RED BANK: NOT FANCY BUT SO TASTY

101014 international2The platter of Tacos al Pastor, served on a melmac plate, at the International Mexican Food Restaurant. Below, a sampling of the sauces that accompany the tacos. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101014 international3Walk down Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank and you are almost certain to miss a terrific taqueria.

The International Mexican Food restaurant is something of a stealth business. You wouldn’t know what lurks inside at number 92 if someone didn’t tell you. There is a tiny sign above the door that reads, “International,” but that’s it.

Don’t let the bare-bones exterior stop you, though, or the fact that no one inside speaks English; even the takeout menus are in Spanish. This place is busy because the food is fairly unique to the area and seriously good.
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SPICING UP THE LARDER WITH TANGY SAUCE

101314 linares sauceLinares Grocery on Monmouth Street sells squirt bottles of the chamoy sauce found in Mexican restaurants. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

LARDER-270_100414On a recent culinary tour of Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank with our friend and guide, David Prown, PieHole discovered a little secret: some of those big flavors you come across in Mexican restaurants can be found in the bodegas along Shrewsbury Avenue.

Linares Grocery owner Alfredo Linares showed us an eyecatching fruit salad: a pineapple shell filled with sliced peaches and pineapple, and then covered with chamoy dipping sauce. Tangy, slightly sweet, slightly sour, chamoy sauce is sold in a squirt bottle like ketchup or srircha, but this condiment is made from fruit pulp, usually apricot, lime, and spices.

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GETTING FRIED ON THE GREEN

062714 zucchini barnacle billsBarnacle Bill’s fried zucchini with tangy dipping sauce is a perennial favorite, while deep fried pickle spears (below) from the Globe are a newer menu addition. (Photos By Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

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Eat your vegetables, you were told as a child. They’re good for you. But your mama probably didn’t mean the deep-fried veggies that have been popping up on tavern menus all around the Green.

Belly up to the bar, boys and girls, to try a less healthy but way more fun way to fill your pie hole with roughage. PieHole leads the tour…

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LITTLE SILVER: KEEPIN’ IT LOCAL FOR PARKER

091314 parkerhouse16 091314 parkerhouse7More than 250 attendees braved drippy tents for a “farm to table’ fundraising dinner at the Parker Homestead in Little Silver Saturday night. The menu, crafted by celebrity chef  David Burke, included New Jersey wines and cheeses, Barnegat bay shellfish and bushels of locally grown vegetables.  The $250-per-plate event benefitted the Parker Homestead – 1665 restoration project and the Monmouth County Historical Society. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

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CIAO, BASIL’S. IT’S ‘BIRRAVINO’ NOW.

091014 birravino ralloVictor Rallo in the bicycle-decorated atrium of Birravino. Below, one of the long communal, or feste, tables in the dining room.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091014 birravino5The Old World charm of Basil T’s Brew Pub is gone, along with its popular mug club, where members had personalized mugs hanging at the bar. Remodeled and repositioned as Birravino, however, the Red Bank trattoria is just as welcoming, warm and suds-friendly as its predecessor.

Nursing a broken leg from a running accident, Victor Rallo showed up earlier this week to make sure everything was running smoothly after a makoever that included completely restructuring and redecorating his Riverside Avenue institution in about a month. Before some customers even realized  the restaurant was temporarily off-line, a new name was on the building and the changes were well underway, he said.

The result? “I wanted an industrial, rustic look like you see in the trattorias or osterias of Italy,” he told PieHole,  amid the exposed brick walls, honed wooden tabletops, galvanized metal seats and an open kitchen. “Definitely something more casual” than Basil’s, he said.

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WHATS FOR LUNCH: SOUP’S ON

090114 cjmcloones1The oversized Reuben lunch platter with  fries, above, and French onion soup, below, from CJ McLoone’s.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

090114 cjmcloones2The calendar flips to September, and just like that, thoughts of bathing suits and salads are gone, replaced by hankerings for sweaters, coats and heartier lunches.

A soup-and-sandwich pairing is a favorite for many who want a little more than just a quick bite, and to this soup lover, it doesn’t matter that it’s still hot outside: September is the start of soup season.

CJ McLoone’s on Shrewsbury Avenue in Tinton Falls offers a soup of the day, oversized burgers, and many typical sandwich options.

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WHATS FOR LUNCH? PANINI AT PATRIZIA’S

080814 patrizias vegThe grilled vegetable panini hero shown above is vegetarian friendly. Below, the burrata. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

patrizia's 073014“It’s like going to your grandmother’s house on Sunday,” manager Santo Saitta said of the food and ambience at the week-old Patrizia’s on Broad Street in Red Bank.

If your grandmother has a dining room in a former bank building with a sky-high vaulted ceiling, a raging hot copper-clad pizza oven and remarkably good food, well then yes, it would be like that.

After a lunch here, you might want to visit nonna more often.

The suggested Burrata All’ Amalfitana appetizer ($13.95) – silky, salty, creamy and lightly seasoned with a smidge of olive oil – was terrific on its own, but the piquant caponata accompaniment made it a sexy, delicious starter.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? INBETWEEN BREAKFAST

062014inbetweenThe Inbetween aces the hollandaise sauce on the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

062014inbetween2Sharing a table at Red Bank’s Inbetween Café is par for the course. This little luncheonette is much too busy to stand on ceremony, and even if you do manage to nab a table, unless there are six in your party, a stranger is likely to sit down right next to you.

Such is the happy situation we found ourselves in on our latest visit to this English Plaza institution. The two young strangers sitting at the table with us were familiar, and yet, I couldn’t place them.

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RED BANK: ‘GOURMET’ MAC ‘N CHEESE? YEP.

053114mac attackThe mac-and-cheese at Mac Attack. Abe Elkomey at the griddle, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

05314 mac attack 1Mac Attack Gourmet Cheesery blew into Red Bank last month, displacing a short-lived burger joint. So are hamburgers out, and macaroni-and-cheese in?

Could be: the new kid in town is loud, sneaky and completely unexpected.

“I want to make simple food great and relatable – mac-and-cheese, grilled cheese –stuff you eat growing up,” says chef Abe Elkomey, who at the age of 23 is already accomplished in the kitchen. At 19, he came in second in a competition among New Jersey country club chefs, and has worked as sous chef at both the Bayonne Country Club and Satis Bistro in Jersey City.

“Even though we’re quick service, we cook to order,” Elkomey said. “Everything is fresh.”

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