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RED BANK: LOCAL SMOKE SET TO WAFT

local smoke 051816 1Steve Raab, right, with partners Loren Raab, his wife, and Eric Keating, left, outside their new restaurant Thursday. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallEntering a crowded Red Bank restaurant field that seems to grow more packed each week, Local Smoke BBQ stands out.

Why? In part because Steve Raab’s new place is at a highly-trafficked corner, making for a convenient stop. Partly because it has its own parking lot, without a meter in sight.

But mainly because it will be the first purely-barbecue restaurant in Red Bank proper, and is run by a pitmaster with an avid following.

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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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A STRAWBERRY KISS FOR YOUR VALENTINE

020916taste3A Strawberry Kiss, by Taste manager/bartender Meagan Davis. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

It’s Valentine’s Day, and you’re out to make an impression on a certain someone. A romantic cocktail is a good start, but first you have to figure out what that moving spirit is.

An experienced bartender and now manager at Taste, in the Galleria Red Bank, Meagan Davis has a few ideas about what might set hearts fluttering.

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RED BANK: A WANDERING CHEF SETTLES DOWN

100615covas7Lauren Van Liew in the kitchen of her new catering business. Dishes include a classic fresh spinach salad, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

100615covas5In the warehouse that formerly housed Adam Sobel’s Cinnamon Snail kitchen on River Street in Red Bank, chef Lauren Van Liew, a 32-year-old Middletown native has opened Chef Covas Catering.

Cooking in kitchens from Boston to Vegas to Boca Raton, Van Liew has been around the culinary butcher’s block more times than many of her much older contemporaries.

With her history and experience, she says “I want to bring families together at the dinner table.” She also says, “I want to conquer the central Jersey catering world.”

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? DANISH PANINI

092915danishcafe2Chicken Douglas, a panini-style sandwich from the Danish Café, a flag-festooned coffee shop. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

092915danishcafe3On any given day at Loni and Claudi Kofod’s Danish Café on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank, you’ll find customers in deep discussion, their open laptops sharing table space with large cups of coffee.

But the wifi, full-bodied, European-style java and original pastries are only part of what brings customers to this light-filled, red-and-white-flag-festooned Galleria space. The lunch menu offers simple, healthy choices, as PieHole rediscovered on a recent business meeting-slash-What’s For Lunch outing.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A RETURN TO YESTERDAY

092615brothers3A pizza burger from The Brother’s Restaurant, with its disco-lit dining room below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

092615brothers5

We hadn’t been back to Brother’s Restaurant in years. A town institution at the corner of West Front Street and Morford Place in Red Bank, it’s a throwback that’s perhaps taken for granted because it’s always been there.

That is, until it’s not there.

Back in January, the 100-plus-year-old building had a flood from a burst pipe, and leading to extensive repair work that shut the place down for a few months. For many in the Greater Red Bank Green, that was a blow, because this bar and pizzeria is the family restaurant that was the meeting place after a big game or dance recital. It’s nostalgic. So it was time for PieHole to stop by and see what if anything had changes since we last visited.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A TASTE OF GREECE

071415melodycafe3The grilled-shrimp souvlaki platter from Melody’s Café, formerly Santorini Greek Cuisine.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

071415melodycafe1Stepping into the foyer of Melody’s Café in Lincroft, we immediately felt the pull of the Adriatic. Murals, glass partitions and up-lights in shades of blue suggest a mood of clear skies and pristine seas.

First though, you need to find the place, tucked away as it is in a Newman Springs Road strip mall containing three restaurants and an Acme supermarket.

Reopened since May after broken pipes caused extensive water damage to the building, the name and hours of the former Santorini Greek Cuisine have changed, but the food is most definitely still Greek-inspired.

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RED BANK: TALKIN’ TURKEY DOWNTOWN

downtown turkey burger 061915A turkey burger, with a view, at the Downtown in Red Bank. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

morsels smallLet’s talk turkey: when it comes to the piquant aromas of summer, ground turkey on the grill is not the first thing that comes to mind. Has a turkey burger ever kicked anyone’s salivary system into high drool as surely as an onion-studded patty of juicy, red beef?

