The Big Tuna, one of only four sandwiches offered at Red Light Coffee and Espresso Bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By SUSAN ERICSON
Seeking out a caffeine fix, PieHole stopped in at the Red Light Coffee and Espresso Bar in Lincroft’s Acme shopping center on Newman Springs Road.
On a strip that also houses Aleo’s Italian Specialties, this 10-month-old java joint is turning out more than the expected demitasse and cappuccino. The jewel-box-sized, ruby-walled 650-square-foot space is also serving up gourmet sandwiches.
Jeff Lewis, owner of Red Light Coffee and Espresso Bar, seen below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
Jeff Lewis, a Missouri native who previously had a career in the military, bought the Barbaric Bean in Ocean Grove with his wife, Jenni ,who is from Neptune.
“My wife didn’t want me opening a bar, and I said fair enough,” Lewis explains.
After a fire devastated that business in 2015, Lewis started looking for another spot for his coffee shop. A family friend who lives near the Lincroft suggested that he check it out.
“I love this location,” he says, “the proximity to the Acme and Aleo’s.”
A bar and stools looking out to the parking lot and three tiny tables offer eat-in options. Decorated with kitschy traffic lights, the space is warm, cozy and inviting. Sporting tie-dyed t-shirts, the employees are friendly and well-informed.
Chalkboards on the wall behind the counter list menus of hot and cold coffee concoctions and other beverages. There are glass cases filled with scones, muffins and macaroons from a bakery in Ocean Grove, and the bagels and breads come from Staten Island.
Four sandwiches, called filoncini (all $8), which loosely translates to a longish Italian bread are also on the menu: the Genneroso, a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich; the Capp, which contains spicy capicola; a caprese sandwich filled with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes; and the Big Tuna.
For the Big Tuna, a roll is stuffed with imported tuna salad in olive oil — not mayonnaise. Arugula, tomatoes, and creamy slices of Bel Paese cheese complete this masterpiece. Combining this particular cheese with the rich, distinct flavor of the tuna salad is a stroke of culinary genius. Opposite textures and flavors meld together to form a perfected and scrumptious sandwich.
Planning to add more savory items to his menu, Lewis says, “we are in the research phase, working on a breakfast sandwich right now. The goal is to have more options on the menu by September.”
How to manage the food preparation in this tiny space seems to be the only glitch at the moment, Lewis adds.
Red Light Coffee and Espresso Bar is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. It opens at 8:00 a.m. on the weekend.