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Oct 30, 2011 08:53 AM

It's time to reassess the Red Bank dining scene.

There has been lots of turnover in ownership and several new openings in recent years. The prior threads are a bit stale, so I think it is time for us to chime in with our opinions of the Red Bank dining scene circa late-2011. Where have you been lately and where did you have a good experience? Almost as importantly, are there places that you would like to warn your fellow hounds away from?

Please post your top 5 list as part of your reply.

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  1. It's no secret that I love Red Bank. I love the river, the town, the theatres, the shops and, of course, the food. But there is still the good and the bad. Btw - does Nicholas count as a Red Bank restaurant? If so, well, 'nuff said.

    The Good

    Best Cheap Eats - El Norte De La Frontera continues to put out top quality mexican food with everything I've tried there getting at least a "yummy" from my whole family. Honorable mention to The Hot Dog Guy. After all these years he still makes great soups and nice dogs.

    Best Dinner - With a good start and constant improvement, Via45 just keeps getting better. I have never had a bad meal there and the ones we've had lately have all verged on greatness. Fresh ingredients and a great chef to use them along with their new prix fixe menu make me want to eat there waaay too often for my expanding waistline.

    Most Consistant - Red. Give me their filet mignon appetizer and a few sushi rolls and I am a happy guy. Nice drink specials and my son's favorite chicken sandwich round out our evenings there and as long as we remember not to go on Monday when the susho chef is off, it is always just right.

    Best New Additions - Temple is my new guilty pleasure. A tad expensive and not even close to the authenticity of Shanghai Bun or Westlake, nonetheless I really enjoy the food at Temple. They do what they do very well. And, I usually stop across the street for some fried vietnamese spring rolls and maybe something else to take home for the next day. I'm also a big fan of The Cheese Cave and that cupcake place that is inside Ricky's.

    I also eat at:
    Eurasian Eatery
    Good Karma

    The Bad

    Worst Downhill Slide - Globe Tavern. OMG! I used to enjoy a burger there now and then, but they have totally lost me as a customer. The details still make me cringe, but sufice to say I will never go back. On a whole other (read - much much milder) decline is Dish. They just haven't hit on all cylinders like they used to, both in food and service and I can't ignore the noise like I used to.

    Most Overrated/Overblown/Overhyped just over - Pazzo. Did I forget to mention overpriced? The only nice thing I can say about them is that I love the space.

    7 Replies
    1. re: seal

      Although it's still on our RADAR screen Dish has failed to deliver as of late. We ate there bi weekly for over a year and now are going a lot less often as we too see a decline overall. Your comments regarding the other restaurants listed above are right on the money.

      1. re: seal

        I agree Pazzo is just awful.

        I also agree that Red is consistently good.

        Our default is Basil's: excellent beer (my mug gets a lot of use), the homemade pastas are often outstanding and their scarpariello is the best I've ever had.

        A place that we've really grown to like on the byob front is Gaetanos (on Wallace Street). Every meal we've had there has been quite good.

        1. re: Mr. Bingley

          The food at Basil's has always been good, and a decent value...but I think the beer has unfortunately slipped a bit in the last couple years.

          1. re: The Professor

            They have a new brewer, and the seasonal summer beer was this fruity mess this summer. The stout is still quite good.

        2. re: seal

          I must check out Via45...wish the website or Facebook page provided a menu (or at least a sample menu if it changes frequently). I never made it to Willy's, but on a visit to the new Yestercades retro arcade a couple of weeks ago, I thought I walked by the space occupied by Willy's but which seemed vacant....I could be wrong. Also saw those awesome cupcakes inside Ricky's, but didn't stop to time. Looking at the menu for Temple, it incredibly resembles the menu at Peking Pavilion in Manalapan. Any relation? And, although its been there for quite some time and doesn't get much word of mouth, I'm a sucker for the stuffed pizza at Front Street Trattoria.

          1. re: jsfein

            Yes there is a connection with Peking Pavilion in Manalapan, the son I believe.

            1. re: jsfein

              jsfein - sorry to confirm that Willy's is indeed gone. With all the good options in Red Bank I must admit that I hadn't been back there in quite a while and I guess I missed them closing.
              I also like Peking Pavillion a lot for the same reasons I like Temple and as confirmed already, it is the same family. Now I have to get to the Trattoria for that pizza ;o)

          2. You guys can do better than this. Where are the hounds?

            1. In order, my Best of Red Bank for 'hounds goes :

              North of the Border
              Bagel Oven

              1. I second Seals praise for VIA 45. Never had a bad meal there. Claudette is an awesome chef.

                1. Cheapies:
                  I prefer Senor Pepper's at the train station for good cheap Mexican eats. Plus, nothing comes covered in a sloppy mix of frijoles and dry rice. Fresh and tasty, wicked cheap, efficient service and a BYOB. I love the pork and pineapple tacos with fresh lime, cilantro and red onion. All in pretty little hand made tortillas.
                  Also a fan of Pho Le on Broad, across the street from Temple. Cheap Vietnamese. It used to be called Saigon II and was in Lincroft. The banh mi is only "eh", but some of the apps( try the crepe and the vegetable rice paper roll) and all of the noodle bowls are great. Sitting at the counter with a spicy bowl of goodness is a little bit of heaven.
                  While I am in no way a vegan. Or even a vegetarian... Good Kharma Cafe on East Front is pretty darn tasty. I will go there with friends who do not enjoy eating a face and can always find something to keep me pleased.

