By SUSAN ERICSON
It’s easy to pass by the Windward Deli, set back alongside the railroad tracks at Drs. James Parker Boulevard and Maple Avenue in Red Bank. So PieHole is doing you a favor by telling you to stop in.
Plenty of parking in front of and behind the building makes it easy to swing by for not-your-usual take out deli grub. A small courtyard with inviting picnic tables surrounded by verdant shrubbery offers an additional reason to grab lunch and eat al fresco.
Honing his cooking skills at this and other delis in town, Rene Atenco, a Red Bank resident and partner in this venture, has been cooking and running the kitchen here for the last five years.
“Being a cook is like being an artist. You have to know what will go with what,” Atenco says, referencing his use of unique ingredient combinations and fresh herbs and spices.
“Everything is fresh from scratch. We make everything here,” he said. “The soups, the salad dressings, everything.” Atenco adds that ingredients for recipes such as a Cuban sandwich include marinated pork loin roasted in-house.
Ordering off the daily specials menu, PieHole was instantly curious about a grilled chicken salad ($6.99). The unexpected Seinfeld-esque “big salad” was full of lively flavors that intermingled in a harmonious way.
Strips of grilled tender chicken breast covered the top of a romaine salad, garnished with crumbled blue cheese, sweet dried cranberries and pretty pink cubes of cold fresh watermelon. The made-in-house balsamic vinaigrette was a delicious lubricant, but almost unnecessary as the melon added a juiciness that took its place.
A staple on the soup menu is the Atenco’s take on Rhode Island clam chowder. This soup is nothing like chowders we’ve tasted and needs a special name, because it’s a memorable brew that sits at the top of a comfort food 101 list. The broth is made with spices similar to those in a Manhattan clam chowder. Big chunks of potato, chewy bits of clam, and a tomato background follow suit. But with an inventive tweak of sumptuous cream as you’d find in a New England clam chowder, it’s an inventive and surprising take on two standard recipes.
The menu is full of reasonably priced options that run the gamut from gourmet sandwiches, subs and paninis to locally named items such as the Red Bank Vet salad, so named for frequent customers from the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, says long time cashier Mickey Bailey.
A jam-packed breakfast menu, including the bargain two eggs and cheese on a hard roll with coffee for $2.99, is available starting at 6 a.m.
The Windward Deli is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and until 2:30 on Saturday. Free delivery is available until 2:30 with a minimum purchase.