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Officially sick of talking about burgers... what was your favorite 2008 meal/rest. in CentJersey ?

OK, sportsfans, that's enough about burgers already. I'm more interested in other things food, especially in the Central Jersey area. So, with the New Year upon us, is anyone interested in reflecting a bit and posting a vote for favorite meal/restaurant of 2008?

I am. However, I must first admit that I have not made it to Bayshore Bistro, Trinity or Catherine Lombardi yet (my New Year's resolution will be to rectify that). But after running the gamut from Nicholas to 10th Ave Burrito over the past year, I'd have to say my favorite dining experience this year in Central Jersey (excepting my regular faves like Shipwreck, Eurasian Eatery, Brickwall and the aforementioned and rockin' 10th Ave. Burrito) was at David Burke Fromagerie. What started out as a frustrating experience when we found our anniversary reservations left us sitting at the bar, the staff couldn't have been more helpful and respectful and the food was high-quality and sophisticated yet casual. We can't afford the ticket to become regulars, but the effort of the staff, the food, the great atmosphere all added up to a great dining experience. I'm not trying to crown Fromagerie as the finest restaurant in the area, but it was my favorite experience this year.

I had the BOOM burgers (they were fine), ate at Viva's a few times (slipping already), tried JRs (I don't understand tiny food), was choked by pretention at the holy Restaurant Nicholas (get over yourself, no excuse for an ordinary halibut dish at $35) and ate the best sushi of the year at OTA-YA in Lambertville (never fails).

To be fair, the best meal of the year in a restaurant was at Wolfgang's Steakhouse in NYC, while the best by far were the meals prepared at home with friends and family.
Anyone else?

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  1. For me, it was definitely my dinner with my two best friends at the Blue Bottle Cafe. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/557222
    Can't wait to go back!

    1. Our best dinner of 2008 was at Max London's in Saratoga Springs. Actually turned into 2 meals as it was soooooooo good we went back the following night!

      A close second would be a dinner we had at Supper in Philadelphia and locally, an unexpected & simple Friday evening graze we had at Main Street Bistro in Princeton.

      Sometimes the oldies turn out to be goodies. : )

      1. aklein, great topic! I always enjoy your reviews and look forward to hearing how fellow Mid-A hounds spent 08 dining out! Be sure to check out Bayshore Bistro and Trinity in 2009. ChefMD you rock!

        You can't go wrong with a recommendation from val ann c when you have a yen for small, local stops. Top notch choices & I appreciate val ann c always checking in to this Board.

        My fav of 08 was probably Drew's in Keyport and Drew rec's props for bringing excitement to a small town in need of great dining as much as for his high quality and delicious preparation. Real heart there.

        Props to Havana Tropical Cafe for a fun outdoor dining experience while my parents were visiting this summer.

        Can't forget Flakey Tart for the mini desserts like key lime, the oh so good mac n cheese! I really enjoyed the threads devoted to exploring the place.

        There are places on my 09 list often suggested by Mark, RGR & bgut that I hope weather a harsh economy. Happy New Year all!

        1. Chef table at Nicholas was my best meal of 2008...disagree completely on the place being pretentious though. I'd have paid double for my meal. (check the halibut dishes at other NYT 4-stars..ya don't go to Nicholas to order a 35$ halibut, but if you want....sure they have it)

          1 random after work, need a burger (i know I know, no burger talk) at Stage Left (which is half price this week BTW)

          Lunch at Thai Kitchen in Bridgewater

          DeLorenzo's (robbinsville)

          Beef Bourguignon at Sophies Bistro

          Brunswick Grove

          WORST meals of 2008

          David Drake in Rahway - actually this would rack up as my worst dining experience ever probably.

          Take out Pizza from Franks in East Brunswick shopping center.

          Turning Point breakfast (in Manalapan?) bad...

          To be fair like Aklein, my best lunch was recently, but in NYC at 11 Madison. However, my Nicholas meals (pretty much any of the 5 or so this year) topped my recent Jean-Georges on everything except dessert.

          2 Replies
          1. re: RPMcMurphy

            Maybe we just had a bad night at Nicholas, or maybe I'm more into looking at great , creative food at a better value. Maybe I'm not interested in the perfectly choreographed service or that kind of ambience. Or maybe I'm just a slob at heart and can't get comfortable in a place like that. I guess I don't get Nicholas, but I get Del Posto, the Spiced Pear (Newport, RI), I get others in NYC and several places in Paris, but I seem to miss whatever it is at Nicholas.
            Your mention of Jean-Georges reminds me of the worst dining experience of my life at his V Steakhouse a few years ago. Fortunately for everyone and world peace, it closed.
            Of all the celebrity-chef restaurants I've been to over the years, the only ones I truly enjoyed (other than my one experience at Fromagerie) was at Blue Hill, Ouest and Po, the old Batali place in the Village, but I guess I need to get to 11 Madison.

            1. re: aklein

              don't get me wrong, Jean-Georges was probably the second best meal of 2008 for me....the crispy rabbit dish alone was great... at JG, the FOOD was great, but the atmosphere, was...just eh.

              To also be fair, I rarely eat in the restaurant at nicholas, always order many things from bar menu or do the chefs table tasting....so the service was either bar...or in the full throws of the kitchen.

