a tip of a toothpick,” Jordan said. “They’ll put in on their tongue and marvel at the heat. And I’ll watch the sweat come down.” As of yet, there’s nothing on the menu that features the Carolina Reaper, but Jordan is playing around with a pepper sauce he thinks would match well with a high-end grilled cheese. Speaking of …

The Food
Think New American at dinner, traditional American at lunch. And know Jordan is nowhere near done figuring out his key dishes. As of now, the braised beef short ribs are a winner, and he said his roasted duck is “done right,” noting duck is a tricky protein to work with. The menu changes twice a year, and while Jordan thinks everything is delicious — “I eat here nine days a week and I’m not tired of it,” he quipped — he does want the feedback from his patrons. He wants the Blooming Grove Inn to be part of the fabric of the community.

The Final Word
“I love it here,” Jordan said. “There’s so many independent restaurants, and everyone knows everybody. I guess that’s a holdover from Chambersburg. How can I put this … I mean, people don’t say they’re going to Revere; they say they’re going to Joey’s place. Everyone does their own thing, and I just want to try and carve out my own niche.”