Archive for the ‘Eats’ Category

Ian’s Tropical Grill, Jensen Beach Fl

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.

Ian’s Tropical Grill
2875 SE Ocean Blvd.
Stuart, FL 34996
 

772-334-4563

Dock of the Bay, Alexandria Bay NY

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

315-482-7630

 

Spiaggia e Luna, Barnegat NJ (Part II)

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

Barnegat NJ

609-660-2000

Sand Bar Waterfront Restaurant, Brielle NJ

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

(732) 528-7750

sandbarrestaurant.com

The Engleside Sand Bar, Beach Haven NJ

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
(609) 492-1251

 

Marchioni’s Pizza and Pasta

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

One in awhile you don’t want to cook but you do want to eat so the first things that come to mind are pizza places or Chinese food.  Maybe a plate of macaroni and a salad would be just right.

I have been to Marchioni’s a total of three times. My wife likes the Pasta Gabriella dish so she thought it would be perfect for this night. After returning from a long trip, eating out always seems to be the best idea and Marchioni’s is close to our home, so it was a good fit.

We were told by the counter help to seat ourselves so we picked a booth in the back corner. I like this booth, maybe because we always sit in it or maybe because its away from the rest of the tables. Kind of private.

Our waitress was familiar to us because she also waited on us the two previous times. Shes always pleasant and extremely attentive so we were glad to see her. Ordering was easy because we already knew what we wanted before we sat down. After placing our order we were served garlic knots that were very warm and freshly made. Soon after our Spinach salad arrived and so began the uncomfortable part of the dinner.

I am not sure who this person is but I sensed he might have been a cook or the owner himself. Either way he was dressed inappropriately for a person handling/ serving or just being around food. Dressed in gym shorts and a loose fitting baggy t shirt he promptly began greeting familiar faces loudly and intrusively. It wasn’t at this point that we felt uncomfortable but it was annoying.

Soon after, as our entree arrived, he returned once more to the dining room,this time to sit and dine at the table closest to us. During the time he was eating he was also shouting across the room at two other customers, details about his Mothers day business, his wife and other things. Somewhere in the middle of our dinner and the shouting my wife and I discussed how rude and ridiculous he was to be doing this in a restaurant while people were dining. I couldn’t help but to finally excuse myself and ask him if he could stop because we had come to this place not just to eat but also spend a quiet evening talking about our past trip. I will say in all fairness to this man, he was apologetic and he moved his seat closer to other patrons with whom he was speaking. As uncomfortable as it was to speak out, I hope that he realized some customers would really enjoy dining in a quiet atmosphere.

As for the pasta Gabriella, it seemed to be slightly less flavorful then we recalled from the last visits. This dish consists or bow tie pasta, grilled chicken and sun-dried tomatoes in a cream sauce similar to Alfredo. Two things I thought would have made this dish better, the sauce seasoning and fresh grilled chicken. The sauce needed more flavor, a pinch of nutmeg, a little cheese and maybe some zip from pepper. The chicken was overdone, probably because it was cooked earlier and then added to the pasta. Also it would be better served to slice the chicken thinner and smaller so it fills the dish better and is easier to eat. The chicken shouldn’t be bigger than the macaroni. If it is you cant get it all on the fork in the same bite.

The amount of food served was more than enough for both of us and we also had enough to take home leftover pasta.

All things considered, I can’t say I was very happy but the way the gentleman handled my request, I can say that I would give Marchioni’s another chance.

Regular Guy rating –* * 1/2  –  * * *

Marchioni’s Pizza and Pasta

912 West Bay Avenue

# 140 Barnegat, NJ 08005-1290

(609) 660-2424

 

Jake’s & Cooper’s Wine Bar, Philadelphia PA

Monday, November 29th, 2010

( Reviewed by my “She Says ” editor – learads)

After overindulging on the traditional treats of Thanksgiving Day, by Saturday my boyfriend Donn and I were ready for some fresh air and lighter fare. We ventured out to browse the neighborhood of Manayunk, a few blocks of quaint upscale restaurants and shops, just north of center city Philadelphia.

We had dined at Jake’s several times in the past, but never had we experienced the more casual extension next door called Cooper’s Wine Bar. What a great discovery!

Our friendly bartender, Jamie, was a superb server. It was obvious from the start that Jake’s & Cooper’s train their staff well. Jamie suggested several “incredible” or “fabulous” menu options, from drink specials to desserts, and we learned quickly that she was one to be trusted!

Donn started with a glass of J Vineyards Pinot Gris- just the right touch of acidity and light fruity aroma. We made a note to buy a few bottles to keep on hand at home.

I chose one of two featured cocktails – the pumpkin-ginger martini was smooth and flavorful and I only wish I had jotted the ingredients.

Our appetites were slight so we opted for two small-plate choices. Donn selected a 3-cheese fire-grilled pizza, oozing with exquisite olive oil and topped with slightly crispy sage. The thin, crunchy crust was perfectly punctuated by pungent Fontina cheese.

