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SEA BRIGHT: BACK TO THE BEACH @ DONOVAN’S

One of three bars at Donovan’s Reef is a thatched roof tiki bar.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Flip-flop wearing beachgoers can now drink their beverage of choice at any of three separate bars within the confines of the newly re-built Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright. PieHole recently paid its first visit to the sprawling party palace since its resurrection from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

And is this the Jersey Shore? Swaying palm trees and ocean views could easily have your thinking you’re on a tropical vacation.
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RED BANK: AVOIDING THE CRUSH ON THE PATIO

Twilight on the back patio of Jamian’s Food and Drink finds bartender Rick Norman juicing oranges and pouring drinks. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Just down Monmouth Street in Red Bank from the Count Basie Theatre, Jamian’s Food and Drink  is packed before a show. Ticketholders dash in for a quick bite and something from the bar, and waitresses here know how to hustle, ensuring everyone gets in and out quickly.

Known for its varied live music scene, wall of locally produced artwork and surfer roots, it can be a little noisy and crowded inside. But out back, on Jamian’s patio, the vibe changes. Twinkling lights and background rock and roll make it easier to hold a conversation. This is where you’ll find a more relaxed scene. It’s also a good place to watch a game projected onto a big white wall.

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RED BANK: NAVESINK OYSTER STUDY BEGINS

Workers with the American Littoral Society drop a bag of recycled oyster shells into the river from the dock of a Red Bank home Friday. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

An effort to restore a once-thriving oyster ecosystem in the Navesink River got off to a small start last week with the help of scraps from restaurant diners’ plates.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? AMELIA’S KITCHEN POPS

Vegetarian appetizers from Amelia’s Kitchen include grilled corn and sweet potato and black bean chili.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

In April, new signage marked a name-change for Pop’s Garage at the Grove West in Shrewsbury to Amelia’s Kitchen. Still part of the local restaurant-empire owned by the Schlossbach family, Marilyn and Richard take a back seat to brother Arthur’s management on this one, which is now named for his daughter, who’s been “been busting [his] tail to make things healthier,” he tells PieHole.

The garden and patio seating outside still segue into an eye-popping kaleidoscope of color inside, and the kid-friendly, party-like atmosphere still comes with a Mexican-themed menu. But Amelia’s tends more to lighter, Baja-inspired cuisine, and a new farm-to-table focus means tacos are out while fresh salads are in.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? SALAD WITH RIVERSCAPE

Lunch salads and Navesink River views from the deck of the Pearl Restaurant at the Oyster Point Hotel. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

On a day of cacophonous gridlock, PieHole found respite at the Pearl Restaurant at the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank.

Plans for lunch at another restaurant on the Greater Green went awry when we found it closed. Heading back to Red Bank with streets awash in late afternoon traffic, stomachs growling, we wondered if the Pearl would still be serving lunch.

It was, and an all but empty open-air deck gave us stellar water views on a clear, sunshine-blessed day, as well as a plethora of culinary choices.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? EARLY DINNER IN RUMSON

Vegetarian French onion soup with complimentary pimento cheese and crackers at the bar of Russell and Bette’s.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Skipping lunch in lieu of a date for early happy hour at Rumson’s charming new Russell and Bette’s on West River Road proves to be smart thinking, as PieHole finds a superabundance of dining choices here.

Pansy-filled window boxes and white stucco give the outside of the restaurant a cheerful veneer. Inside, we find an engaging old-world mood, with dark wood paneling and brick interior walls. Vintage stained glass chandeliers add color, while the bar to the right of the entrance is original to its predecessor, What’s Your Beef.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? RELIABLE FRIED CHICKEN

Lunch specials numbers 1 and 3 from Chicken Kitchen in Shrewsbury Plaza. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Shrewsbury Plaza in Shrewsbury has seen its share of transition, with businesses coming and going, but the Chicken Kitchen, shoehorned into a spot next to a tile store and a nail salon in the strip mall, can boast that it’s been there longer than most.

Matt Kascsak, the restaurant’s third owner, tells PieHole he was born the same year, 1982, that the restaurant was launched. Working for the second owner, he got a feel for what was good and what could be improved. Which was not a lot, apparently.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? ‘ALL IN’ IN SEA BRIGHT

Shrimp, arugula and capellini pasta at the newly opened GiGi’s New York Style Pizza and Restaurant. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Admiring the new street lights installed as part of a streetscape makeover on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright earlier this week, PieHole spied the equally new GiGi’s New York Style Pizza and Restaurant.

