NJ: Outdoor dining

S. Egidio: Neapolitan-style pizza in Ridgewood, NJ

S egidio ridgewood pizza

It took me a while, but I finally had a chance to grab a pie at S. Egidio, the small, Neapolitan-style pizza place on North Broad Street in Ridgewood, NJ.

While the dinner menu isn't very large to begin with, the lunch menu is even smaller. Some salads, sandwiches, meats, and pizza. Maybe even a pasta or two. Doesn't matter. I was there for the pizza.

I went right for a Margherita pie. A better baseline for comparison you will not find. And I caved and ordered soppressata as a topping.

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La Bottega in Ridgewood closed, and is now Bella Notte Italian Bistro [CLOSED]

Baseballout

Update: 2015/03/26 Bella Notte seems to have closed.

Fans of La Bottega were probably shocked when seemingly overnight the restaurant changed names. In the blink of an eye.

Apparently the ownership hasn't changed, but the restaurant is no longer associated with the La Bottega chain. I'm told much of the staff remains the same, as well as many of the popular menu items. So if you liked La Bottega, you should probably try Bella Notte Italian Bistro, even with its unfortunate name. <rant>"Bistro" is French, not Italian. Trattoria or osteria would be more appropriate.</rant>

 


Habit Burger: Fair Lawn, NJ at the Promenade

Habit burger burger

The burger build-out continues. The latest entry into the increasingly saturated market here in north Jersey is Habit Burger-- a California-based chain, poised to compete squarely with Shake Shack, Smashburger, and the other upscale fast-casual blahblahblah burger joints.

When we I saw a photo of the burger on BoozyBurbs's twitter feed, well we I just knew we I had to check it out--even though he they opted for avocado as a topping (actually, we I made fun of the burger on twitter for a while before we I thought to try it--busting his their boozy balls is a favorite past-time of ours mine). How does this burger (without avocado) stack up against the competition? Pretty well, we I think.

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Due: Ridgewood, NJ: New and improved, now with extra Weissening.

Update (2016): Adam Weiss is not longer at Due and I can no longer recommend this restaurant.

It was seven years ago (ACK!) that I first had Chef Weiss's cooking. This was at Esty Street in Park Ridge, where Weiss was the Sous Chef--and soon to be Executive Chef. I wrote a few words on our meals at Esty back then, which were largely enjoyable. After several visits, Weiss figured out who I was. It was another one of those situations where I have no idea how it came about. I certainly don't go around announcing myself as a food blogger and in general don't draw much attention to myself. But I guess they have ways.

Still, though, it was a bit of a surprise when Weiss recognized me during a recent meal at Due, where he's now Executive Chef. It has been at least five years since he's laid eyes on my marvelous face.

We visited Due last year, pre-Weiss, and were way, way not impressed. It was an unexceptional meal, from what I recall. The food lacked herbs and acidity. Not one herb anywhere on any dish, I recall thinking. The first bites of our recent meal, conversely, were clearly the product of a chef who appreciates herbs and acid like we do. This is no surprise, when I see what I wrote about Esty Street and Weiss seven years ago:

"Esty Street is serving food that's bright and clean. Lots of acids and herbs."

I'm glad to see Weiss bringing this style of cooking to Ridgewood.

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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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