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Matawan: Restaurants busting out all over...

  • r

I have heard that these restaurants have recently opened in Matawan:

Bistro 34 - Italian http://www.bistro34.com/index.html

Bistro Amerigo - Eclectic/Italian http://www.bistroamerigo.com

La Riviera, 113 Main St. (For those old enough to remember, it's the old Jerry Beyer's location.) - "Fine Italian Cuisine & Lounge" - Website under construction.

D'Lish Restaurant, Corner of Rtes. 34 & 79 (previously occupied by Mulberry St. and before that Peter's Fishery) - Upscale Italian - Website under construction.

Just what we need in this one little town -- four new Italian restaurants!!!!

And piling on... In neighboring Marlboro, another new restaurant: Tanti Baci. Needless to say -- Italian! (As if Marlboro, which has very few restaurants to start with, is wanting for an Italian.


Has anyone tried any of these?

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  1. Hey RGR, I haven't been to any of the places you list but hopefully there will be at least one "keeper" from the bunch. I guess 4 new openings, even if they are all Italian, is better than another Applebee's or Macaroni Grill. The Bistro 34 menu had at least a few items I'd be interested in trying. I couldn't figure out from the website (which is a pretty well designed site, by the way) if the focus of the place is the food or the late night music scene. I'm sure we'll start seeing reports on these places in due time ... the Monmouth Hounds are a pretty active group.

    12 Replies
    1. re: jsfein

      Hey, jsfein, Someone on the nj.com food forum posted about Bistro 34 a few weeks ago and raved about it. Frankly, I took it with a huge grain of salt because I don't have a lot of confidence in the opinions of many of those who post over there. Plus, when someone uses words like "awesome" and "outstanding" to describe this kind of casual local spot, my hyperbole antenna goes into high gear (pun intended).

      Like you, I'd be thrilled if just one of these newbies turns out to be something special. However, call me a cynic because I think the chances of that happening are exceedingly slim.

      1. re: RGR

        apparently the owner of La Riviera is trying to open a restaurant in Keyport as well, and guess what? It's going to be............Italian.

        1. re: RGR

          RGR - LOL, I agree with your cynical regarding those that post "over there", very funny. Not exactly a French Bistro, but more of an Asian fusion type place, had a pretty good Manhattan type meal at Citrus in Freehold, nice atmosphere too and BYO. Wish a Chez Catherine type of place would open in our parts.

          1. re: angelo04

            Hey, angelo04, Citrus has been discussed on this board, albeit some time ago. We tried it once not long after it first opened and, while we thought the decor was smashing, we found the food to be sadly disappointing. :-(

            A Chez Catherine in our area? In your dreams!!! lol

            1. re: RGR

              I think if a Chez Catherine opened around by us, people would be asking if the meal comes with soup, salad, dessert and coffee!! :) (All for $ 11.95 of course..ha ha!)

              or, they would be looking for the "Chicken Parm." dishes...

              (I am such a food snob!! :)

              1. re: Angelina

                RGR - My Chez Catherine wish might be far fetched but with all the NY'ers moving in, something has got to give!

                Angelina - (Great name my 2 1/2 year old daughters name, but I digress) Too funny with your comment on if the meal came with soup salad etc. Sad but true.

                1. re: angelo04

                  angelo04, Former New Yorkers have been living in our area for years, so I don't think that's the reason there is no Chez Catherine, or a casual French bistro or, for that matter, any superior upscale restaurant of any kind in the *immediate* vicinity. Citrus has made a stab at it but, unfortunately, in my view, the food's disappointing.

                  I don't like to cast aspersions on other people's dining tastes, but the fact that what we mostly have are Italian and Chinese restaurants makes it pretty clear where the culinary tastes of most of the local population lies. And even sadder is the fact that just about all these places have poor or mediocre food. :-(

                  About 20 years ago, an upscale restaurant serving eclectic New American cuisine in a stand-alone building opened on the south side of Route 9, in Marlboro. I don't remember the name, but we went there twice. Excellent food served in elegant surroundings. They weren't able to fill the tables and closed fairly quickly. The structure became a garden center, and it's now a pet store! I'll bet you've passed it many times without knowing its history.

                  At this point, we count ourselves very lucky to have Nicholas in Middletown, but that's 25 minutes away, not here.

        2. re: jsfein

          Hi jsfein, I have been to all of the restuarants except D'Lish so far. Cafe 34 is pretty good. Great drinks, the food is ok (not outstanding or awesome) and they have some pretty good bands there. It is always packed on a Saturday night. La Riviera I think the food is much better there. The portions are huge and the staff is pretty friendly. They have a very nice bar and they usually have a d.j. or karaoke on Saturday nights. The owner usually comes over to say hello and buys you a drink. Bistro Amerigo is my favorite out of the 3 food wise. They offer Italian and Sushi which is an interesting mix. The only problem with this place is the service is so slow. If you have time than definitely check out this place, if you are in a hurry this isn't the restaurant for you but they do have take out. I would suggest to make reservations at all 3 of these places on a Saturday night. D'lish I am hearing mixed reviews. Hopefully I will check it out myself soon.

          1. re: mp14

            Hey, mp14, Some questions, if you don't mind.

            Since La Riviera has no website, ergo, no menu to look at, are they serving traditional red sauce or more contemporary Italian? What have you had there?

            Amerigo's menu seems to be a mix of traditional and creative. What have you had there? And do you favor Amerigo because you think the food is substantially better than the others?

            Also, have you been to any of these places mid-week? That's when we usually dine out, and we prefer places that are not noisy.

            One of our regulars, seal, has reported on D'Lish: http://www.chowhound.com/search?item_...
            Once you've tried it, I'll be interested to hear what you think.

