Archive for the ‘Eats – New Jersey Reviews’ Category

Pietro’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, Marlton NJ

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Sometimes your GPS can find places to eat that you would never try, let alone find, in an unfamiliar part of town. While driving back from Florida, at night, and in rain, our GPS found Pietro’s.

Pietro’s Coal Oven Pizzeria is a free standing building off the side of Rte 70 and (under construction) at night, is not an easy place to find but once inside, you will be happy you did.

Pietro’s atmosphere appears like one might think a sports bar in Tuscany Italy would.  The decor is rich in Italian countryside style with television’s lining the bar area, NFL games abound. Dim lighting, high open ceilings and grape vines with brick and tile warm the dining area nicely.

Pietro’s signature item is its Coal Oven Pizza’s and we were eager to find out just how good they are. The menu is very creative and the listing of pizza varieties are endless and hard to decide which type to sample, but we moved on and ordered a salad and pizza.

The Insalata Mozzarella Fresca salad looked to be just the ticket to start our meal. Cold dishes ( which always impresses me)  and a family style bowl were placed in front of us. The salad greens were very fresh and the dressing was nice but the Mozzarella amount was far too little for a salad with Mozzarella in its name.

The Barese pizza boasted a special roasted sausage, hot pesto, tomato, basil, and mozzarella combination. We added red pepper flakes prior to baking so to add some zing to our pie. The pizza was very, very good and I ate more than I should have in one sitting even knowing that I had miles to drive ahead of me. Adding the red pepper turned it up a notch and even with the hot pesto, it was fine.

Prices are a little high on average but expected as nothing is skimped upon from the decor to the menus.All in all, our dining experience was a good one and I would be glad to stop by there again when passing through Marlton in the future.

Regular Guy rating   * * * 1/2

Pietro’s Coal Oven Pizzeria

140 west route 70

Marlton, NJ 08053

856 596 5500

www.pietrospizza.com

Mustache Bill’s Diner, Barnegat Light NJ

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

After dropping my card and promising on my last visit to post my review, I have finally found the time to do so.

After some 20 years of eating at Bill’s diner, I guess its about time I posted why I have been such a fan of his place for so long.

How about a list. Yes, just like David Letterman’s top ten list.

10. Location. At the north tip of Long Beach Island and tucked away from everyone except the local faithfuls and summer tourists.

9. The smell of the salt air and nearby bay make it pleasurable even when waiting during the summer months for a table.

8. The tables in the back room are the coolest. Its like eating in your grandma’s back porch when everyone else has to eat at the kitchen table.

7. The menus on the wall and in your hand offer too many choices that make it too damn hard to decide what to order.

6. The waitresses are the best, the friendliest and the prettiest on the island and the serve up the food faster than you can finish your first cup of coffee.

5. The coffee cup is ALWAYS full.

4. Everything tastes like it was just made, which is exactly how it should be.

3. The kitchen staff has worked together for many, many years and they always serve the food the same way, everyday, which is the hardest thing to accomplish in the restaurant business. CONSISTANCY!!!!

2. The diner is a landmark ( or should be) and no one else on LBI received a visit from Guy Fieri, of my favorite food show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Hats off to you Bill!!

and the number one reason…

1. Mustache Bill’s omelets and pancakes are quite simply the BEST on LBI and the surrounding area. I have my own omelet which should have a name by now since Vinny and I perfected its makeup some three or four years ago…We start with the Potato Skin omelet which has potatoes, scallions, bacon and cheddar cheese and then we ask for HOT peppers to be added. Dress it up with salsa, sour cream and a short stack of ‘cakes and the next meal you can expect to want is dinner. Bill has perfected the omelet and no where will you find one that is fluffier and filled better.

You can expect only the best when you visit Mustache Bill’s so get up early, put the top down and head over to LBI and enjoy the best breakfast this area has to offer.

The Regular Guy rating * * * *

Mustache Bill’s Diner

W 8th St and Broadway
Barnegat Light, NJ 08006

Horizon Diner, Manahawkin NJ

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Having breakfast out on Sunday mornings is always one of my favorite things to do, and this Sunday was no exception.

