Cornerstone Kitchen & Tap - Jackson, NJ
A visit to Icarus Brewing paired with a planned meal at Cornerstone Kitchen & Tap seem like a step in the right direction for an area generally devoid of a brewery and a craft beer bar. Having Icarus so conveniently located, I couldn't possibly miss my chance at having food paired with some craft beer over at Cornerstone Kitchen & Tap in Jackson, NJ.
I had visited this location under its previous name of 21 South Bar & Grille. What always jumped out to me about the place was that it had untapped potential. Now, with almost a year in, CKT has brought a craft beer bar to the forefront in a location that isn't Red Bank, Asbury Park, or even Atlantic Highlands and Matawan. It's no secret that there are plenty of places that are completely overlooking the importance of such a place in this booming craft scene, but CKT is completely capitalizing on that. With over 20+ taps and elevated comfort food on menu, Cornerstone is definitely putting Jackson on the map as a place to visit, drink, and eat.
Any place can claim to have what seems to be a crazy amount of options on tap, but very often, most of them fail to deliver. Just from the picture above, you get 14 purely craft options that will surely entice or satisfy a wide range of craft beer consumers. Not only will Cornerstone firmly have you covered with choices, a surprising amount of them were also local. The list boasts and showcases favorites like Kane Brewing, Bolero Snort, Icarus and Brotherton, amongst others.
Pictured here in order of left to right: Kane Sneakbox, Bolerto Snort OVB, Founder's Breakfast Stout (Nitro), Sixpoint's Hi-Res and a full pour of Breaking Bud from Kneedeep Brewing . I also managed to have a small glass of Weyerbacher Sunday Morning Stout during this visit. All the beers are fresh and taste phenomenal. The tap list is really well though out and the fact that I could choose from an easy option like Sneakbox all the way up to an SMS is fantastic. There are few places with this type of beer versatility and it is GREATLY appreciated that you can have these pours in a flight or as simple pours.
The pricing on the tap list is fantastic and the formats stay true to the pricing. As much as I enjoy Sunday Morning Stout, the 10oz format is perfect and for $7, you can't go wrong. I'd much rather have a glass of that than dessert most of the times. One of the features I love of the CKT website is the integration of Untappd into the beer menu. Sometimes you just don't know, and something like this helps. I love that the list is also updated constantly and consistently. Right now, Carton Brewing's Cosmonaut and a new Evil Twin IPA are on tap, two that weren't on a week ago when I visited. Great job guys on keeping that rotating and updated, I appreciate it.
The time for food finally came and to kick things off was the CKT Wedge Salad. As lovely as the dish looks, the list of ingredients is fairly simple and short, but nothing short of amazing. The prosciutto and the smoked gouda dressing stand out. I know the scale is hard to tell from the picture, but this is the size of a full meal and it was devoured. The salad alone is a very respectable $8... add some chicken and you have a $13 salad that is sure to please any salad-lover. Having this with Kane Sneakbox was a real treat.
To name anything with the acronym "OMG" is setting a high bar, but in this case, the BLT-OMG delivers. Featuring such heavy hitters as bacon and pork belly brought together with a much better representation of mayonnaise in its pepperoncini baconaise, this sandwich was fantastic. The country bread is almost reminiscent of Texas toast but without being overwhelmingly thick. I do wish the pork belly had perhaps been a bit thinner and spread evenly throughout the sandwich, but it's not as if the bacon did make up for it. The lettuce and heirloom tomato were fresh and really rounded it the sandwich together.
Any time that my protein is bigger than the bread it comes on, this is probably going to be a winner. The Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich is no different. The potato bun is delicious but the chicken is ridiculously on point. It was cooked to perfection and the combination of pickles, shredded lettuce and that most excellent spicy ranch were blissful. Just the bun, ranch, and chicken alone were absolutely phenomenal. I'd recommend this, especially if you are going to have some Sunday Morning Stout as your dessert.
I was very pleased with my visit to Cornerstone Kitchen & Tap. The service was excellent on a Sunday afternoon. The waitresses were more than helpful and always willing to accommodate my every need. CKT is now permanently on my map and will definitely become synonymous with my visits to Icarus Brewing. With a wide and ever-changing selection of craft beers, including flights, updated lists, upscale comfort foods, I'd be hard pressed to not recommend this place to anyone I know.
Open since August, 2016 I'm fairly confident that this craft beer bar is here to stay and will continue to make waves within the industry. What also makes me hopeful for it to continue to grow and evolve is the fact that one of the owners is an avid lover and follower of not only craft beer, but New Jersey craft beer as well. The general manager also knows his stuff as well. So have no fear, nor any doubts. Even if beer isn't your thing, there's plenty of drink options and the food is sure to engage your palate.
Craft beer lovers near Jackson, rejoice! Long gone are the days of Surf Taco being the only place close enough where you could get a decent beer on tap. Craft beer lovers looking to get outside of their usual comfort zone locally, head out to Jackson and give this establishment a visit. Have a flight, have a pint, have some food... the visit will be well worth it.