            1. re: RGR

              Hello RGR, I have been to both restaurants during the week. La Riviera is not noisy at all on a Tuesday or Wed. People hang out at the bar sometimes but that is in a seperate room. I think the food is more on the contemporary side. Amerigo is usually a little more crowded during the week, but if you decide to go there prepare to be there for at least 2 hours. As I said before the service is very slow and I never had a dinner there that didn't last at least 2 hours, but I think for our area the food is worth it. Amerigo is great to go with a group because there are so many choices from Italian to Sushi. If one person doesn't want Italian than they can get Sushi. I usually like to go to places that have a liquir license so I don't know when I am going to try D'Lish, but maybe I will try there takeout.

              1. re: mp14

                Thanks for your response, mp14.

                1. re: RGR

                  I really enjoy Bistro Amerigo.. The food is excellent.. the service is getting better... as their finding their way. Their sushi rolls are delicioius too.. especially the House Maki Roll..(?)... really good!

        3. Hi RGR. I 100% agree about all these "Italian" restaurants. I have tried Bistro 34. It was good. I would not necessarily drive there again or go out of my way for it. Just another "Italian" restaurant that adds to the 200's in the area. Ha! Ha!

          I drove by the old Acme and noticed the new Tanti Baci. oooh..let me run to it! yea right! Oh my, why can't someone come to the area with something better then, "Big Bowls of pasta". I need some fois gras!!! :)

          11 Replies
          1. re: Angelina

            I wasn't sure where in Marlboro Tanti Baci is located, and your mention of the "old Acme" had me doubly confused. The only Acme I can think of is in the big shopping center on Route 79, and it's only been there a couple of years. There was an Italian restaurant there called Mediterraneo. Big space at the far left end. We tried it twice but, as with so many other Italians in the area, it never measured up. I remember reading that it had closed. Tanti Baci's address is 71A South Main St. A bit of Googling brings up the info that Mediterraneo had the same address. So, obviously, Tanti Baci is in that space.

            Being a foie gras addict myself, I echo your sentiments about the need in our area for a fabulous little French bistro. Unfortunately, in my view, never. going. to. happen!! lol

            1. re: RGR

              The "old Acme" is now gone. I drove by the other day and it went out of business. The store is empty, so was that restaurant, Tanti Baci. (hmmm..who would have thought?)

              You are right. There does not seem to be any bistro's coming our way. I think the closest thing we have to French in our area would be the bagettes from Wegmans. (ha! ha! just kidding!)


            2. re: Angelina

              I re-read my post and thought, "good", "Bistro 34????"

              What the heck was I thinking? Next I will be posting how fresh the seafood is at Red Lobster! or how the best steak house around is Steak and Ale. I thought to myself, with a post like this, I will be sure to loose all my little chums on this board and they will start to send me off to pizzaria's for an "authentic Italian dinner."

              :) Anyways, scratch that good above to another mediocre Italian restaurant swimming in the area. Did anyone ever count on Rt. 34 how many of these places there are? How do they stay afloat??

              Well, I hope everyone had a nice holiday!

              1. re: Angelina

                I have a post somewhere about my night at Bistro Amerigo. In three words - they have potential.

                I think I will try D'Lish next.

                1. re: seal

                  Hey, seal, Don't know how I managed to miss your Bistro Amerigo review, so I did a search and here it is: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/38466...

                  I know you say it has potential, but the "evidence" in your review is just not strong enough for me to waste a meal there. :-(

                  Since you seem willing to take these "hits" for the Central NJ Hound team, I await your report about D'Lish. lol

                2. re: Angelina

                  Any chance any of you ever try that Italain place on 34. I think in Colts Neck, just before delicious orchards. THe name escapes me but it looks upscale though looks can be decieving.

                  1. re: angelo04

                    Hi Angelo! (Your daughter's name is great!! :)

                    Anyway, I think RGR has been there. It is called Il Cavelleni. I know RGR praised it at one point, but then I beleive the chef left and she had not went back since. So, I bet on RGR, and I will wait for a post by her. I just don't want to go to "another so-so" place.

                    I also wonder about that place in Colts Neck, on 34, I think it is called Christopher's cafe? Has anyone eaten there? I think it is a BYOB.

                    1. re: Angelina

                      I've been to Christopher's for dinner one. It was pretty mediocre and we haven't returned. I might go back to try it for breakfast.

                    2. re: angelo04

                      Hey, angelo04, If you're referring to I Cavallini, which is across the road from Delicious Orchards, then Angelina's comments are correct. It was open a year before Chef Toni Froio took over the kitchen. We hadn't tried it until then, but since we were familiar with excellent cuisine from the days long ago when she was chef at the defunct The Farmingdale House near Freehold, we immediately scampered to I Cavallini. (Btw, Ray's Seafood, previously in that that location, was also a huge favorite.) Chef Toni did not disappoint, and we had several delicious dinners there. We have not been back since she left late last year, and I've not heard anything about the quality of the food since. Note: After Chef Toni left, I called and spoke to someone at the restaurant about the fact that she was still front and center on their website, explaining that I felt it was inappropriate. Soon after that conversation, they took the website down and have not put it back up. It leaves me wondering why....

                      Since you did mention a restaurant "before" Delicious Orchards, you might be referring to the place that's in a stand-alone house a little south of and on the same side of 34 as D.O. The name is Green Meadows, and it's been there forever -- or at least as long as we've been living in this area. We had dinner there once, about 25-30 years. I have no memory whatsoever of the food; however, what I do recall is that we didn't know they didn't take credit cards, and we were short of cash, but even though we had never been there before, they were willing to accept our check.