The Horizon Diner is one of the oldest businesses in town. Some years back, the diner was renovated by a previous owner and is now more up to date than its original self. Although the previous owner did most of the updates, credit must be given to the new owner for the upgraded food and service.

Today’s visit offered both good food and some exceptional service. It has always been one of my pet peeves that most restaurants won’t accommodate a request for something special.  Diners however, are usually very capable and willing to prepare a dish not on its menu pages.

I like omelets with a lot going on inside, so I asked for one with cheddar and bacon with sauteed scallions and jalapenos, not too brown ( well done is a no no ) and sides of salsa and sour cream. Our waitress was a real pleasure too as she didn’t flinch when I preceded to rap off everything I wanted. She actually played along very well with the kidding we gave her during the placement of our orders.

All in all the food was done just right and we all had a good time, which is the way it should be when going out to eat.

The Regular Guy rating  * * *

The Horizon Diner

Bay Ave Manahawkin NJ 08050

(609) 597-4771

Spiaggia e Luna, Barnegat NJ

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Bring a bottle of wine and make your choice. Spiaggia is two restaurants in one. Feel like having brick oven pizza or Chilean Sea Bass. I have visited Spiaggia a half a dozen times now and whether I choose to dine on pizza or some of their gourmet dishes, I always leave satisfied.

On the one side you can enjoy a full menu with some well known and some of Spiaggia’s own signature dishes, all with an Italian flair. Start your dinner with the Scallop appetizer and you won’t be disappointed. Follow that with the dinner salad and fresh house dressing, which is very light and tasty. There are too many choices for an entree to pick a favorite but I have had the Linguini with Clams, Shrimp and Scallops in a Fra Diavolo sauce, twice. The sauce is veerrryyy good and nice and spicy.

Side two of this restaurant features the same menu as side one, but also Brick Oven Pizza. The atmosphere is the complete opposite so be prepared for a somewhat noisy experience. Sometimes in fact it can be a little too much as some employees “hang out ” there while not working which interferes with the servers attention span. The noise is created from the staff itself, who tend to yell things to each other from across the dining room. Its okay if you don’t mind hearing all about the staffs lives and what they have been doing of late but otherwise I feel it should be controlled. After all, it is a business and should be more professionally run. Other than that, I have to say that the Pizza is delicious. There are examples of different pies on the menu but I always like to make up new ones each time. We tried Grilled Chicken, Spinach and fresh Tomato with a sprinkle of crushed red pepper baked into the pie. It was zingy hot, crispy and good but we didn’t realize it wouldn’t have Tomato sauce under the toppings which tended to make it dry. No problem though, because we asked for a side dish of sauce to add to the pizza.

All in all, Spiaggia rarely disappoints and often surprises me with their consistently flavorful dishes. Spiaggias prices are somewhat average to high, mostly because of the cost of the appetizers. Entrees on the other hand seem to be more moderately priced. As of now, Spiaggia is still a bring your own bottle which helps offset the cost of a night out.Call ahead for reservations as they are very busy, especially weekends between 6pm -9pm.

Regular Guy rating * * * 1/2

Spiaggia e Luna

696 E Bay Ave

Barnegat NJ

609-660-2000

Ebby’s Cafe Alfresco, Seaside Park NJ

Monday, July 6th, 2009

I love this place! Something about Ebby’s made me feel that way from the moment I walked in.

I turned forty nine years old this last Wednesday and my parents and their close friends asked my wife and I to join them for dinner at a place they thought I would really enjoy. I am not one for fancy restaurants so this one looked promising at first glance.

Ebby’s is a little delicatessen/ restaurant set back on a main road through a beach town here in New Jersey. You would never know from looking at the outside that such great food is being served on the inside. Walking in the front door you have to pass by the deli to get to the dining area but once inside the dining room you quickly forget that there is a deli attached to it. The dining room is dressed in crisp linen table clothes and comfortable lighting. I say comfortable because at forty nine its tough to read menus in most places these days. Ebby’s also dining al Fresco under the tent along side the building on the patio.

