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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!
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/478257

      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.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572649

      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

            RP:
            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!!

                    Thanks