RED BANK: SUBS, BURRITOS, PIZZA & MORE

jimmy john's 090716 1Jimmy John’s has opened in the long-vacant former Wayne’s Market space on West Front Street.  (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallA few quick bites of Red Bank restaurant news for this edition of Retail Churn:

• A sub shop, co-owned by a member of Gaslight Anthem, has opened.

• Two restaurants in town have changed their names.

• Actually, three, if you count the former Brannigan’s. In case you missed it, the Wharf Avenue mainstay has a new moniker to go with a dramatically new look.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BURGERS, FRIES & A VIEW

081216barnacles5Attentive diners can keep a watchful eye on the burgers as they’re grilled at the end of the bar. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?In the shadow of Rumson’s 75-year-old Navesink-River-spanning Oceanic Bridge, Barnacle Bill’s is packed on a Friday afternoon.

“You know it used to be on the pier?” an octogenarian customer who’s been coming to the Rumson perennial asks PieHole.

We do, and locals know also that the waterfront restaurant is the place to go when you’re craving a burger — and that it’s open for lunch from Friday through Sunday only.

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RED BANK: APARTMENTS & GARAGE PROPOSED

denholtz 080416 16The taxi dispatch office on Oakland Street alongside the train station would be demolished and replaced with a parking garage and some commercial space topped by apartments. The new structure would connect to the office building seen in the background, on Chestnut Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Fourteen months after the debut of a short-lived plan for a brewery next door to the Red Bank train station, a builder has proposed an ambitious mixed-use project with 45 apartments at the site.

Denholtz Associates, a national development and property management firm based in Matawan, also wants to create a 129-car parking garage, along with a small amount of commercial space, on adjoining lots that run from Oakland to Chestnut streets, according to plans filed with the borough.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? TACOS ON THE RIVER

071216beachwalk3On a clear day, views from the deck of  BeachWalk Tiki Bar include the Highlands-Sea Bright bridge.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?A neighbor’s recommendation sent PieHole in search of a well-hidden oasis in Sea Bright.

“You have to try the crabby patty and crabby fries,” Fair Haven native Jeanettje McManus insisted, and the views are spectacular.

You wouldn’t know it looking at the place from Ocean Avenue: you see a modernized motel and parking lot. But tucked behind the BeachWalk Motel is an eatery dubbed the Tiki Bar. And what you get here are jaw-dropping views of both the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers that can go on for miles.
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SEA BRIGHT: DONOVAN’S REBUILD BEGINS

donovan's 052616donovan's 071015 3Obliterated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and revived last summer as an open-air bar (seen at right), Sea Bright’s Donovan’s Reef is finally on track to having a permanent home again, NJ.com reports. The oceanfront watering hole is two weeks into a construction project that’s estimated to take about 10 months, the news site reports.

“I’m looking forward to the return of a Donovan’s that, like the rest of the new Seas Bright, is built to last,” Mayor Dina Long told NJ.com. “Donovan’s is an integral piece of the Sea Bright fabric. Without Donovan’s in Sea Bright, it feels like something’s missing.” (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

 

WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BELLYING UP AT SURF BBQ

041616surfbbqsandwichesAbove, a smoked-brisket sandwich, left, and a pulled pork sandwich. Below, smoked maraschino cherries at the bar. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

041616surfbbqcherriesPieHole had been itching to try Surf BBQ in Rumson for lunch, but the newly opened East River Road restaurant and bar hasn’t yet expanded its hours and is only serving lunch on weekends.

Last Saturday, we finally made it there, and found the place not too busy at mid-afternoon, with no wait at the counter and plenty of available seating at the bar and picnic tables. Maybe everyone was attending their kids’ T-Ball games or working on landscaping, but we think we’ve found a sweet-spot in this smokin’ hot restaurant’s schedule.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? TASTES OF IRELAND

030216dublinhouse2Bangers and mash, one of the Irish menu options at the Dublin House. The dining room dedicated to T.J. McMahon, seen below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

030216dublinhouse4A midweek lunch meeting at the Dublin House Pub on Monmouth Street in Red Bank presented PieHole with an all-but-empty first-floor dining room — but lots of company in the form of Irish ghosts.

Bits of local and Gaelic history prevail in the renovated 19th-century Victorian house-turned-pub. The T.J. McMahon dining room exudes literary warmth, in the form of antiqued headshots of Yeats, Shaw and more on its brick-red papered walls, as well as  literal warmth from a mantled fireplace.
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MIDDLETOWN: A RETRO CHINESE NEW YEAR

020216houseofchong6Shrimp lo mein, left, and shrimp in garlic sauce at House of  Chong. Edward Chong, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

020216houseofchong1Chinese new year begins Monday, and diners with a yen for a little time travel along with well-made Asian cuisine might set their GPS for House of Chong in Middletown.

