By SUSAN ERICSON
What magnetic pull does the Inbetween Café in Red Bank have that keeps loyal customers waiting to share a table with others for breakfast or lunch?
Achieving almost a cult-like status, in part because of the gourmet fare his kitchen churns out seven days a week, owner and chef Bob Koehler may sling hash a little more slowly than some others, but that’s because he makes sure every plate comes out just right. Showing off his experienced chops, he’s not afraid to try a new recipe on his hungry legion of devoted connoisseurs.
Another reason for the often-found crush at the door may be the Broadway Diner’s demise in July last year. Many of the diner’s customers appear to have thrown their allegiance to the Inbetween – after all, with Toast not yet out of the, um, toaster, there aren’t many places serving breakfast in town these days.
Still, when certain dishes appear on the InBetween’s hand-written menu, we fight the crowds and hope for a seat at the counter or one of the tables.
Shrimp and grits, an old-fashioned southern recipe, has become a trendy find at many high-end restaurants. Koehler’s rendition ($12.95) does not disappoint. A customer passing by our table just as the waitress showed up with our order said, “Oh, you got the shrimp and grits, too? I finished the whole bowl. You’re gonna like that.”
Sumptuous, the bowlful of hand-milled grits – they’re more textural and grainy than the instant variety – were fortified with a punch of melt-in-your-mouth cheddar cheese. Topped with plump juicy shrimp and pepped up with fresh green onions and Andouille sausage slices, it makes for a hearty meal. But why stop there? It also comes with a buttered and toasted fresh baked corn muffin. An embarrassment of riches, this indulgent meal is worth every calorie.
Luncheonette menus tend to be ambiguous, often mixing and matching food styles. While PieHole happily chowed down on grits, our date enjoyed a tender slow-cooked brisket sandwich ($11.95) smothered in tangy barbecue sauce. Topped with a thick slab of fresh creamy mozzarella and served on a kaiser roll, it was a messy piquant lunch full of big flavor. The accompanying potato egg salad was a more subdued serving that gave the palate a much needed break.
The desire for tried and true, standard options is reason enough to make your way to this plain-jane restaurant, while other patient customers wait in line at for their fix of gourmet fare. There isn’t another like it in the Greater Red Bank Green.