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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? NACHOS AND BEAN SOUP

092416carlosoconnor2Carlos O’Connor’s Tijuana nacho platter is served on a funky, tie-dye clothed table. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?A mainstay on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, Carlos O’Connor’s Mexican Restaurant seems to be standing the test of time due in part to the vibrant, celebratory, mismatched decor that delivers an instant party atmosphere.

PieHole stopped in and found that the newest owner, Hugo Parades, has made a few changes to the dining room by opening a wall that divided the restaurant into two closed off rooms, giving the space a brighter, less claustrophobic feel.

Another change: it’s now open for lunch on weekends.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A RED LIGHT SANDWICH

072616redlight3The Big Tuna, one of only four sandwiches offered at Red Light Coffee and Espresso Bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch? Seeking out a caffeine fix, PieHole stopped in at the Red Light Coffee and Espresso Bar in Lincroft’s Acme shopping center on Newman Springs Road.

On a strip that also houses Aleo’s Italian Specialties, this 10-month-old java joint is turning out more than the expected demitasse and cappuccino. The jewel-box-sized, ruby-walled 650-square-foot space is also serving up gourmet sandwiches.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? CREPES WITH A TWIST

062116whippedbites5A savory French crepe served at the charming Whipped Creperie & Dessert Bar.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Americanized crepes? “Why not?” thought Nick Napoletano, who owns Whipped Creperie and Dessert Bar in Red Bank with Erica Lieberman.

Traditional French crepes are served sweet, with sugar, Nutella, jam or a creamy cheese filling. But Napoletano envisioned “an Americanized, savory version,” he tells PieHole. “I wanted to take familiar foods like turkey and cheese and create a more hearty filling on a whole-wheat crepe.”

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A SALAD FROM DEAN’S

041316deansmkt1Dean’s Market grab n’ go harvest salad with a cheerful raspberry vinaigrette. Jenna Rae Alexy, manager, seen below, has lost 100 pounds while working at the store… just saying. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

041316deansmkt4Popping into Dean’s Natural Food Market on Broad Street in Shrewsbury, PieHole finds the place swamped with hungry customers and a young but experienced staff hustling to fill juice orders and answer questions.

Attentive to her customers as well as the surfer-dude-healthy guys working the juice counter, manager Jenna Rae Alexy seems to know many of her customers by name. She also knows what they will order.  Read More »

WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? HEALTHY, EARTHY PIZZA

031516earthpizza2The vegan, one of the many selections on the menu at Earth Pizza, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

031615earthpizza1When Paul and Lisa Finkler opened a Pizza Fusion franchise in Red Bank in 2010, they may not have foreseen the niche their restaurant would fill. But the Broad Street restaurant was an immediate draw, and soon customers were asking for more gluten-free and vegan dishes.

Three years ago, tired of the parent company’s rules on menu changes, the Finklers bought out their contract, redubbed the restaurant Earth Pizza and did as asked.

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LINCROFT: ALEO’S MOVEABLE FEAST

121215aleo3The helpful employees at Aleo Italian Specialties get customer orders out quickly. Below, some of the many gourmet takeout options.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

121215aleo4Stepping into Aleo Italian Specialties in the Acme shopping center on Newman Springs Road in Lincroft, PieHole was immediately hit with a feeling of deja vu.

The aroma of cheese and garlic surrounds you, calling to mind Arthur Avenue, the famous Little Italy shopping area in the Bronx. Then there’s the sight of food — everywhere. Hanging salami and cheese; shelves filled with rustic fresh breads from Brooklyn; imported dry pasta; and deli counters teeming with house-made delicacies. Your mouth waters and you forget what you came in for.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? OLD-SCHOOL SPOT-HITTER

120915thespot1The grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo at The Spot, seen below with a window looking out on Broad Street. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

120915thespot4Those who seek simplicity in all things are going to love The Spot in Red Bank.

Rustic brick walls and industrial-modern decor beckon in the Broad Street space that’s been home in recent succession to  Zebu Forno, Boardwalk Burgers and, most recently Mac Attack. But trendiness in decor doesn’t mean the menu follows suit. Dining options here are strictly old-school.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A SUGGESTION IN FRENCH

101415frenchmktwfl1Perhaps lured by the aroma of baked pastries, below, customers took advantage of a crisp autumn day for lunch at the French Market this week. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101415frenchmktwfl4

Open the door to the French Market on East River Road in Rumson, and the aroma of fresh baked pastry overwhelms your senses. PieHole tells you this as a favor. It’s easy to lose control and forget that you are there for a reason.

