NJ: Outdoor dining

Roots in Ridgewood: set to open

Roots

Update: We made our way over to Roots for a first look. Here are some details of the meal (click me!)

Update: Roots has opened, per The Booziest of all the Burbs.

A sign on Roots Steakhouse's door notes that it is planning on opening June 9.

I took a peak inside and see that they designed the front room just as I had wanted. A long bar on the left wall, almost from front to back, and a very sophisticated loungy vibe. I'm not sure what they did with the back rooms.

Bartender

I spied a silly looking fellow with a handlebar moustache rocking this bold look at his ankles walking through the parking lot. I was hoping he was applying for a bartending job, as handlebar mustaches are a sure sign of a proper cocktail program. But he went into a coffee shop--which would have been my second guess.

So the opening is upon us. Buckle up for the Park West Tavern-Roots Steakhouse showdown, and don't get too used to the relatively easy parking that you've been enjoying in Ridgewood since Blend closed.

Roots Steakhouse : 17 Chestnut Street : Ridgewood, NJ

 


Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza: Fair Lawn, NJ

Anthonys coal fired pizza

Curiosity got the best of me. I sorta knew that Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza wasn't producing the type of pizza that I'm interested in, but something about a sunny 68 degree day and hearing about a bar that opens to the outside motivated me to give it a shot.

You will likely be greeted by a full restaurant. Filled with families, anti-social loners like me, and groups of young professionals from the surrounding offices. To say it was doing a brisk business at 12:15 on a Thursday would be an understatement. The place was really jumpin'.

For good reason. I got the sense the place is run well and managed well. A very welcoming restaurant.

I was greeted at the door, both on the way in and out. There are several TVs all around the dining room, which has a view into the pizza-making kitchen. The restaurant is cheerful and comfortable. Music was on the sound system, at just the right volume. The classic rock selections seemingly from a page out of a WNEW playlist from the early 80s. A large communal table in the bar area separates the dining room from the rowdies, and some outside tables--along with half the bar seating actually being outside--make for some interesting seating options. Certainly this is a family-friendly restaurant, but with just enough sophistication and stimulation to maintain a crowd of couples and groups of friends.

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Notable dishes of 2012: the 2014 edition

File under: better late than never?

Try as I may to muster the energy to leave the warm, cozy house on this freezing cold day, I'm finding there are many obstacles. Not least of all being screwing around on the computer, looking through some old photos. I noticed that I have a couple blurry pictures of food, and figured "Hey, why waste these beauties on just me. I'll make another list!"

I kinda like putting together lists. Any sort of non-list post takes a lot of effort, although you probably wouldn't believe it if you read any of mine. The list-oriented posts are super easy, because let's face it, people have low to zero expectations with a list. They just want to see the list. And I have very low expectations for a list. Just show me the list. Most importantly, I'm a navel-gazer from way back, and lists provide a vehicle to look deeply into the glory that is me.

So here's the list of Notable dishes of 2012: the 2014 edition:

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Mapping: the eats

Don't forget, there's a nifty map of restaurants/retailers covered in this blog. This might make it easier to focus on a particular area, for example. 

It's accessible via the menu bar above, or here: http://tommyeats.com/tommyeats/te-map.html

I should add that this Google map doesn't seem to work with Google Chrome, so you have to click on the link for the larger view. You should probably do that anyway.


View t:e restaurants in a larger map


Trap Rock Brewery: Berkeley Heights: The Burger

TR-burger-at-Trap-Rock
Every time I google "best burgers in New Jersey," the same 10 places show up, many of which I've visited, and many of which aren't very notable (White Manna, I'm looking at you). It's getting a bit tiring. Fatigue be damned, I put myself through the same exercise a few days ago, and finally conceded that I should probably give the Trap Rock Brewery a shot.

Trap Rock is part of the Harvest Restaurants group, which includes a bunch of places that seem to be very similar to Trap Rock, and the Roots Steakhouses (auto-play warning), one of which is set to open in Ridgewood, NJ, in, what, a year or so? (Did they really think they'd get it off the ground by October? In Ridgewood, a town known for pain-in-the-ass inspections and bureaucracy?) From what I can tell from a few visits, their restaurants are well-run, their staff well-trained, and they do a competent job. My first visit to Trap Rock supported that theory.

You can review the menu online, but I was there for the burger. Trap Rock offers two burgers, one of which is made from grass fed beef, and seems to be their signature. Their other burger is "just a cheeseburger" I was told. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I went with the 'TR Local Grass Fed Burger' (the burger is not grass fed, but the steer presumably was).  This burger is served with Red Dragon Cheddar (a cheese of Welsh origin, with ale and mustard seed), rosemary aioli, and caramelized onions. A lot going on there, and not much in the way of bright, crisp flavors and textures that I usually enjoy on a burger (raw onion, ketchup, good, ripe tomatoes). I ordered it as it's designed, and was pleased to see some raw onion and ketchup served along side. I put a bit of each on the burger, to hedge my bet.

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Ridgewood Jazz Feast: 2013

Winard-harper
Winard Harper

The Ridgewood Guild and their partners and volunteers did a heck of a job with what was hopefully the first annual Ridgewood Jazz Feast this past weekend in Ridgewood. (Click here for 2014's event!)

Plenty of music and wine and beer and food to keep people very happy.  While I didn't eat any of the food, I did have a quite tasty rosé from Ventimiglia Vineyards.

Raymonds-fried-chickenRaymond's was offering what appeared to be very good fried chicken. Do they have this on their menu? If not it should be. And they should also offer chicken and waffles during brunch. I'd go every week.

