RINGWOOD, N.J. – When Matt Van Allen made his daily trek from his Ringwood home to his pharmaceutical job in Princeton, the Old Forge Spirits & Pub was the last restaurant or bar he would see in the morning before 80 miles of highway.
And it was the first he’d see after getting off Route 287 on his commute back home.
Van Allen saw opportunity in the location on Skyline Drive – which he describes as a “funnel to the rest of the world from Northwest New Jersey.”
“17,000 cars go by this place a day, that is one every five seconds,” he said, while sitting at a high-top table in the business he recently purchased.
Van Allen opened for customers late last month, but he is still in the midst of remodeling the space and creating a menu.
He is on a mission to make the spot “much more inviting” than it had been over the last few years.
He and his crew of local help have been busy painting, laying new floors, redoing the bathrooms and hanging flat screens. They also removed booths that blocked windows to let the sun shine in.
Van Allen said he wants to make it “a place where my nieces and nephews can come to eat,” and people can watch football on Sundays.
He said many longtime Ringwood residents told him they remember going to the Old Forge years ago for drinks and food after softball games, basketball games and local meetings.
“I want to bring that back,” he said.
He also wants to bring in “grab-and-go” food – like lasagna, meatballs and sausage and peppers – that people can pick up on their commutes home.
Van Allen, who grew up in Franklin Lakes and for years has called Erskine Lakes home, spent his high school and college years working at the Market Basket in Franklin Lakes – where he learned about catering and food service on the job.
“I am in my element here,” he said. “You will see me behind the register. Behind the bar. Sweeping up.”
He plans to have the pub fully revamped in time for what should prove to be one of his busiest days of the year: St. Patrick’s Day.
The business is located at 139 Skyline Drive in Ringwood. To visit its Facebook page, click HERE .