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SEA BRIGHT: BREAKFAST AT RORY’S PUB

The courtyard of Rory’s Pub on a recent Sunday morning. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

A sandwich board on the sidewalk of Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright informs us that Rory’s Pub is open for breakfast at 8:15.

“8:15?” we ask the owner, Tony Maher. In a brogue rooted in his childhood in Waterford, Ireland, he tells PieHole, “Give or take, it could be 8:16 or 8:17.”
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RED BANK: TEAK DECK OPENS, SO COME ON… UP

WhatsGoingOnHereteak-112316-2teak-112316-1Just in time for Thanksgiving Eve revelry in downtown Red Bank, a new second-story and deck at Teak, on Monmouth Street, passed its final inspections and opened for business Wednesday night. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

 

WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? RED ROCK STANDS OUT

091316redrock2Ahi tuna salad served in a stainless steel pan at Red Rock Tap + Grill. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Step into the new Red Rock Tap + Grill  in Red Bank and the effect is instant: this isn’t the Brannigan’s we all knew and, ahem, shared a fondness for.

The single-story Wharf Avenue bar has been replaced by a rustic-contemporary structure offering stellar views of downtown Red Bank and the Navesink River from its multiple open-air decks. But PieHole was equally blown away by the menu. Could the food possibly be as tasty as the architectural eyecandy here?

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BURGERS, FRIES & A VIEW

081216barnacles5Attentive diners can keep a watchful eye on the burgers as they’re grilled at the end of the bar. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?In the shadow of Rumson’s 75-year-old Navesink-River-spanning Oceanic Bridge, Barnacle Bill’s is packed on a Friday afternoon.

“You know it used to be on the pier?” an octogenarian customer who’s been coming to the Rumson perennial asks PieHole.

We do, and locals know also that the waterfront restaurant is the place to go when you’re craving a burger — and that it’s open for lunch from Friday through Sunday only.

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RED BANK: BRANNIGAN’S, TEAK REACH FOR SKY

WhatsGoingOnHereteak 060116brannigan's 060816 1The better question might be “What’s going UP here?,” as two Red Bank restaurants are busy adding second floors with outdoor decks.

Teak, above, on Monmouth Street, remains open through its expansion, and hopes to debut its new space by September, says co-owner George Lyristis. Read more about Teak’s plan here.

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SEA BRIGHT: DONOVAN’S REBUILD BEGINS

donovan's 052616donovan's 071015 3Obliterated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and revived last summer as an open-air bar (seen at right), Sea Bright’s Donovan’s Reef is finally on track to having a permanent home again, NJ.com reports. The oceanfront watering hole is two weeks into a construction project that’s estimated to take about 10 months, the news site reports.

“I’m looking forward to the return of a Donovan’s that, like the rest of the new Seas Bright, is built to last,” Mayor Dina Long told NJ.com. “Donovan’s is an integral piece of the Sea Bright fabric. Without Donovan’s in Sea Bright, it feels like something’s missing.” (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

 

RED BANK: BUONA SERA, JIMMY JOHN’S OK’D

21 w front 082614The former Wayne’s Market on West Front Street is slated to open as a Jimmy John’s franchise owned by Gaslight Anthem bassist Alex Levine, at left below, and Matt Schaffert, right. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

levine schaffert 020116The owners of two Red Bank restaurants left Monday night’s planning board meeting with unanimous approvals, one to expand and the other to open.

Buona Sera, at Maple Avenue and Monmouth Street, won an OK for a plan for a 1,200-square foot addition that might accommodate up to 50 standing customers. And Jimmy John’s Deli, a sandwich franchise co-owned by a member of the rock band Gaslight Anthem, got a thumbs-up to open in the former Wayne’s Market space on West Front Street.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A FRESH TAKE ON TAPAS

110815belmonte2An unusual adaptation of taquitos, above, and a glass of made-to-order sangria, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

110815belmonte4Gone are the heavy velvet drapes and dark, brooding atmosphere that once decorated Red in Red Bank. Renovated and re-dubbed the Belmonte, the Broad Street restaurant and bar with the panoramic front window is now lighter, brighter and much more inviting.

