Krug's Tavern in Newark, NJ: that's a fine burger

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A lot has changed since the last time I visited Krug's Tavern, which had to be 10 or 12 years ago. The place has gotten a facelift, surely to the chagrin of some of the regulars.  It's much brighter than it used to be. A back room has now been opened up to a proper dining room, rather than being the room that held boxes and a pool table as it was. The menu now boasts their "World Famous" burgers. Prices have gone up. I'm pretty sure the cheeseburger was $6 or less. Now it's $8.75 or so. And it was a heck of a lot more crowded this time around. All of this, presumably due to positive press they have gotten from that fella from NJ.com, multiple times a year, every year, without fail.

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The place is a pirate ship. A veritable sausage-fest. Indeed my female companion was the only woman in the place for the entire time we were there. Krug's was and probably generally is filled with regulars, blue collar types with some white collar types eating burgers and drinking Miller Lite like it's their job (I made that my job on this day). Quite a lively bunch. At top volume: "So the f*ckin guy gives me a check, and I says to 'em, I says, 'I'm gunna call your f*ckin bank to make sure this f*ckin' ding is good!'" 

All of that matters none when you consider that it's a great burger, and you still feel like you're walking back in history, even though it's now so fancy.

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Red Hat in Irvington, NY: serious views and foods

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Red Hat has been on my list of restaurants to try for some years now. I always wrote it off as likely being a place that rested on its view and ambiance, with food being a second thought, or not a thought at all. And I was wrong.

On an unseasonably warm afternoon, we set out to find a place we've never visited. Red Hat popped up in our search, and I saw that they have some outdoor seating. Additionally, the menu, which leans toward French bistro, looked really, really appealing. There were more than a few things that jumped out at me.

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We secured a table on the beautiful patio, steps from the Hudson River. A bottle of water was brought out to the table. This is a practice I've seen all over Europe and the US as well, but for some reasons most owners and managers haven't caught on. Why on earth would you want your servers spending time filling water glasses when they should be focusing on the stuff you are actually SELLING. Anyway, I love touches like this. We were off to a good start.

The items on the menu were priced very simply. A group of items was something like 16 dollars, and another group was 18 dollars. And none of this ".95" nonsense that restaurants insist on doing. Pricing your food at $15.95 looks cheap and desperate. Just stop it, you fools.

 

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The cocktail list read quite well, and had my friends gin and bourbon represented in an appropriate manner. That is to say, they actually had cocktails with gin and bourbon. Good for them. Better for me. We had a spicy margarita, and a Gimlet with cucumber. Both executed well.

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Shanghai Restaurant: Authentic in Fort Lee, NJ

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I put out an SOS on the ol' Facebook page, asking the fine freaks who follow this blog to toss a few ideas for authentic Chinese restaurants out at me. While I know a bunch of these places exist in north Jersey, I end up returning to the same handful over and over.

One kind freak suggested "that soup dumpling place" in Fort Lee. I'm not sure if Shanghai Restaurant was the place to which she was referring, but once I saw the menu I knew it was authentic, and worth a shot. And I was right, as usual.

Shanghai Restaurant is located toward the east end of Main Street, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Fort Lee. We were able to get a parking spot directly in front of the restaurant.

It's a clean, small, bright place, with several tables outside. Not something I see very often in Fort Lee.

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A pot of loose leaf tea was placed on the table by the nice gentleman, and refilled several times. Two menus were delivered.

While I know it's not necessarily a dish from Shanghai, I rarely pass up a plate of spicy beef and tripe (pictured at the top of this post).

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Chef Anthony LoPinto lands at Marcello's in Suffern: running a Chef's table and cooking classes

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It's good to have Chef Anthony Lo Pinto back doing what he does best: cooking fantastic, seasonally-driven food.

This time, you get to watch him while he does it, as he'll be doing it all in front of you, acting as your host, Chef, and educator.

I've been following Chef LoPinto for over a decade now. I first experienced his cooking and hospitality at the now-shuttered Fortunato in Lyndhurst, NJ, where he came out to the bar to meet my friend and me, and, if I recall correctly, took it upon himself to cook for us. No ordering, just sitting back and having the chef prepare a meal, serve it, talk about it, pour carefully paired wines, and making a connection with his guests.  And that's exactly the experience you can have at Anthony Lo Pinto's Chef Table at Marcello's.

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We were recently invited by Chef Lo Pinto to what I would call a friends-and-family night at his Chef's table, and were more than thrilled to take him up on the offer. The "official" kick-off, I believe, will be sometime in early September, when the Chef's table will be serving food a few nights a week, with a three course meal Wednesday and Thursday, and a five course meal Friday and Saturday nights, available by reservation.

We were greeted by a huge smile and hug, as you are by every Chef, right? The table, which surrounds the stove, was set with bottles wine and a tasting of four olive oils (from Marcello's Italian foods import business). Excellent bread from a local bakery was served. Game on.

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When all of the guests arrived, Lo Pinto kicked off the night with a toast, and then went on explain his philosophies on hospitality, seasonal food, and cooking, and sharing in his excitement for this way of cooking for guests. And the first course was in play...

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Rutt's Hut: Fried Chicken in Clifton, NJ

 I've been going to Rutt's Hut for 30 years. And this week I uttered words that I had never considered uttering, and quite frankly didn't know could be uttered:

"I'll have the basket of fried chicken."

What the what??!?

Let's rewind, to the drive over. The missus, who has been to Rutt's Hut perhaps once in her life, started thinking about what she'd be ordering.

Missus: "What should I order."

Me: "You order a hot dog."

Missus: "What else is on the menu?"

Me: "NOTHING is on the menu. You order a hot dog."

Missus: "Oh, maybe I'll get a chili dog!"

Me: "They DON'T HAVE CHILI DOGS. THIS IS RUTT'S HUT. THE ONLY THING YOU ORDER IS A %@#%&%ING HOT DOG WITH MUSTARD, and MAYBE relish."

This frustrating exchange brought me to the verge of exhaustion. Why doesn't everyone understand the world exactly the way I do? Savages. All of you.

Now we're sitting at Rutt's Hut. At the bar, no less. In the middle of the day, no less. A place I rarely find myself--I'll typically go to the walk-up side of the place and eat my meal in the car. We're looking up at the 70-year-old menu above the bar, snickering about how bad much of it has to be, and the oddly specific pricing ($3.10?). Then the missus spies "fried chicken in a basket."

The missus starts up with "I wonder how--." I immediately go to cut her off. I'm not having any more of this nonsense talk about any non-hot dog food that Rutt's Hut allegedly offers. But then something occurs to me: Rutt's Hut fries stuff up but real good. Who's to say they don't fry up chicken parts just as well?

Ordering the fried chicken would be crazy, I'm thinking. I don't want to waste a meal, skipping my two dogs for some awful chicken. I start searching online for images of Rutt's Hut fried chicken, to get a feel for it. Just to see what it looks like. There's just one. One picture of the fried chicken at Rutt's Hut. On some horseshit site called "food spotting"-- a site that doesn't believe in words, and appeals, I suppose, to people who are attracted to shiny things and don't want to think, although I guess it came in handy at that moment. Has more than one person ever ordered this? Hard to say.

We throw caution to the wind and utter those crazy words.  "I'll have the basket of fried chicken."

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