040115 jamianmonsterburger1The Monster Burger, ordered from the specials menu at Jamian’s Food and Drink. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


040115 jamianmonsterburger2A regular stop for many Count Basie Theatre ticket holders, Jamian’s Food and Drink, on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, has a loyal local following, showing up for dinner, ever-changing art shows, great music and a lively bar.

At a regular Tuesday night trivia game, PieHole noticed a customer tucking into an enormous burger that seemed to require larger-than-average hands to hold and a strong jaw to get a good bite.

The standard menu burger has never disappointed, so with curiosity piqued, we went back the next day to try that Monster Burger for lunch.

 040115 jamianmonsterburger3The pink inside shows the burger came to the table medium rare, as ordered. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

“I feel people have gotten obsessed with ingredients,” says owner Jamian LaViola, now celebrating his 14th year in business. But “it’s all about the balance of flavors,” he says.

Finding that balance means always adapting. “We try to have a special burger every week and sometimes it has no name,” he says. “You gotta keep it fresh.”

This one has a name, though, and it has earned a permanent place on the menu, he says.

The kitchen at Jamian’s seems to have perfected its grilling technique, serving up an eight-ounce all-beef patty seared to medium-rare pink inside. That wasn’t a surprise. But the the way the heaped-on ingredients turned an ordinary burger into an embellished masterpiece was.

So what exactly changes a burger into a monster? The addition of chipotle peppers, sauteed mushrooms and onions, thick slices of bacon, house-made cheese sauce, french fries, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo.

With lips and tongue buzzing from just the right amount of chipotle heat, the smooth consistency of the cheese sauce, and sweetness of the mushrooms and onions the burger was a savory mouthful. The addition of bacon, lettuce and pico de gallo took it over the top with a meld of flavors that hit all of our tastebuds. That little crunch from the neutrally flavored fries on the burger was genius.

It’s not something you’d want to eat everyday, unless you’re planning to purchase a new and larger wardrobe. But it is a plentiful and perfect meal to share with a friend though.

Open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week, Jamian’s has a lunch menu offering nine bargain items ranging in the $6 to $7 price range. A dinner menu is also always available.