SEA BRIGHT: GOING OVERBOARD AT EVENTIDE

050215 eventide2The pungent Garlic Shrimp, above, and the Drunken Clams, below,are customer favorites.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

050215 eventide4There isn’t a bad seat at the Eventide Grille, tucked away at the Navesink Marina in Sea Bright.

Mesmerized by the sun glinting off the Shrewsbury River, PieHole almost forgot the real reason we were here, until an insistent, growling stomach reminded us: lunch.

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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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WHATS FOR LUNCH? TOKI HAS THE ROLL

040415 tokis rollA fresh platter of sushi from Toki in Red Bank features uni, yellowtail hamachi, tuna and a Toki Roll. Below, three chefs work Toki’s sushi bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

042115 toki2An area of Red Bank that was once a desert for those craving the cuisine of the Far East is fast becoming what we might call Little Asia.

For several years, following the departure of the Jade Garden takeout place on Broad Street, the only choices were Sogo Sushi and Teak Asian Fusion on facing corners of Monmouth Street. But since the opening of  Temple Gourmet Chinese on Broad Street in 2011, the downtown has seen the addition of Pho Le across the street and Oriental Empire just one block over on English Plaza.

Now, there’s another Asian place in the burgeoning mix of restaurants: Toki, at the corner of Monmouth and Broad is a light-filled, upscale Japanese restaurant dressed in a tranquil aesthetic of celadon green and natural wood adornments.

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LITTLE SILVER: FAMILIAR FACES AT FISHERY

021915 LS seafood Paul DiomedesPaul Diomede holds a freshly filleted halibut in the new Little Silver Seafood Market, which includes an area for meal related groceries.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

021915 LSseafoodIf the new owners of the former Ray’s Seafood in Little Silver look familiar, it is because they are also the owners of the still-new Sea Bright Fish Company on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright.

Members of the Diomede family – Paul, his sons Paul and Justin, and daughter, Kim Cognata – plan to split their time between the two locations. And by April, they hope to reopen the adjoining seafood restaurant they acquired in December with the market in the Markham Place shopping center.

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FOR LUNCH: SUPER GOLDEN TO THE RESCUE

021015 supergolden2Soups delivered by Super Golden Chinese Restaurant saved lunchtime for a hungry group of women at the Jon Lori Salon, including Pam Guzzo, below.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

021015 supergolden1Eyeing the cookie jar in the coffee station at Jon Lori Salon in Fair Haven, stomach rumbling, PieHole realized that scheduling back-to-back appointments left no time for lunch.

Pam Guzzo, a brilliant hair stylist and friend with supersonic hearing, handed me a folder full of menus.

“We’re ordering lunch,” she said, “what are you in the mood for?”

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH: A TEA ROOM WITH CHOPS

012915 raven tea room sandwichesA beef tenderloin BLT sandwich in the foreground, and the shrimp salad-filled brioche in background at the Raven Tea Room, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

012915 raven tea roomThe phrase “tea room” conjures images of prissy old ladies ordering pots of chamomille and delicate, crust-removed cucumber sandwiches served on fine floral patterned porcelain dishes. The Raven Tea Room in the Fair Haven Commons building is nothing like that.

Sophisticated styling in both the decor and menu have made this lunch-only restaurant – which shares a website and ownership with the Raven and the Peach but has its own space in the Fair Haven Commons – a staple in the community for years. The dark wood tables and comfortable cushioned armchairs surrounded by suede gray painted walls give the place a masculine, club-like feel. Windows looking out on River Road lend an open feeling to the room. But should you wind up with a view of the parking lot, well, just turn your chair toward the open kitchen and watch the chef working his magic.

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RHODE BANK: STUFFIES FOR THE SUPER BOWL

chowdahousePieHole checks in with Rhode Island’s embassy in Red Bank, the Chowda House, to speak with chef Glenn Kovacs about stuffies. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

morsels smallDespite being the smallest of the six states that make up New England, the breadth of unique, hyperlocal culinary contributions from Rhode Island make it a great place to look for inspiration for Super Bowl Sunday’s menu items.

The foods that are sure to make a Rhode Islanders’ mouth water that you’ve probably never heard of include hot wieners, the spinach pie and pizza strips, all polished off with a coffee milk.

But with a nod to the Patriots’ presence in the big game, the one Rhode Island food we’ve got our eyes on for this Super Bowl is the stuffed quahog, aka stuffie.

