Buying the former Jalapeños Grill building on the White Horse Pike freed up Dennis and Jill Kelley to reopen their Haddon Avenue location to dinner business five nights a week.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 26, 2020
After trying in fits and starts for the past seven years to open a customer-facing eatery in their Haddon Township storefront, Dennis and Jill Kelley of Silver Spoon catering came to realize that their kitchen was too small to support everything they wanted to do.
However, their recent acquisition of the former Jalapeños Grill (901 White Horse Pike), which the Kelleys eventually plan to convert into a banquet hall, freed up 142 Haddon Avenue for dinner service.
Starting February 5, the couple will open its doors Wednesday through Sunday as Peter James BYOB.
“To have a location on Haddon Avenue and not be open to the public, it literally crumbles you,” Dennis Kelley said. “Catering will be full force in the new location, and we can bring life to this storefront, because it’s been closed for the last five years,” he said.
“We kept trying to open a pop-up concept here, but it wasn’t consistent,” Jill Kelley said. “This venture is more of our passion.”
The concept reflects a couple of their passions, actually, the first being their adopted pit bull. After five years, the dog, named for his resemblance to Petey from Little Rascals, plus James for Dennis’ middle name, has become their surrogate child.
“The full name comes out when he’s in trouble,” Jill Kelley said.
“He’s a huge part of our life; we just wanted to give him credit,” she said.
“Credit that he has no idea he has,” Dennis Kelley added.
In both name and image, Peter James is the main feature of the art deco-inspired space.
Black-and-white photos of the pup adorn the dark wood walls of the low-light dining room.
An oversized painting of him, complete with top hat and cigar, hangs on its rear wall.
Jazz and brass band music complete the mood.
Peter James (the BYOB concept) traces its roots to Dennis Kelley’s early-career apprenticeship under Chef Joe Brown at the former Café Melange in Cherry Hill.
The menu is built around tapas plates and a la carte dishes he first perfected under Brown, and which express a diversity of cuisines, from Italian to Creole to Asian.
“Joe Brown was my first real mentor,” Dennis Kelley said. “Working with him brought the soul into cooking for me.”
Brown’s Louisiana influence is prevalent in dishes like the salmon maque choux, seafood jambalaya, voodoo shrimp, and duck confit fried rice.
Italian dishes include stuffed long hots, Burrata and prosciutto salad, ribolitta soup, eggplant ragout with sweet sausage, and homemade cavatelli with spinach and cream sauce.
Rounding out the opening week menu are edamame truffle dumplings and General Tso’s cauliflower, a recipe Dennis Kelley developed over the course of a few seasons at the Westmont Farmers Market.
Peter James also will serve a once-weekly Sunday gravy, featuring meatballs, sausage, ribs, chicken cutlets, eggplant parmesan, house salads, and homemade pasta. Family-style takeout orders may be placed with 24 hours’ advance notice.
“We don’t want a menu that stays stagnant,” Jill Kelley said. “The idea is people can come in and taste a bunch of little things.
“Whatever we make at the house that night, we want to bring to the restaurant,” Dennis Kelley said. “We’re trying to bring creativity into a la carte.”
The ability to try out a variety of different recipes as it suits him isn’t just thanks to the satellite kitchen. Dennis Kelley’s cousin, Nick Cascetti, provides a capable third set of hands to pitch in with the work.
“Having a solid addition to the family, I don’t have to be everywhere anymore,” Dennis Kelley said. “Now we have a right-hand man to take some things off our plate and go from there. For Nicky to have a real future and a career, expanding this gives us room to float around.”
While their catering business is still here to stay, the Kelleys are happy to be able to find their niche in the Westmont dining scene with Peter James.
“I feel like I got here before Haddon Township really started to pop, so it’s awesome to see how much this town has changed in the last seven years,” Dennis Kelley said.
“I remember being the new guy on the block, and now I’m not at all,” he said.
“I feel like this is the home away from home.”
Peter James BYOB Presented by Silver Spoon launches February 5 at 142 Haddon Avenue in Haddon Township.
Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
To make a reservation, call 856-858-5610 or visit the business website.
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