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Jan 12, 2008 12:30 PM

Main Street, South River, NJ

I just wanted to check in about a very pleasant afternoon that my wife and I had while visiting my mom over Christmas. We had some down time so we went for a walk up one side of Main and down the other. First, I must mention, the SR has been going through a generation of decline, but now has a lot of new growth with new immigration (Sorry GW). A new Brazilian grill is about to open and I can't wait to try it on our next visit. There is a Chinese take out that has been there forever and a new Chinese restaurant as well, a Thai restaurant and great little Mexican cafe w/ great tacos, an Egyptian run lunch shop, with a 4 buck gyro, and a separate Egyptian grocery, a Latin supermarket , a great Portuguese bakery. The coup de gras, however are 2 Polish delis and a polish restaurant. One is a goodly sized butcher shop w/ tons of sausages, canned goods, herring and baked goods. The other, across the street, is a smaller version, but has a small alcove, and serves Polish snacks. A new Polish restaurant (BYOB) rounds out the Polanic trio. Note: there is another Polish deli over the bridge on Jerneee Mill Rd in Sayrveille and the Royal Bakery on Washington Rd. Finally, a Polish restaurant on Whitehead Ave. in SR was highly recommended to us. Next time.
From the icy far north, enjoy!

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  1. My wife and I stopped for an excellent lunch at Ria-Mar in South River last weekend. PAELHA VALENCIANA (seafood, chicken, and sausage) was delicious as was the ARROZ DE MARISCO-SEAFOOD IN RICE PORTUGUESE STYLE. I'm no expert on Portuguese food, but this was much better than the River Mill in Bordentown and I think the equivalent of what I remember of Forno's in the Ironbound 25 or 30 years ago. Where is the great Portuguese bakery?

    1 Reply
    1. re: carl555

      The bakery is right on Main, a few yards up from Ferry St.(Or when you leave Ria Mar go till hit a T turn left and park.You're there. My best friend's daughter married into the Ria Mar family. Give Costa Verde a try on Rt. 9 in Sayreville for excellent Portuguese too.

    2. I've been to the Polish restaurant Krakowiak (sp) about 4 times, although it's been over a year since my last visit. I had the best stuffed cabbage I've ever had there, and I love the Borsht, very light version. Time for another visit I think.....

      8 Replies
      1. re: DrewBB

        I think I made the post because when I grew up here all the local bars had great Polish food. Ten years ago I wanted to take my Yankee blue blood wife out for Polish food and couldn't find a place in South River. We used to crash Polish wedding parties when in high school to meet girls, drink, eat & dance polkas. Then I couldn't even find Polish food! Even Bosco and Turbac's Diner, an institution, was gone! We wound up at a Polish tavern in Perth Amboy.
        I'm making a big pot of kielbasi borscht w/ garden beets and cabbage for lunches next week and a big pot of kiebasi, pork ribs and kapusta for suppers. Ochen horoshow and dubja, dubja!(good in Russian & Polish)
        Remember: "In heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here!" Famous Polish Polka

        1. re: Passadumkeg

          My parents grew up in South River. My Grandfather owned Siegel Brothers -- a woman's house coat factory on George St. I have many early childhood memories of the area.
          My father used to play clarinet in Polka bands for the Polish weddings! Sometimes we would go to the weddings -- and yes - I agree with you, they were lively and fun! The area had a really strong family atmosphere filled with food and old world traditions. We often had pierogi and kielbasi in the house due to this influence -- and my grandparents always had seltzer (in those old fashioned bottles) and of course borscht! I too remember the Capital Theater (TE-AY-TOR as my grandfather used to say.) Here's a postcard of the place:

          1. re: Jill Brazil

            Jill Brazil, He didn't play in Wally and the Polka Dots, did he? I lived in Santa Cruz Bolivia for 4 years and traveled to Bahia. If i die and go to heaven it will be Bahia. We're going to visit my daughter in Austin next month and a Brazilian Churasqueria is high on our list. Our son is in Costa Rica on the west coast, we'll be visiting him in April. If you want an exremely reasonable Bolivian restaurant in Sunnyside Queens, try the saltaenas(they're addictive) at Mi Bolivia. Summers I work as a Maine guide doing multiday sea kayak tours. Not bad for a "Joisey" boy
            ps I do a Latin radio show that can be heard on the world wide web at Gracias a la Vida is on Sat. mornings from 11:00-1:00. Eschcha mi!

            1. re: Passadumkeg

              I don't know if he played with Wally and the Polka Dots. I'll ask him the next time I see him. Yes -- Bahia is wonderful. Especially the food! Moqueca de Peixe! Fantastic!
              Yes - go to a Churrascaria in Austin - but to tell you the truth, I have never found any Churrascaria in the US to be anywhere close to the experience that you get in Brazil. If you ever go back to Rio - please go to Porc√£o or Mariu's Churrascaria.
              If I'm ever in Sunnyside Queens - I will check out your recommendation for the Bolivian Restaurant. Interesting that you also work in tourism! Lot's of connections! best to you! Jill


        2. re: DrewBB

          Just tried Krakowiak last night ! Very good , low prices . I look at it as a successor to Csardas in New Brunswick ... Central European food at reasonable prices . I had the Beef Goulash and my Buddy had the Stuffed Cabbage ... total bill including two sodas and tip was $ 30 !

          BTW has anyone tried the ' European Bakery ' a few doors from Krakowiak ?

          1. re: arpad

            No but I tried the new deli across the street last night...I only had to run in for polish Horseradish (not the cheesy golds stuff!) but they were very nice in there...and had this neat little "lounge" area there to eat/drink. I hope this place works out, but with european provisions on OBT, it might be tough.