Ebby’s menu is filled with the usual items that one would find in a continental restaurant, but the taste is not so usual at all. We started with an order of fried calamari and an order of something that I haven’t seen before and quite frankly do not know the name of. It is a clam, spinach and  white bean appetizer that I believe is their version of steamed little necks. Whatever it is, it is fantastic. The broth is made for dipping your crusty bread into. The only problem was that there were too many of us for just that one dish. This is a must have if you visit Ebby’s.

Ebby’s menu has enough items to make you have to choose albeit agonizingly, between so many interesting twists on some regular expected dishes. And if that’s not difficult enough, Ebby’s serves up specials too. I had a very tough time deciding between the Pork Milanese and the Cowboy Steak. Both sounded great but I eventually opted for the Steak, being that it was a Rib-eye which happens to be a favorite of mine.

My choice turned out to be a good one as the Steak was done perfectly and accompanied with Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Potatoes, which set it off nicely. Every one’s meals must have been exceptional as our table got very quiet while dinner was being eaten. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish with our group.

I can’t tell you how much the dinner was but I can tell you that the pricing was very reasonable. Our server, Christi was knowledgable and very attentive. She did a great job with all our questions too, especially from me when I asked three times about the specials! I wasn’t allowed to partake in the paying of the bill because it was my birthday but I will tell you that I plan on returning to Ebby’s real soon. By the way, bring your own bottle. Another great reason to visit Ebby’s.

Regular Guy rating  * * * *

Ebby’s Cafe Alfresco

2013 Central Ave, Seaside Park

Toms River NJ

The Captains Inn, Forked River NJ

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

I haven’t been to The Captains Inn since sometime around 1987 or so. and I didn’t like it too much back then. I haven’t been back there until last night when the skies promised rain but gave us sunshine in our eyes while we sat on the outdoor deck that overlooks the back bay across the street from the main restaurant.

Most Tuesday evenings I ride my motorcycle along with my friends and we always wind up at a new spot to eat and have a few beers. Tonight was different as it was supposed to thunderstorm all evening, so we decided to take four wheels instead of two to be on the safe side.

The suggestion for us to meet at The Captains Inn brought along some anxiety for me as my last memory of this place wasn’t a good one. Not to say that the food was terrible, but it was just so so and the atmosphere was old and seashore smelly. But this night would be a first for me as I had never visited their outdoor bar and grill.

Upon arriving, the place looked pretty inviting with the music playing and the sun sitting low on the bay reflecting what was left of a great day. The place is set up nicely and very spacious with a lot of seating both open air and covered.

The five of us are greeted by a young girl who takes our drink order and leaves us menu’s. Not expecting too much I figure this place to be a burger and fries or sandwich spot, so I peruse the menu in search of something chicken. I order up a chicken panini which is dressed in field greens, bleu cheese, olives and tomatoes. I opt out on the bleu cheese as I am not a big fan of this molded variety.

Drinks and sandwiches arrive promptly and we continue to order a couple more rounds, being that we aren’t riding the bikes tonight. All in all the food was pretty good and the service, although not extremely friendly, was okay. Here’s the thing I just don’t understand about young waitress’s serving a group of guys. Where’s the smile, the flirting, and the over the top attention? Don’t these girls know that the tip is going to be based on them playing it up a bit?  I just can’t figure out why a girl wouldn’t go all out to be over friendly in hopes of getting a bigger tip. It really couldn’t hurt. Someone should start a service that trains a wait staff on how to serve customers based on the clientele. You have to treat a guest differently based on who they are. When I waited tables in college I would always lay it on extra thick when I had a table with all women. They loved the extra attention and it almost always netted me a bigger tip. One other thing that really ticks me off is a waitress/waiter that doesn’t have answers to my questions. This one waitress didn’t know that a pint was the same as 16 ounces so we didn’t expect too much from her.

