Category Archives: Dining Out

by Matthew Mikolay
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Chowing Down at Red Bank’s The Chowda House

matthew_mikolay_120This is New Jersey.

Sometimes, a man cannot survive on pork roll alone.

Sometimes, a deeper hunger arises far within a man’s stomach.

Sometimes, a man craves a bowl of New England clam chowder…but when that man’s in the middle of Monmouth County, what can he do?

The Chowda House in Red Bank is conveniently located across from the train station at 78 Bridge Avenue. The little restaurant opened its doors three months ago and specializes in fresh seafood, including (you guessed it!) clam chowder.

The Chowda House’s nautical themed interior transports you to a charming seaside New England eatery, the ideal environment for enjoying some quality seafood. When the weather is agreeable, the House offers outdoor seating for patrons. From their tables, diners can glance into the nearby fish tank to admire the restaurant’s mascot, “Chowda”, a bubbly little puffer fish.

chowda_house_tables

The Chowda House offers both New England and Manhattan clam chowders in either a cup ($2.95) or bowl ($4.95), as well as a “land lubber soup” for those diners wishing to forgo seafood. During my visit, I decided to try the New England chowder. I must admit, I held very high expectations for the chowder as I sat down to dine. After all, your chowder better be on point if it’s mentioned in your restaurant’s name! Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

chowda_house_puffer

The generous portion of chowder was hot and creamy, chock full of potatoes and clams in a perfect balance floating in a light cream base. Too often, chowders are thick and heavy on the stomach, but The Chowda House has perfected its recipe. Furthermore, the clams were cooked exceptionally, providing a pleasant chewiness, as opposed to the toughness that can result from overcooking. The accompanying oyster crackers offered a satisfying way to finish off my bowl after I quickly devoured each and every clam and potato. No doubt, The Chowda House is the place to go in Red Bank for a bowl of New England clam chowder.

chowda_house_chowder

In addition to their superb chowder, The Chowda House offers a variety of signature dishes. I tried the fish and chips ($9.99), golden-brown strips of beer battered pollock resting atop a mountain of thin cut French fries. Above all, I noticed the delicate, buttery interior of white fish surrounded by the light batter coating. Unfortunately, the fish itself seemed to be a bit lacking in flavor — perhaps due to underseasoning. The texture was spot-on, but the fish itself needed some TLC. A healthy dose of tartar sauce was needed to provide the appropriate flavor kick.

fish_chips

Aside from their fish and chips, The Chowda House’s signature dishes include buttermilk fried shrimp ($12.25), mussels marinara with linguini ($14.00), and sauteed dry scallops ($17.50).

The Chowda House

78 Bridge Ave

Red Bank, NJ 07701

Tuesday through Thursday: 11AM to 9PM

Friday & Saturday: 11AM to 10PM

Sunday: 3PM to 8PM

http://www.thechowdahouse.com/

Chowing Down at Red Bank’s The Chowda House

matthew_mikolay_120This is New Jersey.

Sometimes, a man cannot survive on pork roll alone.

Sometimes, a deeper hunger arises far within a man’s stomach.

Sometimes, a man craves a bowl of New England clam chowder…but when that man’s in the middle of Monmouth County, what can he do?

The Chowda House in Red Bank is conveniently located across from the train station at 78 Bridge Avenue. The little restaurant opened its doors three months ago and specializes in fresh seafood, including (you guessed it!) clam chowder.

The Chowda House’s nautical themed interior transports you to a charming seaside New England eatery, the ideal environment for enjoying some quality seafood. When the weather is agreeable, the House offers outdoor seating for patrons. From their tables, diners can glance into the nearby fish tank to admire the restaurant’s mascot, “Chowda”, a bubbly little puffer fish.