                      Re: Christopher's Cafe. Our first experience with Christopher dates back to the time when he was just serving breakfast and lunch. We had not eaten there, but an organization I belonged to was having a dinner event, and we hired Christopher to cater it in a member's home. The food was wonderful. Shortly thereafter, he began serving dinner at the cafe. During the next few years, my husband and I had dinner there a number of times and always liked the food a lot. Then, a few years ago, he expanded and made some significant changes to the menu. We went for dinner in the new dining space about two years ago. Sadly, we found the food disappointing. I think Christopher is a talented chef, so I suppose it could have been an off night, but we haven't been back. One thing I must add is that he and his wife, who helps run the place, are both very sweet. You might want to give it a try.

                      1. re: RGR

                        Any idea where Chef Toni went?
                        Also, never went to Farmingdale House, but was that the place that had a prefix menu?

                        1. re: jrogers345

                          Chef Toni retired from restaurant cooking. I heard something about her doing some work for a private golf club.

                          Farmingdale House has been closed for a long time, so our experiences there date back many years ago. As best as I can recall, the menu was not a prix-fixe. However, during its heyday, it was fancy and upscale. The dish that to this day stands out in my memory was Chef Toni's Veal Milanese. Sensational!

                3. I recently moved to Matawan, first of the year, from Brooklyn and looking for good and great palces to eat as well as good "Bangs for the buck" . Looking for a good diner or place for breakfast, as well a s best overall pizza . However this past weekend tried a place in Middletown on 35, called "ANNA's Italian Kitchen" and the place was really good. Gnocchis were to die for and my wife could not stop raving about filet mignon. BYOB

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Milkfacebstrd2

                    Thanks for the tip. I am just recently married and my husband moved to Matawan from Brooklyn (I'm a Jersey girl!). We are both Italian and are always in search of good Italian food. However, whenever these restaurants say "Brooklyn Style", he goes OFF! haha Wondering if you're the same way!?

                  2. Just ate at D'Lish last week and it was very good! They made good use of the small space and spruced up the place - looks nice inside...cute!
                    The food was really great, I would recommend the rice balls, the sloppy joe appetizer, veal parm, and there was a chicken dish that was part fried/part baked - cant remember the name. Also they had good wraps with homemade potato chips!

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: jbd4ever

                      Was this lunch or dinner? As I said in my original post, the gentleman I spoke with o the phone described the cuisine as "upscale Italian." What you're describing doesn't seem to match that.

                      1. re: RGR

                        RGR and Angelina - Since you 2 seem to know your way around, was wondering what you know about Bart's on Main Street and the poet's inn steakhouse? BTW - I am eating my lunch at my desk, whole wheat fettucini, toasted pignoli nuts, broccoli rabe and grated parmigiano di reggiano in in a white wine sauce cortesy of my wife. Maybe I should stick to eating at home! though that wouldn't be fair to her. LOL

                        1. re: angelo04

                          Can I make friends with your wife?? ha ha....Your lunch sounds great. As far as those two restaurants, I have never been. Bart's scares me. That is the one that looks like a church, right? Yikes....I saw enough nuns in my life growing up in a Catholic school. Thanks, but no thanks. I don't need a nun measuring the length of my skirt anymore.....ha ha

                          Poet's Inn just does not look nice from the outside. I know that is superficial, but that is how I feel. Perhaps my dear, RGR, will shed some light on the topic!

                          Enjoy your lunch!!!!!!!!! (Make sure you thank your wife for making such a well prepared lunch! )

                          1. re: Angelina

                            I was to Bart's about five years ago. The one thing I didn't like about it that I can remember was the positioning of the tables. I recall them being right on top of one another. That also is what turned me off to Doris and Ed's in the Highlands. As for the Poet's Inn, it is okay as a stop gap place to go, but wouldn't recommend it for a special occasion.

                            1. re: peril

                              I went to Bart's about 3 months ago, and I thought the prime rib was awful! I wasn't impressed at all. It had no flavor, and was all "fatty." My boyfriend, that will just about eat anything, was also dissatisfied, and didn't finish his meal. They were friendly and attentive, if that counts for anything.
                              As for Cafe 34...we have eaten there quite a bit. Food is good, great presentation, generous portion; HOWEVER, the service is SUPER SLOW! Count on a minimum of two hours for dinner, from start to finish! And wait till you're done and you want your bill...bring flares and horns!
                              Looking forward to trying Riviera on Main St. What's the dress code?

                          2. re: angelo04

                            Angelina knows me too well! lol

                            We haven't been to Bart's and The Poet's Inn in ages and ages. Both have been around for a long time, but The Poet's Inn, which is in something of a landmark building (dating back to the American Revolution, I think), goes back much further than Bart's.

                            We first went to The Poet's Inn 36 years ago. At that time, we considered it to be a "fancy" place. The food, while not haute cuisine, was well above average. At some point, the owners turned it into a more casual place, and we occasionally went there for dinner. Standard American fare, i.e., steaks, seafood, salad bar, etc. Eventually, when our palates became more sophisticated, we found the food to be rather pedestrian and stopped going there. "Steakhouse" was added to the name only a few years ago.

                            Bart's location being a church, when it was first turned into a restaurant, it was called "The Church." We ate there a couple of times. Italian food that wasn't bad but nothing to rave about. New owners took over and re-named it Bartholomew's (later shortened to Bart's). We gave it a try a couple of times. I remember nothing about the food. Maybe Italian/Mediterranean? The owners are currently calling it "modern cuisine." I guess that would be eclectic?

                            Obviously, since they're still in business, there are enough people around these parts who like the food at both. I have no desire to try either again.