Since July, chef Laurent Chavenet has been filling the shelves of this market with his butter-enhanced flaky creations. But it’s not just pastries: a six-page takeout menu offers French specialties such as quiche, crepes and croissant sandwiches, as well as salads and a charcuterie plate.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A PIG AND FIG

092415cheesecave2The Pig and Fig sandwich from the Cheese Cave. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

092415cheesecave4Four and a half years after opening on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, the Cheese Cave, a boutique cheese shop, is often swamped for takeout at lunch time. Whether you call ahead or order when you get there, you may have to wait in line.

If you have the time though, you should consider eating inside. The atmosphere is woodsy and calm. Sandwiches are served on bread boards instead of plates, adding an old-world rustic touch.

But it’s the sandwich combinations — or “sanwicheeses,” as they say here — that pack ’em in.

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RUMSON: FRENCH MARKET AGAIN? OUI!

071015frnchmkt1The charming facade of the newly opened French Market on East River Road in Rumson. Below,  a variety of tarts and pastries.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

071015frnchmkt4What happens when three gourmet-food-loving friends get together for a meal? In the case of Carli Windsor, Pamela Best and Robert Smith, they decide to open a store in Rumson.

And if the resulting French Market feels a little like deja vu to locals, it’s because the new owners were fans of Le Bon Panier, the French-inspired food market that previously occupied the same building at 114 East River Road.

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RED BANK: HEAPS OF AUTHENTICITY

060414 trattoria3The Mediterranean Platter, a dependable classic on the Front Street Trattoria menu. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

042115 trattorianWhat key elements are crucial to keeping a restaurant current for 30 years? If we’re referring to the Front Street Trattoria in Red Bank, it would have to be the consistently prepared fresh ingredients.

With an exposed brick wall on one side and floor-to-ceiling windows framing an ever moving backdrop of foot-traffic outside, the often busy main dining room is unpretentious and cozy. An open kitchen area lines another wall, giving the diner plenty to peer at.  Alternatively, there is another more private dining room and a wide open back patio for seating. But the decor isn’t why this restaurant is packed with regulars on any given evening: it’s the food.

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ON THE GREEN: EAT YOUR HEART OUT, LOVER

021015 carlos bakery heartCarrie Zensinger shows off one of the several heart-shaped cakes available at Carlo’s Bakery in Red Bank, above. ArtSea Gallery in Sea Bright carries chocolate Kewpie dolls, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

020715 artsea chocolate cupidWith the approach of Valentines Day, the heart swells – especially for those foodies who like their treats in the shape of a heart.

And there are plenty to set culinary hearts a-flutter, as PieHole discovered earlier this week on a tour of the Greater Red Bank Green in search of heart-shaped foods and desserts.

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FOR LUNCH: SHINIEST EATERY IN SHREWSBURY

123014 Americana diner4Chrome and other decor gleams both inside and out at the often-packed Americana Diner. Below, a matzoh ball soup starter with noodles. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

123014 Americana diner3Two o’clock in the afternoon, and you’d think the large parking lot at the Americana Diner on Route 35 in Shrewsbury would have a few empty spots. You’d be wrong.

The holiday week between Christmas and the New Year might have something do with it. Then again, it might just be the seemingly infinite lunch specials on the multipage menu.

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KEEP IT LOCAL FOR LAST-MINUTE FOOD GIFTS

121914 sickles xmasChocolate-covered pretzels dressed up and party-ready happen to be hyperlocal. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels smallLooking for a last-minute Christmas gift with some culinary influence? Something for the foodie on your list?

PieHole has a handful of hyperlocal ideas to share with you.

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LITTLE SILVER: TASTES OF (LITTLE) ITALY

121614 ferruccis2Sandy and Paolo D’Amico behind the counter of Ferrucci’s Gourmet Delicatessen. Below, buffalo milk butter from Parma, Italy.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

121614 ferruccisShopping at Ferrucci’s Gourmet Delicatessen in the Prospect Plaza strip mall in Little Silver is like stepping into a classic Italian grocery store, according to a customer who stopped in to pick up pizza dough brought in from Brooklyn. It’s as good as Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, he said.

Mixed New York boroughs aside, there is something about New York city tap water that makes pizza dough and bread taste better. And the bread at Ferrucci’s is delivered daily from Brooklyn along with the dough. It’s also a consistent daily sellout, says owner Sandy D’Amico.

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