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RED BANK: GROWING MENU AT WHIPPED BITES

whipped bites 15Nick Napoletano gives PieHole a sneak peak of the new savory crepes menu at Whipped Bites.  (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

morsels mediumWhipped Bites is busy. The dessert café and creperie on the corner of Broad and Monmouth streets in Red Bank has been in a near-constant state of transformation since this summer, when Nick Napoletano and his girlfriend Erica Lieberman took over the lease on the space from chef Marc Fontaine, who had been making crepes in the location.

When the couple first took over the space, it was a hodgepodge collection of tables and chairs, with empty refrigerator cases and a small sign in the window that read “crepes.”  Despite the less-than-inviting space, the Nutella crepes were enough to keep PieHole coming back again. And again.  Though frankly, we’d eat Nutella crepes while crouching over a cardboard box in a shipping container and still ask for seconds.

But over the past few months, the couple has revamped the café into a comfortable, welcoming space that invites you to take a seat and leisurely enjoy a coffee with your crepe or dessert.

Napoletano says the café is doing a brisk breakfast business, especially for Sunday brunch when it offers specials like Grand Marnier French Toast or Champagne-infused Belgian Waffles, and draws a steady after dinner crowd on Friday and Saturday nights.

Now, after sweetening up the space and honing the dessert side of the business, Napoletano is in the process of revamping the savory spectrum of the cafe’s menu. PieHole caught up with him as he was finalizing the new menu.

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RED BANK: TALKING TACOS AT THE CORNER

la esquina2Elias and Eleacer Ayala in their Red Bank take-out restaurant, La Esquina. The Ayalas came to Red Bank  from Mexico City via Brooklyn. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

In the middle of our lunch at Red Bank’s La Esquina, a regular customer walks in to pick up his order and tells PieHole that he often suggests to the owners that they hang a sign in the window that reads, “We Speak English.”

If attracting non-Spanish-speaking customers to the corner of Bridge Avenue and Oakland Street is part of the business plan, we’d second that advice. Taco Bell regulars won’t find any Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme here, and the large menu hanging behind the counter ranges from confusing to unintelligible to a non-Spanish speaking customer. Fortunately for us, owner Elias Ayala is not only fluent in English, but clearly enjoys deconstructing the menu items for his customers.

“The menu is authentic Mexican,” he says. “We have everything from tongue to carnitas – the real carnitas, with cheeks, ears and pork skin.”

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RED BANK: GOOD OLD VEGAN ‘COMFORT FOOD’

Gail Doherty with a hot tray of “magic cookies,” made with pecans, chocolate chips, carrot and coconut. Below, she and employee Allison Kennedy work quickly to fill orders during the lunch rush. (Photos by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

Nearly three years after opening, Red Bank’s Good Karma Café has put to rest many misconceptions about vegan dining, including that it’s unsatisfying “rabbit food.”

Smaller than many suburban living rooms at just 900 square feet, the cozy East Front Street restaurant caters to a mix of regulars, pilgrims and the just-curious, serving up hearty dishes along with answers to some burning questions:

Is it more expensive to eat vegan? How is protein supplemented? What does tofu taste like?

“We’re not bringing you in with any kind of dogma,” said co-owner Gail Doherty. “There’s no agenda other than serving you some yummy food while maybe squashing some stereotypes.”

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MENNA DROPS SUPPORT FOR MENU CALORIES

Less than two days after endorsing a nascent plan to require Red Bank restaurants to list calorie totals for menu items, Mayor Pasquale Menna has withdrawn his support.

In a press release issued late Friday afternoon, Menna cited resistance by restaurateurs as the reason he no longer favors the idea.

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ON RED BANK’S MENU: SMOKING AND EATING

Red, above, and all other Red Bank restaurants may soon be required by ordinance to inform diners of the caloric heft of their meals. (Photo by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)

By JOE FISHER

Health was on the minds of Red Bank officials Wednesday night, when the borough council agreed to develop measures that would ban smoking in municipal parks and require restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus.

With restaurants in the RiverCenter business zone said to be on board with the calorie-count concept, Mayor Pasquale Menna said the council should consider making it a borough-wide requirement.

“If McDonald’s can do it, we can do it,’’ Menna said, adding that if the borough chooses to move forward, restaurants would be given ample time – perhaps a year – to comply. “We know it would cost them money,’’ he said.

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