                  Something Finer:
                  VIA 45 on Broad consistently keeps getting better. Those ladies are pumping out quality, on point, fresh and tasty dinners.
                  Bienvenue on Front- had a complete menu and talent overhaul in the past few years. Gone are the fuddy duddy cream sauces and in with the deliciousness. There is a hidden gem of a jardin tucked away in a little outdoor courtyard as well. Bring a few bottles of champs and have a beautiful night.
                  Red- ignore the beautiful, young thangs and sit in the dining room. Chef Daryl is great. There are always a few risks on the menu and it is updated almost entirely each season. The servers are friendly and competent and it is one of the only places in town that have a liquor license that I will frequent for food.

                  Some odds and ends:
                  Boondocks- a seafood place down at Marine Park. It is expensive and hell and not prepared well enough to demand those prices. But I get it, you are a BYOB and have some prime real estate, so you have to be pricey to pay the bills. And the view is really quite great. I go on Tuesday nights when $25 gets you two 1lb+ lobsters with corn on the cob and potato. Add my favourite bottle of rose from the Wine Cellar and a sinking sunset and this native Mainer is in heaven. COuld do without the Jimmy Buffet tho. Just sayin!
                  the Cheese Cave- $5 Fridays. do it! dont even ask what it is, just go at 6pm and bring a bottle of wine or maybe a chimay.
                  Nina's Waffles- you might catch Diabetes, but you will die happy
                  That Hot Dog Guy- every once in a while a gal needs a dog. And he satisfies.

                  And now, the funnerest part:
                  Places I avoid like the Plague:
                  Pazzo- the owner actually told the entire room once to " Shut the F**k Up' becauae their ad was coming on the tv. The service is the worst in town, assuming you can find a water in the empty place. PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY ARE IN THE SOPRANOS- PART 1
                  Buena Sera- for cougars or jailbait and the men that love them. and 2 pounds of overcooked, over salted linguini with the mozzarellllllllllllll ( no a) and the proscuit( no to). PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY ARE IN THE SOPRANOS- PART 2
                  Taste- bad service, outrageous prices. THIS AINT TAPAS PEOPLE.
                  The Melting Pot- same owners as Taste. See also the TGIFridays of cheese dip. The one time I was there the white wine storage was in the boiler room. Nice!

                  and now a drum roll for my absolute least fave........Blue Water Seafood on Broad Street. It is barely a resto. Ive nver had a bowl of steamers or musels that was more than 70% open. The ac drips on you. Fine peives of fish taste like nothing. Hope you like scales. and bones!. And the owner is more concerned about saving spots outside for his exotic car collection then feeding his guests. They actually use cones to save spots ( illegal) so that his valets can flash his stuff. Priorities speak volumes, and his suck. Which is a real shame bc the location in the New Brunswick area is ahmahzing and I had such hopes.

                  Ahhhhh Red Bank.
                  Can we play this game for Asbury Park too?

                  HAPPY EATING!

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: ivrygrl320

                    "Red- ignore the beautiful, young thangs and sit in the dining room."

                    Red has food?


                    1. re: Mr. Bingley

                      Red is filled with a select few people that have a ton of money, and a ton of people who would like to think they have a ton of money. LOL

                      Nothing in Red Bank blows me away but here are some of my spots ranging from dollar hot dogs to some finer fare....

                      bagel station....good bagels and a decent pork roll, egg and cheese.

                      Gus' hot dogs...the hot dog nazi has been serving up cheap dirty water dogs for decades.

                      Basils: as mentioned, a great chick scarpiello and anti pasto.

                      Siam Garden: Over priced thai food but real tasty stuff. I think I have had about every dish there and they are all good but expensive. Tom Kha Gai is superb. BYOB

                      Pasteria....not amazing but the bread there is wonderful. BYOB.

                      Tommys: a good selection of craft brews including dogfish on tap. The wings are real good too. The pizza is ok but very overpriced is my eyes. I just like the beer and wings.

                      The quasi diner/fast food style Broadway grill makes a decent cheeseburger when you need a quick bite to eat. I love the boneless buffalo wings there.

                      NJ classic....windmill cheese fries : )

                      PS, Senor peppers was good a while back. I have not been in a while. I like being the only gringo in there!