                            1. re: RGR

                              Just a quick clarification, Poet's Inn has been sold and renamed 'The Comeback Inn". Keeping the new name in mind, as well as the recent sale, I just don't have the desire to even try it. (It's probably Italian anyway,lol!)

                              1. re: Herm

                                Thanks for that info, Herm. That must have happened very recently because when I passed by a few weeks ago, the "Steakhouse" name was still up there.

                                1. re: RGR

                                  Since I've been garnering info I figured I'm due to contribute. I think Thai Thai in Old Bridge in the strip mall on 516 and Cottrell is excellent, a stones throw from Matawan. It is a weekly staple in my house whether we order in or go and eat there. While not a fine dining experience by my standards, the food is excellent. Never been crazy about Chinese food. For my house Thai Thai is our equivalent of the typical households Chinese take out. The Chili Thai Basil is awesome as is the Garlic and black pepper. The Curry puffs and the shrimp wrapped in phyllo, scallion, and Chinese ham are really good. I am not a huge curry fan but I'm told there curry dishes are very good too. The chicken, beef, and shrimp dishes are reasonably priced most in the $9-$13 range, specials are more expensive but never disappoint. Once you are there a few times, Tony and Pat never forget you. Both are great people.

                                  1. re: angelo04

                                    Did Thai Thai take over the location that formerly housed Pooket II? We liked Pooket when it first opened and went there several times; however, it then seemed to go downhill, so we gave it up. Not surprised that it closed because, even before that, it was never very busy. Happily, we discovered Thai Chili, in Spotswood, and that's been our local go-to Thai spot.

                                    P.S. I'm not crazy about Chinese food either. I've written about this before, but the one Chinese restaurant with food that I actually adored was The Chinese Kitchen, in Rumsen. Seriously delicious!! Lasted several years, then -- poof! -- it was gone. Why it closed is still a mystery to me since it was so popular.

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      Yes Thai Thai took over Pooket. Funny story with them, good friends of ours live in Northern NJ and went to the orginial Thai THai in Sterling. We went there frequently with them. When I moved to Old Bridge 2 years ago, Thai Thai sold there location in Sterling and reopned in the former Pooket location. Good for me, bad for my freinds up North. Thai Thai blows the doors off of pooket.

                                      1. re: angelo04

                                        Sounds as though we should give Thai Thai a try try. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. lol) Any chance you have their phone number? Googling brings up zip.

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          Thai Thai Restaurant
                                          3843 County Road 516
                                          Old Bridge, NJ
                                          (732) 679-4455

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            Thanks, HillJ. I just called and got the info I was looking for, i.e., hours of operation. Interesting that, like so many other NJ restaurants, Thai Thai is closed on Monday. That gives Thai Chili a leg up for anyone looking for Thai food on Monday since they are open 7 days a week.

                                            Note: That website for Pooket is for their original NYC restaurant.

                                    2. re: angelo04

                                      Hi all. First post here at Chowhound. Have to agree with you angelo-Thai Thai has excellent food. I've been there on numerous occasions and the food and service are always great.

                                      1. re: NJCheech

                                        Hey, NJCheech, Welcome!

                                        Based on angelo's recommendation, we tried Thai Thai. Been there twice now. The food is, indeed, delicious.

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          I agree.. Thai Thai is excellent! Delicious Thai food and the wait staff are excellent. Really sweet people. My husband and I frequent the place alot.. I give it high ratings! by the way..I love this site! :)

                                      2. re: angelo04

                                        I know this is an older post, but had to add that we also love Thai Thai on 516 (http://www.thistlethreads.com/). We don't go as often as I'd like, but when we do, we're always happy with the food and the service :) We are pretty crazy about Asian foods in general, though good chinese isn't always easy to find... We really like Wonder Seafood on 27 in Edison (Hubby works right down the road) - always seems to be filled with Chinese diners, good sign :)

                          3. Hi all--
                            My name is John and I'm the President of the Matawan-Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce. I also manage the Edward Jones right next door to the post office on Main Street, so if anyone needs to speak about anything you can always pop in and say hi and if I'm not with a client, I'll be happy to listen. Added bonus: my secretary, Mary, is also Matawan's mayor, so we get a lot of visitors as you can imagine.

                            As you can also imagine, I eat lunch in town every day, and dinner with my wife once-twice a week, babysitter allowing. I've been fortunate enough to try all four restaurants mentioned in your post, so I'll throw my two cents in.

                            Bistro 34- The Bistro, as we call it, has top notch food and good service. It can and does get crowded every weekend so reservations are recommended by me, unless you want to sit down to eat at 11:00pm as happened to usx the first time. Since they have a well-stocked (if not inexpensive) bar, it wasn't much of a problem. Also helping: on Friday and Saturday nights they pull out the tables from the front room and convert it to a dance floor to go along with the live music they have. A real good-time place. I don't think of it as an "Italian" place that much, only insofar as Italian food has really become American food in the last 20 years. I had a GREAT surf n turf there last time, and it wasn't even on the menu. I asked for the lobster that WAS on the menu, and could they add a filet on there. No problem said the waitress--that's the service I look for. The owner Tony is also a great guy.

                            As for lunch. it's among the more expensive places in town for lunch, but you go home full with a doggy bag as well.

                            Bistro Amerigo--The old Tre Fratelli is technically in Old Bridge, but close enough to Matawan to have a Matawan mailing address. Solid food, defintely in the Italian category. Last time there I had the old standby Chicken Parmigiana with a delcious mixed greens salad and some fried calamari, I believe. Service was defintiely more than adequate, nothing extraordinary comes to mind.

