NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> A touch of New York City dining with a hint of elegance.
That’s how chef and owner Greg Conlan describes Relic on State, the latest addition to the community’s eclectic restaurant scene.
Set inside a building dating back to the 1700s, Relic combines the best of city fine dining with a historic Bucks County atmosphere set off by the building’s original 1747 stonework.
Relic is the newest restaurant venture for Conlan, who brings 35 years of experience in the industry to the intersection of South State Street and Centre Avenue, which decades ago was home to Master French Chef Jean Pierre and his Michelin-rated restaurant.
Since the age of 13, Conlan said he knew he wanted to work in the hospitality industry. “It’s a passion. And it’s something I am so grateful I was able to pursue and thrive.”
Growing up in Rockland County, New York, he worked for a few restaurants there before landing jobs in New York City with several prominent eateries.
“I learned the good, the bad, the different, what to do and not to do and I took the qualities that I wanted to replicate and brought them with me over the course of time,” said Conlan. “I always knew I was missing one thing on my resume and that was fine dining. I was fortunate enough to be hired by ESquared Hospitality and ran its flagship store, BLT Steak, in midtown Manhattan. That was the last piece of the puzzle I needed before I went out on my own.”
After leaving ESquared, he opened Molly Pitcher’s Ale House, a sports bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with a long term vision of opening his own fine dining establishment somewhere in the city.
Conlan thought he had found the perfect location in the heart of midtown Manhattan, but was unable to make it happen due to exorbitant rents, issues with a liquor license and other factors. It was also about that time that the pandemic hit turning the restaurant industry upside down.
He joined a restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey as a managing partner hoping to bring his vision of fine, sophisticated dining there. “We were trying to do this there, but it never came to fruition.”
That’s when the former Thyme Restaurant became available and Conlan headed west to Bucks County.
“When I walked in here I could see the projectors rolling. I knew what I wanted to do and you can see that vision reflected here,” he said.
So, as they say, the Big Apple’s loss is Newtown’s gain.
“We have been very fortunate to be very well received by a clientele here that has welcomed us with open hearts, with such great enthusiasm,” said Conlan, who opened the doors to Relic in late May. “They are excited about the vision. They are excited to have another anchor restaurant here. I’m not here to take business away. I’m here to complement an already sophisticated dining experience in town.”
The “cocktails and cuisine” restaurant serves an eclectic upscale American menu, including burgers and sandwiches, prawns and deconstructed sushi tuna, roasted free range chicken, pan roasted “Faroe Island Salmon,” lobster ravioli, New York strip steak and more.
“Nothing is fried. Everything is baked, pan seared or grilled,” said Conlan.
While the menu offers something for everyone, Conlan said Relic’s signature dish is its 16 ounce double bone Berkshire pork chop, which he said is “extremely juicy and succulent. This is not your mom’s dry pork chop. The wow factor is going to get you. It’s the size of it. It’s the taste. It’s the element of shock when you discover it’s not dry. It’s baked with love, that’s why,” he said.
Of course no dinner would be complete without dessert. Relic’s homemade dessert menu includes its famous Key Lime Pie, Vanilla Panna Cotta with Chambord infused berries and of course New York Cheese Cake.
“Hospitality, quality food and handcrafted cocktails. That’s what we’re about,” said Conlan. “We try to make each guest who walks through our doors feel good. We want them to have a once in a lifetime experience. People are spending good money.
“Every drink is made individually and fresh. Nothing is made from bulk. And our juices are not coming from a container. It’s all fresh squeezed.”
In addition, Conlan said there are no televisions in the bar or anywhere in the restaurant. “Why is that important? Because we don’t want any outside distractions,” he said.
“We do what we do because we love the guests. We believe in hospitality. It’s a passion. And I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.
A lover of history, Conlan said he couldn’t bear putting sheetrock over the interior walls during the renovation process. So he went with shiplap and stained it so it would create a timepiece look. He also had barn doors built to add a touch of authenticity to the walls in the dining area.
“It’s definitely a period timepiece. It looks old. It looks rustic. It’s something that looks like it has been here forever. We got creative with what we were given,” he said.
Conlan admitted that the recent history of the place wasn’t so great. “It was synonymous with problems. It was a typical tavern. I’m sure there were good times in here. But I do not want to be part of whatever the most recent history was.”
Rather, he prefers to reach back a little further in history when Jean Pierre had an upscale Restaurant here 40 years ago. “He was Michelin rated. He did a tremendous job.”
Between the upstairs and downstairs dining areas, Relic seats 75 guests. Guests sit down to dinner at candlelit tables as the immortal sounds of Frank Sinatra fill the air.
Relic also offers a second floor private dining area and bar perfect for small birthday parties, corporate and holiday gatherings accommodating up to 20 people, including 16 table seats and four at the bar.
But Conlan said Relic can accommodate events for up to 200 people. “We can do cocktail parties or sit down dinners,” he said.
Conlan’s also in the process of creating an outdoor dining area behind the building that will seat an additional 30 guests and include lighting and palm trees.
Relic is located at 101 South State Street across from Starbucks. For information or to make reservations visit reliconstate.com or call 267-759-6641.