The Buena Place fish fry combo platter, a recent addition to the menu at Readie’s Cafe. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By SUSAN ERICSON
Restaurants come and go in Red Bank, maybe more often than we like. But there are a few that can brag of longevity and customer loyalty.
Opened in 1957, Readie’s Café is celebrating a big anniversary this year. Tom Fishkin, owner since 2001, tells PieHole that the deli had its launch on Monmouth Street as the Village Pork Store the same year that Elsie’s Subs, another lunchtime institution, opened its doors. It became Readie’s Fine Foods under owner Jack Readie in the 1980s.
A platter of fried chicken cutlet and macaroni salad ordered by Betsy Smith, a frequent customer. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
Fishkin moved the takeout-only deli to 39 Broad Street in 2011, in part because he wanted the expanded space to include a café for accommodates a few sidewalk tables and chairs for customers to enjoy the fresh air and ever-moving view in nice weather.
Filled with local flavor, the menu is a who’s who, or maybe a where’s that, of Red Bank streets, schools, and businesses. Included is the renowned Red Bank Green grilled panini.
Fishkin’s business is augmented by consistent catering engagements that “keep us going all weekend long,” he says. And a wishlist from catering clientele got him thinking about the “all-American fish fry. It’s not something you want to eat everyday, but on special occasions, especially at street fairs, it’s popular.”
In September, Fishkin added a fish-centric menu named for streets off River Road, including Buena Place, Harris Park and Fisher Place. All offer variations of fried fish except for the Caro Court, centered on a ubiquitous landlubber special, the chicken tender.
On a recent visit, PieHole opted for the Buena Place combo ($14), to get a “varietal” taste. Flounder, scallops, and jumbo shrimp come heaped over a mountain of french fries. A small serving of house-made coleslaw, slices of lemon, and small cups of tartar and cocktail sauce rounded out the platter.
All of the fish was fried crispy on the outside and tender inside. The shrimp were indeed big bites, and the flounder, good on its own, would also make a great sandwich. But the tiny bay scallops were such a briny-deep-sea pop of flavor that we will easily consider coming back just for another taste.
“Everything is made in-house except for the bread,” Fishkin tells us. Among the salads, the chicken salad was particularly good: it’s is a favorite and always worth the visit.
Betsy Smith, a team leader at Restoration Hardware and frequent midday customer, bypassed the menu to inspect the glass enclosed deli counter. She chose a fresh chicken cutlet and a serving of macaroni salad.
“Anything to promote my favorite lunch spot,” she chimed in, “There’s always something different here, and the food is consistently good.”
In addition to the new fish menu, Readie’s offers burgers, subs, wraps, homemade soups and a full breakfast menu.
Readie’s is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and opens at 8 a.m. on weekends.