WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? AUTHENTIC MEXICAN

091515chaparrita3Enchiladas in salsa verde at La Chaparrita, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson and John T Ward. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON
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Authentic Mexican food that brings serious heat, if that’s what you want, can be found at La Chaparrita, a grocery store and restaurant on Red Bank’s West Side with an affectionate slang Spanish name meaning “shorty.”

Lunch at one of the three cozy tables in the Shrewsbury Avenue gem is probably not so different from your mom’s — that is, if your mom has music blaring while she prepares hundreds of tamales just steps away.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? SOME SERIOUS HEAT

060915juanitos3bestPlatillo Altamirano, a spicy lunch special. Below, festive chairs liven up a dining room. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

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Even with the air conditioning blasting on a summer day, the rustic dining room of Juanito’s Restaurant in Red Bank envelopes you in sun-kissed warmth.

Celebrating his 20th year in business at the corner of Monmouth and West streets, owner Juan Torres works with local artists to brighten the space’s rustic brick walls. His plan to keep the place colorful, fun and inviting is immediately evident. But it’s the delicious, spicy food that packs the entrance any given night.
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LUNCH? BURRITO TEXANO, POR FAVOR SEÑOR

100814 peppersThe plate-hogging Burrito Texano and tamarindo agua fresca at Señor Pepper’s. Below, multicolored tablecloths spice up the dining room.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

100814peppersEvery now and again, the same old tuna sandwich isn’t going to cut it for lunch. PieHole wanted something with big flavor and a little heat. Feeling ravenous, we also wanted quick. Experience reminded us that Señor Pepper’s on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank would fill our needs.

On a surprisingly warm October afternoon, the first order of business was a cooling beverage. Skip the soda and bottled iced tea here and go for the agua frescas. A little sweet, these tea-like concoctions are a most refreshing quaff. Wanting something we hadn’t tasted before, we opted for the tamarindo agua fresa. Offered in sizes small for $1.75 and big for $3, this tamarind-flavored cold drink, served in a trendy Mason jar mug, was the perfect thirst-quencher while we munched on complimentary, house-made tortilla chips that came with both red and green salsa.

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