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? 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The single-story Wharf Avenue bar has been replaced by a rustic-contemporary structure offering stellar views of downtown Red Bank and the Navesink River from its multiple open-air decks.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? BOLI KNOTS AND PASTA

082216mangia6‘Boli knots,’ or bite-sized strombolis, served with a side of marinara sauce at Mangia. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Open just two weeks in the Shrewsbury shopping mall that’s home to Trader Joe’s, Mangia Brick Oven Pizza at first appears to be a tiny pizza joint squeezed into a small store front. In this case, looks are deceiving.

After scanning cases filled with several varieties of pizza, our eyes settle on a large, open kitchen with a massive brick oven before taking in the rustic barn wood-style tables and crafty decor. Not immediately apparent is a dining room with a lovely upscale vibe tucked to the right of the kitchen.

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RED BANK: HEAPS OF AUTHENTICITY

060414 trattoria3The Mediterranean Platter, a dependable classic on the Front Street Trattoria menu. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

042115 trattorianWhat key elements are crucial to keeping a restaurant current for 30 years? If we’re referring to the Front Street Trattoria in Red Bank, it would have to be the consistently prepared fresh ingredients.

With an exposed brick wall on one side and floor-to-ceiling windows framing an ever moving backdrop of foot-traffic outside, the often busy main dining room is unpretentious and cozy. An open kitchen area lines another wall, giving the diner plenty to peer at.  Alternatively, there is another more private dining room and a wide open back patio for seating. But the decor isn’t why this restaurant is packed with regulars on any given evening: it’s the food.

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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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