I shared only a taste of my cold roasted beets topped with honey-caramelized almonds and crumbled Gorgonzola. I love the flavor of beets, and the glorious color reminded me of my childhood when my mom stood peeling the steamy, homegrown veggie with pink-stained fingers as she prepared beets from our garden for a family meal.

Much of the ingredients at Jake’s & Cooper’s is locally grown we were told.

Jamie the bartender checked on us frequently. In fact, as we leisurely nibbled and sipped our drinks, we got to know her a bit and learned that she was recently engaged and that she has a twin sister.

When it was time for round 2, Jamie offered Donn a wine-tasting of 3 additional whites. After expanding his knowledge of Cooper’s wine list, he opted to stick with the original J Vineyards Pinot. Feeling a bit adventurous, I decided to try the other featured cocktail – a muddled beverage featuring cranberries, oranges and bourbon. Simply lip-smacking!

Now realizing that we had spent a relaxing 2 hours at Cooper’s in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, we couldn’t depart without trying a dessert; especially since Jamie had revealed they were homemade. We perused the dessert menu and selected the chocolate caramel tart to share. The chocolate-crusted torte was topped with smooth creamy caramel sauce covering a surprise spattering of sea salt. Mmmmm…like a chocolate covered pretzel, this sweet and savory treat was the perfect ending to a delightful afternoon dining discovery.

Regular Guy Rating   * * * *

Jake’s & Cooper’s Wine Bar

4367 Main St., Manayunk, Philadelphia, PA

(215) 483-2750

The Nugget, Monticello NY

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

In most small towns you can always find one restaurant that surprises you with great food in unexpected surroundings. The “New” Nugget Restaurant and Pub in Monticello is such a place.

Last Tuesday evening, after some six hours on a motorcycle, myself and three friends happened by the Nugget. From the outside, it seemed that we had chosen a bar and expected to find burgers and sandwiches and after riding for so long, it would have been just fine.

The Nugget, as we were to find out, is a very popular spot in town and after seeing the menu we could understand why. Although burgers are listed, it was the varied array of Seafood and Steak items that caught my attention.  While reading the  menu I couldn’t help to think that the chef had to be from a larger city like Manhattan. On one of his dishes he uses the term  “Beurre Meuniere” (a French term and method of preparation for sauteed in a lemon and butter with fresh parsley), which is something you don’t expect to read on a pub menu.

The Nugget as it turned out, also has a very good variety of Vodka’s, and one Three Olives brand White Grape, which happens to be a favorite of mine. Drinks were also priced for happy hour this evening until 7pm so we took full advantage of that special, being that we took a cab from our hotel and left the bikes.

Andrew (the Chef), actually moved to Monticello from our hometown area of southern New Jersey, which explained his menu choices. He cordially introduced himself to us and told us what his best dishes were.  In all, we ordered Sweet Chili style Buffalo Wings to start, and Twice cooked Prime Rib, Shrimp and Clams Fra Diavolo, and Seafood Fra Diavolo as main dishes. Everything looked great and tasted even better and the Fra Diavolo sauce was one of the best I have had in a long time.

Jackie, our  server was extremely friendly and attentive and the bartender also bought us a round of Grape Vodka shots. The menu prices were very reasonable (when compared to pricing for similar dishes in my home town area) and the portions were plentiful. No one at our table left with any room to spare for dessert or coffee.

Regular Guy rating  * * * 1/2    –   * * * * ( because of the added attention by    our Chef, Waitress and Bartender)

The New Nugget Restaurant and Pub

371 E Broadway , Monticello NY 12701

845 794 4161

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

Lola’s Seafood Eatery, Stuart Fl

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

( The following was contributed by a reader of this blog)

Don’t let the walk up counter and ordering from the big menu up on the wall fool you. You should know that I am a big fan of Fish Taco’s, so ordering was easy. Made with Cod fish (grilled, blackened or fried), it was delicious –I opted for the coleslaw and RED ONION rings (which are a nice twist on the same old thing) as sides with the dish. I also ordered the Chicken Quesadilla which was stuffed with beans and cheese and served with a sauce they call” Bam Bam”!  I chose the Chicken, but you could also have Shrimp. With this dish, I picked the salad and under the recommendation of our hostess Marissa, I added the Orange Basil dressing, which I wasn’t sure how that was going to taste – but my oh my it was yummmmmmmy! I am going to have to play around at home and figure out how to make that one!!

Both dishes are priced under $10 and my friend and I walked away stuffed as the portions were plentiful! Prices ranged from moderate to high but there are enough choices to fit any one’s budget.

At first glance, the decor may also fool you. The furniture was something you expect to find in your living room, chic…..with high tables and chairs. A big surprise from the outside look. Whoever was responsible for the decorating, did a great job!  Lola’s also offers outside dining under cover and shaded.

I will definitely be back!!

Lola’s Seafood Eatery

860 S Federal Hwy ( Rte 1S)

Stuart, Fl 34994

772-219-3340