Archive for the ‘Eats’ Category
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
Like most couples on their anniversary, celebrating the occasion while dining out is very common. For our anniversary this would be one crazy dining experience.
With a “strong”suggested( as recommended on Mia website) dinner reservation for 7pm we arrive 15 minutes early, full of anticipation, hungry, and anxious to be seated. First impressions are important and the dark wood tables, subdued lighting and great furniture pieces give Mia an upscale look. While standing at the hostess station, we couldn’t help noticing that the dining room was empty, less 4 tables and with no host or staff in attendance. After a 5 minute wait and with no attention to our presence, we decided to call the restaurant in hopes that someone would come to the desk and recognize that we were standing there. The idea worked as what turned out to be the waiter/owner rushed to respond to the ringing phone. Although we shared a laugh and thought it was kind of funny, we thought it would be a good way to get some one to notice us.
With only 4 other tables we expected service to be quick but that thought slowly faded as we waited 5 more minutes for menus and water. Again, the waiter/owner greeted us with the menus and asked us questions such as “have we ever dined here before?” We told him that we believed we had some years back but the menu was very different and perhaps we were wrong. As it turned out, it is the same place but the menu was changed. He also told us that he believed he had the “best food in Ocean County”. I found that to be a pretty strong statement with Villa Amalfi and Il Giardenellos serving the same style food, right in his backyard. Regardless we looked over the menu and found some interesting and refreshing choices.
I chose the Veal Chop Milanese and the wife opted for the Filet Mignon. I also asked if I could have my pasta side with their house sauce that was spicy and light tomato based. My wife asked if the vegetable (broccoli) was frozen and the owner insured us that he only uses fresh vegetables, sauteed with butter and seasonings.We also ordered side salads as they do not come with the meal. I was told the Bleu cheese dressing was excellent so my wife chose that and I went with a Balsamic dressing.
At 7:55 pm, an hour and 10 minutes after being seated, our salad was served. All the time we waited we noticed no other servers but a young woman who bussed the tables and poured water. It seems the owner was the only person serving meals this evening. That would not have been a problem if one, he made it clear to us that they had a situation and two, he served us cheese, an appetizer or even our salads, while we waited. There is only so much bread a person can eat while waiting an hour for dinner.
Salads were nothing out of the norm and the Bleu cheese dressing wasn’t anything more than the bottled type you would find in any restaurant. We were expecting crumbled cheese at the very least, but instead received the basic creamy dressing. Our dinners followed shortly after and didn’t do much more to make our experience any better. My Veal Chop was so thick that it was under cooked and completely raw close to the bone. I was under the impression that the chop would be pounded thin while still on the bone, breaded and sauteed until crisp like most Milanese dishes I have eaten in the past. While it wasn’t a problem exchanging it for the Veal Cutlet Milanese, and although it was very good(sauteed not fried), I was disappointed that the cutlet weighed in about 3 ounces while the original chop was closer to 10 ounces. That in itself was okay if the price would have reflected such a difference, but alas it did not. My Rigatoni’s in the house sauce were very tasty but the sauce was too thin, didn’t stick to the pasta, and the peppers should have been diced instead of whole so as to get the most flavor and also to fit on the fork. No one wants a Fra Diavolo type sauce with whole Pepperoncini’s in it. My wife’s filet while tasty, was not tender enough to cut with a fork, which has always been a tell tale sign of a great steak. We would not have expected a “great” meal if the owner hadn’t boasted about how they had the best food in the County. Great food speaks for itself and doesn’t need the owner to brag about it.
We did however, experience some good and unexpected customer service before paying for the dinner. The owner gave us a 20% discount for the uncooked Veal dish and didn’t charge me for having the house sauce on my side pasta. That goes a long way with me as most places attempt to charge for dishes that patrons don’t care for or eat, and rarely offer a gesture like a discount for the inconvenience.
So with mixed feelings about our visit, I would have to say that I probably would give this establishment the benefit of the doubt and try Mia one more time, if only for the fact that the owner recognized the mistakes and offered to make good on them.
Regular Guy Rating * * *
1214 Rte #7 East
Toms River NJ 08753
732 929 0595
Friday, August 17th, 2012
DON ‘ T expect the television actresses to serve you, DO expect a surprisingly great meal!
Always looking for a new place to try, this past Saturday evening was no different. Known for their catering prowess, I had been tempted to try their dining room for years but always seemed to forget about them when thinking of places to try. A mistake I won’t make again.
