Jake and Jocco's Riverside Inn
July 1, 1998
By Kurt Epps
Cranford, NJ is not a big place, but it must have a beer karma. Within a
one quarter mile area there are three outstanding places to get quality
One is the famous Antone's Pub on South Ave., visited and approved by no
less an authority than Michael Jackson himself. Another, two blocks away
and also on South Ave., is The Office, part of a chain of six upscale
beer bars. And the third, Jake and Jocco's Riverside Inn on North Ave.,
you might pass right by if you're big on external appearances.
Too bad, because the place is a gem. This tiny local bar with a decor
that wavers between Nautical, Bavarian and New York Yankees is a
throwback to another era and has been a fixture in Cranford for decades.
A former Model A Ford dealership, the joint is situated hard by the
Rahway River at a spot that used to be a fording place for the Lenni
Lenape Indians who resided there. Its kitchen is so small you'll brush
the walls if you blink your eyes. And if co-owner Jake (who's big enough
to have his own zip code) is in it, it's a wonder any food comes out at
But the real wonder is the food that comes out the door. It's unusual
for the PubScout to begin a review by talking about a pub's vittles, but
that's what you'll be talking about after you visit. The food is a factor
of Big Jake's (real name: Pete Jacobs) attitude toward his place, his
customers and his work. "I just wanna cook, man. I wanna feed the world
for five bucks a head, then go fishin'."
And he's pretty true to his word. The PubScout fed a family of five far
more than we could eat, with outstanding appetizers and entrees
(including Jake's World Famous, Fight-through-storms-to-get-it Crab and
Cheese Crock) and multiple servings of drinks (at least three
Boddington's pints--on TAP!) for $46. The food was nothing short of
sensational in portions and quality.
"I got whatever you want. If I can't I can't make it, I'll run across
the street and get it," says the burly Yankee fan who keeps a fishing
pole behind the bar for youngsters who may want to try their luck in the
³mighty² Rahway River. He makes a daily trek to select his own
vegetables, not trusting the quality of delivery services.
He also prefers to deal with beer salesmen who have access to Yankee
tickets and who "understand his system." Said system includes ten taps
with a decent selection of micros that always includes an IPA, something
light, something dark and some standard "canoe beers" (Bud-Miller-Coors)
owing probably to Jake's proximity to the waterside.
The micros available this night, a small but solid selection by
anybody's standards, were a measure of Jake's experience in the business.
On tap were Widmer's Hefeweizen, Guinness, Bass, Harp, Sierra Nevada,
Dundee's Honey Brown, Beck's and - incredibly - Boddington's. Not many
places can boast a Boddy on tap, and it must have been nitrogen infused
because it came with the classic bottom-filling creamy head and it was
cold and delicious.
Though brother Jocco (Jeff Jacobs) was off this night, the place has a
definite family air to it. Mama Jacobs makes all the salads, Jocco makes
"all the stuff you can't pronounce" and Jake makes the rest. Though
neither brother ever planned to open a bar as a career goal, that's where
they are. "This is the place you come to before and after you go to the
clubs," said Big Jake, cutting food with a huge butcher knife as he spoke
and alternately gesturing at me with it. "Both softball teams usually
come here after their games. There's always somebody you know here," said
the knife-waver who puts real Tootsie pops on every kid's plate.
time patron Paul Baruch (whose father was a patron) and his stunning
blonde companion, Arizonan Victoria Lambert confirmed Jake's assessment.
The PubScout's better half, not a super-dedicated beer geek, bases her
evaluation of beer bars on pubgrub. "I can't believe that quality and
variety of food came from one guy out of a kitchen that size," she
declared. "I'd come back here in a minute."
So would the PubScout.
Just for the Boddington's.
®Kurt E. Epps 1998 All Rights Reserved