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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: SNAPPY HOUR AT BEACHWALK

Bartender Erin O’Keefe makes a Long Island Ice Tea while customers, some still in beach garb, make themselves comfortable on the deck over the river. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Timing it just right, PieHole showed up for happy hour at BeachWalk’s Tiki Bar recently to find beers in hand and fishing poles in the Shrewsbury River for a snapper derby competition.

Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright has its fair share of bars, but this might be the only one where you’ll find children and adults competing for bragging rights and the prize of an overnight stay at the attached motel.
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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? 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The single-story Wharf Avenue bar has been replaced by a rustic-contemporary structure offering stellar views of downtown Red Bank and the Navesink River from its multiple open-air decks.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? CHICKEN FROM PAT’S

121215patsmkt2A  festive holiday display of stuffed breads at Pat’s Market, above, and the chicken parm, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

121215patsmkt3 Pat’s Market, a butcher shop and deli on Newman Springs Road in Lincroft, sells only Bell and Evans chickens.

Because they’re raised organically, and antibiotic-free, on farms in Pennsylvania, that was all the bait PieHole needed for a quick and, maybe, healthier lunch option.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BIG MENU AT TOMMY’S

101715tommystavern3A Hickory-Bacon Burger and an order of oven-roasted wings at Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101715tommystavern2Trying to enter Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright last Saturday was a challenge.

Pushing an empty stroller out the door, a woman sporting a Gucci diaper bag on her shoulder heard a screech from her toddler. At issue: a cup of lollipops spied on the hostess desk.

Stroller, Mom, Dad and child — now clutching a fistful of pops —  finally made their way out the door, and we entered to see that the place was packed. Tables, bar stools—  all taken, but a raised booth against the far wall that could have fit a party of six was available.

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RUTGERS TO RED BANK: HANSEL ‘N GRIDDLE

011715 hansel3Casey Ruff, owner of the newly opened Hansel ‘n Griddle on West Front Street serves a chicken cobb salad. Below, French Toast from the breakfast menu offered throughout the day.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

011715 hansel4The newest eatery to open in Red Bank is described by its creator, the 33-year -old Nick Komandis, as “A mom-and-pop shop that has the appeal of a modern-day fast-food restaurant.”

The Rutgers grad came up with this foodery concept just out of college, and with backing from his parents opened his first Hansel ‘n Griddle in New Brunswick. A second restaurant, also in New Brunswick, and a third in Somerville quickly followed.

Now a franchise, the fourth Hansel ‘n Griddle – which opened this weekend at 38 West Front Street,  most recently home to 30 Burgers – is owned by 27-year-old Casey Ruff, who met Komandis while a student at Rutgers. An owner of two laundromats, Ruff says he “likes dealing with people. I love this environment, the customers and the people who work for Hansel, and I’m not sitting behind a desk.”

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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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RED BANK: FREE CHRISTMAS EATS

church dinner Continuing a tradition of nearly 30 years, the First Baptist Church, above, offers a Christmas Day dinner. JR’s Burgers, below, will offer free meals on Christmas Eve. (Click to enlarge)

jrs burgersAt least two Red Bank operations will be feeding those in need of a hot meal for Christmas.

On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, from 6 to 8 p.m., JR’s Burgers on West Front Street will be giving out free burgers, sodas and fries.

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RED BANK: ‘GOURMET’ MAC ‘N CHEESE? YEP.

053114mac attackThe mac-and-cheese at Mac Attack. Abe Elkomey at the griddle, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

05314 mac attack 1Mac Attack Gourmet Cheesery blew into Red Bank last month, displacing a short-lived burger joint. So are hamburgers out, and macaroni-and-cheese in?

Could be: the new kid in town is loud, sneaky and completely unexpected.

“I want to make simple food great and relatable – mac-and-cheese, grilled cheese –stuff you eat growing up,” says chef Abe Elkomey, who at the age of 23 is already accomplished in the kitchen. At 19, he came in second in a competition among New Jersey country club chefs, and has worked as sous chef at both the Bayonne Country Club and Satis Bistro in Jersey City.

“Even though we’re quick service, we cook to order,” Elkomey said. “Everything is fresh.”

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RED BANK BULKS UP ON BURGERS

30burgerRed Bank adds another burger business to its roster of patty purveyors. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

morsels mediumThe former Muscle Maker Grill in Red Bank is now 30 Burgers.

The West Front Street burger restaurant is an extension of the 25 Burgers chain, which has seven other locations around New Jersey. Most of its stores have 25 varieties, but like a Spinal Tap amp that goes one higher, the Red Bank store boasts five additional varieties.

It joins a suddenly burgeoning burger market downtown including JR’s across the street and Broadway Fresh Burgers and Fries on Broad Street. 

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RED BANK: JR.’S SIZZLES AFTER HOURS

The after-hours crowd packs Jr.’s on a recent Saturday night.  (Photos by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)

By DAN NATALE

Without fanfare, but with a fair amount of merriment, a new late-night eatery debuted on the Red Bank scene last month and has been packing them in on weekends.

Jrs., the first expansion of the popular Jr.’s West End burger place owned by Mike DeSimone, opened a few days before Hurricane Sandy hit, becoming the fourth downtown eatery  to keep late hours, staying open until 4 a.m. every day.

With a number of bars just steps away, the tiny West Front Street restaurant immediately attracted a colorful crowd at closing time.

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LATE-NIGHT BURGERS COMING TO RED BANK

Jr.’s owner Mike DeSimone put together a group of investors to buy the yellow building in the background so he could expand his West End-based hamburger business there. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

It may have one of the ugliest facades in Red Bank. But when Mike DeSimone looked at 17 West Front Street, he saw this:

• A bustling corner with an Urban Outfitters right next door.

• Four bars within a couple of hundred feet disgorging revelers who just might want a gourmet-quality burger to cap off the night.

• A nearby hospital with hundreds of employees working around the clock.

• A northern beachhead for his highly successful Jr’s West End, the Long Branch late-night restaurant he launched five years ago.

In fact, DeSimone liked the location so much that he persuaded a group of friends to buy the former home of Zuleyka’s Kitchen so his business could lease out the ground floor space.

He even plans to live upstairs.

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