Starting out with two appetizers, Carpaccio and one of the specials that included Shrimp and Lump Crab meat with a Lime Chipotle dressing, was enough of a serving for the four of us. Although the Carpaccio was delicious, I have to say the Shrimp app was extremely good. I love fresh Lime on salads of any type, and the dressing on the Shrimp and Crab really sets off the seafood perfectly. Drag each morsel through the Chipotle drizzle and it makes it all that much tastier. What dressing that was left on the dish mops up nicely with the crusty bread served with the meal. Speaking of the bread, try not to overdo it because its served with a side of herb butter that makes you want to eat it as continuously.
Dinner plates were the following: Roman Pork Chop, Panzerroti, Rigatoni Marcia and my dish was the evenings special Penne with Lump Crab meat, Shrimp and Pancetta in a light( perfect amount) Sherry cream sauce. Since I only ate from my plate, I can only comment on my meal. I have to say that I was worried about the cream sauce as with most restaurants, they usually overdo it. Our waitress, I believe her name was Kathleen, bragged about how great the dish would be and I should definitely try it. I must admit she was spot on with her description and completely correct about how good it was. I always judge a restaurant by the size of their Shrimp and portion served. Shrimp should be sized U-15 or bigger and ALWAYS at least SIX Shrimp for a dish with a combination of ingredients. Both criteria were filled along with what seemed like eight ounces of Crab meat. It must have been quite a bit because I tasted it in every bite and you could see it’s wonderful lumpiness throughout the dish. It always makes me happy when I have a pasta dish that isn’t a pound of penne with a splattering of the dishes main item. Just the opposite was true with this fantastic dinner. All the meals were so good that everyone tasted each others choice and none of us could decide who had the best dinner. That’s rare in itself, that everyone’s meal was just a s good as the others.
Writing a review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the great service staff . Extremely friendly and able to describe in detail each menu item, the wait and bus staff were top notch and trained well. Next time your looking for a great meal and great service at affordable prices, look to Kate and Ally’s to make your dining experience a memorable one! Call ahead for reservations and be prepared not to be seated after 9pm.
Regular Guy rating * * * *
Kate and Ally’s
216 North Main Street,
in Forked River. 08731
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
When a burger is so juicy and bursting with toppings, you have to provide strong napkins. Twenty or so napkins later, I got through my Tex Mex Burger at my now favorite burger joint, Burger 25. Almost three years ago when I started my blog, I spoke of my affection for hamburgers and my quest to find and consume the best ones. I have now visited Burger 25 two times and both times left satisfied with a full belly.
The first thing you see when you walk up to the counter is an adult sized font menu on the wall. Actually its the whole wall that portrays 25 different burger varieties and other menu items to compliment or instead of your burger. Easy to read is an understatement especially in today’s world of handheld devices. Its a pleasure to not have to don my glasses just to order up a burger combo.
Step up to the plate and order up one of these Tex Mex Burgers if you like avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, jack cheese and fried onions. A lot to handle on a burger but soooo damn good you won’t want to put it down. Messy is par for the course when you add too many condiments to a burger and hence the need for a quality napkin. Anyhow, its fun adding to the pile of white paper on the side of the table, after ever bite, if only to see just how many it will take to get through the meal.
Check out Burger 25 next time you in the area, both in Bayville or Brick , New Jersey.
456 Atlantic City Blvd (Rte 9 south)
Bayville NJ 732-269-2625
Sunday, February 19th, 2012
Outdoor dining in great weather is a hard to beat allure when looking for lunch on a sunny afternoon. Key Lime Cafes outdoor seating area offers just the right mix of sun and shade, along with drink specials and a grill style menu.
After dining today at Key Lime Cafe, I decided to read other sites customer reviews before writing one of my own.
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Finding a place to eat in and around this part of New Jersey is not an easy thing to do. Surprisingly though, what the George Inn lacks in atmospheric dining experience, it made up for with tonight’s special dish.
Two things stand out to me about dining here. One was the decor/feeling of the dining room and the other was the menu choices.
The atmosphere leaves much to be desired albeit clean and well maintained, it seemed vast and cafeteria like. A large open dining area with very bright lighting, adds to the noise level while dining. Customers in brighter places tend to speak louder than those in intimate low lit rooms. The wood work and decorative Tiffany lamps would have provided more charm had there not been the additional overhead fluorescent lights. The well lit room also put on display, the sloppiness of the wait staff. Although our waitress was dressed and presented well, her co workers left much to be desired. Combinations of untucked shirts, large hoop earrings and chewing gum gave an unprofessional and mismanaged appearance. It seems to me that with some attention to details, (ie; remove the paper “diner” style place mats, neater staff etc..) this dining room, would be very warm and inviting.
