Dayton’s best kept secret is making no secret of its new executive chef, Emilio Santos. His style and flare coupled with Whitlock Tavern’s already outstanding menu is generating some noise for this upscale tavern located just 10 minutes from downtown Princeton.

“Emilio and his sous chef, Anthony Blay, have raised the bar,” said Manager Ray Crossman. “The food quality and menu selections have gone up several levels since they arrived.”

Whitlock Tavern is described as “upscale” because it’s much more than an old-style taproom. Still, Crossman is proud to serve a variety, from Veal Osso Buco and Chicken Pot Pie, to Prime Rib and the Whitlock Black Angus Burger.

“We have something for every taste and pocketbook,” he added. “You can order a flute of champagne or a light beer. Being a tavern means we have the flexibility to offer a wide range of delicious food.”

A new Spring Menu has been available for a month – to rave reviews. Of particular note is the new Brunch Menu, featuring a mix of breakfast and lunch favorites. From the homemade Fresh Pancakes and Belgian Waffles to the Quiche of the Day, the Brunch Menu has something for every palate.

“We’ve added some fun,” Crossman explained. “You can order Bananas Foster or Chocolate Chip Pancakes. If you’re looking for a light lunch, you might try one of our Wraps. If you’re looking for something hearty, try the Whitlock Steak Deluxe – a 6 oz. steak with two eggs, hash browns and toast. Salads, burgers, Bocar Burgers – you name it, we have it, right down to our sumptuous desserts.”

Another popular new feature is the Wine Pairing Dinner. Held on the last Wednesday of every month, the event is hosted by a local wine importer who brings not only libations but also expertise. Customers delight to perfectly paired dinner fare and wine while learning about different wines. Each course features a special wine, starting with sparkling and ending with dessert. Wine Pairing Dinners sell out fast, so Crossman recommends those interested call well in advance.

Since a tavern tradition is a neighborhood gathering place, Whitlock Tavern offers great food and good fun. On Wednesday and Thursday nights there is light entertainment: Bruce Foster on Wednesdays and Small Voices on Thursdays. These talented artists play everything from Eric Clapton to Van Morrison to the Beatles, starting at 8 p.m.

Whitlock Tavern caters to guests in many ways – including parties and special events. The tavern has five separate dining areas. Additionally, Lydia’s Room holds 20 people and is perfect for small parties. Emily’s Room comes equipped with wireless Internet service and holds 40 people, making it a popular destination for private parties as well as business meetings.

Whitlock Tavern is open seven days. Monday through Saturday, Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Supper from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday Brunch is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday Supper from 3 to 9 p.m. The restaurant is smoke-free; however, smokers can relax outdoors in the picturesque Gazebo.

Whitlock Tavern, 375 Georges Road Dayton, N.J. (732) 274-2200 Fax: (732) 274-0329

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