Archive for the ‘Eats’ Category

The Portuguese Grill, Forked River, NJ

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

portuguese grill logo

Anna says “anything you want” and she means it. The kitchen at the grill is there to make your dinner the way you want it.

To say that Anna is accommodating is an understatement. The owner of the Portuguese Grill knows what it takes to get customers and keep them coming back. She made our “guys nite’ dinner an experience, not just a meal. Usually we head out to pubs or places where its kind of loud because 5 or 6 guys normally get a little loud and we need background to drown us out. Tonight we found ourselves pretty much alone as we dined on a Thursday nite right after the holidays have passed. Not much goes on in restaurants right after holidays as everyone is tired, broke or too full to eat another bite but we meet every month and this month would be no different .

After much joking with and ribbing,  our waitress brought us glasses for our wine and passed us to Anna who then made it clear that there would be no hurry in ordering. Our apps and a basket of warm bread was served promptly with a reminder that we could order our dinner whenever we would like. Four men sharing  two Portuguese favorite dishes,  Shrimp in Garlic and the grilled Chorizo sausage, didn’t take long to finish. Both dishes reminded all of us of the same dishes served in Newark NJ’s Ironbound neighborhood. That, if you don’t know is a good thing!

The Portuguese grill serves Filet on a stone which was to tempting to pass a try at when it came time to order. Other dishes ordered were Pork and Clams in a garlic and white wine sauce and a dish of Clams and Shrimp ( which normally has Scallops not Shrimp).  I have to say that those dishes both looked good and the Pork ( I tasted) was tender and flavorful, but the Filet stole the show this evening. So much so that the person sitting next to me kept looking over my shoulder while I cut and cooked my steak as I ate it. It was pretty cool how the hot stone cooks the beef as much or as little as you like.  Definitely a must try as it is delicious and somewhat fun to eat and as I notice on their website, it is priced $7 lower if you dine on Monday nites. Good to note for my return visit with the wife. Our dishes were accompanied with fried potato chips, sauteed mixed FRESH vegetables and beans and rice. I can’t remember the last time I saw hand cut carrots and vegetables served and the rice and beans were terrific. All in all the meal was a tremendous surprise as to how flavorful and delirious it was.

After the meal we were served complimentary dessert ( probably for all the amusement we provided the staff) and we ordered espresso and cappuccino’s to close the evening. Bring your own spirits as alcohol is not served here.

Our meal and service was exceptional and a pleasant surprise to find in Forked River NJ. Go visit the Portuguese Grill soon and mention this to Anna so she knows I kept my word about writing a good review about her restaurant.

The Regular Guy rating

* * * *

The Portuguese Grill

44 Manchester Ave.
Forked River, NJ 08731  Phone: 609-971-7100

 

Carmela’s Pizza and Wine Bar, Stuart Fl

Monday, October 13th, 2014

l.jpgOver the last six years I have driven by Carmela’s many times. At night, while lit up, it looks intriguing and like a place I would someday visit. On this trip my wife and I would do so for our anniversary dinner date.

While visiting Carmela’s website http://www.carmelaspizza.com and reading about its history and chefs bio’s, I turned to the menu page. Items on the menu spiked my interest  and gave me more reason to finally visit.

The restaurant itself is split on two sides. One side being the pizza style dining area and the other a more formal area featuring a full service bar. Carmela’s also boasts an extensive wine list.

Ever since eating farm raised fish and shrimp became an issue of making choices for better health I have made it a habit to only eat fish and shrimp caught wild and especially in local US waters. Carmela’s offers a seafood dish that includes shrimp so I asked our server if she knew where the shrimp were from. She said that they were purchased based on pricing and not always from the nearby Gulf waters. That being said I turned away from that dish and chose instead the Chicken Saltimbocca. My wife was drawn to the Pork Osso Bucco and also wanted to try the Medjole Dates, stuffed with bleu cheese and wrapped in Speck ( a cured meat air dried and similar to Proscuitto).

The Medjole Dates served hot and cooked crisp, were very very good. The have a slight crunch and are creamy, sweet and slightly smoky. Really good and with a small plate size of only four, it leaves you wanting maybe one more. Excellent choice!

Our dishes arrived and at first glance we were wondering if we made the right choices. My wife was concerned that the demi glace sauce was too much like tomato sauce and the risotto was drowned in it. Mine although a healthy portion, left me curious about the sauce too. The dish was served over pasta and swimming in the sauce. It also had an over abundance of melted cheese that totally encased the twin chicken breasts. I prefer Saltimbocca separate from my pasta, minimal sauce and a lot less cheese.

Although the Saltimbocca was not what I was accustomed to it was very good. It took some doing to eat, trying to cut it through all the sauce and pasta but I made short work of one of the breasts and all of the linguine below. It would have been better served alone with more of a sage flavor and less of the overpowering cheese.