The menu was both confusing and and yet very predictable. What I mean by this is that the style of dishes were all over the place and yet nothing that we wouldn’t expect to find in most diners. For example, you could order Mexican dishes, Nacho platter or Fajitas or your basic Parmigiana ( Chicken or Veal). At first glance and before looking at the menu, you would expect seafood and steaks to be the backbone of menu entree’s. Perhaps they are trying to cater to all different customers likes due to the lack of diversified restaurants in the area. The funny thing is that we ordered a special that was Grilled Pork chop with a Mushroom Risotto in a Demi Glaze with medley of vegetables, which was exactly the type of dish that I expected to see throughout the menu. And by the way, the dish was delicious and the Pork Chop was prepared perfectly. If not for that dish, I would not have been able to choose an item for dinner. Too many restaurants have “diner” menus where they try to be everything but their dishes tend to be just ordinary. Very rarely do you find a place that serves so many different styles of food that is exceptionally prepared and different. Have we not seen enough of Chicken Parmigiana, Buffalo wings and Potato skins?
Back to the Pork Chop dinner: The chop was grilled perfectly and the Risotto was creamy, cheesy and fantastic. The portion size was more than adequate and I left satisfied and full. After eating this, I couldn’t help wonder why they choose not to explore this style of cooking though out the menu. Do away with the ordinary and make a statement with dishes such as this. Perhaps because I was expecting more of a steak house menu was I disappointed. Maybe the Chef at the George Inn knows more about his clientele than I and thus the wide variety of normal everyday items. I will say this. If everything is prepared like my Pork Chop dinner, than they might be on to something.
Next time your skiing at Mountain Creek, be sure to dine at the George Inn and leave a comment on my site. I would be very interested in your opinion.
The Regular Guy rating * * *
The George Inn
84 STATE RT94
SOUTH VERNON, NJ 0746
Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
More often than not, I find myself in a cookie cutter style restaurant. So many of them seem to be copied examples of Fridays, Applebees or some kind of pseudo sports bar/restaurant. As hard as it can be to find them, I try to locate restaurants that have the owners imprint on it. Style of decor, interesting menu choices, great spices and flavors in the dishes and just plain god given creativity.
Ian’s hits the nail on the head!
From the moment you arrive you know that you will be experiencing something different. When you walk up to the entrance, you immediately notice that this is a house turned restaurant, and its outside patio area was probably some child’s playground at one time. A backyard that once possibly housed a sand box has been replaced with a wonderful outside dining area, with lush palms and soft light. Inside, dining room booths are draped in sheer fabric which gives a sense of privacy over alternative table seating.
Our waitress immediately brought us menus, ice cold water( filtered and served in a glass carafe and placed on our table) and bread. As much as I hate having to decide on what to order because there are too many things I would like to try, I hate it even more when I can’t find anything on the menu that captures my attention. The former being the case here as Ian’s provides you with so many choices of seafood dishes that you find your self bargaining with your table mate to try to convince her to order the other dish you wanted. That being said, we ordered the baby greens salad and sesame seared edamame to start and Day Boat Scallops and Pan Seared Grouper for entrees.
When the Edamame arrived we were surprised to see the beans out of the casing. The presentation of the seared beans in a miso butter with pistachio’s lent itself more to a side dish of vegetables than an appetizer. We decided to add them to our dinner dish later rather that scoop them onto a side dish to eat as an appetizer. Although what we felt was an awkward way to eat an app they are very delicious and did add significantly to our dinner another great flavor. The salad portion although fresh and tasty wasn’t enough to satisfy and could have used more of the advertised cranberries and walnuts.
Dinner on the other hand was incredible. Flavor wise, it was second to none. The blending of spices, fruits, and textures of each dish was superbly done and masterful. Quite to my surprise, did I ever expect such creative cooking in Jensen Beach. The Day Scallops were crunchy and when combined with the Raspberry Coulis and Mashed Vanilla Sweet Potatoes, it was a flavor explosion. My dish, the Grouper was even better. Served over sauteed Spinach and a Marscapone and fresh Mozzarella Cheese Polenta, that was so creamy and delicious and topped with a Mango salsa. As great as the Polenta was, I would have preferred less of it and more of the Grouper, as it is one of my favorite fish. All in all, the meal was outstanding and I look forward to my next trip to Florida and a second visit to Ian’s.
One last note. We were coerced into trying the Chocolate Pate with Raspberry Sauce for dessert and if you do you won’t be disappointed. This extremely dense, rich dark chocolate served with fresh Strawberries and whipped Cream, will satisfy you and put the exclamation point on your evenings meal. The coffee wasn’t bad either!