A cool, marble-topped bar elicits a bit of Old World charm. Banquettes lining the walls promise comfort, while high-top tables arranged down the center aisle of the room offer a variety of seating or standing options: playing off the primarily tapas menu, it’s a mixture of this and that.

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LITTLE SILVER: VOTERS SAY ‘BOTTOMS UP’

ls booze 110115 2Referendum proponent Matt Kelly had suggested booze be allowed in the vicinity of the train station.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Little Silver is ready to wet its whistle.

Voters said “cheers” in Tuesday’s election to a referendum that would end the borough’s dry spell dating back at least to Prohibition, according to results posted by the Monmouth County Clerk.

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RED BANK: BRANNIGAN’S MAKEOVER APPROVED

Brannigan's 110215Branningan’s plans to add a two-tiered deck, complete with an open-air tower at the north end, and an outdoor bar, seen at above left. Below, the property as it appeared in July. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

brannigan's 071915Wait: the drawing above shows Brannigan’s Bar & Grill?

Believe it, barhoppers. A beloved Red Bank dive is about to get a makeover that will enable imbibers and — yes — diners to take advantage of great park and river views, thanks to unanimous planning board approval Monday night.
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LITTLE SILVER: BOOZE Q ON THE BALLOT

ls booze 110115 1The town hasn’t allowed alcoholic drinks to be sold by the glass at least since Prohibition. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03

Is Little Silver ready for a stiff drink?

For the second time in 39 years, voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to allow the creation of the town’s first-ever on-premise-consumption liquor license.

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RED BANK: B2 BREAKS THE TEMPLATE

IMG_2311William Alexander (second from right) tells PieHole that eaters need to head to the West Side to find something besides pizza and bar food in Red Bank.  (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

morsels mediumIt was a dark and stormy cocktail that kicked off our dinner at Red Bank’s new B2 Bistro with a bang.

The bartender flipped opened the swing-top bottle of housemade ginger beer and it popped with a raucous expolosion that turned heads and captured the vibe of pent-up excitement that surrounded this West Side bistro’s opening.

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RED BANK: BAR PLANS DECK; CHAINS COMING

brannigan's 071915Branningan’s has filed plans to add a two-tiered deck to the parking lot side of its Wharf Avenue building. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallYes, it’s already time for another edition of redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn. And once again, there’s news about Red Bank food and drink.

Right around the “read more” corner are details about big changes planned at Brannigan’s Bar & Grill, plus word of two national food chains hoping to get in on the head-spinning restaurantization of Red Bank: Jimmy John’s Deli and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

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SEA BRIGHT: DONOVAN’S TIKI BAR REOPENS

donovan's 071015 3With new access ramps over the sea wall, the restored tiki bar at Donovan’s was back in business Friday afternoon, as co-owner Chris Bowler announced via the signboard, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

donovan's 071015 1Thirty-two months after it was knocked cold by Hurricane Sandy, a Sea Bright watering hole stirred back to life in limited form Friday afternoon.

Employees of Donovan’s Reef, which had been a magnet to Wall Street millionaires and Side Street store clerks alike, threw open a fenced gate to its beachfront tiki bar shortly before 3 p.m., marking the end of a long, frustrating struggle, its owners said.

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QUENCHING A CINCO DE MAYO THIRST

050315 downtown  butler3 Downtown bartender John Butler makes PieHole a fresh strawberry margarita.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

050315 downtown margarita4Maybe it was the sterling weather this past weekend, or maybe it was the swarm of happy folks packing the restaurants and bars in town that put us in a celebratory mood.

Remembering that Cinco de Mayo is this week, PieHole made its way to the Downtown in Red Bank with its enormous open front window view of Broad Street. Finding a couple of empty bar stools at the ready, we joined the already cheerful customers.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A TASTY STAPLE

040815 valstavern4 A lunch order of a Classic Parm Sandwich from the menu at Val’s Tavern. Below, General Manager Kevin Feehan. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

040815 valstavern5Val’s Tavern, on East River Road in Rumson, has been a staple since 1942. So, what does it take to keep a bar and restaurant going for all those years? Consistency, a family-friendly atmosphere, and a terrific red sauce.

