Downtown Dinner Club - Toms River
Has anyone been to this restaurant? I read somewhere that this place is run by the owner of the Old Corner Deli in Island Heights. It used to operate on weekends but now is open Tuesday through Saturday. From what I further understand, it may have required a membership fee but is now open to the general public. Any help would be appreciated.
During two recent consecutive weeks, I dined at Downtown Dinner Club on a weeknight. As I mentioned in my comments last June, I think the menu shows great aspirations. As to the execution….well, I think that’s where my opinion differs with some others…
First visit (a Wednesday night):
- Appetizer: Rock shrimp, dusted with seasoned flour and buttermilk fried until crisp, served with chipotle mayo dressing ($9)…. Kind of a popcorn shrimp dish. The seasoned (black pepper?) coating was far beyond a dusting and completely overpowered the poor little shrimps. I scraped off as much of the thick coating as I could and ate the shrimp that way. Not recommended.
- Entrée: Tilapia. Scallion and crabmeat crusted tilapia set over smashed potatoes, served with mango beurre blanc and asparagus ($17)…. More of a very scallion pancake (think “potato pancake”) which, while containing a goodly amount of visible crabmeat, completely overwhelmed any of the crab flavor, and was plopped on top of pieces of bland tilapia. Not my idea of “crusted” at all. For me, neither the scallion pancake nor the fish was enjoyable. I did, however, like the smashed potatoes very much. Must be the carb-lover in me. The asparagus was adequate, but the mango beurre blanc didn’t add anything to the dish. Not recommended.
On the other hand, my bottle of Daniel Dampt Chablis, 2007 (French burgundy) was very nice.
Second visit (a Thursday night):
- Appetizer: Fresh rolled manicotti stuffed with ricotta and parmesan cheeses topped with a pomodoro sauce ($6)….Oh, I had such hopes. The cheese filling was creamy, if a little subtle, and the tomato sauce was ok. The pasta, however, was disappointing; a little mushy and no flavor. Not recommended.
- Entrée: Hummus crusted black cod over roasted red pepper and haricot vert salad with a roasted garlic buerre blanc ($21)….I don’t think this worked at all. As above, the fish was not crusted with the hummus as I think of “crusted,” rather the hummus was plopped on top of the cod. The cod tasted a little fishy. The roasted garlic beurre blanc was tasteless. The vegetables, which also included sautéed onions, had a lot of flavor, which trampled over the rest of the dish. Curiously, the vegetables under the cod were served cold (intentionally – I asked), and I think this had the effect of cooling the fish prematurely. Not recommended.
- Dessert. I’m pleased to report that my desert was delicious, even if only because it was so decadent: a chocolate brownie with ice cream, hot fudge, mint chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and caramel drizzle ($6). Recommended.
Once again, my wine was the bright spot: a bottle of Pierre Peters blanc de blancs grand cru, NV (French champagne).
Service on both nights was by Ashley, who ran the FOH on her own. On both nights, perhaps 4 other tables were in use at 7 PM, with another two-some coming in after me, and only those later arrivers remaining when I left after a little more than an hour. I suspect that most of the dinner “rush” comes at 6 PM.
I was little surprised that on both nights an ice bucket was not naturally offered for my bottle of wine until I specifically requested one. Also, bread service came late on both nights (in my opinion), not arriving until I was well into my starter. The basket comprised a few pieces of olive bread and of (what I think was) cranberry-nut bread. Not sure why the bread was toasted both times; I guess it’s just how they serve it. Unfortunately, it makes me wonder whether it’s past its prime and the toasting was used to mask possible staleness.
As has been stated in other posts in this thread, the meals at DDC are very reasonably priced, and the restaurant seems to have built a respectable repeat customer base. However, after my few tries there, I just can’t say that I’ll be one of them.
nj - Thank you for the excellent review. Despite the very reasonable pricing, I've hesitated dining at DDC due mostly to the fact of its proximity to the ever dependable B44. Your review cements my conviction and I doubt I will ever try the restaurant. Look at it this way, at least you had two very good bottles of wine. :)
It appears that Ocean County has a large group of people that are more that willing to support a good /upscale restaurant. ,but none are on the horizon .....Why? ..Is it the economy ?