Still, even in summer, variety and health consciousness occasionally nudge PieHole in the direction of the turkey burger when we crave a hot, meaty sandwich, even if we’re a bit dubious it can come close to a real burger on flavor.

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FAIR HAVEN: A LUNCH LODGED IN MEMORY

nauvoo sandwich 052915The blackened chicken sandwich at Nauvoo Grill Club in Fair Haven. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

nauvoo 052915In the mood for something southwestern-but-not-quite Mexican, PieHole was drawn to the lodge-like Nauvoo Grill Club in Fair Haven on a lovely Friday afternoon in late spring.

At the height of the lunch hour, we found the place strangely empty. But what we ate satisfied our craving, even if it left our fingers sticky.

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IN GOTHAM: HOLY SOUR MASH, BATMAN

Arty Homes GothamGotham’s Arty Homes helped PieHole navigate the Red Bank bar’s eclectic cocktail menu. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

morsels mediumLate on a winter afternoon with a bitterly cold wind howling down Broad Street in Red Bank, PieHole stopped in at Gotham. A few loyal readers mentioned to us the new bar’s vast whiskey selection, and it seemed like a good time and place to warm up with a Manhattan before heading home for dinner.

It was just at the early side of Happy Hour, and a half-dozen patrons, mostly well-dressed couples catching a pre-dinner cocktail, hung around at the bar, but otherwise there was not much of a crowd.

We grabbed a seat and spied at least three American rye whiskeys behind the bar: Michter’s, Bulleit and Dad’s Hat. Most area bars don’t stock even a single rye whiskey, and PieHole typically settles for Canadian Club when ordering a Manhattan, so this was a nice selection indeed.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? KUNG PAO, INDEED

teak kung pao 021115A dish of kung pao chicken at Teak in Red Bank. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Lunch at Teak in Red Bank on a recent frigid afternoon offered a double dose of satisfying warmth.

PieHole grabbed a table bathed in nearly blinding sunlight in the solarium-like front room overlooking Monmouth Street. That took the chill off the old bones, pronto.

Finishing the job from the inside out, though was a heaping dish of kung pao chicken, with flavor and substance by the megawatt.

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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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QUENCH: AN OLD-FASHIONED AT SALT CREEK

020115 saltcreek habel3An Old-Fashioned at Rumson’s Salt Creek Grille, above. Below, Rob Habel muddles fruit for the cocktail.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

020115 saltcreek habel2Blended to shades of cherry red and bright orange, an Old-Fashioned made by Rob Habel at Rumson’s Salt Creek Grille reminds PieHole of the stunning sunsets you might see over the Navesink River just out the window.

“My grandfather showed me the classics,” says Habel, 33, the newly appointed beverage manager at the riverfront favorite. “I love old-fashioned drinks, and might bring back some of the old school.”

His favorite “old-fashioned” cocktail to make? An Old-Fashioned.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH: A TEA ROOM WITH CHOPS

012915 raven tea room sandwichesA beef tenderloin BLT sandwich in the foreground, and the shrimp salad-filled brioche in background at the Raven Tea Room, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

012915 raven tea roomThe phrase “tea room” conjures images of prissy old ladies ordering pots of chamomille and delicate, crust-removed cucumber sandwiches served on fine floral patterned porcelain dishes. The Raven Tea Room in the Fair Haven Commons building is nothing like that.

Sophisticated styling in both the decor and menu have made this lunch-only restaurant – which shares a website and ownership with the Raven and the Peach but has its own space in the Fair Haven Commons – a staple in the community for years. The dark wood tables and comfortable cushioned armchairs surrounded by suede gray painted walls give the place a masculine, club-like feel. Windows looking out on River Road lend an open feeling to the room. But should you wind up with a view of the parking lot, well, just turn your chair toward the open kitchen and watch the chef working his magic.

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FAIR HAVEN: CRAVIN HAVEN TAKES A BREAK

013015 cravin haven2Cravin Haven, a luncheonette  in the Acme shopping center in Fair Haven, is closing as of Monday for a month of renovations, according to the message on its Facebook page. Co-owner Anthony Mazzucca says the plan is for a reconfiguration and possible rebranding. But catering will still be available, he says.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)