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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: NO OYSTERS, BUT ELUSIVE EELS

The American Littoral Society hung bags of recycled oyster shells from docks on the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers in June to see if they would attract oyster larvae. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

After nearly three months, an effort to restore a once-thriving oyster ecosystem in the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers has yet to detect the bivalve mollusk in the waterways, according to an update by the American Littoral Society.

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SEA BRIGHT: HAPPY HOUR AT EVENTIDE

Eventide Grille, tucked behind a marina, is a favorite of locals at happy hour. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Sea Bright is all hustle and bustle during the summer, so hungry and thirsty beachgoers zipping along Ocean Avenue might might not notice Eventide Grille, which isn’t even visible from the street. Locals, on the other hand, are well aware of this gem of riverside restaurant and watering hole tucked in behind the Navesink Marina.

PieHole stopped by on a breezy weeknight to rub elbows with a happy hour crowd that for the most part arrived on foot.
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RED BANK: COCKTAILS AT RED ROCK

The crowd at a recent happy hour at Red Rock Tap + Grill. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Picnic tables, high tops, bar stools: on warm, clear summer evenings, the seats fill up fast at Red Rock Tap + Grill in Red Bank, offering bird’s eye views of Marine Park from multiple tiers. PieHole finds a subdued after-work crowd at happy hour, which runs from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

“Happy hour is like this when it’s nice out,” bartender Jennifer Gambino tells us as she muddles lime for a Moscow Mule, the hour’s most popular cocktail, served in a proper copper mug.
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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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SEA BRIGHT: OYSTER WRANGLERS WANTED

Workers with the American Littoral Society prepare to hang a bag of oyster shells off a dock at the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank earlier this month. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

The folks at the Sandy Hook-based nonprofit American Littoral Society are looking for a few good people — and an even greater number of enterprising oysters — as part of a summer-long research project known as Operation Oyster.

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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? HEALTHY DELECTABLES

Turkey meatballs in pomodoro sauce, shaved brussel sprout salad and sweet potato and asparagus quiche from the Healthy Palate.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Let’s just say that several seasons of culinary indulgence have PieHole seeking healthier lunch alternatives. Fortunately, there are oodles of options on the Greater Red Bank Green to choose from.

This week, we made our way to the Healthy Palate in Little Silver, where everything is organic, dairy- and gluten-free. Owner, chef and “certified eating psychology coach” Jennifer Asfar filled us in on the details of eating clean. Read More »

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? ‘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? 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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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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RED BANK: APARTMENTS & EATERY ON DECK

Up for review at Monday night’s meeting of the Red Bank planning board: the Element, seen above, a 35-unit apartment complex proposed for a vacant lot at 55 West Front Street, opposite Riverside Gardens Park. The controversy-stirring plan could go to a final up-or-down vote.

Also scheduled: a proposed makeover for 26 West Front Street, right, last operated as Caliente Cantina, and not long before that, 10th Ave. Burrito Co. The plan calls for the addition of a 1,000-square-foot outdoor deck with views of the Navesink River. Here’s more info about the plan.

And here’s the full agenda for the meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at borough hall, 90 Monmouth Street. (Renderings by Rotwein + Blake, above, and Cahill Studio, right. Click to enlarge)

 

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? 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? 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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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? ALL THE WAY ON A BAGEL

102016bageloven3An everything bagel with the works at Bagel Oven.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Occasionally, lunchtime decisions can be complicated, especially in Red Bank, where there are so many options.

Keeping it simple after a morning of too many decisions, PieHole heads to Bagel Oven on Monmouth Street, where the menu is so limited that lunch becomes a no-brainer.

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CRAVINGS: SCAMPI PIE NOT A TRIVIAL MATTER

101816rubinoPieHole catches Jen Rubino pre-bite at Jamian’s Food and Drink. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

piehole_cravingsJamian’s Food and Drink gets testy on Tuesday nights as brainiacs and know-it-alls vie for points at a trivia contest that fills the Red Bank bar to capacity.

Jen Rubino, a 43-year-old borough resident and Italian teacher, has been showing up with her team from the beginning of the weekly showdown two years ago. Is it the camaraderie, the challenge — or maybe a craving for her favorite pizza that brings her out every week?
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? LOBSTER CORN DOGS

101516b2bistro5A Lobster Corn Dog, served on a stick at B2 Bistro and Bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?PieHole doesn’t always plan in advance, so on more than one occasion, our desire for a bite and a drink at B2 Bistro and Bar on Shrewsbury Avenue didn’t work out.

The question of whether we had a reservation surprised us on one evening. We told the hostess that we were there for a cocktail and quick bite, but our lack of a reservation meant that even the empty high-top tables were not offered to us. Her blank stare told us we were expected to move on.
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RUMSON: DELI COUNTERMAN TO DISH HERE

The trailer for “The Sturgeon Queens,” a PBS documentary about Russ & Daughters released in 2014.

morsels smallWith luck, the Greater Red Bank Green will have a new, authentic Jewish deli by Thanksgiving, as reported last week by redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn.

Meantime, folks salivating for the arrival of Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen in Red Bank — or mourning the pending demise of New York’s Carnegie Deli —can nosh for an hour or two on the memories and insights of a counterman whose family knows from lox and herring.

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