Look what Red Bank and Asbury has done ..Toms River /Ocean County wake up we will support you !!!
big1515 - Its not going to happen especially in this economy. Too many restaurants are suffering and most are barely limping along solely on weekend traffic. Further, while I don't disagree that there are a number of us in the OC that would support a high quality restaurant, we are not representative of the demographic. I can name a half dozen restaurants with promise that tried to make it a go in TR and didn't last more than a year. Instead, I suggest that we rally support for the true gems in Ocean and Monmouth counties (i.e Drews, Bayshore, and Bistro 44) and make sure they weather this economic storm. I do however appreciate the sentiment. Thank you.
bgut and big...
from this side of the "fence" i would agree with you. i would love to be there (much less car time for me) but i do not believe enough people would support it. i always give eric(44) tons of credit for what he is doing but i just don't see it (more upscale places) happening now. i consider us to be lucky to have some of the places that do exist, though not upscale by any means. honestly, i hate the fact that if i really want to go out out, i have to drive a minimum of 45 minutes or more.
in the end, places like drews, 44, belford, etc... operate on very slim margins and with only a handful of supporters, life would be very difficult.
big1515, I share the same view with bgut1, we are not representative of the demographic in TR! I would love to see different upscale restaurants in this place but it is unlikely to happen. Even in those places where people would consider relatively upscale, for example Bistro 44, I appreciate the food but I had a really bad experience with the service there! I believe the dining experience is mostly about the food but when the service is not up to par, there is catch up to do!
Another dinner in DDC! They got a new pre-fix menu and I got one of them so that I can share with all of you:
Downtown salad ~ Baby greens tossed with vanilla bean and champagne vinegar dressing in radicchio cup
Shrimp ~ Poached shrimp over a mix of bean sprouts, greens and haticot verts with a roasted garlic vinaigrette
Arugula ~ Baby arugula salad with a goat cheese and honey vinaigrette with grilled pita and roasted plum tomates.
Pasta ~ Resh rolled Manicotti stuffed with ricotta and parmesan cheese topped with Pamadara Sauce
Chicken ~ Pine Nut crusted chicken breast set over a mushroom risotto, sautéed spinach and merlot reduction
Tilapia ~ Scallion and crabmeat crusted tilapia set over smashed potatoes with mango burre Blanc and asparagus
Pork ~ Prime pork chop grilled and set over sweet potato au gratin with a port and dried cherry reduction
Filet of Sirloin ~ Center cut of the sirloin coated with blacking spices and grilled served with stilton macaroni and cheese and a plum tomato BBQ
My husband and I both started the Shrimp as our appetizer, the greens were fresh and the roasted garlic vinaigrette was a good choice(we debated if one of us should have the argula but both of us like garlic and it is better that both of us have garlic breathe together!) The only drawback is that if you love shrimps, there were only three of them…but I am fine with it since it was an appetizer.
I had the sirloin for my main course while Mr B had the tilapia. I requested for medium rare and it was done to perfection. The meat was juicy and well seasoned but I think I am too spoiled by the steaks from the German Butcher(they are in Toms River and Forked River), so there is no comparison…but for the price of the pre-fixed dinner, I really cannot ask for more! I was expecting macaroni but I was served penne; I really do not have a big problem with the choice of the pasta but it was just the expectation when it was different from the menu. The tilapia that my husband had was really fresh and the crabmeat with the scallion added a layer of taste to the fish.
By the way, there dessert was read to us, so I do not have the menu with me, from my memory, they included: chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream toped with mint chocolate sauce, chocolate nutella cake with coffee ice cream, orange cake with strawberry fillings topped with raspberry ice cream, apple tart with vanilla ice cream and rice pudding. Do not be angry with me if I did not remember correctly, but the first two were what we had! I had one mouthful of the chocolate brownie from my husband’s plate, the mint chocolate sauce was excellent and I guess it is difficult to go wrong with the brownie. I picked the chocolate nutella cake since it reminded me of one of my favorite spread as a child, I used to dip my finger in the jar for this chocolate hazelnut spread…As a nutella lover, I wish that they have more/thicker nutella on the cake but I think it works for a normal person who enjoys chocolate cake with a hint of chocolate hazel nut spread. The coffee ice cream is also great to go with this dessert.