                            La Riviera--My favorite so far of the "new slate" of restaurants. I've had lunch there at least once a week since it's opened, the steak sandwich and shrimp scampi bread bowl are my faves. The burger is downright delicious (and big!) too. Another place I wouldn't call Italian unless a gun was to my head, they really have a great menu. The owners Ruben and Ida, who also own Pizza Village in Aberdeen and Palumba's on Rt. 9, are very nice people who have great plans for the place: Salsa dancing lessons, private theme parties, top notch entertainment, you name it. If you knew Jerry Beyer's, you wouldn't recognize the place. The upstairs rooms have been consolidated into one dining room/lounge, and the downstairs bar and main dining room look like something you'd find in Red Bank or Manhattan--VERY upscale. On weekend nights, you can eat downstairs, grab a drink at the bar, and head upstairs to the lounge and groove to the music. The Chamber is having our installation dinner there on June 19th, it should be a great time.

                            The service, both from the wait staff and the bar, has never been anything less than excellent!

                            D'Lish--the newest of the bunch, they've only been open a few weeks, so I haven't had a chance to grab a dinner there as of yet. I've lunched there twice, both times I was very satisfied with the food, and the service was exemplary. The chicken/arugala/provolone wrap was my favorite thus far, and I look forward to a dinner there soon, after which I'll report back with an update.

                            Some other things to consider as Main Street is becoming a real "restaurant row". They started work today on a new restaurant in the old Joe Pepp's location. Another building that, like Jerry Beyer's before it, needed an entire renovation, inside and out, and if comes out looking half as good as what Riviera did with their building, it will be phenomenal. And since I know the people doing the work (they did my building at 159 Main, too!), I know it will be. The owner of the new restaurant has one in Manhattan and one in Marlboro. No word yet on what kind it will be, again, I'll report back with more information as I get it.

                            The new Sushi restaurant was given their final permitting by the town, so they can go ahead with constuction soon, as well. And though it's not a restaurant, the new Grocery Store C-Town will have a prepared foods section, a deli counter, and a seafood counter for grabbing some quick food when dinner needs to be in a hurry.

                            Lastly, the vacant space BETWEEN La Riviera and the old Joe Pepp's has also been bought, and current plans call for two more 2000 sq ft restaurants to go in, but adding in construction time, that's more than likely a year away.

                            Contact me if you need anything more!


                            5 Replies
                            1. re: John C

                              John C - Thanks for the detailed report and welcome to the Board.

                              1. re: John C

                                I just moved to Matawan last week. That sushi place isn't even CLOSE to being open. Any info on this??

                                1. re: DJMarilyn

                                  Odd, isn't it. The storefront is still there (i live in aberdeen) but nothing so far.

                                  1. re: aacharya

                                    John Your statement about the former Poets Inn now known as THE COMEBACK INN, could not be any clearer. If you want a decent portion for the price, and a good salad bar, and an OWNER WHO CARES ABOUT CUSTOMER SATISFACTION, STAY AWAY from this place. We expressed our dissatisfaction to the waitress SEVERAL times, and while we did hear that she mentioned it to the owner, he never cared enough to stop by our table.
                                    Makes Applebees, Ruby Tuesday's and TGI Friday's, who seem to be getting alot of knocks here, FINE DINING ESTABLISHMENTS!

                                    Also, for the record, pay cash. There was an error on my credit card bill. Seems they "upped" the tip a few bucks and when I sopke with Doug, he was NASTY!

                                    You have Charlie Brown's within walking distance to that place. It happened to be a little bit of a wait, but if I had known, I'd have waited....TRUST ME!!!

                                2. re: John C

                                  Thanks for the info on these restaurants. Can you provide an update...are
                                  these restaurants still high quality? I passed by the new restaurant in
                                  the old Joe Pepps location, it looks really classy. I'd appreciate some feedback.

                                3. OK, This is John Cocozza from The Chamber of Commerce again. I read through more of the thead and will chime in with my input on the other restaurants you mentioned, Poet's Inn and Bart's.

                                  Bart's is an everyday restuarant and the descriptions provided thus far have been spot-on. The only comments I'll add are that the table arrangements aren't bad at all for private parties and there is plenty of parking, something of a rarity for Main Street. The food is always more than adequate, although not extraordinary either. They have a bar and the staff is very friendly, and Bart himself is one of the true characters of Matawan, a real good guy who's quick to laugh and make you feel good.

                                  As for the Poet's Inn, it was just purchased by Doug who used to own the Dougout Bar on Main Street, which he sold a year ago and is now known as the Cat Shack. Apparently Doug couldn't take being out of the bar business for long, because, as mentioned by others, he's bought the Poet's Inn, and renamed it the Comeback Inn featuring the Dougout Bar. Doesn't exactly conjure images of fine cuisine. I've not been there since the changeover, so I can't offer any first-hand account of their food, but I can agree with others that the old regime was not the best food in town, and I'll leave it at that.

                                  If anyone needs any info on any other restuarants in Matawan or Aberdeen, or even any other businesses, just let me know!

                                  Take care,

                                  1. There was an ad in one of the mailers that arrived yesterday announcing the Grand Opening of yet another new restaurant in Matawan: Cover Leaf Grille. Shock of shocks, it is not Italian! Acc. to the ad, they are "specializing in: fresh seafood, certified Hereford beef steaks, veal chops, rack of lamb, and much more." The ad includes a coupon for a complimentary appetizer -- a portabello mushroom stuffed with Maryland crabmeat ("A House Specialty").

                                    Copper Leaf Grille
                                    Main Street Village, 231 Main St.
                                    (Corner Main & Route 34)
                                    Tel.: 732-441-1500

                                    22 Replies
                                    1. re: RGR

                                      Will you please be our guinea pig! ha ha...:)

                                      I am scared to try any place in that area. You know within a couple of months, this new place will be another Italian American place!

