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Mar 16, 2013 09:17 PM

Gardenia Grill (Hazlet)

I see that The Mad Greek has been replaced by Gardenia Grill, which appears from what I can find on the web to be Middle Eastern. Can anyone report on it?

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  1. i went in when they were still in transition phase, decor is more formal. Cloth Table Cloths, Glass Glasses, etc.

    looks like they are doing more "accessory" things like fancy coffee's and ice cream type stuff.

    I'll hold off a food review since I only went in once during their transition phase, and they even still had the old Mad Greek Menus so I can't accurately comment on it now.

    Per their facebook and website it looks like the menu is largely the same, with some more middle eastern stuff added.

    From what I hear, an egyptian guy bought it from the greek guy, and its all halal now also (probably not advertised as such).. no pork on the menu, and turkey bacon, no regular bacon.

    1. Can't seem to get the online Mediterranean/Greek menus to work, but enjoyed the view of the Hazlet skyline in the background... :-\

      1. Just had lunch. Delicious food. So glad to have some great Middle Eastern food in area . Definitely recommend !! Also, very nice waiter and chef comes over to ask about your meal.

        1. Any updates on this place? I am not an expert on this type of food but would like to give it shot when I am in the area.

          It looks like they actually cook with charcoal....that is right up my alley! The mixed grill is calling my name...

          5 Replies
          1. re: corvette johnny

            I've been in a handful of times since they transitioned over. The food is pretty good for the area. The portions are larger than I would have expected. It seems like the two guys who own it now are trying to really retain the customers. It seems like there is still pretty low traffic in and out of that little "plaza". A few times when I was in there, I was the only customer there. I've had a few tastings of their lentil soup which is actually really good. Supposedly, one of the chef/owners used to cook at the four seasons. Funny that you should mention the mixed grill. I happened to have that on Saturday night for takeout on a home depot run. It was a pretty large serving of various meats including a lamb chop, a few pieces of chicken, a kefte (sp?) kabob, some shish kabob meats, and it came with a large helping of rice on the side. I'm not an expert on middle eastern food by any means, but all of it tasted pretty good. I know sometimes with this type of food the seasonings can get pretty funky. The one thing that sort of struck me as odd was the Schwarma. I know the menu listed it as beef and lamb roasted on a spit, but I'm pretty sure I got chicken instead. Maybe they were out of it and the chef made a last minute substitution?

            I've had their gyros, and while they are pretty good for the area, and most certainly better than a diner gyro, they aren't as good as the Old Mad Greek Gyros.

            Not sure on the charcoal grill. I think it is a gas fired lava-rock type of grill. The kitchen is still open, I didn't really snoop out their equipment, but the set-up looks largely similar to what Mad Greek Used to have.

            I didn't think to try their pizza from a Med place, but when I was there on Saturday, a delivery guy had a few pizzas he was taking out the door.

            1. re: coldsolderjoint

              I went over the weekend as well and found it really good. We were the only customers in the place at around 11:30am. The staff were really great however. The guy who I believe was the owner is Egyptian, but like coldsolderjoint pointed out it seems they kept the Greek feel to the place. I suggested that the owner add a few Egyptian specials in the future.

              I had the Gardenia Mixed Grill which the owner said was more flavorful than the regular mixed grill. The meat was really fresh with a nice char flavor. The portion was massive so we took some home. Very good to split with a group.

              Now for what blew me away - the baba ganoush and falafel. I've eaten both of these dishes all over the place especially when in the city and I would rank these two dishes above any of the ones I have eaten in the past. In fact, I've been thinking about going back for more ever since Saturday. The falafel are perfectly fried but retain a nice moisture inside. They come with a really tasty tahini dipping sauce. The baba ganoush is out of this world good. The chef grills the eggplant over the charcoal and it brings out an intense smoky flavor which he balances with some fresh acidity of what I'm assuming is lemon. He tops it off with a nice drizzle of olive oil and serves it with pita. The hummus was good too, but just a tad too thick.