The restaurant, located in the Union Square Mall, has been serving Cantonese and Szechuan-style Chinese delicacies since 1976, owner Edward Chong tells us. His parents first opened House of Chong in Brick in 1969, and though that restaurant is now closed, the Middletown eatery remains a family affair — and something of throwback.
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NEW YEARS EVE: BARTENDERS HAVE YOUR BACK

110815ryanat the belmonteRyan Matthews, bartender at the Belmonte, has a non-alcoholic cocktail for you. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumSo, what’s the plan for New Years Eve? Will be ringing in 2016 at one or more bars and restaurants on the Greater Red Bank Green?

Your local bartender has some advice on how to stay safe while having an enjoyable celebration. It starts with a plan — and, possibly, a designated driver.
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RED BANK: SMALL KITCHEN YIELDS BIG FLAVOR

112415jamians1Mixed green salad on the specials menu at Jamian’s Food and Drink is available for lunch or dinner. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

112415jamians3PieHole dipped a spoon into a bowl of black bean soup at Jamian’s Food and Drink in Red Bank while waiting for a recent weekly trivia game to begin, and swooned. Jalapeno heat and cumin-infused flavor told us that someone new was working in the kitchen.

Owner Jamian LaViola hired 46-year-old chef Andy Doelger to run the three-person kitchen two months ago, and customers are starting to notice the difference. We’ve been asked by more than one satisfied diner if we’ve tasted the braised short rib grilled cheese yet. Yes, we have and it’s seriously good.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A FRESH TAKE ON TAPAS

110815belmonte2An unusual adaptation of taquitos, above, and a glass of made-to-order sangria, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

110815belmonte4Gone are the heavy velvet drapes and dark, brooding atmosphere that once decorated Red in Red Bank. Renovated and re-dubbed the Belmonte, the Broad Street restaurant and bar with the panoramic front window is now lighter, brighter and much more inviting.

A cool, marble-topped bar elicits a bit of Old World charm. Banquettes lining the walls promise comfort, while high-top tables arranged down the center aisle of the room offer a variety of seating or standing options: playing off the primarily tapas menu, it’s a mixture of this and that.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A 10TH AVE. BURRITO

10291510thave4The burrito comes with how-to-eat directions. Below, the chips and salsa dip. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

10291510thave2From Broad Street to Bridge Avenue, burritos have become a ubiquitous menu staple in Red Bank. Interpretations of the Mexican-style tortilla-wrapped meal are becoming increasingly competitive, with hungry fans reaping the rewards.

Jumping into the scrimmage is the much-anticipated 10th Ave. Burrito Company, open since August on West Front Street. PieHole popped by for lunch this week.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BIG MENU AT TOMMY’S

101715tommystavern3A Hickory-Bacon Burger and an order of oven-roasted wings at Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101715tommystavern2Trying to enter Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright last Saturday was a challenge.

Pushing an empty stroller out the door, a woman sporting a Gucci diaper bag on her shoulder heard a screech from her toddler. At issue: a cup of lollipops spied on the hostess desk.

Stroller, Mom, Dad and child — now clutching a fistful of pops —  finally made their way out the door, and we entered to see that the place was packed. Tables, bar stools—  all taken, but a raised booth against the far wall that could have fit a party of six was available.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A RETURN TO YESTERDAY

092615brothers3A pizza burger from The Brother’s Restaurant, with its disco-lit dining room below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON
092615brothers5

We hadn’t been back to Brother’s Restaurant in years. A town institution at the corner of West Front Street and Morford Place in Red Bank, it’s a throwback that’s perhaps taken for granted because it’s always been there.

That is, until it’s not there.

Back in January, the 100-plus-year-old building had a flood from a burst pipe, and leading to extensive repair work that shut the place down for a few months. For many in the Greater Red Bank Green, that was a blow, because this bar and pizzeria is the family restaurant that was the meeting place after a big game or dance recital. It’s nostalgic. So it was time for PieHole to stop by and see what if anything had changes since we last visited.

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RED BANK: ARE WE THAT DRUNK?

rb beer cheese 031614 7The ranking methodology includes the number of bars per capita.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03Is Red Bank the fourth-drunkest town in New Jersey?

An infotainment website based in North Carolina claims it is.

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SEA BRIGHT: DONOVAN’S TIKI BAR REOPENS

donovan's 071015 3With new access ramps over the sea wall, the restored tiki bar at Donovan’s was back in business Friday afternoon, as co-owner Chris Bowler announced via the signboard, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

donovan's 071015 1Thirty-two months after it was knocked cold by Hurricane Sandy, a Sea Bright watering hole stirred back to life in limited form Friday afternoon.

Employees of Donovan’s Reef, which had been a magnet to Wall Street millionaires and Side Street store clerks alike, threw open a fenced gate to its beachfront tiki bar shortly before 3 p.m., marking the end of a long, frustrating struggle, its owners said.