                      1. re: corvette johnny

                        bienvenue and Pho Le are both on my radar too. I have heard good things about both of them.

                        1. re: corvette johnny

                          I've got a lot of RB posts around here lately, as I have family that moved (back) to the area a couple years ago. Total agreement about the Bagel Oven bagel (been a fan since '83) and Tommy's draft beer (proximity to the train station adds points). I will reinforce your inclination to try Bienvenue and Pho Le - both worth a taste (ivrygrl is right about the Bahn Mi, not the best thing available - bread's not right to me). Also, Red's cool for a southern Monmouth guy like me between 4 and 5 in the bar. After that my dirty khakis, flip flops and plain tee shirts don't seem to belong . . . .

                          Also, ivrygrl, go ahead and start the game for AP - a "State of Chow in Asbury - Summer '12" is not a bad idea. Hell, I'll offer you my two pennies - the beef at Ivan and Andy's is the only thing truly worth going there for in the Summer (though a well respected chef/'hound I know is a "Korean tacos on the Boardwalk" fan).

                          1. re: MGZ

                            Unfortunately you have to eat that beef at Ivan and Andy’s. I have only been there 1 time and the miscues in service and other items BESIDES the steak are enough to keep me from wanting to go back.

                            1. re: jrvedivici

                              1 million percent agree. what a waste!

                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                I've got a couple posts, including that one, only lauding the beef there. And, you may know from other discussions, they sell their steaks by the pound to go.

                      2. re: ivrygrl320

                        IvoryGirl, you're right on the money as to your asessment. My comment on the Red Bank dining scene is that nothing much has changed on the upper end. It's typically overpriced and undelivers on the food side. Btw, I nearly spit out my coffee on your Pazzo-Buena Suera-Melting Pot troika of comments. Boondocks - no thanks, even the lobster special you cite.

                        The Mexican take out at the RR station, Pho Le is typically what draws me to Red Bank. Red is still a vg place, though I avoid it during the summer as I do many spots here and in AP. Typically will dine out on a Thursday nite, and do the low end of the dining scale on the weekends with the 'real peeps' who dig food and not the pretentiousness of BWSF for example. Walked by there last Thursday nite and what a scene from hell. And yes, by all means the same raking over the coals should be done sometime soon for AP

                        1. re: ivrygrl320

                          If it's possible to fall in love with someone via a food review I think this is love at first sight!!
                          {{ assuming that is the “grl” in your name does stand for girl. If not I apologize and take back my previously asserted love for you…..not that there is anything wrong with that!!}}

                          SPOT ON with all of your assessment for the locations I have visited in Red Bank. Having lived in the area for close to 20 years my complete frustration with the on again off again level of food and dining in Red Bank has completely turned me off. I anxiously await the opening of Char (at the old Ashes location) because I frequently travel to their Raritan, NJ location for their steaks and excellent ambiance and service.

                          Boondocks is actually the only restaurant I have not dined at on your list and I will be sure to give it a shot next time I have my lobster hankering. Where exactly is it located and how long has it been there……I’m surprised it was never on my radar.

                          I also concur with the other posters in support of you doing a AP post. Very enjoyable post/review thank you for sharing.

                            1. re: ivrygrl320

                              and i'm going to AP in a week or two so pretty please!

                              1. re: Mr. Bingley

                                will post something on AP early next week for you then.

                            2. re: jrvedivici

                              Boondocks is located in Irwin's marina off of Marine Park. With a few exceptions it is mediocre snack bar food at linen tablecloth and silverware prices. A seafood place with no shellfish or crab selections? Not even a simple shrimp cocktail? The only vegetable matter on the menu is cole slaw (and that is served in those tiny 2 oz. plastic containers). Iced tea is bottled, meals are served on paper plates with a handful of potato chips.

                              It's a shame as the view is excellent. Still miss Navesink Cafe and Osaka Sushi which previously occupied this location.

                              1. re: equal_Mark

                                thats why I will only go for lobster night. I can pay $12.50 for a lobster dinner that someone else is cooking. And even they dont screw up a steamed lobster and corn on the cobb ( so far)

                                1. re: equal_Mark

                                  Ok yes I stand corrected I know exactly where you are talking about. I always thought it was just a snack bar for the marina it sits behind the marina's main gate.....I believe there is or was a marina pool close to it as well I had no idea they were open to the public.

                              2. re: ivrygrl320

                                Right on about the Blue Water Seafood! Takes balls to cone parking spaces for his business when downtown merchants are always crying about the lack of parking.

                                1. re: RobertinRedBank

                                  Blue Water =

                                  Bad food

                                  So So Service

                                  Terrible Owner - has no idea of how to treat customers and it comes no surprise to me that he'd be blazen enough to 'cone off' parking spaces. Can the police put a stop to this practice?