So check out Ian’s Tropical Grill when in the Jensen Beach or Stuart area.
The Regular Guy Rating * * * *
Update as of February 14th 2012
Ian’s has moved to a new location. My wife and I will be dining there this evening, for our Valentines dinner. See the contact information listed below.
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Sitting on the dock of the bay…(I couldn’t resist doing that).
Trips to places that are quite a distance away by car, can sometimes take between 25%-50% longer by motorcycle. Taking a ride from the New Jersey shore to the most beautiful place on earth( as my friend swears), the 1000 Islands in NY, took close to 10 hours.
After a ride like that, we tend to be tired and hungry. Most often we leave the bikes and walk or taxi to a restaurant that serves alcohol and hopefully good food. On this trip we found the Dock of the Bay.
You can’t help but find this place. Smoke pours out of the outdoor slow cooker, and draws your attention as you walk past. Southern BBQ (as advertised on their signage), goes hand in hand with motorcycling and beer, so its our duty to eat in such a place.
I really love slow cooked anything. Pork, brisket, chicken, ribs and steak are all favorites and some times hard to decide between. So tonight I asked if I could have a sampler plate of my own as opposed to the one offered on the menu. I wanted BBQ Chicken, Pulled Pork AND Ribs. Along with that I asked for cornbread, cole slaw and baked beans, and when the plate arrived I was not disappointed.
One half chicken, one half rack of ribs and what looked like 12 ozs of pulled pork, a big honkin piece of corn bread , cole slaw and a side of homemade baked beans later I was ready for bed. Food coma from an overdose of BBQ. Good thing we walked into town because I needed the exercise just to move all that food down. But seriously, the food was delicious and far exceeded my expectations.
By chance, the next evening we met up with the owner of the Dock outside of another restaurant. Barb, as she called herself, recognized us from her place and came over to say hello. Not a shy girl is Barb. She had us laughing and joking around and left us with quite an impression. I promised I would review her place, so if you find yourself in the “most beautiful place in the world”, stop by the Dock, ask for Barb, and tell her the Regular Guy she met outside Cavallario’s, sent you.
The Regular Guy rating * * * 1/2
Dock of the Bay
2 James Street
Alexandria Bay, NY 13607-1310
Monday, August 15th, 2011
Back in April of 2010 I reviewed this restaurant and as I have come to understand, Spiaggia is now celebrating their 2nd Anniversary, which seems to be a good reason to revisit one of my favorite places.
Consistency of food is perhaps the hardest thing to achieve and maintain in a restaurant. More times than not I have dined out and had a great experience on my first visit only to return another time to be disappointed. Over the last two years, I have eaten here at least a dozen times between both the pizza side and the restaurant side. My first three visits to Spiaggia and the restaurant side, were consistently great but it seems that since that first year, portion sizes have gotten smaller, prices have risen and the once flavorful dishes have now become just so-so.
My favorite dish has always been Fra Diavolo Festa because I love the combination of seafood in a hot and spicy tomato sauce. Originally this was the reason that I returned time and time again and on this visit it would be my test dish to see if things are still great here at Spiaggia. What I found was that the portion of pasta below the medley of seafood is no longer too much to finish and the spicy sauce is just slightly above marinara on the tomato scale. What once was a wonderful experience is now just an average dish, one that you might find in a pizzeria restaurant. I will say that I asked to sub shrimp for the scallops and I did have enough shrimp to satisfy. What is lacking is the spicy zip that you should taste in every bite from the Fra Diavolo sauce. It seems to me that the sauce is nothing more than Marinara with some crushed red pepper. Not the dish that kept me coming back for more.
My wife ordered the Spiaggia Land and Sea( Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail) and for $30 you should be wowed in a every bite. Served with white rice, she asked if they would sub the vegetable risotto that came with another dish in its place. This was a good move because the risotto was creamy and cheesy and helped to make the meal better than its white rice counter part might have. The filet was just like you would make on your outdoor grill and the lobster tail was just broiled and served.
The thing that seems to be missing here is the little something extra that puts some restaurants over the top while others are just okay. A case in point could be made for the house salad. The greens are served chilled and the house dressing used to be one that made you want seconds. The homemade Lemon vinaigrette wasn’t as tangy, lemony and tasty as it used to be. Something has changed here, whether it is the chef or the recipes due to higher costs and/or different quality of ingredients. Okay dinners are fine if you are in a pizzeria and the pricing reflects that. But with the prices of appetizers averaging around $12 each and entree prices average or higher than neighboring establishments, you expect the WOW factor every time. Someone at Spiaggia isn’t paying attention to details like they used to when they first opened. The portion size, seasoning and finishing touches that make the difference and were once noticeable, are now missing.