The Osso Bucco while very tender and cooked well, the sauce was made with too much tomato that hid the flavor of the meat which we were told was braised over a period of seven hours. The risotto was tasty but also would have benefited from being more separate from the sauce. Both dishes portions were substantial and at least half of which came home with us.

Our server was friendly but seemed rushed to me although my wife didn’t find fault with her. I felt she could have spent more time with us to make us feel more welcome. Perhaps asking if it were our first visit, what we could expect, customer favorites etc..I like a little more one on one with my server especially in better restaurants such as this.

One last thought. After reading about the owner and chefs training I expected to see ingredients such as Gulf ( no farm raised) Shrimp and Angus Beef and not menu choices based on food costs. With all the questions today about what is in the food we eat, its refreshing to see organic or better choice meats/ fish on menus. Everything on a menu should not be based on ingredient costs alone and should definitely NOT be the answer given by your staff.

The Regular Guy rating * * *

 

 

 

 

Caffe Martier, Delray Beach Fl

Monday, February 24th, 2014
cafe2

caffe martier

Atlantic ave in Delray Beach is full of restaurants with outdoor seating so choosing one without a recommendation is a hit and miss proposition. They all have a good view to people watch and I would assume they have a wide range of price difference depending on what you are looking for.

After arriving at our hotel we set out for a bite for lunch and decided to sit outdoors at the first place that looked inviting. Being it was late in the afternoon we were just looking for a light lunch and with this Caffe’s menu, it seemed to be the right place.

The menu is inviting with a good amount of choices in salads, sandwiches and such. They also boast a breakfast menu and a good sampling of desserts to choose from. I decided to try the Turkey and Hummus sandwich. Fresh turkey with hummus, baby spinach and tomatoes, with a side of greens and chick pea kim-chee salad.  Served on a French baguette it gave an added crispy, chewy touch to the sandwich. The greens needed a bit more dressing for my taste and the chickpeas were spicy and fresh tasting. My wife ordered the Summer salad made with strawberries, grilled chicken, oranges, goat cheese and almonds which she seemed to enjoy. All in all the lunch was tasty and quite good, and the added outdoor seating makes it a nice place on a sunny day. At $10.25 and $12.95, the menu itself is a little pricey for the size of the portions served, but not not a surprise for the surrounding area. I might add that the fresh squeezed lemonade was very good.

After walking off our dinner, we returned later that evening with friends for dessert.  The coffee served is very good as were the cheesecake and lava cake, but the chocolate honey cake was very dry and disappointing because it looked good in the pastry case. Again its not a place for inexpensive dessert as it cost more than $40 with tip for three desserts and four cups.

As a side note our server whose name I believe is Jade, was exceptional and we never had to look for her when she was needed because she made it a point to check ALL her tables each time she resurfaced from the kitchen. Pleasant surprise!!!

The Regular Guy rating   * * *

 

Lone Star BBQ and Merchantile, Santee South Carolina

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
lone star

Lone Star BBQ and Merchantile

Well this one got me! There are three restaurants in Santee South Carolina and I already ate at one of them on my last trip so that left me with a choice from two. I went online to read reviews of both places in hopes that I could make my choice a little easier.

This place got good reviews on about 90% of the posts I found and even today, four day later I can’t fathom why.  A lady from New Jersey, my home and a great place to find BBQ,  even loved it. And what about that Tomato Pie did she really like. That’s not even in the same food group as the Tomato Pies from Jersey. I don’t know what that was. It looked like baked custard with a slice of tomato on top. Really???

Sorry, I digress. After driving some 11 hours, I had a hankering for some southern BBQ and was really looking forward to comfort food but what I found was a buffet of southern mush.

Really, everything except the fried chicken was soft including the green beans. They were so overcooked and unrecognizable I had to ask what they were. The rest of the buffet included BBQ pork hash( pureed pork and potatoes in sauce) and shredded BBQ pork (without the BBQ and so so very dry) as entree’s and I believe there were black eyed peas, baked mac and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, hush puppies, rice, and a few unrecognizable items( see tomato pie above). There were some desserts which were also unrecognizable other than seeing something with peaches and something drowned in cool whip. There wasn’t an item I would try. Lone Star also states on their website that they serve salad bar items, which other than some cut tomatoes and cucumbers swimming in a liquid, I didn’t see anything that resembled salad bar items.

I ate three pieces of fried chicken, ( of which I could only locate two breasts) two hush puppies and I have to say some very tasty sweet potatoes. Oh and I did try the cole slaw which was pretty good too. The mac and cheese could have been better if it was creamier although I liked the crispy edges so I was okay with the sampling.  When I asked if there were more breasts of chicken the server said she didn’t see any in the kitchen. Really??