Lisas1Lisa's Mediterranean was doing their thing.

Malee1Malee Thai

Stable1 Stable-meat

The Stable with meats on sticks

Lots of other restaurants had stands, including A Mano, Park West Tavern, Ridgewood Fare, and many which I forget.  There was certainly a good selection of food. I can't say the same about the beer, which consisted of Coors Light, Yuengling, and Blue Moon.  Standard distributor stuff. Maybe next year they can get a few local NJ brewers in there. Cricket HIll, High Point, there are plenty to choose from, and they could use the exposure more than Coors. Maybe I'll volunteer next year and get the beer sorted out.

The music was top-notch. I was sort of expecting cookie-cutter snoozy jazz, catering to boring white-bread Bergenites. But what we got were three incredible and well-regarded acts, spanning a wide range of jazz and blues.  The acts played over the course of what seemed like 5 hours. The lulls between bands were brief, which meant the music kept pumping almost constantly.

This was a well-run and organized event. Congrats to everyone involved.

Antoinette Montague kicked it off, backed by Band of Bones. Fantastic big band jazz.

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Village Green: Ridgewood, NJ

Village-green
We've enjoyed Village Green through its various incarnations over the years. If I'm not mistaken, the restaurant has gone through no fewer than 3 owners and at least as many chefs in the 12 years since I've know about it.  Surprisingly, the food has always been enjoyable. Our most recent visit was a reminder of this.

Village Green, now under Chef Kevin Portscher, still offers a multi-course tasting in addition to à la carte. While we tend to stay away from multi-course tastings (they can be exhausting), the 5 course tasting ($60) seemed manageable, and a good value, so we went for it. I should note that not everyone at the table has to do the tasting, which is a very accommodating policy.

The menu had some Asian influences (and it should be noted that they just launched a new Fall menu today). When restaurants throw in Asian influences, it's too often clunky, doesn't fit into the spirit of the rest of the menu, or, it's just poorly executed. That's not the case, here. In fact, I didn't even realize that we had some Asian inspired dishes until I started writing this. The inclusion of the Asian dishes was seamless and not forced in the least. 

Village-green-amuse
I can't help but really appreciate when a restaurant serves an amuse bouche. I just really like those little bites. They help me get all amped up for the meal to come. Village Green kicked it off with a little cheese puff pastry of some sort (I didn't take notes, and you'll have to deal with fuzzy details).

Village-green-salad

Village-green-papaya-salad
A salad with blue cheese and a cured and/or smoked pork product was exactly what you would hope it would be.

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Biagio Wood-fired Pizza: Red Bank, NJ [CLOSED]

Biagio-pizza

Update: Biagio's Facebook Page notes that they are closed.

 

There's a whole lot going on in Red Bank. Steakhouses, Vietnamese, shopping, lots of parking, wine shops a record store with actual records. Who knew?

A t:e reader recently asked for some Red Bank recs, which led me to some googling, which led me to the realization that there's a restaurant making Neapolitan-style pizza. Biagio. It went on the list immediately.

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La Bottega: Ridgewood, NJ [CLOSED]

La-bottega

Update (2014/10): La Bottega has rebranded. More info here (click me).

One of my 10s of readers recently initiated the following exchange:

Reader #18: went to La Bottega. Their Paninis are very good and they have gluten free bread thats decent

but from 11-2 on Sundays I couldnt get a roast pork, broccoli rabe and mozz one

had to be friggin brunch food

t:e: That sounds like a good sandwich. Any idea how their regular bread is?

Reader #18: Im sure its good. Some Brooklyn bakery every day

they have different kinds

t:e: I don't see pork on the menu. Wtf?

Reader #18: its under the paninis they have 8 different pork ones...

they're not chinsy with the portions either

t:e: Ugh. How did I miss that. Ok I need to try this joint for lunch.

The following day...

t:e: Holy cow this pork/mutz/rabe/pepper sandwich is fantastic!

Either I was really, really hungry, or, Reader #18 turned me on to something very, very tasty. Roasted pork, mozzarella, broccoli rabe, and grilled hot peppers, on a round roll, heated in a panini press. Very little bread, and a very well-balanced sandwich.  While I've been dismissing La Bottega for a while, I will concede that this is an exceptional sandwich.

I haven't been too sure of what to make about the place. Is it a sandwich/salad place? They sure do have a lot of that type of stuff on that enormous menu. Is this a place to consider for dinner? I wouldn't think so, but then I read that they have pretty damned good food. If you look closely at the menu, you'll see a proper appetizer/entree type menu tucked into the enormous sandwich/salad menu.

It's all a bit much to take in, so for now I'll just keep on hitting these pork panini.

La Bottega : 14 Oak Street : Ridgewood, NJ : 201.445.7222

Dozzino: Hoboken, NJ

Dozzino-interior
Readers of my past words may have come to understand that if there's a single style of pizza that I enjoy more than any other, it's Neapolitan-style. I can certainly enjoy a properly executed NYC slice every now and again (and they are few and far between), but there's just no comparison to the glory that is a well executed Neapolitan pizza. So sure, my bias will always be at play when I talk about restaurants that do this well, and I always seek them out.

So when I heard there's Neapolitan-style pizza in Hoboken, to paraphrase Guy Fieri, well I just had to check it out. And I don't mean Grimaldi's, which 1) isn't Neapolitan-style, and 2) isn't very exceptional.

Dozzino is both.

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