Two years in, one great year and now one good year. Not the way to be heading especially when people are in a struggling economy and they are cautious where they will be spending their hard earned dollars.
Regular Guy rating * * *
Spiaggia e Luna
696 E Bay Ave
Friday, July 15th, 2011
When dining out, you always remember the best and the worst places you visit. The Sand Bar unfortunately falls under the latter of those two.
The Sand Bar overlooks a the Brielle Yacht Club Marina and if you are seated outside you can keep yourself busy people watching which might make you more forgiving of the less than average dishes served here.
On a recommendation by a friend, we made reservations for a Friday evening with hopes of enjoying the beautiful weather and a fresh fish dinner. The weather part worked out great but the fish half of the equation fell short of making the evening one we would like to remember.
Both dishes, the Grilled Mahi with Pineapple Salsa( dinner special) and my Tuna Rockford (regular menu item) were overcooked and flavorless. The Mahi was especially disappointing because the salsa was so plain and lacking in freshness. It was almost as dry as the fish itself which if juicier, it could have provided necessary moisture for the Mahi. Adding some lime juice, tomatoes, fresh cilantro and maybe a little heat from jalapenos would kick the flavor up to where it could have made a difference, even with the overcooked fish. My Tuna, which was also grilled, is served with a mixture of sun dried tomatoes, asparagus,spinach and topped with Hollandaise sauce. I asked out of the added Hollandaise as I do not care for that particular sauce. The tuna, although pink inside, was dry and overcooked and the vegetables accompanying them did little to save the dish.
Being that both dishes needed help we asked the waitress if she could provide us with dressings that we could lace over top of the fish in hopes of saving the meal. The manager, Scott, approached us to ask if there was anything he could do to make the meal better. At this point we were not going to wait to have another dish cooked, and the fact that the dishes were so poorly dressed, we felt that we would just move on. We did feel that Scott could have offered to buy our drinks or dessert to help make the experience easier to accept.
It’s a shame that we had such a bad dinner because the Sand Bar’s open, airy and casual atmposhpere provides a nice environment to dine in. We sat upstairs where reservations are accepted, but you can dine downstairs where there is open seating and a bar.
One last item that needs to be pointed out is the area where the hostess greets you. On this particular evening there were two young women at the door greeting and seating patrons upon arrival. As we were making our way back down the stairs to the exit, one of the girls was sorting silverware and napkins while sitting on the stairway. Not exactly how I would like to see my fork and knife being handled after it has been through a sterilizing wash. It seems that management is not on top of their game if this is the norm for handling issues and staff.
Regular Guy Rating * *
Sand Bar Waterfront Restaurant
201 Union Lane, Brielle, NJ 08730
Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
It’s Memorial Day, its hot and your not on the beach so your looking for something to do. A cold drink and a burger, poolside, at the Engleside Sand Bar, was just the thing. Outdoors on the ocean and alive with people soaking up the sun and swimming in the pool , it seemed like just the right place to make a pit stop.
After riding our bicycles for 5 or so miles, the wife and I worked up an appetite and decided to stop for lunch. We had ridden from Ship Bottom to Beach Haven and decided to lock up our rides at the Engleside Sand Bar.
Music filled the air and could be heard from blocks away as we approached the dune at the entrance to the beach and the Sand Bar. People in bathing suits carrying frozen drinks and cold beers paraded around us as we found a table in the shady part of the patio.
Our waitress quickly addressed us and brought our Lemonades and menus. The menu is what you would expect from an outdoor pool bar, sandwiches, salads and burgers with plenty of choices for toppings.
Both burgers looked great on arrival, cooked perfect and topped with enough to satisfy. They are char grilled and 8 ounces, which seems to be more and more the norm for a good burger. What I do find is that with most burgers, and especially with the rarer cooked ones, the bottom bun is always soggy from the burgers juices. This always presents a problem as you get through the burger. As with this one, we wound up using a fork and knife to finish it off. Not the perfect way to enjoy a burger.
All things considered though, the burger was very good. Maybe it was the whole holiday weekend thing that made it taste so good but it definitely satisfied our craving and gave us the much needed energy source to pedal our way back to our car.
The Regular Guy rating * * *
The Engledside Sand Bar
30 Engleside Avenue
Beach Haven, NJ 08008-1725