RED BANK: JR.’S SIZZLES AFTER HOURS

The after-hours crowd packs Jr.’s on a recent Saturday night.  (Photos by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)

By DAN NATALE

Without fanfare, but with a fair amount of merriment, a new late-night eatery debuted on the Red Bank scene last month and has been packing them in on weekends.

Jrs., the first expansion of the popular Jr.’s West End burger place owned by Mike DeSimone, opened a few days before Hurricane Sandy hit, becoming the fourth downtown eatery  to keep late hours, staying open until 4 a.m. every day.

With a number of bars just steps away, the tiny West Front Street restaurant immediately attracted a colorful crowd at closing time.

A patron dressed for Halloween enjoys a burger. (Photos by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)

Along with the Broadway Diner (open around the clock), Cluck U Chicken and the Windmill (both open until 3 a.m. Saturday and Sunday), Jr.’s keeps the grills hot into the wee hours as its cooks up a menu of all-sirloin sliders, cheese steaks, grilled wraps, salads and more.

Two recent predawn Sunday mornings drew large turnouts of hungry partygoers, one or two apparently in alcohol-enhanced moods, from the surrounding bars, which include the Fixx, the Downtown, and red. Patrons told redbankgreen they appreciated having another place to wind down after a night on the town.

“The vibe is amazing,” said Geraline Antonio, a New York resident raised in Middletown.”It kind of defines where Red Bank is now in terms of food and night life. It’s pretty refreshing stumbling into a place like this.”

“I think it’s a good move for Red Bank. I feel like this area is trying to revamp itself and bring in new crowds,” said 25-year-old Joel Vasquez, adding the “food’s awesome. I had myself a crispy chicken.”

Jacob Butynski, a 21-year-old from Red Bank, offered up his own off-the-cuff review, which touched on the lighting (“lively”), the music (“not blaring”) and the beef, which he described as “juicy and tender.”

On a recent Saturday night, a security guard was present in case anybody became too unruly. He minded his own business until an obviously drunk man stumbling along the sidewalk out front bumped into the glass door, at which point the guard got up, ready to neutralize the threat. But the problem solved itself when the drunk man laughed it off and walked away.

“That’s embarrassing, bro,” said a customer enjoying his food.

Other customers said they appreciate having another place to go after work.

“I’m happy with it. I like how they’re open late,” said Ken Kalada, the owner of Yestercades, the videogame emporium on Broad Street that itself keeps beeping until 2 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s the kitty’s titties,” said one ecstatic patron who identified himself as ‘Rob Prevosd.’ “Normally I have to go to the diner, or eat food from 7-Eleven.”