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Were should we go!

We will try anything. Location Middletown. Will we travel up to 30 miles.

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  1. Are you new to the area? If you tickle the NJ Search engine above you find dozens of recommendations from NJ Chowhounds. My fast list:

    Drew's Bayshore Bistro, Keyport
    Nemo's, Keyport
    Matata Asian, Middletown
    25 Burgers (order the Mac n Cheese burger), Matawan
    Molly Pitcher Inn, brunch
    Porta, Asbury Park (octopus salad!)
    Shaka, Long Brach-Pier Village
    Kunya Siam, Thai Restaurant in Atlantic Highlands (curry puffs & drunken noodles beef)
    Splash of Thai, Westfield
    Spirito's, Elizabeth (ravioli, bar pie, garlic salad)

    8 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      Fantastic list HillJ. I live in Middletown now also and second your recommendations. Especially, Spirito's in Elizabeth where my grandfather used to take me when I was a kid, great memories and delicious food.

      1. re: cke25

        Bringing my nieces and nephew to Spirito's tonight for their first visit and those wonderful ravioli.

        1. re: njfreqflyer

          What a nice Aunt you are! Have a blast and a slice for me!

          I've been enjoying Spirito's a very long time. My father owned a textile/bridal factory in Elizabeth. Going for Sunday dinners and late night bar pies was the only way to spend quality time with him when I was young. That garlic salad...nothing overly gourmet about it yet I would crave it...and smell like garlic for hours! The decor hasn't changed one bit...even those tiny glasses! No butter!! Ha!

      2. re: HillJ

        If you enjoy Indian food, head to Little India in Edison/Iselin area.

        Both the Indian markets, sweet shops and restaurants off Oak Tree Road offer an array of choices.

        Rasoi II Restaurant
        & Moghul's Sweet Shop are two of our favs.

        1. re: HillJ

          You keep agreein' with me, Hill, I'm gonna have to come by for dinner and drinks, and I can't say I won't have other local 'hounds in "Toe"..

          1. re: MGZ

            Anytime. I think we would surprise the hell out of each other!
            Where oh where does one find the most beautifully prepared pork cheeks (besides your place?) in Mon cty?

            1. re: HillJ

              I’ve tried to think about this one, Hill. Honestly, the only place in the Mon/OC I’ve had pork cheeks was at Trinity once. To be fair, we had made a gift to ChefMd, upon arrival, of a coupla pounds of smoked jowl. He later presented us with a salad that featured some of it.

              Otherwise, the closest I have been and encountered anything using the head of a pig was the result of my “point and order” approach at Dragon Palace in Edison. It resulted in a somewhat spicey, braised in soy and wine, chunky, pork cheek dish. Quite good, but I have no idea what it was actually called.

              Thanks to you and your post, however, I just ordered five pounds of whole, smoked jowls. JLTs, here we come!

              1. re: MGZ

                My bro when he's in the mood makes some amazing pork cheek but I don't find them out near as much as I would like in this area. Last time I had pork cheeks was in the W Village as an appetizer served along side pork belly and pickled watermelon...wound up there for an hour enjoying the dish slowly..so good.

      3. PORTA. FOR. SURE.

        Skylark Diner in Edison

        1. Drew's and Nemo's would be on my list too.

          I'd add Nicholas in Middletown.

          Ivan & Andy's in Asbury (going with a "beef and booze" only approach).

          Dragon Palace in Edison is a personal craving I've been having lately. Moreover, if you're willing to go to that area, there are several solid Indian places worth playing with.* Here's a link to an old thread where a couple 'hounds contributed to creating a great nice list of spots: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/612161 I haven't tried 'em all, but I'll vouch for dinner at Moghul and Rosoi. Plus, if you want a great food dork adventure, you can always take Route 1 to 18 on the way home and stop in Highland Park for a coupla White Rose burgers - "It's a long ride home, Honey. . . ."

          One last suggestion would be, if you are new to the area, to try the rueben at Kelly's in Neptune. It's not a fancy spot and I have no pretensions that it is a great restaurant, but that plate is sort of an institution around here and unlike anything I've encountered anywhere I've ever been. My personal preference is a pastrami rueben, cooked "well done".

          *Not to mention other Chinese and Korean. You'll have to search for "edison" and "chinese" or "korean" on this Board, or go to Google and try searching "chowhound chinese (or korean) edison chuck98". I assure you there's a decent amount to consider.

          1. Since you didn't limit your query to "where should we eat?" I suggest you also make a visit to Sickles Market in Little Silver and the H-Mart in Edison.


            2 Replies
            1. re: njfreqflyer

              If the OP enjoys at home cooking as well as dining out, absolutely. I'd add the Indian markets of Edison/Iselin for produce, spices and hard to find pantry staples at very reasonable prices along with the Cheese Cave in Red Bank for all sorts of unique cheese tastings, gourmet brands (sourced from small out of area food makers) and special hard to find cheese orders. Also their cheese board/lunch specials.

