NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Brunswick’s newest downtown restuarant and bar, INC American Bar & Kitchen, is just the second eatery in the Mark Daniel Hospitality family.
INC — short for Ingredients N Craft — is nestled alongside the Heldrich Hotel on George Street in New Brunswick, replacing the twice-failed Daryl Wine Bar.
On Friday, February 28, it seemed like most of New Brunswick braved the cold to check out the grand opening night at the new establishment.
Judging by the jovial crowd, it was worth the trek. If the warm and welcoming staff weren’t enough to melt away a frigid disposition, a sampling from the complimentary whiskey tasting certainly did the trick.
Step through the front door and swipe to the left, you’ll find a well-appointed take-out window carved directly out of the kitchen.
For under $9, diners on the go can choose one of five base ingredients (chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, or cauliflower) prepared one of five different ways, including wrapped in a burrito or part of a bánh mi sandwich.
Swipe to the right and you can take a seat in the spacious dining room, or cozy up to a bar warmly illuminated by a honeycomb backdrop.
Following in the footsteps of its sister restaurant Uproot, located in Warren Township, INC delivers on the company’s philosophy of “local ingredients, classic techniques, and handmade components.”
Captained by General Manager Danny McGill and Executive Chef Ryan Anderson, INC presents a menu that is reflective of modern American multiculturalism.
“When you think about American cuisine now, the lexicon has really been changed,” McGill told New Brunswick Today.
“If you go to New Mexico, tacos are just as American as apple pies. For us, we wanted to kind of change peoples’ perspective a little bit on what traditional American fare is, or what it could be.”
Chef Anderson’s menu borders on nonconformity and exudes inclusion. He puts forth an abundance of choices and provides the freedom to design your experience.
“I wanted to create something fun, approachable, and something that wouldn’t break the bank,” says Anderson.
“I have fine dining background, and I wanted to bridge the gap between a really nice restaurant and a very casual place; just kind of meet in the middle where we make everything fresh with really bold flavors, keeping everything as tasty as possible.”
Courses are not prescribed, but encouraged through a myriad of small plates and individually portioned tacos. You will find the requisite American burger at the top of the menu, but it’s far from standard.
The custom proprietary beef blend comes from John’s Meat Market in Scotch Plains, and toppings range from smoked paprika to foie gras and duck confit.
The quality of the dishes can really be seen in Anderson’s attention to detail.
Housemade flour tortillas, chicken liver pate, and salsa verde are but a few of the handcrafted items that will show up on your plate.
“It’s the small things that people wouldn’t really notice, I wanted to zero in on and try and make that as good as possible,” says Anderson.
The locavore energy of INC is not confined to the kitchen. All of the wine and most of the beers available are domestic, and a truly American spirit is at the core of the cocktail menu.
“The focus for the beverage program was to really focus on things that were crafted in America,” says McGill.
The cocktail menu features six whiskey-based concoctions, so it makes sense that the bartenders sport tee-shirts proclaiming whiskey their “spirit animal.”
“While whiskey can be crafted anywhere, bourbon in particular can only be crafted within the United States,” says McGill. “If we really had to boil it down and say what the heart of this bar was, it would be bourbon.”
INC pours over sixty selections of whiskey, from familiar producers like Maker’s Mark to the increasingly harder to come by Elijah Craig 12-year-old bourbon.
You will not have to venture very far to find the obscure libations to add to your home collection: the inventory of sprits on display near the take-out window is available for purchase.
“We have so many whiskies behind the bar, and some of them are tougher to find in liquor stores. I wanted to offer everyone the ability to go ‘Wow! I had a great whiskey, now where can I find it?'” says McGill.
“At least here we can [say] ‘Take thirty steps and go to the front, we sell it there.’ It will grow, and hopefully we can get to the point where we are carrying everything that we have behind the bar.”
INC does not take reservations as a matter of policy, but if you’re a party larger than six, you can call ahead for a table in the restaurant’s semi-private area, which seats up to 24.
Plans to make the semi-private area available for private events are in the works.
Lunch and dinner are served Monday through Friday. Saturday is dinner only. The take-out window is open until 10 PM every day, the bar until 2 AM every night, and a special late night menu is available Thursday through Saturday from 10 PM until 1 AM.
Follow INC on Instagram (@inc.restaurant) for Chef Anderson’s secret late-night menu items — think pork belly sliders, served on fresh out of the fryer cinnamon-sugar doughnuts!