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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? TACOS ON THE RIVER

071216beachwalk3On a clear day, views from the deck of  BeachWalk Tiki Bar include the Highlands-Sea Bright bridge.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?A neighbor’s recommendation sent PieHole in search of a well-hidden oasis in Sea Bright.

“You have to try the crabby patty and crabby fries,” Fair Haven native Jeanettje McManus insisted, and the views are spectacular.

You wouldn’t know it looking at the place from Ocean Avenue: you see a modernized motel and parking lot. But tucked behind the BeachWalk Motel is an eatery dubbed the Tiki Bar. And what you get here are jaw-dropping views of both the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers that can go on for miles.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A WHOLE MEZZE FLAVORS

070516bayroot5Appetizers, or “mezze,”from Bayroot include falafel, stuffed grape leaves, spinach pies, mouhammara, baba ghanouj and hummus.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?The sleepy little shopping center called Shrewsbury Village in the borough of Shrewsbury has seen a great deal of turnover lately. Rosina’s Ristorante, once an anchor there, is gone, as are the Cypress Café and the short-lived Doco Donuts.

“Looking for the right place at the right price,” Shrewsbury resident Maher Dougan says that he and his wife, Lara, took a leap of faith and decided to open Bayroot Lebanese Restaurant there a few months back.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A HEADFUL OF ACAI

062816melonhead8A jam-packed Island Bowl from Melonhead in Sea Bright. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Ravenous after a recent walk on the beach, PieHole headed to downtown Sea Bright in search of the newest kid on the block: Melonhead, whose menu basis is the acai (pronounced ah-SAH-ee) berry, a super fruit native to the Amazon.

How did partners and Monmouth County natives Nick Frangipane and Steve Barnett come to be acai acolytes on Ocean Avenue? Theirs is a story that begins on a surfing trip in Costa Rica and continues through Brazil, Puerto Rico and other stops on the planet.

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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? SMOKIN’ NEW BBQ

060716localsmoke6Chopped beef brisket on a roll with sides of collared greens and macaroni and cheese, at Local Smoke. Below, a lunchtime crowd filled the tables.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

localsmokeYes, there’s Lino’s Café on Shrewsbury Avenue, which despite PieHole’s efforts somehow doesn’t get the notice it sorely deserves. And still we heard the mantra, the whine, the plea: “Red Bank needs barbecue.”

Well now, in the space at West Front Street and Rector Place most recently occupied by Delfini’s Gourmet Catering, Local Smoke BBQ slips in with the requested goods.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A LITTLE FRANCESE

060116palumbos8Chicken Francese served with a side salad and plenty of bread at Palumbo’s in Little Silver. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

060116palumbos5Alongside the tracks of the Little Silver train station in a handsome, stone-facade strip mall with plenty of parking, Palumbo’s Pizza is more than its name implies.

Inside the Ayers Lane restaurant, you’ll first hear quiet strains of Italian background music, setting a tranquil, family friendly atmosphere. The staff behind the counter converses in Italian too. PieHole takes this as a sign to join some other customers in the dining room and make lunch a more leisurely affair.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? CREATIVE BAGELRY

051016hotbagel7A bacon cheeseburger deluxe on an everything bagel, above, and a chocolate chip bagel with a schmear of Nutella cream cheese, below, at Hot Bagels Brooklyn’s Finest.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

051016hotbagels1James Beard, “the dean of American cookery” according to the New York Times, once said that “too few people understand a really good sandwich.”

Nikos Zaires and Mike Gambale, owners of Hot Bagels Brooklyn’s Finest in Red Bank, understand, and they’re turning that humble sandwich into a higher art, making creative use of quality ingredients layered on fresh baked bagels and other bread varieties in their month-old deli.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? MR. PIZZA’S SLICE & DOG

050416mrpizza7An original-recipe pie fresh from the oven. Carlos Rosas tosses dough for a pizza, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

050416mrpizza10Self-styled devotees of Mr. Pizza Slice raised quite an uproar when redbankgreen reported the Red Bank stalwart was under new ownership and — heaven forbid — would be updating both the decor and menu.

The beloved Monmouth Street hole-in-the-wall on has now been refurbished with, among other touches, exposed brick walls that replace cheap paneling, giving the room a cozier feel than the laundromat vibe of its predecessor.

More importantly, new owners Nick Napoletano and Tom Cappello had a fantastic idea when they decided to keep a favorite menu item while bringing in plenty of new ones, including impressive sandwiches and gourmet, New York-style pies.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? GLOBAL CONCEPTS

042616globaleatery5Global Eatery’s mix-and-match international choices include Mexican enchiladas, Korean beef in a cabbage wrap and Italian meatballs. Below, a customer fixes a salad to go.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

042616globaleatery4With a focus on office workers and schoolkids in downtown Red Bank, Mark Arabadjis has gone global.

Araabadjis closed the Sicilia Café on Broad Street late last year, less than six months after he bought it, and has now opened Global Eatery in its place.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BELLYING UP AT SURF BBQ

041616surfbbqsandwichesAbove, a smoked-brisket sandwich, left, and a pulled pork sandwich. Below, smoked maraschino cherries at the bar. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

041616surfbbqcherriesPieHole had been itching to try Surf BBQ in Rumson for lunch, but the newly opened East River Road restaurant and bar hasn’t yet expanded its hours and is only serving lunch on weekends.

Last Saturday, we finally made it there, and found the place not too busy at mid-afternoon, with no wait at the counter and plenty of available seating at the bar and picnic tables. Maybe everyone was attending their kids’ T-Ball games or working on landscaping, but we think we’ve found a sweet-spot in this smokin’ hot restaurant’s schedule.

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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? ITALIAN BRILLIANCE

040516lapastaria3Pumpkin-filled ravioli is one of the lunchtime specials at La Pastaria, seen below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

040516pastariainteriorGo to Red Bank’s La Pastaria on Linden Place in the evening, and you’ll probably be waiting a while, even if you have a reservation.

As a humanitarian gesture, PieHole feeds you this little pearl of wisdom: hit this restaurant for lunch. The afternoon is a more laid-back affair, with attentive service and a menu full of familiar Italian fare that includes some enticing daily specials.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? SIAM GARDEN PHAD THAI

032916siamgdn5The phad Thai lunch special at Siam Garden, seen below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

032915siamgdn1With the Thai New Year celebration (Songkran) just around the corner on April 13, PieHole thought it was a good time to visit Siam Garden. Located in the Galleria at West Front Street and Bridge Avenue in Red Bank, the restaurant has been serving traditional Thai dishes for 16 years.

Framed by architecture that includes concrete ceilings and pillars, vestiges of the building’s original incarnation as a turn-of-the-century uniform factory, the space is decorated with artifacts imbuing a peaceful Asian ambience. Light streaming in from surrounding windows, silken textiles and wooden tables and chairs bring warmth to what would otherwise be a cold interior.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A TASTE OF NEW ENGLAND

032216navesinkfishery5A fried shrimp platter with coleslaw and crispy french fries. The corn chowder, below, was filled with bits of crab. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

032216navesinkfishery1Casting its net a bit beyond the usual limits of the Greater Red Bank Green, PieHole finds lots of fresh fish choices at the Navesink Fishery in Navesink.

With 40-plus years of fishmongering and cooking, 20 of which have been spent at this restaurant, owner Ruddy Field is serious about bringing his customers simple cuisine from briny depths and fresh water lakes. Landlubbers need not apply.

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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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