So what’s the deal lately with keeping drink prices off the menu? How about the shock when the bill comes and the price of the drink is ridiculous? Too late now to send it back. We happened to order three Mojito’s that were served in a 7-8 ounce plastic cup with not so fresh mint. The drinks were weak and very sweet and not what a good Mojito should be, but until the check arrived it was forgiving. The Mojito’s, as it turns out are $8.50 a piece. Whoaaaa! I have had Mojito’s in 4 star restaurants that cost that much and they are perfect too. Bad move on the drink pricing Captain.

So what can you expect to pay for four sandwiches, an order of fried clam strips, a side of onion rings, 12 beers( only two in bottles, the rest are draft in 12 ounce cups), and three Mojito’s? Does $125.00 sound right to you? We probably wouldn’t have ordered the Mojito’s if we knew the cost of each up front. Being that the food cost us roughly $50.00 the bar bill was pretty high.

With the tip, we were set back $30.00 a piece. Man I could have had a really nice dinner and a glass of wine somewhere for that much. Live and learn, as they say. Too bad because the food and atmosphere were pretty good and I probably would have paid a return visit.

Regular guy rating   * * 1/2 ( don’t sucker punch me with the drink prices!)

The Captains Inn

Lacey Road

Forked River NJ

Bay Ave Diner, Manahawkin NJ

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

As most people know, New Jersey is the diner capital. Unfortunatly for me, on this day, I chose the wrong time to visit one.

Feeling hungry and on my way to work, I can’t help thinking about a stack of pancakes with some fresh fruit.  A visit to our neighborhood diner is in order to satisfy my craving. I order up a short stack with banana’s, strawberries and blueberries and can’t wait to sink my teeth into them. Last night wasn’t a good night for dinner so I wake up hungry and craving some ‘ cakes.

As I sip a hot cup of coffee my waitress sets the plate in front of me. At first glance I am impressed at the amount of fruit that is piled high over my ‘cakes. At second glance I realize that the fruit, other than the banana’s, isn’t fresh.  Disappointment begins to set in as I attempt the navigate thru the mushy and hot blueberries to search out the ‘cakes. Even the strawberries were like tasteless shaved strawberry ice. To add insult to injury, I am served whipped margarine in a cup instead of butter. I hate margerine and especially on pancakes.

Trying to make the best of the situation and still hungry, I make it to the pancakes beneath the frozen fruit mess. The ‘cakes are always tasty and I make sure to eat the banana’s with each mouthful.

So how does this story get worse? How about the price they charged me for 2 pancakes and frozen fruit. How does $8.79 sound for that short stack mess. I can not believe my eyes and realize a lesson is hereby learned. Total for ‘cakes and coffee amounts to $10.49. I know I will never eat here again, especially since the waitress sees I didn’t eat all the fruit and charges me full price anyway.

How is it that when a customer isn’t satisfied, the waitress doesn’t make it a point to address the issue at hand to make it right or at least remove something from the bill to ease the distress. This is why I write this stuff, more for a warning shot to potential customers to these establishments.

Regular Guy rating * *

Bay Ave Diner

Bay Avenue

Manahawkin New Jersey

Meils Restaurant, Stockton NJ

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Quaint little towns always seem to have at least one restaurant that clearly stands out. Meils is one example of just such an establishment.

I have dined at Meils at least four times that I can remember and perhaps at least one more time that I can’t recall, but each time did not disappoint. Although small and crampy, the atmosphere is mom and pop, old style homemade dining. And the food….is exactly that.  Big portions of very tasty and some clever, combinations. My favorite over the years has always been the meatloaf. I make it a point to eat at Meils every time I visit the New Hope/ Lambertville/ Stockton area.

This time I made it there for breakfast, a first. Three friends and I set out from Manahawkin NJ on a very frigid Sunday morning on motorcycle, for a long awaited first spring ride. With the cold breeze threatening to make our trip shorter than we would like, we persevered until finally an hour and a half later we arrived.