              Overall, what struck me most about the place was how fresh the food was and the skill of the chef. I was a little concerned going into an empty place hidden off the side of the road whether I had made a mistake. I really would like to see these guys do well so give it a try. I may go through withdrawal if I can't get their baba ganoush in the future.

              1. re: LifeGeek

                Nice reviews guys...

                I think I need to give this a try tonight. A lot of times I find great food at places tucked away and out of the limelight. In fact, that is pretty much the reason I am on these boards LOL

                1. re: corvette johnny

                  Agreed. I love going to out of the way places, but it was eerily empty for the entire hour and a half we were eating. A similar thing happened to me a few weeks back at Babur Garden, which was also good. (I didn't get to try the kabobs.)

                  I hope we can spread the word to give them just enough customers to keep the place open, but not enough to jam the parking lot and make us wait for an hour!

                  I hope you enjoy the meal as much as I did. I will likely be going back this weekend for a to-go order.

            2. re: corvette johnny

              Sorry, I should clarify that I didn't confirm the charcoal, but it sure tasted like it.

            3. Thanks! I love Middle Eastern food and look forward to trying this place. I agree with Corvette Johnny " great food at places tucked away and out of the limelight" one of life's great pleasures! I never would have known about it without your delicious review!

              16 Replies
              1. re: EL7

                I went last night, pressed for time but here is my synopsis....

                Mixed grill was pretty good but I would just get the chicken kebabs next time. They out-shined the rest of the meat.

                We had hummus, falafel and baba ganoush. As lifegeek mentioned, the baba ganoush is great! I would stick with that next time. It was good to try a few dishes but the chicken and ganoush did it for me. It was nice to change things up a bit and get something different. I think its worth trying some other things out too. I will be back.

                1. re: corvette johnny

                  Glad you enjoyed it. I liked the lamb chop and chicken best for the mixed grill. We're you the only ones there?

                  1. re: LifeGeek

                    I actually didn't have the double stacked lamp chop. My wife had that and she said it was good. We shared the mixed grill.

                    There were actually quite a few tables and even delivery orders. The cook was working pretty hard. I hope this place does well. I am not a huge gryo guy but the table of 6 next to us looked like they were enjoying their food.

                    If you haven't been, check out Linos and get the mixed grill (in red bank.) I think you might like it. I am a fan. For 15 bucks you will get a lot of me.

                    1. re: corvette johnny

                      Yes, Lino's is great.

                      I guess the gyro is one of the things they kept from the old Greek menu to retain some of the customers from the previous Greek place.

                      I intend to try the shawarma next time. I usually prefer shawarma to a gyro even though they are somewhat similar.

                      As a plug to our upcoming red bank taco crawl this saturday. Al pastor, also a type of spit roasting, was likely introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants back in the day. A place in red bank serves it this way and it is my favorite of the spit roasting styles.

                      Lino's is close by so maybe we can throw that in the mix if we aren't too stuffed from the other three places.

                      1. re: LifeGeek

                        interesting....what place in red bank does this? "As a plug to our upcoming red bank taco crawl this saturday. Al pastor, also a type of spit roasting, was likely introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants back in the day. A place in red bank serves it this way and it is my favorite of the spit roasting styles."

                        1. re: corvette johnny

                          A non-descript deli called international Mexican grocery on Shrewsbury. You can also send wire tranfers/faxes/buy airline tickets there. ;) many times the best places are in random spots like this.

                          1. re: LifeGeek

                            nice! is that the place like 50 yards past the galleria on the right?

                            Do they just have a spit inside? And how do I order? Do they speak decent english or do I have to order a dish using a Spanish name? This place intrigues me. As a guy who cooks BBQ, I love anything cooked over charcoal/wood. Please elaborate. Thanks : )

                            1. re: corvette johnny

                              It has a Mexican flag awning and I have yet to go. Only found out recently from a Mexican friend. You may end up having to point or just ask for Al pastor tacos. It is on a spit so usually not over charcoal traditionally for Al pastor, but still awesome due to the seasoning. I'll let you know more after our trip there. You could always come along if you are free.