Once again, it was an enjoyable dinner and we brought our own wine this time! It is one of the very few places in Toms River where you can really have such decent quality of food and pay less than $30 per person(excluding tips!)
We went to Downtown Dinner Club for the second time this year!(It is only Feb 2009) The information posted here by the previous contributors such as bgut, njfreqflyer are all well written and very informative.
The food is really great for the value, especially if you go there on Tue, Wed and Thurs, when they have the pre fixed dinner. They are closed on Sun and Monday! For the pre fixed menu, for $27 you have a choice of appetizers, main course, dessert, coffee and tea. Last night, my husband and I both had the baby spinach salad with roasted tomato and strawberry vingarette dressing, it was very fresh and the taste was so refreshing. My husband had the pork loin, it was grilled to perfection with pineapple salsa! I can tell you that it was great since I tried some! As for my main course, I had the meatloaf. You will be absolutely surprised at this very low key dish....it was not fancy but there was so much flavor in it! Of course, wrapping with bacon could not hurt! We had the fried banana dipped in chocolate sauce with ice-cream...this is not for some light weight dessert eaters! Actually, we were unable to finish the dessert.....
This is not a place with the great water front and the decoration is not particular artistic....You have to bring your own drinks(if you want wine) and some people may find that having two servers, yes there are only two servers but they are both wonderful! Ashley and Garnett(I hope I got his name right, I saw him the first time when we were there and did not see him last night!) are very friendly and efficient!
njfreqflyer stated all the details of the address and website, therefore I am not going to repeat myself! Just one thing on the website...it is quite outdated!
I think that the food is quite extraordinary in Toms River, I would not be so amazed if such quality of the food is served in NYC or even in Philly...With a price tag of $27, it is quite hard to beat!
HelenB -- Thanks for your post, and I'm glad to hear that you had a (another!) good meal at DDC. Your comments are well-timed, too, to prompt me for a revisit. I agree that DDC is a very good value for a dinner out, I hope that drives more business their way. How has the turn-out been on the nights you've been there recently?
Downtown Dinner Club
216 Main Street, Toms River, NJ 08753
I went last Wednesday at about 6:30pm and there were about 6 tables including ours. I asked Ashley(our server) regarding the reservation, and she said that usually you do not need that for Tue - Thurs but of course, she recommended that! As for the first time we were there in Jan, it was also a week night and it is about 6 or 7 tables filled. Well, I would say 50%, since they have about 15 tables..(I will count next time!)
I hope that you will have a good time in DDC in the near future! By the way, I am new to this site, and I just happened to check on it today..and I noticed your post...is there a way that I can be notified if there is a post replied to mine?
Went to Downtown Dinner Club last night since we were given a gift certificate for $50 - (to all who were inquiring about the entrance, yes it is on Irons Street on the lefthand side) - luckily we had a reservation and were seated immediately - for a Tuesday evening the place was packed leaving only 2 free tables when we arrived (7pm) - decor was nothing to look at - just dark red walls with paintings scattered around - there really was no ambience or charm at all - service was terribly slow however the servers were very friendly and accomodating - they forgot little things like bringing us bread, clean utensils and refilling the water glasses however they always apologized and were sweet (there were only 2 servers for the entire restaurant) - the food however was suprisingly out of this world - we took advantage of the $25 pre fixe menu which included an appetizer, entree, dessert and coffee - the jack & goat cheese quesadilla and gorgonzola zucchini pizza were large sized appetizers, very filling and very tasty - the peach glazed tilapia and blackberry pork were amazing as well and were paired with perfectly cooked rice and potatoes - they had many choices for dessert but we settled on the key lime pie with coconut sorbet and peanut butter tarte with chocolate iced cream which were both fabulous and well presented - it seemed criminal to be only paying $25 a person for the fantastic meal we were served so definitely try to take advantage of the pre fixe menu when they offer it - overall, do not expect to be blown away with speedy service or eye appealing decor but definitely check it out for the food....
After reading the build-up on this board anticipating and reporting good things from the Downtown Dinner Club, I probably had my expectations too high during my recent and first visit there this past Thursday night. I think the chef shows good aspirations on the menu, but I thought the execution was weak.
