By JIM WILLIS
Calling his expansion into the burger business “the biggest business blunder” of his life, Mike Tierney is bringing No Joe’s Café in Red Bank back to its roots.
The owner of the pioneering Broad Street coffeehouse – which opened in depths of the ‘Dead Bank’ days of empty stores and a couple of years ago added ‘Beasty Burgers to the operation – says with burgers no longer in the picture, he wants No Joe’s to return to basics. He’s brought on pastry chef Michael Finehirsch to help him get there.
Tierney says coffee and pastries are a much better fit, and Finehirsch, who studied pastry in France and London and spent time at New York’s Daniel and Bouley before answering an ad from Tierney, is the guy to make it happen.
“We’re building what I like to call a French/American pastry shop,” Finehirsch tells redbangreen’s PieHole. ““If I had my own shop I’d want it to be something like this, so when I saw Mike’s ad we got together.”
Tierney says he knew he needed to make a change.
“After a year, I looked at the numbers and saw that the burgers weren’t working,” he says. “When I knew I was so far off on an avenue that I didn’t belong on with the burger – something that I knew nothing about – I was so unhappy. I brought it to a screeching halt, and I gathered myself to think about different possibilities. And that’s when Michael came and answered my call.”
Tierney is still working on honing the coffee side of the shop.
“I want to do more specialized coffee, with different delivery methods like the pour over. I want to get back to that. We did that for years, and I’m trying to find staff who has those specialized skills. I’m heading back in that direction with top quality coffee and top quality pastries. It’s a good marriage.”
Even though the pastry pivot has been underway for two months, “we’re really still new,” says Finehirsch.
“My goal is to create an environment like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where you open the door and don’t know what to eat first,” he says. “That’s what I want to do here – just stick to what I enjoy doing. I want to do French macaroons and items you wouldn’t typically see. Like with coffee cake, right now I do a regular coffee cake and one with salted caramel.”
Finehirsch says to keep an eye out for breads and, as it starts to get cold out, hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. “We’ll do something like hot chocolate with a lemon marshmallow with lavender,” he says.
The display case in the front of store points to Tierney and Finehirsch’s tandem goal of turning the shop into a coffee-meets-fine pastry specialty store. Tierney says the scones are Finehirsch’s standout item, and singles out the dried apricot with almond scone and the currant citrus vanilla scone.
Piehole had a taste of the bacon and gruyere corn bread which Finehirsch drizzles with warm bacon drippings. Without a doubt, the sweetness of the corn bread paired with the smokey bacon is a much better accompaniment to a cup of joe than any burger we’ve had.