                                      1. re: Angelina

                                        Take one for the team? Well, there is that complimentary appetizer.... ;)

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          I knew you would not let us down! :)

                                          1. re: Angelina

                                            Not so fast! I mentioned trying it to my husband, and his response was decidedly tepid. The exact quote: "Let someone else be the guinea pig!"

                                            Paging seal! lol

                                      2. re: RGR

                                        I stopped by Clover Leaf Grille just to look. It's an attractive space. I thought the prices were quite high. The food had better be very good at those prices. BYOB

                                        1. re: val ann c

                                          Is this where Terra Christa used to be?

                                          1. re: val ann c

                                            I tried the Copper Leaf Grill with a bunch of friends a couple weeks ago. The food was not good and the service was even worse. Not to mention they had one waiter for the entire dining room on a Friday night. The owner/manager was very rude to us as we were leaving since we refused to pay for the grey crab meat they were trying to push on us. Absolutely dreadful...

                                            1. re: Libramama

                                              Funny.. I too had gone with a few of my friends and I found the place to be absolutely atrocious! Not only was the food down right awful..but the service was probably the worst I have ever seen! From the appetizers (disgusting mussels) to the desserts (sorbet! how do you mess up sorbet????) nothing was even close to being edible. Im not one to send back food.. but we had to send back our main course two times.. finally giving up and the chef literally coming out to yell at us that we 'dont know what we are talking about' and that they 'dont want our business'. Is he for real? I am one to support all new businesses in our area.. but this place takes the cake for the overall Worlds Worst. I agree 100% with you Libramama! Not recommended at all..

                                              1. re: Libramama

                                                I totally agree. We were brought the wrong entrees and the waiter acted as if it was our fault. The service was off all night long and the food was worse than mediocre. I will never go back.

                                                1. re: BernieMSY

                                                  I'm chuckling as I read the reviews on the Copper Leaf Grill! We stopped by about 2 weeks ago on a Friday night and the place was empty except for one table. That was enough to make us run in the other direction! I'll pass on this place!

                                            2. re: RGR

                                              Despite all of the awful things I've heard about the Copper Leaf Grill I decided to give it a try. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe my expectations were so low that they could go nowhere but up? I ordered the grilled pork chop. It was well cooked and everyone at my table enjoyed their entrees. Don't get me wrong this was not the culinary highlight of my month or anything...secret ingredient in the roasted potatoes seemed to be salt...But I liked it well enough to eat the leftovers today. The portions are generous and they come with a Caesar salad. I thought the decor was inoffensive almost pleasing in a generic way. But it was a little too quiet. Barely audible music and only 4 tables on a Friday night. We weren't being loud, just enjoying ourselves, talking at a normal level and laughing and I felt like we were sticking out. I had no problem with the service. It was an older guy. Maybe the owner or manager. I wish they would work on that sign out front. The inside is nicer than the sign lets on. Anyway, I would say walk don't run there. Maybe they've improved...or maybe I am in generous spirit.

                                              1. re: Libramama

                                                In retrospect...my comments were extremely generous. Since my post, other family members have gone to dinner there--other family members with much lower standards than mine I might add--And they thought it was awful. I guess I took some happy pills before my meal that night. Or maybe I just hate when a new place opens and makes an effort and falls so short of the mark. I think they are doomed.

                                                1. re: lolly318

                                                  I think you got lucky.

                                                  Terra Crista's was my family's favorite restaurant. We ate there for years - the owner knew us all. We were very sad to see the place go. When Copper Leaf opened up I persuaded some friends to try it with me. We were the only people there on a Saturday night - very, very bad sign. The food was totally mediocre, and the service was awful.

                                                  So it should surprise no one - the Copper Leaf has already gone under.

                                                  1. re: Agarashi

                                                    Just tried AJ Pizzle last night. It's in the Starbucks shopping center on Main St. near Rt 34 (where the Copper Leaf Grille used to be). The food was great and the service was excellent! I went with a group of friends. Our waiter, Jeremy, was wonderful and made some great recommendations. The martini mixmaster was also very friendly, professional and made a mean cosmo! (They have a liquor license). The artichoke spinach dip was divine! I had the steak quesadilla with guacamole - tasty!! Delicious dessert - cappuccino kahlua pie - YUM! The chef/owner came over to our table and introduced himself and asked for our feedback. All thumbs up from us. Quite a different experience from when it was the Copper Leaf Grille, when we couldn't run fast enough away from that sorry excuse for a dining establishment. I really hope this place makes it. It is newly remodeled and a great atmosphere. They also have tables outside and grow their own herbs for seasoning. The entire staff made us feel welcome. 14 thumbs up from our dinner club!!

                                                    1. re: Libramama

                                                      From the description of what you ate, I couldn't really figure out what kind of cuisine AJ Pizzle is serving, and the odd name doesn't offer any clue either.

                                                      Googling, I found the website. I guess the good news is, it's not another *strictly* Italian. The menu on the site lists a hodgepodge of cuisines, including some Italian, but no detailed descriptions are provided. Hmmm.... It would also be helpful if they would put their days and hours of operation on the site.


                                                      1. re: DJMarilyn


                                                        When I Googled "AJ Pizzle," the website url did not come up. What did come up was a question about the restaurant on the NJ.com restaurant forum. When I clicked on it, one of the posts there included the website url. Beats me how *that* person managed to get it.

                                                        What really irritates me is a restaurant not having a website!

                                                        It's certainly a plus if a restaurant's website is attractive, but for me, the most important features are: easy to navigate; has a menu with descriptive details, and provides all pertinent information, including hours of operation, which are too often missing from too many websites. Annoyances: intro pages that say "Skip Intro" and music.