chowda_house_tables

The Chowda House offers both New England and Manhattan clam chowders in either a cup ($2.95) or bowl ($4.95), as well as a “land lubber soup” for those diners wishing to forgo seafood. During my visit, I decided to try the New England chowder. I must admit, I held very high expectations for the chowder as I sat down to dine. After all, your chowder better be on point if it’s mentioned in your restaurant’s name! Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

chowda_house_puffer

The generous portion of chowder was hot and creamy, chock full of potatoes and clams in a perfect balance floating in a light cream base. Too often, chowders are thick and heavy on the stomach, but The Chowda House has perfected its recipe. Furthermore, the clams were cooked exceptionally, providing a pleasant chewiness, as opposed to the toughness that can result from overcooking. The accompanying oyster crackers offered a satisfying way to finish off my bowl after I quickly devoured each and every clam and potato. No doubt, The Chowda House is the place to go in Red Bank for a bowl of New England clam chowder.

chowda_house_chowder

In addition to their superb chowder, The Chowda House offers a variety of signature dishes. I tried the fish and chips ($9.99), golden-brown strips of beer battered pollock resting atop a mountain of thin cut French fries. Above all, I noticed the delicate, buttery interior of white fish surrounded by the light batter coating. Unfortunately, the fish itself seemed to be a bit lacking in flavor — perhaps due to underseasoning. The texture was spot-on, but the fish itself needed some TLC. A healthy dose of tartar sauce was needed to provide the appropriate flavor kick.

fish_chips

Aside from their fish and chips, The Chowda House’s signature dishes include buttermilk fried shrimp ($12.25), mussels marinara with linguini ($14.00), and sauteed dry scallops ($17.50).

The Chowda House

78 Bridge Ave

Red Bank, NJ 07701

Tuesday through Thursday: 11AM to 9PM

Friday & Saturday: 11AM to 10PM

Sunday: 3PM to 8PM

http://www.thechowdahouse.com/

The Egg-ceptional Egg Cream

matthew_mikolay_120Let’s play a game.

I challenge you to visit your local Carvel or Dairy Queen, walk up to the teenager behind the cash register, and kindly request an egg cream.

With luck, the knowledgeable ice cream mixologist will blend together chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer in a tall glass, making sure to include the requisite one inch of thick, frothy foam.

However, it’s equally likely that you’ll be given a confused look and asked “what’s an egg cream?”

The age of soda fountains has passed. No longer can a thirsty patron stop by the counter found inside of his local pharmacy and request a cold beverage from the “soda jerk” on duty. Instead, we live in a time where our milkshakes are dispensed from machines, our ice cream is purchased from commercial chains, and “soda-jerking” is a dying art.

The disappearance of the soda fountain was a low point in the history of American food culture. Not only did we lose a unique, iconic medium for food service, but we lost our beloved egg cream.

…or did we?

Do not fret, thirsty citizens. Although the egg cream has become scarce, it’s still possible to find the sweet soda beverage when the cravings arise. You just have to know where to look.

This past week, I visited three locations in Monmouth County, each listing egg creams (both chocolate and vanilla varieties) on their menus. Armed with an empty stomach and a thirst for that beloved soda fountain staple, I began my egg cream expedition.

First, I visited P&P Sweet Shop at 487 Middle Road in Hazlet. While drinking my beverage at the counter, I chatted with proprietor Silvio Salas, who has owned P&P for fourteen years. The décor harkens back to the days of old; the store has been open for over forty years. Silvio spoke to me about the “New York Test,” which allegedly identifies a quality egg cream. Many egg cream aficionados believe that a good egg cream is characterized by the straw’s ability to stand perfectly straight in the middle of the glass, held up by the beverage’s thick foam. Interesting!

 egg_cream_ppsweet

Thirsty patrons can drink their egg creams at the counter in Hazlet’s P&P Sweet Shop.>

Next, I stopped by Nancie’s Ice Cream & Cafe at 84 First Avenue in Atlantic Highlands, where I was served by friendly ice cream expert Tim Enny. Located right next door to Atlantic Cinemas, the quaint ice cream shop is the perfect place to visit for an after-movie dessert. As I drank my beverage, Tim explained to me the most important element of the egg cream making ritual.

egg_cream_nancies

Ice cream expert Tim Enny of Nancie’s Ice Cream & Cafe proudly presents an egg cream.>

“The most important part to the making of an egg cream is to add the seltzer and syrup first, then quickly add in the milk afterward,” said Tim. For him, it’s all about the order of ingredients.

