WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A BODEGA SPECIAL

071916linares5Chuleta de puerco en salsa pasilla, or pork chops in a spicy gravy with cactus, is a daily special at Linares Grocery and Restaurant. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?PieHole‘s endless quest for reasonably priced lunches hit the jackpot this week at Linares Grocery and Restaurant on Monmouth Street opposite the Red Bank train station.

Don’t let the market facade and absence of restaurant signage fool you. Selling fruits and vegetables, fresh meat from a butcher’s case, Mexican grocery staples and a mindboggling array of household items, Linares also offers a takeout menu filled with traditional Mexican food prepared in-house.

071916linares1Arlette Linares, seen below, suggested a cemitas, or big Mexican sandwich. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

071916linares arlette2About five years ago, Alfredo Linares took over the bodega from Juan Torres, owner of Juanito’s restaurant across the street and a mini-supermarket of the same name on Shrewsbury Avenue, says Arlette Linares, who’s Alfredo’s daughter and a niece of Torres.

Born into a “food family,” she says working in the business was inevitable.

If you wanting to brush up on your culinary Spanish vocabulary, this is a good place to start. One of the best aspects of this menu is that everything is written in Spanish and English.

On it we find tortas, or sandwiches filled with grilled chicken, beef, sausage or pork, in addition to a torta Hawaiiana layering ham, pineapple and marinated pork.

A cemita ($9), or “big sandwich,” according to the menu, is actually a whale of a sandwich. The cemita de milanesa de pollo o res is a gargantuan roll filled with breaded chicken, tomato, avocado, quesillo cheese and chipotle sauce. It comes with french fries that are made in-house, Linares tells us.

The four-page menu lists conventional favorites, including tacos, filled with meat or fish and served with condiments such as cactus, cilantro, onions, radishes, and cucumbers, that come three to an order. Quesadillas, enchiladas and burrito platters are also offered and reasonably priced between $8 and $11.

The lunch special changes daily but is always priced at $10, says Linares, and one posted on the store’s Facebook page — chuleta de puerco en salsa pasilla — piqued PieHole‘s curiosity. Not sure we’d appreciate the spicy pork chops in the dish, she tried to persuade us to try something a little less fiery. Maybe she thought we were new to this ancient cuisine, but one of the tastiest parts of Mexican food is the chef’s use of spices and chili peppers.

The lunch specials here are meant for hearty appetites, and this one is no exception. A large container loaded with two thinly pounded pork chops, cooked in an ancho chili sauce with pieces of nopales, or cactus, that add both texture and flavor to the gravy, the dish is peppery-good and mildly hot.

Complementing the meal, a container of black beans and rice, and a stack of eight corn tortillas were the calm to the chuleta’s savory snap. The generous portion turned out to be plenty for two to share.

Linares Grocery is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and offers delivery service.

SUSAN-ERICSON