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AT BARNACLE BILL’S, VIEWS, VIBE AND VITTLES

010615 barnaclebills3A busy Tuesday night at Barnacle Bill’s, where the Tilefish Francaise swims in a pool of buttery, lemony sauce. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

010615 barnaclebills7How many years does it take for a saloon in a marina to become legendary? At the dead end of First Street in Rumson, Barnacle Bill’s has been searing burgers on an open grill and filling glasses at the bar for more than 40 years.

With high-top tables, coveted window seats overlooking our beautiful Navesink River and cozy family-sized tables in the slightly more gentrified dining room, it’s no wonder that there’s a waiting list any given night. In warmer weather, groups happily wait outside, taking in views of the river, the boats in the marina and the mansions on the bluff across the way. In frigid January, though, the waiting masses crowd around the fireplace in the bar area, children and adults making small talk with neighbors.
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A BOWL OF SOUP HEATS IT UP FOR LUNCH

121814 phole1Pho Le’s “S1” soup packs a spicy punch. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

pho le 1 102813In Vietnamese, “pho” means soup. On Broad Street in Red Bank, the enormous bowls of soup at Pho Le are just what you want for lunch in this freezing winter weather.

Wood paneling and artwork on the walls add a level of comfort to the space, where you can grab a quick lunch at the counter or take your time at a table.

When it’s zero degrees outside, sitting down to a steaming bowl of soup has some appeal. At Pho Le, there are 14 varieties of pho on the menu, some bringing serious spicy heat to the bowl.
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LITTLE SILVER, LINCROFT: HOLIDAYS NOW

reindeerReal live reindeer are present and accounted for, as Sickles Market inaugurates the season with a Holiday Open House event on Friday, November 14.

Ask anyone whose job it is to stock the shelves of the Seasonal aisle at the chain pharmacy — or who’s been forced to listen to the piped-in music at the chain pharmacy. The holidays are here and NOW, and no amount of patient, tasteful restraint or social-media finger-wagging is going to stop this train.

Which brings us to this Friday, November 14, and the Monmouth Museum, where the main gallery hosts a reception for All Aboard! Railroads & The Historic Landscapes They Travel, a group show guest-curated by lensman Michael Froio, and spotlighting the work of eight photographers who collectively celebrate the transformative role of the railroad in the American landscape over the past 150 years. Vintage travel and advertising posters (on loan from the Private Collection of Bennett Levin) are also on display, with the reception running between 3 and 5 pm, and the exhibit continuing during regular museum hours through January 4, 2015.

Also on view will be a returning holiday-season favorite — the Monmouth Museum Model Train Display, a long-running feature that “will make its comeback with new, improved trains and updated network of track.” And if that doesn’t sound the whistle on the express to the season of lights, the Friends of Monmouth Museum will be unveiling their annual Holiday Tree, decorated for 2014 with train and railroad-related memorabilia. Check the Museum website as well for info on the annual Holiday Gift Gallery, set to commence on November 21.

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SOUP’S ON, AND GOOD TO GO

111014 zaitooni 2Laudy Hage of Zaitooni Deli with a quart of her popular lentil soup. Below, the vegan Mediterranean eggplant soup from Healthy Habits Natural Foods. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

111014 soup healthSoup is hot this time of year, as a go-to meal for dinner, a spicy, flavorful lunch, or a soul-warming remedy for what ails you.

It’s also an affordable takeout item to grab when that holiday rush kicks in.

PieHole is here to give you a round-up of restaurants and delis on the Green that have soup simmering and ready to be ladled into containers just for you. Carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, we’ve got you covered.

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LUNCH? BURRITO TEXANO, POR FAVOR SEÑOR

100814 peppersThe plate-hogging Burrito Texano and tamarindo agua fresca at Señor Pepper’s. Below, multicolored tablecloths spice up the dining room.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

100814peppersEvery now and again, the same old tuna sandwich isn’t going to cut it for lunch. PieHole wanted something with big flavor and a little heat. Feeling ravenous, we also wanted quick. Experience reminded us that Señor Pepper’s on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank would fill our needs.

On a surprisingly warm October afternoon, the first order of business was a cooling beverage. Skip the soda and bottled iced tea here and go for the agua frescas. A little sweet, these tea-like concoctions are a most refreshing quaff. Wanting something we hadn’t tasted before, we opted for the tamarindo agua fresa. Offered in sizes small for $1.75 and big for $3, this tamarind-flavored cold drink, served in a trendy Mason jar mug, was the perfect thirst-quencher while we munched on complimentary, house-made tortilla chips that came with both red and green salsa.

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RED BANK: BLUE WATER TO REOPEN AS CATCH

blue water 091914The new seafood restaurant could be in operation as early as this month, a partner says. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Rcsm2_010508Upping their stake in downtown Red Bank, the owners of the yet-to-open Gotham bar have acquired the former Blue Water Seafood just up the block, a partner confirmed Thursday.

