Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore! As soon as you walk into the newly opened Echo Tap & Grille in Mountainside, you’ll forget you were just on Route 22 and feel like you’re in some hip city. With its distinctive urban vibe, vibrant crowd, and trendy eclectic cuisine, it’s no surprise that Echo Tap is already THE place to be in Union County.
The Dedes family is well known in the restaurant business: Nick Dedes and his brother Peter owned Union Plaza Diner (a favorite of many locals!) for 37 years before purchasing the property formerly occupied by Echo Queen Diner. Francisco Mejia was a loyal employee at Union Plaza who worked his way all the way up to head chef in his 20+ years there, and he is now part owner of Echo Tap along with the Dedes brothers and Nick’s son Nico Dedes. Nico says: “We are a family-owned business with a strong love for food but also a love for what goes on behind closed doors, for our employees, for our guests–we want to make everyone feel as content as possible.”
The family involvement doesn’t end with Nico–his sister Stephanie Dedes served as the lead interior designer of the incredible space. Ah yes, the space. You simply have to check this place out–it doesn’t look like any other restaurant in the area, owing to Stephanie’s unique eye. Her firm–Sarkos–came up with a design that is difficult to describe, since it combines styles from industrial to rustic, and the finished product looks like something straight out of a glossy magazine.
The actual building of Echo Tap was a labor of love in its truest form, with the Dedeses putting their own blood, sweat, and tears into much of what you see inside. According to Nico: “That wood you see on the walls? We cut and painted every single piece. The tables in the dining area were once part of a water tower in Brooklyn–we salvaged the wood and hand-built those tables.”
Other highlights of the interior include the gorgeous copper-topped fire pit in the dining area, the metal gears that line the ceiling of the bar area, and the “Echo Tap” sign made out of gas cans, which was once standing outside the building but now found its proper home inside, just past the hostess desk. And unlike the tucked-away kitchen at Union Plaza Diner, the kitchen at Echo Tap is part of the decor! You can watch Chef Ben and his sous chefs hard at work plating meals at a furious pace behind large glass windows.
Nico has high praises for Chef Ben. “Ben is so talented–he creates his own recipes and makes EVERYTHING from scratch. We’re a bar and grille, but we’re also so much more than that. For the pizzas you see on the menu, we make the mozzarella, the dough, the sauce, absolutely everything in-house from scratch. We juice fresh oranges for mixed drinks at the bar, and then Ben uses the pulp for salad dressings.”
Some of the bestselling items on the menu thus far have been the gourmet burgers, the churrasco (skirt steak), and the molcajete (fajita-like stew). Also on the menu you’ll find tacos, flatbreads, pizzas (cooked in their brick oven), salads, and seafood specialties such as crab legs and scallops. They even have a kids’ menu with tried-and-true mac & cheese, and every kid gets an ice cream.
The menu at Echo Tap will be changing a lot with the seasons in order to utilize the freshest ingredients, and the same goes for cocktails and beer. If you’re a beer lover, you’ll definitely want to belly up to the bar here. They have an impressive 24 beers on tap, including several hard-to-find craft beers. And if you want a great meal but don’t want to miss the big game, fret not–there are many large-screen TVs to ensure that every sport fanatic will know the scores at all times.
Echo Tap & Grille is located at 1079 US-22 in Mountainside. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. every day and is open 7 days a week. They don’t take reservations, and the wait can be long, but with mouth-watering cocktails like the blueberry mojito calling my name at the bar, a little waiting doesn’t bother me a bit. To view their menu, visit www.echotapandgrille.com.