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RED BANK: RED TANK BUBBLES TO LIFE

red bank, nj, red tank, microbrewery, john arcaraJohn Arcara in the newly completed, 100-seat Red Tank Brewing microbrewery earlier this week. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallTwo years from dream to reality, Red Tank Brewing is set to open in the heart of Red Bank Thursday night, the start of a new venture for wedding photographers John and Lovina Arcara.

It may also be the start of a fresh wave of craft suds in town.

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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: JJ’S ORGANIC, FUN AND FAMILIAR

Chalkboards list menu options at JJ’s Organic Grill ordering station. Below: waffle sticks. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

The Dugo family is betting that certified organic, non-GMO is the future of fast food, and so far, so good: their month-old Red Bank restaurant, JJ’s Organic Grill, is already becoming a popular choice for foodies.

Healthier alternatives for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a relaxed, no frills environment is what you’ll find here in the former Sicilia space, at the corner of Broad Street and Peters Place.

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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: 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? 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? 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? 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? 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? 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? AN ORCA OF A BURRITO

120516queso7Queso Grill’s steak burrito: you’ll need a fork and knife to eat this “wet” behemoth.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?On Newman Springs Road in Lincroft, fast-food joints Luigi’s Famous Pizza, Stamna Taverna and Subway share a parking lot. It’s a bit like a food court, but in a strip mall.

A south-of-the-border lunch hankering nudged PieHole through the door of another of the center’s tenants: Queso Grill, where we were stopped short by the number of decisions that would need to be made before we could order lunch.
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