The atmosphere is pretty cool and a throw back to the 60’s- 70’s. The tables and clothes reminded me of my grandmothers kitchen table from back then. The decor is all over the place from toys, tin signs, candy, and old cigar store Indian and other food stuff for purchase. It’s like the storefront in the Cracker Barrel food chain on crack.

It was very disappointing to say the least because the reviews spoke the opposite and the atmosphere was pretty cool, but I have experienced better BBQ in New Jersey than here, where it should be better hands down. How can you have dry pulled pork and then worse no BBQ sauces at the very least, to drown it in on your plate. It just looked so unappetizing  just sitting in a pan on the buffet. To be honest there were two sauces on the buffet. Both were ice cold and tasted like mayonnaise based dressings. I just didn’t get it.

The chef boasts of his background in Culinary and that he attended Hyde Parks Culinary Institute but I would never have known and actually was shocked at how terrible the food was. Being a graduate myself of a Culinary school and having worked in the field for over 40 years, I would have thought at least the presentation would have been outstanding.

Regular Guy rating

* *  (for the atmosphere and fried chicken)

Forked River House, Forked River NJ

Monday, May 27th, 2013

There’s something fishy about Sushi in a sports bar but what the heck, I’m feeling adventurous. Someone recently told me I should check out the half price Sushi at the Forked River House on Monday nights, so with the Memorial weekend coming to a close , I traded the idea of a burger for a dish of raw fish.

Not to be confused with the Sushi we were served!

Not to be confused with the Sushi we were served!

Welcome to my Sushi disaster! Arriving to find only one table filled in a Sushi bar is a scary thing because Sushi places need to be busy to insure the fish is fresh. Not wanting to spend the night visiting the toilet, and feeling good to go as I am armed with a friends recommendation of good Sushi, we venture forward to try our luck.

Well as luck would have it we experienced some bad and some good as the evening progressed. After checking out both the half price Sushi menu and the regular Sushi menu we chose to try the peppered Tuna salad for an app and then the Spicy Tuna roll, The Dragon roll and the Spider Crab roll.

Bad luck encounter number 1 would be a peppered Tuna salad minus the salad. Eight thin slices of peppered Tuna with a scoop of seaweed drizzled with a soy dressing appeared to be missing something which later turned out to be the greens, as we were served the wrong dish. Good luck encounter number 1, would be that our waitress, who at first seemed to be in a daze, brought us the requested ginger and extra seaweed to make up for the mistake which when adding the ginger made the dish quite tasty. Score if your keeping it, 1-1.

Moving on….The rolls arrived, dressed quite casually I might add, as compared to some places that are very fancily prepared, but none the less looking good enough to eat. The Spider roll in fact was pretty cool looking with the large pieces of fried soft shell crab stretching to the ceiling from inside the roll. Tada..bad encounter number 2, wheres the Eel???? Dragon roll should have eel inside, so we question our waitress who still seems a bit out of it, and as we discuss the missing eel, my wife takes apart the roll to find a tiny morsel of eel well hidden beneath the layer of rice and avocado. Good luck encounter number 2, when our waitress offers us a complimentary roll to make up for the MIA eel. Nice job on the customer service side. After discussing back and forth with my wife, we opt to pass on the new roll but our waitress, and here it comes, good luck encounter number 3, offers my wife a serving of dessert for our trouble. As the dessert offered was a chocolate cake, it kind of made up for the mess as far as my wife is concerned. Chocolate cake can make a bad day a good one so why not turn a fishy evening sinfully sweet. Score 3-2 in our favor.

Allie ( I hope my wife recalls the spelling correctly), our waitress, turned what could have been a reason to not return into a reason to give this establishment a second chance. Although she seemed completely frazzled all evening, we did find out later, that she has been working three jobs and hasn’t had a day off in about a week. Even with being tired, she tried extremely hard to make up for all the mistakes that occurred. We assured her that we didn’t blame her for the mishaps and thanked her for being so responsive to our needs and trying to make up for the problems that weren’t her fault.

All in all I probably won’t return for Sushi anytime soon but I will return to try a Mexican Burger because I saw one go by and it made me wonder what the hell was I thinking eating Sushi on Memorial day. I should have had the burger. Anyway, Allie assured us that the burgers are really good and told us to come back any night but Wednesdays to see her again! Good job Allie and get some sleep will ya!

The Regular Guy Rating

Sushi * *       Allie ****

 

 

Mia, Toms River NJ

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 * * *

Mia

1214 Rte #7 East

Toms River NJ 08753

732 929 0595

http://www.miaitalianrestaurant.com

 

Kate and Ally’s, Forked River NJ

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

609-971-8888

www.kate-and-allys.com

 

Get better napkins will ya!!!

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.

Burger 25

456 Atlantic City Blvd (Rte 9 south)

Bayville NJ 732-269-2625

Key Lime Cafe, Stuart Fl

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.

The George Inn, Vernon NJ

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

973-827-5758

www.georgeinn1872.com/index.html