            1. re: arpad

              Yea, both places are good. If you want good babka, rye and krushchie, you can get them at the bakery. I do feel, however, that the Royal Bakery on Washington Rd. in Parlin is better. Am I confused, but there is also a a Portuguese bakery a little further down Main too, right? The little cod filled pastries outta be illegal.

            2. re: DrewBB

              Krakowiak has a separate menu right now listing christmas specials, Some of it was in Polish. I was in a rush and had no time to ask. I do remember that there were one or two special kinds or pierogi.

            3. Well, since I live in South River, and kind of grew up here, (will a short 10 yr childhood stint in Sayreville, down the road from Royal Bakery) I'm partial to everything here.

              Aside from no more Dittmans meat market, we have it all!

              2 very good Portuguese restaurants, Ria Mar and Portuguese Fisherman
              Riddle and Martin sub shop (although not as good as when ol' grumpy man owned it...i swear he couldn't smile for nothing!)
              2 European provisions stores that are excellent!
              I'm not a fan of Krakowaik but like the polish place on whitehead.
              The Thai place on main isn't that great...but who needs Thai when you have Coffaros Pizza!!!
              Jensens Galley is gone unfortunately, but the Mexican place on main is excellent!!

              I haven't been in Bravo market yet.

              What polish deli has a good butcher shop?

              South River is one of those old hidden type towns that I think people are afraid of for some reason because all the houses aren't McMansions and they all look 'different'

              Great school system and my taxes for a decent lot are 2600 a year. Sure we have the ferry street "corner" but I'll take South RIvers main street over any of the surrounding towns any day!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: RPMcMurphy

                You probably had some of my relatives as math teacher or principal at SRHS(My dad and uncles went to the old HS). My Sayreville stint was near Pulasky & Washington Rds. I still bring the huge loaves of corn rye from the Royal Bakery back up to Maine. Yes I remember the bar and the coin shop catty cornered to Otto's. Vera's Tavern on Whitehead was a relative too. My dad was buried almost 3 yrs ago in St. P&P cemetery. Mr Jensen was my scout master and I can remember when Coffero's(Much better than Spezzi's) had posters of BOTH Drew Pierson AND Joe Theisman(no comment). I am just glad that good old South River once again has a vibrant Main Street. I had my first date at the Capitol Theater to see West Sidede Story. Christ, don't I sound like a nostalgic old Fart!

                1. re: RPMcMurphy

                  Years ago, when my parents lived in East Brunswick and my post-college economic situation forced me to move back, I would drive into South River occasionally and was always amazed by the contrast between the uber-suburban monotony of EB and the faded old mill/river town funkiness of South River. Though I live in central Jersey, I'm not really near South River, so I haven't been there lately to see the results of newcomers who have moved in and invested in the town. It's good news.

                  As an aside, I drove through nearby Milltown for the first time in decades a few weeks ago. Some beautiful 19th century buildings in that town. I know they have an issue with the owner of one of the old mansions who wants to demolish it--I hope that the town can overcome the forces of economic greed and preserve their irreplaceable heritage. It's one of the few places where you can see what central NJ looked like in the 19th century that hasn't been Disneyfied.

                2. For any of you older folks, (i'm a yougin') but, my grandfather used to own Jesse's Tavern next to Ottos on Obert, where Royal BBQ is now.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RPMcMurphy

                    I know your Grandfathers tavern very well... My Mom used too be the barmaid there like 25,30 years ago. It was a fun place and everybody felt like family.

                  2. Also the other polish deli, is not on Jernee Mill Rd (unless they opened one I don't know about yet), however, it is on Bordentown ave, which if you take whitehead ALL the way down...its on the right. (where Petes Bar used to be for you older folks)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: RPMcMurphy

                      Nope, I know the place in Old Bridge. This is a new Polish Deli in Sayreville.
                      Just go over the bridge from SR, hang a rt. and you're there right in the strip mall w/ Italian, Chinese and Middle eastern restaurants(Go Bombers!). That makes 8 Polish food sources between Sayreville and E. Brunswick(European Provisiona). That's quite a concentration. A correction. The Polich food store next to Beckers(Te Amo?) might just be a deli, but I thought I saw some cuts of meat. But as an escapee from monocultural Maine, I was was distract by all the luscious, rotund, firm and fully packed........kolbasas hanging around the shop. I was as if I were in a foreign country.
                      I think I'll have some herring in sour cream sauce on Polish corn rye, all that I brought back to Maine from SR, for breakfast. Oh yes, as we teach, we have our 4th snow day today, a foot or more and more predicted for Fri. Na zdrovnia!

                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        Unfortunately, I think Sayreville is more on the decline these days, I'll check out that place on Jernee Mill today and report back. The italian place in that strip mall is excellent for takeout. Great veal for some reason.

                        Royal Bakery in Sayreville is great, I used to live on Johnson Lane, walking distance, and used to frequent a lot. (after the Jon Bon Jovi years!) I believe that they sold the deli part, so no more "Ziggy" Sandwiches.

                        And no one knows Beckers as Te Amo! Blasphemy!

                        The weather men screwed us with a false alarm this morning, so unfortunately, I'm at work.

                        1. re: RPMcMurphy

                          Yeh, they know me as the guy from Maine at the Royal Bakery. Next door is an hallal food store and to the left is another pizza joint. Remember Spezzi's? At Christmas, we enjoyed, Costa Verde, Ria Mar bar, Vietnamese on rt 9 in Sayreville, Polish take home, 7 Hills in Highland Park and the good old Sayreville Bar, which seems to be declining under new management. Mom(92!) is about to stay w/ my bro in Las Vegas. We're heading to Austin, and Costa Rica in Feb. and April during our school vacations. I don't think I'll be back to NJ for another feed until school's out in June and bring mom up to Maine to escape the heat.
                          Go eat a kishka for me!