Joseph Squillaro tells Retail Churn that he and his co-investors, who include a Shrewsbury anesthesiologist, hope to open both Broad Street businesses by the end of October, with the seafood restaurant rebranded as ‘Catch.’

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RED BANK: A TWO-FISTED FOOD FESTIVAL

A Guinness in one hand, a lobster or a lobster roll in the other: this vignette repeated itself as redbankgreen roamed the packed midway of the Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival under sunny skies Sunday. The crowd in the White Street parking lot kept the oyster shuckers and tap-pullers busy. Were you there? (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: BOONDOCKS SNAPS BACK

boondocks 091114 2Customers tuck into lobster, above. Below, Boondocks owner Kelly Ryan. (Photo by Rachel Weston. Click to enlarge)

By RACHEL WESTON

kelly mcryan 091114

Briskly breaking off  the the legs of a steaming lobster, Brianne Simpson of Rumson appeared in her element as she and her family dined at Boondocks Fishery in Red Bank one night last week.
“This is what people want: casual, outdoor dining,” she told PieHole as the sun went down over an idyllic scene of boats bobbing on the Navesink River. “Doing this is what makes it great to live here.”
Opportunities follow suit  are dwindling, however, as the restaurant nears its not only its annual closing, but the end of  “a great season – best ever,” in the words of owner Kelly Ryan.
Which is saying something, considering the waterfront restaurant was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy and needed a big helping hand to reopen. Read More »

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: FISH ‘N CHIPS BY THE SEA

091014 sbfishco1The fried cod platter at the Sea Bright Fish Company. Below, Kim Cognata, one of the owners. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091014 sbfishco3“Our mission is to be hyperlocal,” Kim Cognata says of the two-month-old Sea Bright Fish Company. Working together with her father, Paul Diomede, and her brothers Paul and Justin, this restaurant, with a view of the Atlantic Ocean is a family affair.

An eat-in or take-out menu offers the expected fish sandwiches, platters and chowders, as well as some unexpected, upscale items.

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FAIR HAVEN: FINE DINING, FAIR-STYLE

082214-fhfair steamersSteamers and pitchers of beer dominate the tables at the Fair Haven Fireman’s Fair. Below, volunteers Raquel Falotico and Christina Schrank. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

082214 fh fair aux1It’s time for the first seating in the dining tent at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, and the members of the all-volunteer fire department’s Auxiliary are once again organized and ready for the challenge.

It’s 6 p.m., and already there are more people in line for dinner than there are tables and seats. But they patiently wait their turn, some holding plastic cups of beer while chatting with neighbors, many with small children eager to hit the rides. A long line of baby strollers stands parked between the cashier and takeout window.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH: BISTRO SUSHI

081514 bistro sushiA large platter of specialty sushi rolls from the Bistro take up most of the table top. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

081514 bistro sushi2Where can you find dependably fresh and tasty sushi in Red Bank? The Bistro on Broad Street has been a go-to restaurant for years and the place where we first introduced our kids to raw fish and chop sticks.

PieHole‘s latest visit, though, was no ordinary business lunch; it was, rather,  a celebration of sorts. The daughter I was lunching with is moving on: new apartment and job transfer making our ladies-who-lunch dates a thing of the past. Our decision to have sushi at the Bistro was a calculation in nostalgia.
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SEA BRIGHT: FRESH-PLATED BY YOUNG CHEF

080714 Chuck lesbirelChef Chuck Lesbirel in the dining room of Ama. Below: a seasonal salad of Jersey peaches, Jersey tomatoes and lobster.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

080714 ama lobster2How does a 26-year-old become an executive chef?

For Chuck Lesbirel, now presiding over the kitchen of Ama Ristorante in Sea Bright, it starts with an impressive résumé that goes back to a 14-year-old kid washing dishes at Palate Pleasers in Keyport.

Working in restaurant kitchens, Lesbirel watched and learned the chef business with stints at a kosher restaurant, a few small places, an educational rounding-out at the Culinary Education Center at Brookdale, and then a big jump to sous chef at David Burke Fromagerie in Rumson.

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RED BANK: BOONDOCKS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

071014 boondocks news2Eyewitness News anchor Lauren Glassberg interviews Boondocks diners  – including Sugarush owner Chris Paseka, at right.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumBack from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, Red Bank’s five-year-old Boondocks Fishery is about to get a bit of metro-area exposure.

An ABC Eyewitness News crew led by anchor Lauren Glassberg paid a visit Thursday for a segment on a Boondocks perennial favorite: Spicy Seafood Gumbo..

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