Located next door to Melonhead in a space that most recently housed the Black Swine restaurant, which moved to a larger spot a block away, Gigi’s turns out to be owned by familiar faces: chef Kenny Gambella and his wife, Kelly, who also own Sonny’s Sandwich Shop just down the street.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? TUSCAN OPULENCE

Tortelloni and house-made sausage from Buona Sera’s lunch menu. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

On a warmer-than-expected spring day, the flung-open doors of Buona Sera Italian Ristorante in Red Bank offer a welcoming sight.

At night the restaurant, at the corner of Maple Avenue and Monmouth Street, can be crowded with party-goers and dates trying to impress, but lunchtime is a different, quieter scene.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? CLUCKIN’ GOOD CHICKEN

A grilled Buffalo chicken and bleu cheese sandwich from Cluck-U Chicken. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, did the culinary world a big favor when it invented what has become a widespread favorite, Buffalo wings. Just about every eatery on the Greater Green, it seems, has a variation of the recipe on the menu, but Cluck-U Chicken in Red Bank stays pretty close to the original.

Queuing up behind a lunchtime crowd in the City Centre strip mall restaurant, PieHole eavesdropped on customers placing orders while formulating its own plan to taste a few items.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A READIE’S FISH FRY

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.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? GUILT-FREE SWEETNESS

A “Stupid Cupid” from Playa Bowls. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

From the day it opened last month, Playa Bowls in Red Bank has drawn long lines of teens and tweens waiting to get inside, and the after-school and weekend mania hasn’t let up. This might give the impressions that one, it’s a place for kids, and two, that it’s a fad.

Time will tell if the craze lasts, but on the coldest day of the year so far, What’s For Lunch paid its first visit to the West Front Street business and found a full house of mixed-age customers at midday. Manager Robin Krieger tells us that many are employees of Riverview Medical Center, just two blocks east.

 

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A JIMMY JOHN’S SUB

The Jimmy John’s Italian Night Club sub. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumGleaming subway tiles and a mix of communal hightop tables and booths seem to be the template for modern fast food joints today.

The Jimmy John‘s franchise on West Front Street in Red Bank, with Gaslight Anthem bassist Alex Levine on board as a partner, has the decor and menu down to a science. But how does it stack up against other sub shops on the Greater Red Bank Green?
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CRAVINGS: A LIBRARIAN’S WEEKLY BENTO

Red Bank library director Elizabeth McDermott indulges her craving at Sogo Sushi. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

World traveler-turned-Red Bank Public Library director Elizabeth McDermott has a weekly itch that she scratches at Sogo Sushi on Monmouth Street: a bento box.

“It’s like comfort food to me,” says McDermott, whose previous job as a software consultant for Oracle took her all over the globe.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? SOME FRESH BOWLS

A Cobb salad, at left, with Genoa pasta, right, and primavera pasta at Fresh Bowl. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

A deja vu feeling came over us as we checked out the new Fresh Bowl, on Broad Street in downtown Red Bank. It resembles its predecessor, Salad Works, in layout, but owner Giuseppe Amato, has made some interesting and tasty additions to what was an all-salad menu.

A Wednesday special of two pasta bowls for the price of one  caught our eye. A bargain such as this is hard to pass up: we can always bring home the leftovers for dinner.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? WAWA’D YA THINK?

110516wawa5Wawa’s Italian hoagie. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Long before a video espousing a similar message (albeit with coarser language) went viral this week,
several PieHole fans strongly urged us to include Wawa in our eternal quest for superior subs.

One eyebrow raised in deep skepticism, we decided to bite, and paid a visit to the ubiquitous convenience chain’s store on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A SUPER SUB AT ELSIE’S

The #15 Italian sub from the 58-year-old Elsie’s Sub Shop in Red Bank.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

On a visit to Elsie’s Sub Shop in Red Bank back in September, PieHole met Michael Mullins, a retiree from Middletown now living in Arizona. Whenever he returns to his Monmouth County roots, he told us, he makes a point of stopping at Elsie’s.