              11 madison also has a great cocktail bar.

          2. 1. "Discovering" Trinity & celebrating our 10th Anniversary with a tasting menu that was out of this world. (In fairness, we probably had 2 or 3 of the best meals of the year there.)

            2. Stoudt's brewery and adjacent restaurant in Adamstown, PA.

            3. The German butcher in Lacey/Toms River.

            4 Replies
            1. re: MGZ

              My best NJ meals this year came at Drew's Bayshore Bistro and Restaurant Lorena while my best "discovery" was Belford Bistro. My best meal of the year however happened this past weekend at Eleven Madison Park in NYC. I'll also agree with RPMcMurphy about EMP's cocktail bar. They didn't flinch when I requested a Hemingway (which was perfect BTW).

              1. re: bgut1

                bgut what do you recomend at Drews?

                1. re: Tapas52

                  Tapas - Everything on the menu is good but my favorites include the BBQ Pork Strudel, Voodoo Shrimp, Pork Du Jour, Jambalaya with Shrimp Creole and the Day-Boat Scallops. Honestly, you can't go wrong with anything on Drew's menu. I have had practically every item and not one is a clunker. BTW, save some room to try one of Drew's homemade desserts. Good Luck.

                  1. re: bgut1

                    10-4 on the choices.....I'll be there very soon!!


            2. Tasting menu at David Drake...several times
              Daniel in NYC
              Dimsum Garden in Philly
              Delorenzos, Robbinsville & Trenton....many times
              Trinity in Keyport

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bossa_Nova

                Trinity burger.

                Father-in-law's 80th b-day party at Nicholas.

                Belford Bistro chowhound get-together.

                Thai feast for 12 at Pad Thai in Highland Park. ( If I could only eat one meal every day for life it would be their sausage fried rice)

                A perfect bowl of fresh noodles with hot bean curd sauce at Shanghai Bun.

                One of about a hundred sausage pizzas delivered from Frankie Fed's.

              2. Bando, Middletown
                Lamb sharwarma(sp?) at ibby's, Freehold
                take home sashimi from Mitsuwa market, Fort Lee

                1. Best meal/fave restaurant: Drew's Bayshore Bistro....Drew is a culinary genius.

                  Worst meal: Pizza from Vesuvio on Rt. 9 in Forked River/Tilapia Oreganata at Hemingway's in Seaside Hts. Blech.

                  1. Favorite restaurants in no particular order:
                    Drews Bayshore Bistro, Keyport
                    Blue Bottle Cafe, Hopewell
                    Belford Bistro, Belford
                    Lorena's, Maplewood
                    Teds On Main, Medford
                    Under The Moon, Bordentown

                    Favorite Pizza, Burgers:
                    Delorenzo's, Robbinsville
                    Albivi, Seafood Pizza (not on menu), Millstone Monmouth County
                    Boom Burgers, Belmar

                    Wife and I meeting and having dinner with the Chowhound gang at Belford Bistro was a real highlight, putting a face and voice with many people who post here.

                    Also have a few favorite Philly and NYC places but will save for another thread.
                    Happy and healthy 2009 to everyone!!

                    1. Nice topic and some good comments on here, very interesting.

                      In keeping to Central Jersey, a few of my favorite meals have been:
                      -Seafood combo on top of half-pineapple and served very spicy at El Meson in Freehold, sitting outdoors with some top notch byo beers in the summer
                      -Fried calimari and octopus stew at Pithari Taverna in Highland Park
                      -Creating 'My own boli' at Stuff Yer Face in NB on a pretty much weekly basis
                      -Jersey Freeze soft serve ice cream
                      -Pizza from Vinnie's in EB (agree with the other post here on Frank's- horrid)
                      -Assorted naan/bread basket at no-longer existing Piquant Bread in NB

                      I still seem to be the only one that is continually underwhelmed by Drew's. I still am going to keep on trying.

                      1. My boyfriend took me to Nicholas as a Christmas gift this year. The meal was flawless--as was the experience. We are both young (he's 23, I'm 20) so we were a bit starstruck by the ambiance and the wow factor of it all. It was, hands down, the best meal of my entire life. Though it was probably made better by the fact that we had a phenomenal bottle of wine and that I was sharing it with the love of my life.

                        We also frequent the Maggiano's in Bridgewater. I think they have one of the best caesar salads I've ever had--and it lacks that chain-restaurant taste and feeling...even though it's a chain.

                        Also had some good meals at Spain 92 on 202 South in Bridgewater. The have great paella--and a lot of vegetarian selections!

                        1. Although just outside NJ in Upper Black Eddy PA, a place called Tara is definitely worth the trip. You feel as if you have been transported to Tuscany. I was there in September on a lovely evening and sat in the garden. They keep the tables set apart from each other. The menu was absolutely amazing and I absolutely pigged out on Tagliatelle with black truffle sauce, Lobster Scampi, and Rack of Lamb. Every bite was better than the last. It's definitely a bit pricey, but absolutely worth it.
                          Worst was the Lambertville Station - completely overpriced for hopelessly mediocre atmosphere and food.
                          I've just moved to Lambertville and will definitely try the sushi at OTA-YA, good to know!