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RED BANK: A FEW HAPPY HOURS

062915birravino2Happy hour choices at Birravino included organic house wine, beer and an appetizer, while at Robinson’s Ale House, below, a martini starred.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

063015robinsonsThough it’s ubiquitous in Red Bank, happy hour – that late-afternoon, discounted bar-tab menu option – should not be taken for granted. Many states, according to the National Center for State Courts, prohibit or limit what has become a traditional time of day to meet with friends and acquaintances in New Jersey.

Although most bars and restaurants offer special deals to lure customers, you might be surprised at how differently those two or three hours are interpreted. PieHole breaks down what can be considered an early bird special for the economically minded while others might call it a snack before dinner.

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RED BANK: BREWERY, ICE CREAM SHOP SLATED

101 oakland 060415A beer brewery plans to set up operation in what’s now a taxi dispatch office next door to the train station. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallHere’s something for aficionados of frosty treats to contemplate as the summer of 2015 turns hot and sultry:

• A startup craft beer maker hopes to set up a production brewery and tasting room on Oakland Street next door to the Red Bank train station.

• And just yards away, the owner of the two-year-old Chowda House seafood restaurant plans to transform the long-vacant former Dave’s Car Wash on Bridge Avenue into a seasonal ice cream stand.

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RED BANK: INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR RETURNS

RBIFF 042714 27Last year’s International Flavor Festival in Red Bank’s White Street parking lot served a variety of choice tidbits. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

RBIFF 042714 22With sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s in the forecast, the Red Bank International Flavour Festival should pack the White Street parking lot once again this Sunday.

The first food festival of the year in a restaurant-crazy town is like opening day for revelers and foodies alike. Seventeen or so of the borough’s finest eateries will be on hand to dispense culinary treats – savory, sweet, and exotic, including:

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A TASTY STAPLE

040815 valstavern4 A lunch order of a Classic Parm Sandwich from the menu at Val’s Tavern. Below, General Manager Kevin Feehan. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

040815 valstavern5Val’s Tavern, on East River Road in Rumson, has been a staple since 1942. So, what does it take to keep a bar and restaurant going for all those years? Consistency, a family-friendly atmosphere, and a terrific red sauce.

Named for Valentine Ciambrone, an immigrant from Calabria, Italy, and bought by commodity traders Chris and James Smith five years ago, Val’s is anchored by a menu that, aside from daily specials, hasn’t changed. It draws clientele of devoted locals, several generations of whom grew up eating here and still find the neighborhood tavern a go-to for a quick beer or a pizza with the kids.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A MONSTER BURGER

040115 jamianmonsterburger1The Monster Burger, ordered from the specials menu at Jamian’s Food and Drink. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

040115 jamianmonsterburger2A regular stop for many Count Basie Theatre ticket holders, Jamian’s Food and Drink, on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, has a loyal local following, showing up for dinner, ever-changing art shows, great music and a lively bar.

At a regular Tuesday night trivia game, PieHole noticed a customer tucking into an enormous burger that seemed to require larger-than-average hands to hold and a strong jaw to get a good bite.

The standard menu burger has never disappointed, so with curiosity piqued, we went back the next day to try that Monster Burger for lunch.

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RED BANK: ROBINSON HITS ALL MARKS

032015 robinson ale house burgerThe Chi-Town burger and fries at Robinson Ale House. Below, chef Michael Dolan.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

032015 robinson ale house dolanIn a town known for a sluggish turnaround time when it comes to opening a new eatery, Robinson Ale House in Red Bank is one of the few that stayed close to its schedule for opening an elegant, up-scale tavern decor.

Now, with three-plus months under its belt, a busy bar scene, and suggestions by locals to try the burger, it was time to for PieHole check in with chef Michael Dolan to see if the minor kinks of opening a new kitchen have been ironed out.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A WALT STREET CUBAN

022415 walt st pub4The Cuban sandwich, served in a retro-fun basket, comes with chips and a pickle, while the order of Crabby Fries is served in an oversized cone. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

022415 walt st pub3In the man cave Walt Street Pub on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, women held forth on which dish is best.

“I order the boneless wings,” said barmaid Kelly Martin. “Mild, though, always mild.”

Sitting next to PieHole at the bar, Jen Disney, informed us that “the beef chimichangas are the best. We go elsewhere, but always come back here.”

Jen Rodriguez, our waitress, said her son, “who is one of the pickiest eaters ever,” gets the chicken cheese steak, but she likes the chicken burrito.

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RUMSON: NEW JERSEY’S BEST BAR?

Among the watering holes featured as NJ.com, the website of the Star-Ledger, searches for New Jersey’s Best Bars is Murphy’s Tavern, the Prohibition-era speakeasy hidden in the basement of a Rumson house. Heather Racioppi, who bought the place with fellow Red Bank bartender Robb McMahon in 2005, give NJ.com’s roving reporter Pete Genovese the history. His story is here. (Video courtesy of NJ.com.)