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Aug 26, 2006 01:22 PM

The state of chow in Monmouth County NJ


We had dinner at Eleven Madison Park with some friends from the west coast last night. Out on a pre-dinner stroll we passed quite a few places overlfowing with diners-to-be spilling out the doors.

My friend Paul, a true hound, commented that nyc dining is much like frisco and LA. A night without reservations is a night waiting in a long line to eat. He then asked what it was like by me in NJ.

I had told him of Nicolas and Le Fandy ( where we will all be dining this evening ), but I had a hard time thinking of any places with quality food that had "lines out the door". In fact, the only places I could think of like that were chains like Outback and Fridays.

Help me out here. Am i right or am i missing something?

btw - EMP in the city was a wonderful meal. It's so nice when a place lives up to the hype.


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  1. Are you asking about the "State of Fine Dining" or the "State of Chow"?
    IMO, Chow is a much bigger category that includes fine dining.

    1. My vague memories are that there is some good chow around Red Bank... Basil T's I remember as a great brewpub and Italian restaurant, there's also a jazz/sushi bar in Red Bank, there's a place called Salt's along the river which is nice, there's also some classic seafood places out by Sandy Hook, a friend told me there's a great Mexican place by Long Branch but I never got to that.

      2 Replies
      1. re: steinpilz

        If it's related to the Basil T's in Tom's River, then the food is OK, not great. The beer is good.

        1. re: meatme

          I believe the two Basil T's, while once "related", are now "divorced". They seem to reflect their locations- Red Bank- upscale, sometimes snooty, often crowded - Toms River- chain-like in a shopping mall, bland.

          The Maxwell Stout at Red Bank is the only interesting beer I recall at either location- like a lot of brewpubs, the beers seem to me to be sort-of dumbed down since they have to appeal to the diners there for Italian food rather than beer geeks.

      2. Hello:

        I was just struck by the fact that the only restaurants that I have seen long lines for around here are all chains.

        If you've read any of my posts you know that although I am picky, I dont care if good food comes from a shack or a mansion, and we do have a few of each here. But it seems that the majority of our residents are more hound than chow.


        1 Reply
        1. re: seal

          It may be that in the summer time there are lots of people who are unfamiliar with where to go, and the chains are obvious and family friendly, but the Jersey shore sadly isn't very chow-enlightened in my experience (maybe because it's largely a vacation location).

          I spent quite a while looking for good restaurants with ocean views and there really aren't that many. This isn't unique to NJ: here in MA there's the same problem (there are laws against developing the waterfront), and while upstate NY also has some great waterfront, same problem.

        2. Hello,

          We've enjoyed Saigon II in Lincroft..fresh spring rolls...great prices...interesting menu. No decor but very popular with the IT lunch crowd, closed Monday.

          McDonough's Pub, Keyport also has a good menu, new items added. Live entertainment, good prices. Keyport is a meter-free town!

          Didn't see anyone mention Sally T's in Monmouth Beach. Menus vary week to weekend. Sushi chef on site weekends. Situated near the marina...indoor/outdoor dining. Worth a trip.

          Good eats, HillJ

          2 Replies
          1. re: HillJ

            Only a quick reference to Keyport -

            Drews Bayshore Bistro - Deemed Noteworthy in South Jersey best (NJ Magazine) - Get a reservation

            Classic - Seaport Diner - Doesn't get any more original or authentic - great for breakfast and lunch - Closed evenings

            Classic - Keyport Fishery - Grab a to go and visit the new waterfront

            1. re: reevek

              Welcome reevek! You are bound to find great local fare within this Board. Browse and enjoy!

          2. The state of food in Monmouth County is "not bad - could definitely be worse." How bad can it be having the best restaurant in NJ - Nicholas. Another excellent restuarant is Brandl in Belmar. Others are David Burke's Fromagerie, Black Trumpet, Whispers, Raven and the Peach, Mahogany Grille and Moonstruck. The problem with Monmouth County is the utter lack of quality casual dining or breakfast spot. I find that you either have to dress up for a decent meal or you have to go to a chain/family restaurant or diner.
            To JessKidden I share your understanding with regard to the split with the two Basil T's however, I feel the food at the Toms River location is much better than the Red Bank one. However, the Red Bank Basil's seems to have the better happy hour :)
            To HillJ above, I agree with your recommendation of Saigon II (excellent Pho) however I can't with Sally T's. I tried the restaurant a few weeks ago with a friend who loves the place. The food was mediocre at best.

