tommy:eats reader and friend 'Curlz' has been telling me about the burger at Next Door for a few years. I finally got around to getting over to Next Door, which is Zod Arifai's more casual restaurant next to his appropriately- and much-ballyhooed Blu.
For a while there, I guess my entire adult life, I was finding myself in Chicago somewhat regularly, eating. Chicago is a fantastic city, like no other I've visited, and it has a great food culture. While many may think "hot dog" when they hear Chicago, or worse yet, "deep dish pizza" (an abomination by any reasonable barometer), I think "Italian beef." This is because of the undeniable fact that Chicago Italian beef is one of the greatest sandwiches ever invented. I'd say it even comes close to the roast pork Italian coming out of Philly. Close.
Unfortunately Chicago Italian beef isn't easy to come by in the NY/New Jersey area. We did have J's Beef in Linden for a brief moment, but after they closed up I figured we were left with nothing. And we were, until recently.
A place called Red's Dips and Flips opened in West Caldwell. You heard me: Red's Dips and Flips. And damnit if they aren't serving Chicago Italian beef. And I suppose flips, too, whatever they are.
Over the course of the next few months, the word was getting out: Porta is making some very good Neapolitan style pizza (and, apparently, incredible octopus). I found this to be the case during my few visits.
Funky stuff at Porta
It's a funky place, in a warehouse looking space, decorated with some doors (porta, in Italian), with picnic table communal seating (tables made from reclaimed wood from the building, I'm told). Concrete floors, exposed HVAC and ceiling joists. My kind of minimalist thing overall.
Octopus at Porta
First the octopus. Rarely does anything live up to the accolades that you read on the internet. Let's face it, most people are idiots. Most people don't have very much experience with food to know good from bad, interesting from boring, exceptional from commonplace. But those idiots who gushed about the octopus were right (no offense intended, idiots).
The Ridgewood/Glen Rock Patch reports that the Harvest Restaurant Group is opening a third Roots Steakhouse (turn down your sound, the website is annoying), this time in Ridgewood in the old Blend spot.
I visited Roots in Summit a few years back (my gosh, it was over 6 years ago!) and wasn't really blown away, and took exception to the pricy wine list and the lack of disclosure on which cuts are actually USDA Prime and which aren't.
Some comments on the Patch's piece on the internet are in the vein of "finally, a steakhouse [in Ridgewood]." I'm not sure if these folks are aware that Park West Tavern (turn down your sound, the website is really annoying), right around the corner, has several serviceable steaks on the menu, and a more interesting menu overall.
It's pointless to predict if they're going to be successful, but that won't stop me.
I'm somewhat skeptical of having a restaurant of that size (assuming they take the whole space) serving food at that price-point in the quaint little village of Ridgewood. No doubt they are going to need support from a whole lot of diners from outside of the immediate area, as Ridgewood just doesn't seem to have the volume of diners who are going out to eat that often at places like Roots, or even Park West Tavern.
There's little doubt that they will be poaching diners from Park West Tavern, which has enjoyed a very good run, so things could get interesting. Park West Tavern filled a void in Ridgewood, and the townsfolk reacted enthusiastically. Perhaps Roots will fill some void that I'm not aware of. But if Roots doesn't come with a decent cocktail program, and some reasonably priced wines, I don't think you'll find me at their bar very often.
I hope they can make a liar out of me. Although I'm sure not going to bother if they have a dress code as they do at their other restaurants.
Representatives from the tommy:eats organization, including the editor-in-chief, the publisher, the VP of sales, the COO, and the CEO, had another fantastic meal at Chengdu 23 in Wayne this weekend. The editor-at-large and the Bergen County consulting editor were also present (titles make me feel good).
As I've noted several times on this blog, Chengdu 23 is serving authentic Sichuan food, as good as you'll find in NYC. You can certainly go here and foolishly order the Americanized Chinese food, and it's certainly better here than it is at 99.999999% of the Chinese restaurants out there, but the real magic happens with their more authentic offerings.
201 Magazine, the big, glossy magazine that you see in grocery stores (or in the mail...they seem to send it to people for free in addition to selling it), released their yearly readers poll. It's sprinkled with "Editor's picks" and "Celebrity picks." I'm not sure I care what these folks have to say about restaurants, but I guess their opinion is neither better nor worse than that of any random person.
Waking up on the first day of the lunar new year with a hankerin' for Chinese isn't ideal. While we managed to avoid that craving the night before, when no doubt every good Chinese restaurant was packed with people celebrating, we woke up with dim sum on the brain, and Ridgewood's Dim Sum Dynasty seemed like a good a spot as any to get a
quick dim sum lunch. In fact, their dim sum is quite good, especially when you consider that
it's in the middle of Ridgewood. We thought we might be able to sneak an early lunch in, and, you know, beat the crowds.
We were wrong. Apparently lots of other people know about their dim sum, as there was a 20 minute wait for a table...at 11.30 am.
We soldiered on and waited for our table, avoiding rolling steam carts and crawling small children, and were treated to some pretty damned good food. This is just a quick note to remind you and me to get down there for dim sum more often, but preferably not on Chinese New Year.
Seeing a fourfold spike in the t:e site stats yesterday, due to queries on Pub 199, sent me looking for info. I was sorry to see this news.
It should be noted that searches for Pub 199 have historically made up a very good sized piece of the traffic that hits t:e. I'm not sure what that means, but it certainly suggests that people want to know about this interesting restaurant.
I'll miss the joint, and that wacky atmosphere. Let's hope it comes back around.
One of my resolutions for 2013 will be to eat out more often. Or perhaps more accurately, branching out a bit and doing a random lunch somewhere, rather than having a salad or sandwich at home. Eating *out*. None of this "paying forward" or being nice to people BS. We got a jump on that resolution today and headed off to Sakura Bana in Ridgewood, NJ.
A Family Affair may well be the best Italian deli in the Bergen county area. I've been to many, many delis, in search of a place that uses great bread and can put together a sandwich with a smile. Haven't found one that can pull this off other than A Family Affair.
It's a family affair indeed. It's very likely the owner, Eddie, will be making your sandwich. And I think that's his mom manning the register on some days. There are no grumpy old dudes, no jaded kids carelessly throwing some meat on some bread. Hell even the customers are really really nice.
This isn't a deli where you'll be getting homemade salumi, so get that out of your head (A&S Fine Foods in Wyckoff fills that niche, but doesn't make a sandwich to my liking...too much bread). But if you're looking for an Italian-style hero, something perhaps in the vein of Vito's in Hoboken (the gold standard), you'll be pleased with what you find here. What sets A Family Affair apart from A&S and Italian Riviera and Cosmo's is the bread. My goodness the bread. The bread at A Family Affair is top-notch stuff. It comes from some place in Jersey City, and it tastes like it. This stuff is as good as the bread I used to get in Hoboken back in the day, from places like Antique and Marie's.
But too much of a good thing isn't necessarily good, and these guys get it. Your bread will be gutted without having to ask. You have to gut the bread, otherwise you have a terribly large and unbalanced sandwich. Vito knows this, and so does Eddie.
Get over to this small family run place. The tunafish with some hot peppers on a hero is spot on.