First order is to drink as much hot coffee as possible to warm our frozen extremities. Our waitress promptly delivered the goods along with menus. At first glance something changed from what I remembered about Meils…their prices. I have to say that I was very shocked at the prices for the breakfast items. My last recollection of Meils was fantastic food at very, very reasonable prices. It has been some five years since my last trip to Meils so I thought that the popularity of the place created a sale and the new owner changed the menu. As I found out later, the same owners are still there after some 18 years, so that wasn’t why the prices were so much higher than I remembered. For example..Ham and eggs, with two sides $11.00.  Omelets ranged from $14-$18. I stopped short of reading the whole menu because no matter how good the breakfast might be, I can’t see spending this much money on eggs. That being said, the ham and eggs were delicious. I opted for the home fries and a Cinnamon Butterscotch scone as my two sides, with a side of salsa for my eggs. The salsa, which I love to eat with eggs, was fresh with the much needed addition of Cilantro. Anyone who eats salsa knows that fresh Cilantro really sets it off and separates the good salsa from the just so so salsa. I am a baker/chef by trade and I have to say that the scone was as good as any I have made in my own shop. Served up warm and flaky with a side of jam, it definitely made the meal better than if I had it with toast. The breakfast took quite some time to serve (about 25 minutes) and the place wasn’t jamming so we couldn’t understand why it took so long, but once we started eating , we soon forgot the wait time. By the way, all the dishes were garnished attractively and overfilled the plates. Also the bacon is the best any of us ever had, and describing it just wouldn’t cover how good it was.  If you love bacon, you have to order up some on your visit.

So what does it cost for great food, great service ( the coffee kept flowing with out asking) and great atmosphere. Well for us, including tip, $80.00. I told you it was pricey. Although the food is excellent, I don’t know how they justify Manhattan Hotel prices. If I were to say how much it should have cost us, it would be more in line with $60-$65 including tip. So, a bit costly but at least you are getting a meal that leaves you full and satisfied. Nothing worse than overpriced bad food, so it makes it a little easier to accept the bill.

Regular guy rating * * * 1/2 ( only because of high priced menu)

Meils Restaurant and Bakery

Bridge & Main
Stockton, NJ 08559
(609) 397-8033

Granny’s Kitchen, Lakewood NJ

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

My friends and I eat breakfast out every Tuesday morning, usually in the same place but lately we’ve been trying to find some new places to go. So I print out a coupon from Restaurant.com ( which in itself is a great place to visit and take advantage of) for Granny’s Kitchen and proceed to place it on my refrigerator for almost 1 year before finally using it on this past Tuesday.

Granny’s is in Lakewood on the Bricktown border in the Home Depot plaza on Rte 70 east Since Granny’s is in a town some 25 miles from my neighborhood, I don’t have any sense of what type of place it is.  Upon arriving and at first glance it appears that Granny’s is a diner/luncheonette (remember that word?). Upon entering the first thing you notice is a broken down and cluttered wind break area between the two doors that lead to the seating area. We are seated quickly (and given menus) at a table that does not fit three men of our stature, so we move to another table that allows more elbow room.

Ordering takes awhile since the menu is pretty extensive and two sided, but we navigate to the Steak and Eggs which seems to be a good deal compared to the other breakfast specials and regular meals. We order three Rib eye steaks and eggs, all med rare, all over medium eggs, which also include toast and home fries. Vinny, as I like to call him, can not just eat breakfast but has to order some types of sides to start. Usually toasted corn muffins are his preference as it is today. He also orders a short stack of ‘cakes as Gus orders up a side of potato pancakes.

The corn muffin arrives first and we all agree that it tastes like fish oil. Not a good muffin at all. Eggs are being served as we set aside the muffin.  The steaks turn out to be cut “thinner than the slices of toast”,  a quote from Gus, and our eggs are browned and yolks are dried up. The home fried potatoes are a mix of what looks like old and new. some of which are blackened throughout. As it is we proceed to eat most of the food served to us and complain as we do that we won’t be returning to feast here again.

Okay so lets look at the good first. The waitress was friendly and competent. The food was served quickly and nothing was incorrect or missing. Now the bad. The eggs were overcooked, the steak was about 3 ozs, pre cooked weight, the potatoes black and white. The pancakes were average but as Vinny noted the syrup was very good. “Thick”, he said. The potato pancakes were the type that are served in almost every place in New Jersey. Frozen, pre-made and fried in deep fat and served up with apple sauce and sour cream. No comment.