Named for Valentine Ciambrone, an immigrant from Calabria, Italy, and bought by commodity traders Chris and James Smith five years ago, Val’s is anchored by a menu that, aside from daily specials, hasn’t changed. It draws clientele of devoted locals, several generations of whom grew up eating here and still find the neighborhood tavern a go-to for a quick beer or a pizza with the kids.

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SEA BRIGHT: DIVING INTO A BLOODY HOOK

040215 dive3Ashlyn Schmidt pours a spicy bloody Mary at Dive in Sea Bright. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

040215 dive2A sweet cocktail filled with tropical fruit is nice on a hot summer day, but with the strong spring winds still blowing sharp and cold in Sea Bright, only a hearty, spicy cocktail could quench PieHole‘s thirst.

Dive, a “coastal bar and food joint” on Ocean Avenue, offers a Sunday brunch and bloody Mary menu featuring a quaff called the Bloody Hook that makes the lips tingle and the throat burn with enjoyment.

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RED BANK: NEW OWNER AT BRANNIGAN’S

paul marcotte 040615Paul Marcotte hopes to retain Brannigan’s charming dive character while making small improvements. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallPaul Marcotte is thinking about hitting the ladies’ room.

Well, both restrooms, actually. But the one that matters most to the new owner of Brannigan’s Bar & Grill in Red Bank is the one that, to put it delicately, the ladies don’t find all that welcoming. Hence, they tend to stay out of the bar, too.

So fixing the facilities is a top priority as Marcotte figures out just how much tweaking the Wharf Avenue watering hole needs and can stand without losing its dive charm.

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RUMSON: NEW JERSEY’S BEST BAR?

Among the watering holes featured as NJ.com, the website of the Star-Ledger, searches for New Jersey’s Best Bars is Murphy’s Tavern, the Prohibition-era speakeasy hidden in the basement of a Rumson house. Heather Racioppi, who bought the place with fellow Red Bank bartender Robb McMahon in 2005, give NJ.com’s roving reporter Pete Genovese the history. His story is here. (Video courtesy of NJ.com.)

WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? COMFORT FOOD W/ RIV VU

120414 potpieChicken pot pie at the International Bar in the Molly Pitcher Hotel. Below, the pot pie scooped out of its baking dish. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

120414 potpie3The days of the Mad Men-style two-martini lunch have been over for decades, but there is a staunch holdout in Red Bank where you can still enjoy this throwback indulgence if you have the luxury of time.

With wood-paneled walls, carpeted floor, and a beckoning fireplace creating a dark, masculine, club feeling, the International Bar at the Molly Pitcher Inn makes a terrific traditional martini. A sense of luxurious comfort abounds, and the bar’s menu of standard American choices adds to that feeling of well-being.

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LITTLE SILVER MULLS FIRST LIQUOR LICENSE

ls council 111714Residents packed Monday night’s borough council meeting, many in support of a referendum on the license question.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Little Silver voters may face a non-binding referendum next year on whether the town should issue its first-ever license for on-premise consumption of alcohol.

That possibility appeared to gel into likelihood Monday night on the heels of a builder’s request, backed by a 500-signature petition, asking the borough council to make allowance for a family-style restaurant that serves alcohol.

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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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RED BANK: COCKTAIL WEEK? IF YOU INSIST…

dee downtown 072514 2Downtown bartender Dee with some of his output, including a blackbery cosmo, below.  (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

downtown cocktail 072514 2To watch the one-named bartender Dee when the drink orders are coming in at Red Bank’s Downtown is to a witness unflappability amid a blur of glasses, garnishes, bottles and stainless-steel shakers.

“I have to be very quick,” Dee tells PieHole while rapidly muddling ingredients for a cucumber vodka mojito. Over 10 years of mixing and pouring, “I’ve developed speed,” says Dee. “Not every bartender likes to muddle, but I love the labor of this job.”

Starting August 10, the restaurant promotion group Red Bank Flavour plans to spotlight the town’s watering holes and the bartenders who keep their libations flowing with the first-ever Red Bank Cocktail Week.

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