McLoone’s Brings Lakeside Dining to Essex County


This ain’t no dinky county park hotdog stand. McLoone’s Boathouse, a 12,000-square foot restaurant adjacent to Essex County’s miniGolf Safari, is the kind of place where you’ll want to go for Mother’s Day brunch, have drinks with your office mates, take your family for dinner on Sunday nights… and possibly plan to have your daughter’s wedding. Built for $4 million, the massive structure, designed to look like a rustic boathouse, with views of the Orange Reservoir, is owned by Essex County and is accepting reservations for dining starting this Friday, Oct. 21. It’s a marvel of a place, with big stone gas-lit fireplaces, water views, dramatic blue lighting and outdoor seating — and it feels more like a very nice restaurant somewhere in the Adirondacks than a place to accommodate families who’ve been mini-golfing, visiting the Turtle Back Zoo or ice skating at the Codey Arena.

McLoone’s Restaurants is the concessionaire and will pay the county $22,500 in rent per month. It has the concession for 15 years with two additional five-year options. The arrangement is similar to that of the Highlawn Pavilion in Eagle Rock Reservation, which is also owned by the county.

Unlike Highlawn Pavilion, however, McLoone’s Boathouse is positioning itself as an affordable destination. Its lunch menu features sandwiches from $10.95 (grilled chicken flatbread) to $14.95 (crab cakes), salads ranging from $10.95 to $16.95 and burgers starting at $9.95.

The dinner menu also includes $9.95 burgers and $10.95 salads, but includes entrees ranging from $24.95 (lobster quesadilla) to $32.95 (Frutti Di Mare).

County Executive Joe DiVincenzo was the last in a long succession of speakers to open the restaurant officially, and he was more hopped up than I’ve ever seen him. In a booming voice, DiVincenzo defended his vision of the South Mountain Recreation Complex, which has been attacked by political foes for spending taxpayer dollars on entertainment facilities.

“This site was a total eyesore,” Joe DiVincenzo, pointing out that the land the restaurant sits on was used for years for carnivals and carnival parking. “It was a disgrace.”

He pointed out that his mini-golf investment — which cost $700,000 to build — will have paid for itself by the end of next season. He says it brought in $86,000 in 2010 and will make $300,000 by the time it closes this year on Thanksgiving weekend.

Tim McLoone, who grew up in Orange, gave a charming speech in which he wished his parents were still alive (to wait tables and man the bar), but added, “A third of the people who come through these doors the next few weeks will want to hate us.”

DiVincenzo is working with the township of Orange to get access to the reservoir to allow boating and create a running path.

McLoone’s Boathouse is located at 9 Cherry Lane in West Orange, at the intersection of Northfield Ave.

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  1. Thank’s Joey D!

    In 2034 when we realize our first profit on the restaurant it will be terrific! (3.5% interest)**

    ** assuming no maintenance, or insurances costs whatsoever and 100% uninterrupted occupancy.

  2. I am curious how McLoone, who already has at least three places serving alcohol running in Monmouth County, qualifies for a liquor license here. The legal limit is generally two, after all. Is this because Essex County actually holds the license and merely leases the premises to McLoone?

    Still, the former Harvard runner and well-known Springsteen friend, who also runs those “Holiday Express” concerts each Christmas season (nicely intentioned, but featuring very bad singing based on the two concerts I’ve seen), is a much more attractive choice for the venture than, say, the Knowles family.

  3. Allow boating….motors?…..Have a little petroleum with your glass of city gin…..Bad idea Joe, leave the reservoir to the geese & fish. keep the humans out of the drinking water, it’s filthy enough as it is.

  4. Manasquan Reservoir allows boating, but only electric motors. Most of the boats are human powered canoes and kayaks.

  5. Wow. It sounds like all you posters woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. It sounds like fun to me. I hear there is a ropes course over there too (outward bound type stuff). I look forward to trying it. Its business development generating profits. I’d vote no boats on the water though.

  6. Seems to be a lot of negativity for a venture few have seen. The comments about Holiday Express are particularly off the mark (as well as off-topic). There is more talent in that group of “do-gooders” (who perform for free) than you could find in a Broadway show…some of the performers come direct from Broadway. As for dust blowing off the deck…LOL…that is a real stretch. Imagine what blew into the reservoir before there were cleaning crews? Tim McLoone isn’t breaking any laws. He seems to run very attractive establishments. Why don’t you get a job and show him up?

  7. Brian……”Why don’t you get a job and show him up?”……Don’t you know we’re so filthy rich here in Boooo-ristaville that “jobs” are anathema to us. But go right ahead and pick up the napkins and sugar packets that blow off the deck. I hear Joey D tips pretty good too.
    I have visions of cigarette boats cruising up & down the rez, fireworks every Saturday night and dynamite fishing contests. near beer & classic cars.
    Time to tune up my jet ski.

  8. I would agree about no motorboats but otherwise this sounds like a win. I have volunteered at Holiday Express events… they are nothing short of amazing. If you are not familiar, these concerts are not for the cognoscenti, they perform close to 100 shows between Thanksgiving and Christmas at places the vast majority of us do NOT want to be spending our holidays… nursing homes, county hospitals, veteran’s homes, etc. If the shows lack professional polish, they make up for it in enthusiasm and compassion. It was wonderful to see the faces of the participants as they were entertained and received what may well be the only holiday gifts they would get. I was exhausted just watching and helping hand out gifts, and asked one volunteer if she would be glad to be heading home. “Home? We have another show yet tonight!” she told me with a smile.

    As a result I have gone of my way to patronize McLoone’s restaurants in Asbury and Long Branch when I can. I think what they do is great and hope that we can be regulars at this place that is closer to home.

  9. Regarding liquor licenses, I knew about that you-pick-two rule for supermarkets that sell package goods (try to figure out which Whole Foods has alcohol now!), but how would McLoone’s be different than, say, Bensi or T.G.I. Friday’s which have dozens of licensed establishments across the state?

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