So there you have it, although as bad as the meal was, it wasn’t as bad as the run down and dirty dining room. The over head fans were thick with dust, the air registers were black and the walls were in desperate need of new paint. The type of walls that had pictures framed in dirt from being there so long.  I almost feel bad writing such a bad review but I can’t find anything that would make me return for a second try.

Too bad because the wait staff was very nice and deserve a better working environment. It would definitely make for better tips. It almost seems like the owner has given up on his investment and refuses to put any effort into cleaning up.

For three steak and eggs, one short stack, one potato pancake, two corn muffins and  three iced coffees, a grand total of $42.23. With the Restaurant.com coupon we save 50% which puts us at $21+. We drop $30 on the table and bid the place ad

Regular Guy rating * 1/2

Granny’s Kitchen

Rte 70 East

Lakewood New Jersey

Lighthouse Tavern, Barnegat NJ

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Tonight my friend and music editor for this site, are dining together. He is in town for a visit and wants a steak dinner but I draw a blank to where we can find a good steak. On our way up rte 9 I spot the Lighthouse and remember in years past, having a good meal there.  If you have ever been to the Lighthouse, it is hard to determine if it is a restaurant with a bar or a bar with a restaurant. Tonight sadly, it is a bar with a restaurant.

It is a very busy night for the Lighthouse crew. People are lined up at 6pm for tables. We happen to get lucky and land a deuce without wait which is great because we are hungry. Our waiter, who never told us his name, brings us menus and promises a return for a drink order.  Tonight’s specials include, what else,  but a steak dinner.  Ny strip steak with mushrooms, bacon and crumbled bleu cheese, served with jumbo grilled shrimp, vegetables and a choice of potatoes or onion rings. The description makes us immediately opt for two orders.

While waiting for the meal, we are served our salads. Mine although a little warm, is the best of the two. My friends salad looked like half had slid off the plate before it reached our table.  Where’s the bread we ask and the waiter returns with a warm basket of french style bread.

The salads go down and the bread disappears but the entre’s are now in front of us. To both our surprise, the steak is buried beneath a layer of bleu cheese sauce, which is extremely thick and overflowing the plate. In this sauce are my mushrooms and bacon, both of which a very hard to find. A very disappointing start when your really craving a steak. I proceed to scrape off the sauce to look for my hopefully, buried treasure below. The steak is done medium rare which is how I ordered it, so that is one for the plus side. The steak is also tender and flavorful as it is dredged in a Cajun sprinkle. Proceeding to the onion rings brings more sorrow than glee. They are cold and mushy, which are a very bad combination for such a great side to a steak dinner. The vegetables are over seasoned with salt and can not be eaten.

Grilled jumbo shrimp sounds great to me, if in fact you GET grilled jumbo shrimp!!!! If you know shrimp, they are sold in increments of size ( amount) per pound. Shrimp that are considered under 15 or U15, are in the jumbo category, although closer to U12’s are really nice for jumbo shrimp. In fact at my wedding I insisted on U12’s for the shrimp cocktail bar which was the hit of the event. My friends still comment on how great the shrimp were.  If you want to leave a lasting impression with shrimp, serve  U 12’s, or don’t do it at all.

Our shrimp were probably in the 16-21 range. Good for those shrimp rings in the supermarket that you see in the freezer sections, but bad for a steak and shrimp dish.  Serve me 4  jumbo shrimp instead of 6 or 7 smaller ones. The bigger ones always taste better and make a much nicer presentation. I eat most of my steak and leave the rest on my plate.

Upon clearing our dishes the waiter asks if everything was okay and we hesitate and reply it was “alright I guess”. The waiter takes our plates  and leaves without question about our reply. Too bad because this is the only way a kitchen gets feedback for its hard work.

Price for both steaks, a diet soda and a Corona beer $52.00. Add a $10 tip for mediocre service and there you have it.

Regular Guy rating * * 1/2

Lighthouse Tavern

Rte 9 southbound side,

Barnegat New Jersey