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RED BANK: O BISTRO TAKEOUT? MAIS OUI!

The former Red Bank Pizza storefront on Bridge Avenue has been reincarnated as the to-go counter of O Bistro Francais. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

When chef Marc Fontaine opened O Bistro Francais in Red Bank a year ago, local gourmets rejoiced at the return of top-quality French cooking after a six-year absence from town.

Now, Fontaine has turned the disused former storefront pizzeria end of his Bridge Avenue restaurant into a takeout counter to supplement the linen-napkin dining room. And once again, Francophile eaters are over the moon.

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RED BANK: BEER AND MORE AT BIRRAVINO

Customers enjoy pizza, salads, wine and beer on a breezy Sunday evening at Birravino’s new beer garden.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Basil T’s Brew Pub was ahead of it’s time when it came to brewing beer in-house in New Jersey. Three years ago, Vic Rallo and partners rebranded the Red Bank restaurant and bar, naming it Birravino and giving it an updated industrial look. But they continued to brew their own beer.

The recent addition of an outdoor beer garden, built off to one side of the original structure, allows customers to wet their whistles under star-studded skies while chilling to the cool breezes coming off the Navesink River. PieHole stepped up to the window for one of the 10 local brews on tap before settling into a cherry-red Adirondack-style chair on the patio.
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RED BANK: GLAZED AND AMUSED AT LUIGI’S

Teamwork at Luigi’s Ice Cream: one person holds an open table (left) while another waits on line to order. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

In Red Bank on a late-spring Saturday night, musicians, locals and tourists fill the sidewalks, and PieHole is right there with them. First we catch a whiff of pizza, fresh out of the oven, and then of something sweet. The scene is festive, and we’re hungry.

Stopping to listen to buskers performing Irish songs, we meet a group of teenage girls holding plates of donuts covered with sprinkles. In unison, they tell us that these are no ordinary donuts, and that the place to be right now is around the corner on Broad Street. So we head over to Luigi’s Ice Creamwhere we find a throng of gourmet-minded folks of all ages seeking out their next sugar high.

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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? 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? TINY SPACE, HUGE FLAVOR

Meatballs in a perfect Sunday-style sauce with grilled pesto shrimp. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Found at the end of a short strip mall on White Road in Shrewsbury, the onetime My Sister’s Kitchen space is now home to a venture called Two Cousins Catering under new owners who are, indeed, cousins.

Stopping in on a weekend afternoon, PieHole finds Sue DellaGatta and Rob Klingebiel — whose mothers are sisters — working in a pint-sized kitchen. But the dishes they’re preparing are titanic in flavor.

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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? 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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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? 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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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? GOOD GRAVY AND FRIES

121916taylorsams5The Prime “samwich” of sliced Angus beef, with fries and a memorable gravy, at Taylor Sam’s. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?When a reader tells us about a new favorite eatery in Red Bank, PieHole pays attention. And at a recent party, an enthusiastic fan suggested that we hustle over to the two-week-old Taylor Sam’s at 20 Broad Street. So we did.

The interior looks little changed from that of its predecessors at the address, The Spot and Mac Attack Cheesery, but the menu at the newest addition to the downtown restaurant scene is distinctive, owner Scott Spivak tells us.

“Everything is 100-percent from scratch,” he said. The dishes we tried lead to instant fandom as well.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? EUROPA GRILL TAPAS

111916europa3A hot sampler for two from the appetizer/tapas menu at Europa Grill. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?New to the Shrewsbury Village strip mall in Shrewsbury, Europa Grill fills in the storefront left empty by Rosina’s Ristorante. Like its predecessor, it serves Italian food, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Mediterranean-themed frescoes, including an attention-grabbing celestially painted ceiling, brighten the decor. Tables set with linens, comfortable seating, and friendly, helpful service add up to a more formal but lively atmosphere.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A SLOW-PACED GRAZE

110816graze3Vegetarian choices on the lunch menu at Graze include bourbon-glazed carrot soup and a mac-and-cheese casserole.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?This past summer, Laercio “Chef Junior” Chamon finally fulfilled his goal of turning Zoe Bistro, which he acquired a year earlier, into Graze.

Now once again open for lunch, the Little Silver restaurant is luxuriously relaxed in pace, aesthetic and culinary concept, even as kitchen staffers thrive on challenging themselves to come up with dishes with a surprising twist.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? DREAMY O BISTRO CREPE

110116o-bistro4Shrimp, scallops and chopped clams swimming in a creamy herb-flecked sauce are folded into a tender crepe and served with a side salad at O Bistro Francais. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?A big old barn of a building on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank is now home to the much anticipated French restaurant, O Bistro Francais.

Following the arrows along the side of the building to a door crowned by a French flag, PieHole finds a new entrance, an interior whipped up in cloud-like shades of white and dove-gray, and familiar faces. Traditional French fare from the kitchen of chef Marc Fontaine is all the enticement we need to slide into a booth and indulge.
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