My final stop was Nagle’s Apothecary Cafe at 43 Main Avenue in Ocean Grove. The restaurant, which was once an old-timey pharmacy, is decorated with vintage posters and knick-knacks that provide a glimpse into an era long gone. While I sipped my egg cream, I sat next to a set of shelves stocked with various medicine bottles, pill boxes, and other pharmacy equipment circa 1900s. Nagle’s has a remarkably nostalgic ambiance, the perfect environment for drinking an egg cream.

egg_cream_nagles

Nothing beats drinking an egg cream while taking in the nostalgic environment of Nagle’s Apothecary Cafe in Ocean Grove.>

And so, my thirst for egg creams has been satisfied…temporarily. Please note that the three aforementioned places are by no means the only locations to purchase an egg cream in Monmouth County. I encourage my thirsty readers to do some searching of their own, and let me know where else the classic soda fountain drink can be found! Feel free.

Good Eats at the Jersey Shore Food Truck Wars

matthew_mikolay_120

I’m no stranger to food trucks. After all, I’m a student at Rutgers University, home of the legendary Grease Trucks. However, there’s a lot more than just “fat sandwiches” being served out of food trucks nowadays. I was able to experience a wider range of cuisines at this weekend’s Jersey Shore Food Truck Wars.

The Food Truck Wars returned for its second year on May 25 and 26 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport. Last year’s event was a huge success, attracting over twenty-three thousand people. This year, the event was even more massive, with thirty-two food trucks satisfying their hungry patrons over a span of two days.

truck_lines

Crowds of people wait in line for just a few of the many trucks found at this weekend’s event

I attended the Food Truck Wars on its second day, the 26th. A vast number of trucks serving all different styles of food were present: American, Italian, Thai, Korean, Chinese, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Louisiana Creole, and more. With so many options, I felt the urge to sample everything. Due to time constraints and slow-moving lines, I was forced to limit myself to just a few.

I sat down with Middletown resident Patrick MacLane, who arrived at the event with a hunger for grilled cheese. He told me his thoughts while munching on a Classic NY State Cheddar grilled cheese from the Morris Grilled Cheese truck.

grilled_cheese
Middletown resident Patrick MacLane hungrily smiles at his grilled cheese sandwich

“I’m very impressed,” said MacLane. “The sourdough bread really brings new life to the grilled cheese sandwich. Hands down, this is the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had.”

The event gathered trucks from cities all over the tri-state area, including Hoboken, New York, and Philadelphia. Red Bank’s own Freezy Freeze (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Freezy-Freeze/119382941477591) was on site, specializing in ice cream made to order using liquid nitrogen. They had particular success at this year’s event with their chocolate ice cream and Oreo pieces combination. Be sure to catch them at the Red Bank Farmers Market, every Sunday from 9AM to 2PM through mid-November.

freezy_freeze

Andrew and Meghan Deming, ice cream gurus and operators of Red Bank’s Freezy Freeze, pose for a picture inside of their truck

On Sunday, food trucks present at the event competed for various titles. This year’s winners include Fork in the Road with Best on a Bun, Pizza Vita with Ethnic Excellence, The Cow and the Curd with Guiltiest Pleasure, Amanda’s Bananas with Cutting Edge Cuisine, Gozen Yogurt with Most Seductive Sweet, and Morris Grilled Cheese with Top Truck. The People’s Choice award went to Bacon on Wheels.

Star Ledger columnist and food writer Peter Genovese took part in the judging.

“They’re [food trucks] just so hot right now,” said Genovese. “We definitely need more food trucks in New Jersey. I call upon the governor to issue some food truck proclamation! The problem is, a lot of cities are tough on food trucks… I wish more cities would be more welcoming to food trucks… They should be in Jersey, because a lot of these guys are from Jersey…”

This weekend, I was able to eat my fill, but now I’m parched! For my next article, I’ll be looking for places in Monmouth County to find a New York style egg cream. If you have any recommendations, feel free to email me or shoot me a tweet at @mattmikolay