“In 1959, I’d take the bus down to the Carlton Theater [now the Count Basie Theatre] from Middletown. Back then the bus was ten cents,” he said. “Before I caught the bus to go home, I’d stop at Elsie’s for a number five,” or a turkey-and-cranberry-sauce sub.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? PAZZO SANDWICHES

Grilled chicken pesto panini, served with a side salad. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Keeping track of how many years it’s been in Red Bank is easy at Pazzo MMX. Architecturally defined by its red brick facade and bound between an office building and a parking garage on West Front Street, the start date is in the name, which translates from Italian to “crazy 2010.”

PieHole stopped in at lunchtime this week to find a bustling dining room and the aroma of garlic wafting from the open kitchen, where you can keep an eye on every dish delivered.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A BITE AT BUBBAKOO’S

Customize your meal by mixing and matching ingredients in a bowl, burrito or taco at Bubbakoo’s Burritos. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

For this week’s What’s For Lunch, PieHole takes a a lighthearted romp through a menu of fun ingredients at the new Bubbakoo’s Burritos on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright.

Taking some of the best features from other fast food joints on the Greater Red Bank Green — such as the ordering system at Jersey Mike’s Subs, where you watch as your plate gets prepared conveyer-belt fashion— and Surf Taco, where light menu options offset the heavier ones, Bubbakoo’s creates quick meals prepared from fresh, made-in-house ingredients.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? HOWLING GOOD PIZZA

012417lupo1A “Grandma” pie fresh from the oven at Lupo Pizzeria. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?A sign cut out in the shape of howling wolf hangs at the corner of the building that’s home to the brand-new Lupo Pizzeria in Fair Haven, named in honor of a great-grandmother whose last name means “wolf” in Italian.

So of course, feeling a bit like Red Riding Hood, PieHole had to try the “Grandma” pie.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A BELLYFUL OF SHAPIRO’S

011717shapiros1Pastrami on seeded rye with a side of coleslaw and a traditional pickle bowl at Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?In a carnivorous mood, PieHole headed over to the newly opened Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen in Red Bank, where we found plenty of Jewish-style sandwiches to choose from.

Corned beef and chicken noodle soup are staples at most of the delis on the Greater Red Bank Green, so what sets this place apart from the others? For a transplanted New Yorker, it’s the nostalgic Yiddish menu choices, such as blintzes (sweet stuffed crepes), latkes (potato pancakes), tongue (braised cow tongue) and kishke (stuffed derma), that we haven’t seen or tasted in years.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? LINGERING AT ANJELICA’S

011017anjelicas4Baked eggplant parmigiano served with casarecce arrabbiata at Anjelica’s Restaurant. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Whatever the season, reservations may be needed to secure a dinner table at the family-owned Anjelica’s Restaurant on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright.

But in the off-season, the Ocean Avenue restaurant serves lunch, too, and on a recent visit, PieHole found it a delightfully relaxing spot to saunter into and while away part of an afternoon.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? DRINKING TO OUR HEALTH

010417freshicasrb6An eye-catching peppermint-and-spinach-based Grinch Bowl topped with granola at Freshica’s. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?It’s the first week of a new year, which means PieHole is trying to stick to its annual get-fit resolutions. So we headed over to Freshica’s in the Red Bank’s West Side Lofts building on West Front Street for a convenient, quick, and healthy lunch.

Open just six months, Jessica Dalmedo’s second store is already busier at lunchtime than her original spot inside Fairwinds Deli in Fair Haven, opened more than four years ago, she tells us. She and her experienced employee, Lee Ann Caporicci, patiently explained the benefits of some of the new-to-us ingredients in their recipes.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BEST OF 2016

091316redrock3Duck confit tater tots from Red Rock Tap + Grill. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Soul-satisfying soups, beefy burgers, crusty pizzas…

From a year’s worth of lunches good, bad and inedible, PieHole‘s What’s For Lunch? feature picks the Top 10 of 2016.

Click to restaurant names to see complete individual reviews.
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CRAVINGS: CELEBRATORY PROFITEROLES

110116o-bistro-profiterole-2An iconic French dessert, a profiterole at O Bistro is what we crave. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

piehole_cravingsRinging in 2017 in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower sounds romantic, if not so practical.

But Francophiles on the Greater  Green can hoist a glass of (BYOB) Champagne at O Bistro Francaise in Red Bank while dipping a spoon into the best chocolate sauce in New Jersey.
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