We were a group of three arriving at 6 PM, and there were two tables occupied and nearing the end of their meals. During our two hours or so there, the room started to fill towards 7:30, and included a table of 15. In my opinion, the room is unappealing visually – sort of a generic industrial back-room feel to it, perhaps like a place that might host bingo or a card tournament – and aurally harsh. Nevertheless, I was undeterred and looking forward to the food.
For appetizers, we had:
- Jack and goat cheese quesadilla with cilantro and tomato and roasted corn salsa
- Calamari tossed in buffalo sauce with gorgonzola dipping sauce
- Spicy tuna tartar on a hominy cake with diced avocado and tomatillo sauce
Both the quesadillas and the calamari were big enough for two diners to share. They were also probably the best liked of all the dishes we ordered that night. I understand that the calamari is a carryover and favorite from the Olde Corner Deli; the combination of the spicy buffalo sauce and the sweetened gorgonzola sauce worked well. The double cheese on the quesadilla made that a little too cheesy for me, but the others liked them just fine. Unfortunately, the spicy tuna wasn’t spicy at all, and the creamy avocado and mild tomatillo sauce had nothing to counter-balance, so it all kind of washed out..
For main courses, we had:
- Grilled tilapia with grilled asparagus, basil and peach sauce, coconut basmati rice
- Marinated and grilled shrimp set in corn chowder with crispy corn fritters
- New England cod, red and Vadila onion and potato puree, rhubarb marmalade and steamed chipolini onions
(note: those are DDC’s menu spelling errors on Vidalia and cipolline, not mine)
I liked the way each of those sounded, but as mentioned above, I think the kitchen failed to deliver. And now that I think about it, I don’t recall getting any cipolline on my plate at all. The fish was cooked to the right degree of doneness, but neither stood out as tasty. The basil and peach sauce, corn chowder, and Vadalia onion and potato puree were all kind of blah. Tellingly, none of these dishes rated an “I’d order that again” from our group.
There was an extensive dessert menu, which we skipped (none of us is a big desert eater). I thought service was good, tag-teaming delivery by Ashley and Garret. On arrival, Garret quickly offered to open and chill the bottle of prosecco I brought along (which was tasty). Without tip, the bill came to $82 for two courses each for the three of us. According to Ashley, the plan is to change the menu about every other week, although the current menu (on-line, which matched the in-restaurant menu exactly) is dated June 18 – July 12 (three and a half weeks).
As I re-read my comments, I fear they may be taken as negative, when in reality, I was just unenthusiastic. Sorry to be a contrarian with the positive comments in other posts above. I’ll defer final judgment and go back and try DDC again, but it’s not high on my list right now.
Downtown Dinner Club
216 Main Street
Toms River, NJ 08753
The entrance is around the corner from Main St on Snyder Ave. Parking is on Snyder Ave and Irons St.
nj - Sorry about your meal. Yours is the second mixed review I've heard recently about this restaurant. I can appreciate your comments about the room as I've been to several parties there. One positive I will add is that the pricing seems very reasonable (although meaningless if the food is below par). I will wait to hear from others before I try it. Thanks for your review.
Went to the dinner club last night it was awesome. Sorry don't have time for a full review right now, but yes it is now open tues-sat to the public. In the previous years when it was private they only held dinners there 4-6 times a month. The food was always good at the deli but now that you can enjoy it in a more refined atmosphere with a professional staff it's just wonderful. A couple of the waiters and waitresses worked at Jeffreys. To confirm my previous reply they do use riedel stemware, the only other restaurant I know using it is Nicholas. We are just happy to have a real option in the OC. I'm really not one who minds paying for quality so these extremely reasonable prices are real bonus.
As for as location you are right it is where the old Downtown used to be, but it's located in the back where Downtown's banquet facilities were.
Oh I forgot to mention there is no longer a private dinner club.
His website is www.simplygourmetcatering.net Last week there was info on the club and memberships fees ($175). But for some reason it's gone, in its place is the menu from last week. It said last week that it is open to the public. I also noticed that the deli is no longer doing dinner. I'm looking foward to going to the new spot,I always had good food at the deli. The only perks of the membership I remember for sure is that you get first availability of reservations and special events, free bottled water, and use of their riedel wine glasses (nonmembers may also have access to them, not sure).