                                                        Btw, I'm a "she." :-)

                                                        1. re: RGR

                                                          My comments were censored, I guess I'm nothing but a troublemaker here since that tends to happen a lot when I voice my opinion. Anyways, yes, a big pet peeve of mine is if a restaurant doesn't have a website at all. Heck, even if they have a MySpace profile, that's better than nothing. Restaurant Passion is a great restaurant directory that does well in search engines. In any case, there's no reason for any restaurant not to have a good web presence. I'm not saying it will break them, but it could certainly "make them"... more easy to find and inviting to potential customers.

                                                          I am moving back to Philly tomorrow so sadly I will not be able to check out AJ Pizzle. I wish them well, I really do. This area actually has some really good restaurants, I'm going to miss it. Now let's see if this stays up. :)

                                                        2. re: RGR

                                                          I hear ya RGR. I definitely was more concerned with service than food - I usually am. I will give you a vague description of some of the dishes we ordered. The Wrap-a-touilles are a vegetarian dish (one of two they offered so far...) which was grilled zucchini, eggplant, etc. in lettuce wraps (or tortillas) with a sauce. The chicken sa tai was a spicy (sesame?) chicken and rice, I believe. There was a chicken stew which was a chicken and veggie stew. One of the specials that night was talapia. I heard all mmm's and yummm's - no complaints from anyone. It definitely is NOT an Italian place. In fact, the waiter told us they can not offer pasta as a dish, only as a side because of Trattoria Rustica being in the same strip. They also can not offer espresso because of Starbucks. Competitive laws and what not. The menu offers a variety of chicken, fish, beef and veggie meals. I ate the steak quesadilla appetizer as a meal - saving room for dessert. Hope that sheds a little light.

                                                          1. re: Libramama

                                                            What do the serve instead of coffee (also sold at Starbucks)?

                                                            1. re: Daggy

                                                              They serve coffee - just not "espresso"...and I should also mention that they can serve pasta as a "special" but can't put it on their menu as a regular item. But they can always serve it as a side...

                                                              1. re: Libramama

                                                                I wonder who came up with this coffee-not-espresso restriction. Very odd -- as though the main thing Starbucks doesn't sell is coffee? And not allowing Pizzle to serve espresso accomplishes what exactly? As I said, very weird!

                                                                The objection to having two Italian restaurants in the same small strip mall does make sense. In fact, I think it would be just dandy if Pizzle didn't serve even so much as one strand of pasta.

                                                          2. re: RGR

                                                            I went past AJ Pizzle last month & it's out of business.

                                                  2. I've been to Tanti Baci a few times. It's a nice local place for us. So convenient. Went to lunch there this week. Good food, good prices. Place is really pretty. It can be much better if they work a little harder. It seems to be missing something.
                                                    The fact that Acme is closed has to be hurting it. Not enough traffic in the area.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Pink Pepper

                                                      Route 79 does get quite a bit of traffic -- though, obviously, not anywhere near as much as Route 9. I think the problem Acme faced can be summed up in one word: Wegmans.

                                                      1. re: RGR

                                                        Agreed. Route 79 is busy, especially on that last stretch between Crown Palace and Freehold. Acme couldn't compete with a Wegman's only a mile away down Ryan Road.

                                                    2. Was driving around aimlessly the other night and ended up at D'Lish. Not your dime a dozen red sauce Italian American we have on every corner in Western Monmouth. The menu had a couple of interesting looking choices, but what we ordered didn't really deliver, save my entree. We had some really basic appetizers ... baked clams and a tomato and mozzarella salad. The baked clams were dry and all breading. The tomato and mozzarella salad was extremely disappointing. At this time of the summer, the tomatos should have been extremely flavorful, but these were hard and tasteless. They are not sourcing their tomatos well. One entree of risotto with some type of cheese tasted funny. My entree of homemade parpadelle with bolognese was very good. As the restaurant is aspiring to be something more upscale than a pizza joint with an attached dining room they really need to be serving freshly grated parmesan and not pizza joint parmesan out of shaker. Service was sloppy. I saw a few brick oven pizzas on other tables that looked good. I may go back for more of the pasta and to try a pizza, but I won't be rushing back for sure.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: jsfein

                                                        Thanks for the report, jsfein. Sub-par tomatoes at this time of year -- totally inexcusable! Seal's review a while back was not particularly encouraging. And after reading yours, I see little hope that D'Lish is anything other than just another mediocre Italian in our area.

                                                        1. re: RGR

                                                          It is an awful shame that the rest of D'Lish's menu does not live up to the homemade pasta. While I have been tempted to pick up a to go order of pasta recently, I am much less interested in dining there again.

                                                          Nice report jsfein!

                                                      2. Does anyone have an address and phone number for DeNino's Pizza in Matawan? I can't seem to find it in Google...

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: val ann c


                                                          I checked our phone book which includes Matawan listings, and there is nothing for DeNino's. Is it new?

                                                          1. re: RGR

                                                            R -
                                                            DeNino's is a famous pizza place in Staten Island. They opened a branch in Matawan... or Aberdeen?? There have been some favorable posts on this board. But I can't find the address. Perhaps I have the spelling wrong. In any case, we'd like to try this pizza :-)

                                                            1. re: val ann c


                                                              Aha! You mean Denino's. Of course! We've been there, and I posted about it on the Denino's thread. It's not in the phone book because it opened after the most current book was published. Anyway, your spelling was the reason you couldn't find it by Googling. With the correct spelling -- Voila!

                                                              Denino's Pizza Place
                                                              1077 F State Highway 34 North # 34
                                                              Matawan, NJ 07747
                                                              Tel.: (732) 566-3651

                                                              Note: It's in the shopping center adjacent to the Strathmore Cinema.