            12 Replies
            1. re: bgut1

              There are quality casual places in Monmouth County. Here are just a few:

              SamVera, in Marlboro - Classic Italian

              I Cavallini, in Colts Neck - Italian/Modern American. (A bit more upscale, but you can still dress casually.)

              Pete & Elda's, in Neptune - Pizza

              El Meson, in Freehold - Mexican

              Dish, in Red Bank - Modern American

              Far East Taste, in Eatontown - Chinese, Thai & Malaysian

              Fritzy's, in Howell - German

              I don't know about breakfast since we never eat it out. As for diners, I generally avoid them because, frankly, most of the ones we've tried in Monmouth County are pretty awful.

              1. re: RGR

                RGR - Thanks for the reply and recommendations. I agree that Far East Taste is fabulous. A dive of a room but the food is excellent. Not a fan of Pete & Elda's pizza. I find either you love it or hate it. I've been wanting to try Dish and will add the others to my short list. By way of diners, try the Americana in Shrewsbury - the best in the county.

                1. re: bgut1

                  Hey, bgut1, I appreciate the diner suggestion. If we happen to be in the vicinity, I'll keep it in mind. But diners are usually a good option when most everything else is closed late in the evening, and Shrewsbury is a bit too far from out house to be convenient. :-(

                  Just thought of two more in Manalapan to add to the list:

                  Jesse & David's Kosher Deli

                  Le Rendezvous - Russian & "International." We mainly go for the delicious Russian dishes. They just re-opened after a complete re-decoration. On weekends, there is music and entertainment.

                  And I don't know how I could forget one of our absolute favorites -- Drew's Bayshore Bistro, in Keyport. Drew is one of the nicest guys around, and he serves delicious Cajun/Creole-inspired cuisine.

                  1. re: chris the bartender

                    Hey, Chris,

                    A courple of years ago, Moonstruck closed in Ocean Grove and moved to Asbury Park.

                    1. re: chris the bartender

                      Wow Chris - Talk about different experiences. The one time I dined (I hate using that word for this restaurant), I found both the food and service to be awful. I left ST's that evening trying to understand what its draw was. The bar maybe? As for Dish, while I haven't been back in a while, it had been one of my favs. Admittedly, while the food is not gourmet and the restaurant could get uncomfortable if too crowded, the food was always solid, plentiful and reasonably priced. With regard to Moonstruck, I'm almost positive that it is still open.

                  2. re: bgut1

                    Brandl? An excellent restaurant? With all due respect I'd rather be waterboarded than dine there again. Six of us were seated in the near right corner of Brandl under a blaring stereo speaker, and it took three requests and a hissy fit to get them to turn the music down low enough so we could hear each other. The service in general was either indifferent or snotty, and there were several times during the evening when we sure that our wait-person had run off and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. The time between appetizer and entree was so long that we considered changing our order and asking for the breakfast menu. And when the entrees finally did come, they apparently had been sitting somewhere unattended for some time and were icy cold. The maitre d' shrugged it off with minimal apology and returned some ten minutes later with what might have been nuked versions of those same entrees. Waterboarding anyone?

                    1. re: mmgpsych

                      Your posting actually made me laugh outloud... Not a reaction a CH posting usually produces.
                      It also reminded me that, unless it's a health concern, I have to continue to give eateries at least 2 chances to surprise, delight, disappoint or horrify, me. :-}

                      1. re: mmgpsych

                        mmgpsych - You are responding to a post written almost a year and a half ago. Since then I have posted many times about my poor experiences and disappointment with Brandl. During that time period, things started to change. Chef Chris raised prices, decreased potion sizes and the quality of his food started to decline (IMHO of course). Sorry I never went back to change this post. Good Luck.

                      2. re: bgut1

                        bgut, I am so surprised at you! You put Mahogany Grille right in there with Nicholas, Whispers and the Black Trumpet??? Don't believe it is even in the same catagory as the other three!

                        1. re: shorebilly

                          Shore - I meant the post to illustrate that there are many good restaurants in the county and didn't intend for it to imply that they all were at the same level. Again pointing to the age of this post, I have since changed my opinion of Black Trumpet (a recent horrible meal and I intend never to return).

                            1. re: shorebilly

                              Search Black Trumpet. The review should be around here somewhere.