By JIM WILLIS
As downtown Red Bank becomes more and more a shopping destination for one-percenters and a food court for homesick Staten Islanders on the jones for steaming piles of red sauce and garlic, the 99 percent who actually live here occasionally need to get creative and cross into neighboring towns for a good lunchtime fix.
And so it was that PieHole headed across the border to Tinton Falls for lunch at our current favorite oasis of reasonably priced eats and lack of pretension: the Pour House.
It takes a few moments for the eyes to adjust from the bright outdoors to the comforting darkness of the Pour House’s interior, but once inside, we see there’s a bustling lunch crowd at tables and on stools around the ample bar. We’re quickly seated at a table and start pursuing the extensive lunch menu.
The Pour House has a deep bench of specials every day. Whenwe visited, the list included an Italian Roast Beef Panini with mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto ($11.99, including a side of fries) and Pierogies Bolognese ($9.99). The regular menu also covers everything from burgers to fried oysters – a pleasantly daunting selection.
Pour House owner Gary Schoelkopf tells PieHole that the depth and breadth of the menu, including at least a dozen or so lunch and dinner specials every day, was born of necessity when larger restaurant chains started moving into the area in the early 2000s.
“We had to differentiate ourselves,” he says. To compete with the chains’ offerings of cheap draft beer specials and other enticements, Schoelkopf began offering a wide and changing variety of entrees and sticking to an affordable price point.
“I come in around 3 a.m. every day and make up the sauces and stocks, and come up with the day’s lunch and dinner specials for the kitchen staff,” he says.
Most of the specials on the menu range from $8.99 to $11.99, and come with a cup of soup. PieHole opted for the Hot Pastrami Reuben special with fries and coleslaw for $9.99 and the black bean and sausage soup.
The soup arrived quickly. Served with thin tortilla strips on top and a dollop of sour cream, it was tasty and had a tiny little bit of kick to it.
The reuben was stacked with thin slices of pastrami that had nicely crisped edges (perhaps from being warmed in a pan instead of the usual microwave) and covered in melted Swiss and a pleasing, sweet Russian dressing. Served closed-face on rye bread that was toasted on the grill to a nice crunch without being too dry, the sandwich was satisfying and well-executed.
Shoelkopf is on to something with the reasonably priced, wide variety of specials. He tells PieHole that lunch (and dinner) have been busy ever since Hurricane Sandy, when “people really changed their [dining out] habits. They rediscovered us, and have been coming back ever since.”