                              I hear you tho about meat over charcoal or smoked via wood. There is nothing better. I'm heading to a Korean place in Edison that uses coals on Sunday.

                              Any favorite BBQ joints locally?

                              1. re: LifeGeek

                                Are you talking american BBQ?

                                I like local smoke's ribs...pretty good stuff. For brisket I actually like Big eds (people on here like to bash certain places and that is one of them but the brisket is decent there.) You probably know this, but cooking brisket is not easy and it takes a while. For what bid eds charges, I have no idea how they even make money on it. The price of brisket is outrageous now. It used to be cheap.

                                For Brazilian BBQ I love Rodeo grill in long branch near monmouth park. For 18 bucks that place can't be beat. Sure you can get a piece that might be overcooked or something but push it to the side and ask for more lol There are def better spots for for casual, local, byob, and cheap.... this place does it for me.

                                1. re: corvette johnny

                                  Cool. I'll have to check tthse out. I've been to local smoke and the ribs were really dry the day I went like a microwave reheat or something. Hopefully just a bad day. Their pulled pork was really good. I've been to jersey shore BBQ and had a few good dishes there too. I've checked out the boards and there seems to be a lot of disagreements. BBQ tends to start some serious arguments likely due to all the different styles we have across the country and world. As long as it involves low and slow I'm in. I guess the charcoal style isn't technically BBQ, but I still enjoy the versions like Korean anyway. I guess that is technically grilling.

                                  Sorry to get way off topic here.

                        2. re: LifeGeek

                          I think the gyro we see way too often in the US is the grayish meat torpedo which is pretty processed in my opinion. The best spit roasting is when they actually slice the meat and layer it onto the spit. Look up pictures on the Web and you will see the incredible difference. It is really too bad we don't get this option more in the US. The taste difference is amazing

                          1. re: LifeGeek

                            Mad Greek Used to have that. In both Chicken and Pork. They weren't too popular with the customers. I had gotten pretty close with the owner and it seems that some people actually complained that the chicken wasn't fresh because a lot of the chicken was dark meat and the edges get crispy as it cooks on the vertical rotisserie. It seems like the American way to make a chicken gyro is all white meat chicken breast on the flat top.

                            There a place called Think Grill, one location in Union, and one in South Brunswick area which uses that kind of layered meat.

                            1. re: coldsolderjoint

                              Good inside information. My girlfriend is one of those freaks that don't eat anything "gamey." ;) (For the record, she thinks I'm a freak for liking a lot of things I eat and she could be right.)

                              I don't understand it, but also don't complain because it leaves more for me to devour. I'm not sure what started this whole white breast craze in America, but I personally think it is ridiculous. The boneless, skinless, white chicken breast is not very exciting in my opinion. Especially when they're pumped full of drugs to make them ungodly large.

                              Ok, enough of my ranting. I'm sure I'll get an ear full from the lady tonight. Ha.

                              Plus, after reading this, I realize how funny it would sound to someone that didn't know I was talking about food.

                              1. re: LifeGeek

                                ....bumping this back up. I went for a second time. I am a BIG fan of the chicken kebabs. I first had the mixed grill and thought the chicken was the best. So I opted to get the full chicken dinner the second time around. For 14.99 this is a solid dish....full of flavor, tender, and a nice size portion.

                                And yes the babaganoush is still awesome. I tried the fried feta and meatballs too. Feta was delicious. 3 apps and 2 dinners could not be finished by my wife and I.

                                Check out this chicken dish folks....nice value and flavor.

                                1. re: corvette johnny

                                  I'm surprised you really enjoyed their food. I went once and thought it was ok, no better than greek to me. I found the service slow and maybe it was the owner... not sure, but he was a condescending guy. Enough to make me stick to Zaitooni's in RB when I want that type of food.

                                  1. re: Lcdsoundsystem

                                    yes it is slow. My first visit was ok. The mixed grill wasn't the best in my eyes but decent. The chicken stood out. That is why I went back. The full chicken kebab dish was really good on my 2nd trip.

                                    I have never been to Zaitooni's. any recommendations?