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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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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? 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? 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? 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? 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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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? SALADS AND PIZZA

120616urbancoal4Personal-size pizzas from the oven at Urban Coalhouse in the Galleria. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?PieHole stopped in for lunch last week at Urban Coalhouse Pizza and Bar, the former Tommy’s Coal-Fired Pizza in the Galleria of Red Bank, one of four restaurants that owners Andrew Cameron, Chris and Matt Lombardi and Mike Centaro have up and running around New Jersey.

We were happy to find few if any changes to what we enjoyed about Tommy’s, including the fact that the menu still centers around an enormous, coal-fired, 900-degree oven used to producing the signature pizzas and wings.
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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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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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