                                                              1. re: RGR

                                                                This location used to Pizza Village. I grew up on their wonderful pizza. Pizza Village was bought a few years ago but they kept the name. The pizza became so terrible! I am so happy Denino's took over. The pizza is back to the standards I'm used to.

                                                        2. I've been to all but La Riviera.
                                                          D'Lish - good sandwiches & homemade chips. but I'm not a big fan of sandwiches. I MUCH prefer Mulberry Street that used to occupy that space.

                                                          Bistro Amerigo - eclectic is definitely the word. There's a sushi bar and burgers. It smelled a bit fishy, and my rule of thumb is: if you smell the fish, its not fresh. I stayed away. I went awhile ago, so I forget what I had. I remember it was passable, but not remarkable.

                                                          Bistro 34 - went there twice. It was pretty good. Service was really good, tho. Its in a really awkward spot, so I hope it does well.

                                                          1. You seem to really know your restaurants! Appreciate
                                                            your great input. Any other new comments?

                                                            Since this posting 3/07 Matawan any updates you'd care
                                                            to share?

                                                            Also, what about La Pesce in Matawan?

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: MrC777

                                                              Hey, MrC777,

                                                              Thanks for the kind words. Truth to tell, I have not eaten in any of the restaurants mentioned in my original post because reports from those who have been to them were not particularly inspiring -- at least to me.

                                                              One restaurant that opened in Matawan sometime after I posted that list which we have had dinner at twice is Cafe de Thai. The menu includes both Thai and French cuisines, and the food is excellent. If you do a search of this board, you can find lots of favorable posts about it.

                                                              Another recent arrival is Salsa Latina. We haven't gotten there yet, but all reports thus far have been positive.

                                                              I recall seeing mention of La Pesce but afaik, no reports yet.

                                                              1. re: RGR

                                                                Thanks very much for the update, RGR.

                                                                I have added Cafe de Thai to my list. My wife loves great Thai food
                                                                and I enjoy French food. I've been doing a lot of business traveling and just got back last week. Thanks again.

                                                            2. Bistro 34 seems to be busy. I have not been in, but I do have to comment that it's been a kiss of death location for it's predecessors. One reason I think is that it is hard to get in and out of. I have had several near misses with cars pulling in and out as I travel down route 34.
                                                              So, if your near that place on a weekend, be careful driving by, people just pull out without looking, it's pretty crazy and dangerous.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Neener

                                                                Bistro will make it I think. It is always dangerous, and yes, has crazy post-HH drivers who can't navigate that difficult intersection.

                                                              2. I drove past the old Poet's Inn, which most recently has been the Comback Inn. Except for the word "Steakhouse" on top of the building, all the signage is gone, and the building is being renovated. Does anyone know what's happening there?

                                                                1. Bistro Amerigo - Out of Business - Wasabi Sushi In (Excellent see other post)
                                                                  D'Lish - Out Of Business

                                                                  1. We tried the $5 lunch listed on the marquee outside. They probably offered it to compete with the much better $5 at nearby Pine Tavern, but were not happy having to provide a lunch for that price. I ordered the Penne Vodka and the portion was punitively diminutive. Now this is a meatless dish. I would expect there would be enough to call a "lunch." What was delivered was a plate with pasta and sauce and a glass of water. No bread or anything else. I would estimate the food all fit in a five-inch diameter circle. It was what I would call an appetizer-sized serving. The sauce was OK, what there was of it. My wife got the chicken Caesar salad. It was bigger, but still skimpy for a "lunch."

                                                                    Cafe 34 & Bistro
                                                                    787 State Route 34, Matawan, NJ 07747

                                                                    Pine Tavern
                                                                    199 State Highway 34 N, Old Bridge, NJ 08857

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Mark Leeper

                                                                      Cafe 34 is not worth trying. I give it credit for surviving this long as nothing has lasted long in that location. I ordered a martini on the rocks and they charged me $1 for the ice stating I deviated from the original, yet the drink was smaller in a rocks glass. My father ordered a shrimp and pasta dish which was $24 and he got 3 shrimp. This was unacceptable for an entree.

                                                                      1. re: Randol

                                                                        Well, our consolation is that we spent only $10 (plus tax/tip) for what we got, so we're not out a lot of money.

                                                                        1. re: Randol

                                                                          I went there maybe 2 times a few years back. (Cafe 34) The second was the WORST! The first trip was terrible, but I thought because the place was new, maybe it needed to work out the kinks.

                                                                          I agree on the pasta dish with shrimp. Mine only had a few shrimp also, but I sent my back for something else. It was in a white cream sauce, which the cream was sour. I could smell it coming. God awful. There were also some scallops in the dish, but I would not dare to try them.

                                                                          The place was just "lacking" on all parts. That is the best was I can describe it. The food is really not good, and there really is no other reason to go there.

                                                                          Cafe 34 & Bistro
                                                                          787 State Route 34, Matawan, NJ 07747

                                                                          1. re: Angelina

                                                                            My wife and I went there when it first opened. I asked if they had anything vegetarian on the menu. The waitress replied, "Well, we have chicken."

                                                                            We ended up leaving and going to Bistro Amerigo (now Wasabi House), where we had a fantastic vegetarian meal.

                                                                            1. re: Angelina

                                                                              Its such an overrated restaurant. I have been there several times (more of a convienence as opposed to actually craving something...used to live in Old Bridge) and I always found it so obnoxious the way they serve their entrees on plates or in bowls the size of car tires.

                                                                              Although, their bolognese sauce is not bad.

                                                                              1. re: MeLoveGnocchi

                                                                                If you're looking for something similar nearby, try Athena's Grill in the Marketplace up the road a little way.