              1. Also, if you are new to the area, find yourself a copy of Edible Jersey magazine from a local Whole Foods or farmer's market. They are free at retail stops but can be subscribed to as well.

                EJ covers the food, wine and growing scene across NJ. Beautifully written & photographed publication.


                  1. WE keep going back to:

                    Nicholas Red Bank
                    Via 45 Red Bank
                    NoTB Red Bank
                    At The Table Asbury Park
                    Porta Asbury Park
                    Drews Keyport
                    Nemo Keyport
                    Flaky Tart Atlantic Highlands
                    Pad Thai Highland Park
                    Nikos Long Branch
                    Jacks W Long Branch
                    Local Smoke Neptune
                    Frankie Feds Freehold
                    Ibby's Freehold

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: seal

                      Ok we have narrowed our list down to, Porta, NOTB, KELLYS sounds good we love a good rueben. And thai pad.

                      1. re: SwallowsNest

                        Other than ruebens, don't rec. Kellys....

                        Porta should be tried for pizza and salads and being the "happening" place.

                        1. re: SusieQQ

                          Sorry, but for me, Porta is first and foremost for octopus!! :-)

                          1. re: Curlz

                            I really enjoy the way they prepare the octopus there too, so maybe SusieQQ;s reference to the salad...included Porta's octopus salad (with greens, potatoes and lemon dressing)?

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Actually prefer the grilled octopus prepared at Nikos in Long Branch. Thicker, meatier and more tender than at Porta.

                              1. re: equal_Mark

                                Good to know, I've not tried the octopus at Nikos. That's another reason to head there!

                                1. re: equal_Mark

                                  I have to disagree with equal_mark on this one. Though it's been awhile since I was there, i recall the octopus at Nikos to be be over charred while the one at Porta was perfectly cooked.

                                  1. re: bgut1

                                    If I do get the opportunity to compare, I'll post it here. Thanks.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      Tentacles up, people...it's an octopus smack down!

                              2. re: Curlz

                                I love octopus. Porta is winning at this point.
                                Btw. Tues is the night. My day off.

                                1. re: SwallowsNest

                                  If you like octopus you wont be disappointed. PROMISE

                          2. re: seal

                            Nice list seal, I fogot about Ibby's-love that place. The brothers run a nice place. I've been meaning to get back to Nikos but a few CH's wrote less than favorable comments on it recently. Frankie Feds!! gotta get back there too.

                            except...last visit to Flaky Tart was not good; around late May visit. Both the layer cakes; carrot & coconut were dry as all get out and at $6/slice a real bummer. The cheese brownie was okay-nice chewy/tart flavor, the ganche/fruit cupcake filling was sour, the croissant was dry...I dropped $30.00 and was so fed up.

                            Have you been lately?

                            1. re: HillJ

                              I've been three times in the past month only as it is about 40 minutes from Freehold, but I've never had even a bad bite. I can't imagine anything there being bad as it's not as if they ever leave anyone else in charge of the baking. Off day?? Weird.

                              As for Nikos, I've also been back a few times recently and had great avgolemono soup and gyro and I still love their take on tzatziki - nice and thick. Can't vouch for anything else as I am a creature of habit.

                              I've been to every place on my list fairly recently and basically had the same thing at every place every time. I would think this is a rut but I am enjoying myself too much ;o)

                              1. re: seal

                                Sorry, they have added new bakers to the house. That's def. Maybe my timing was off for the very freshest piece of pastry that time. Anyone can have an off day but I went from being a full-on promoter to anyone standing on the corner of 1st & 36 to being underwhelmed. My loss.

                          3. Zoni's Coal fired Pizza.

                            Don't forget to get the wings.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: coldsolderjoint

                              I have been there twice recently for the first time. It is pretty good stuff. I personally like their buffalo wings better than the over roasted wings but both were tasty.

                              I have tried three different style pizzas there and all were pretty good. I will be back.

                              1. re: corvette johnny

                                Do they still make a salad pizza there?

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  Well I am not sure if this is what you mean but they make a pizza wtih arugula on it and prosciutto. It sounds really weird and looks funky on the menu but it is actually pretty unique. I thought it was pretty good. it's a white pie too.

                                  1. re: corvette johnny

                                    That's the one. Sometimes I crave a salad and a pizza but am quite happy when I can have both in one!

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      My wife loves that pizza! I think its pretty tasty also.

                            2. Ok. So my wife and I decided togo to Porta.
                              We have read some post and comments on other sites.
                              To be honest it was 50/50 pros & cons.
                              But we are excited to try.
                              We'll let you know what happens.

                              21 Replies
                              1. re: SwallowsNest

                                My guess is that if you like food enough to have begun participating on this forum, you will enjoy the plates served at Porta. When you go, keep in mind, that it is a wood-fired pizza place that puts out several dishes better than one might expect had they merely stumbled upon it. Also, it's in an old garage building, with what might be called "unusual seating" and, like many spots in AP, "discriminatory service".* A thread that you may have seen: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/832796

                                Otherwise, I apologize for not having been gracious enough to note that it's always great to have another 'hound sittin' on the porch, swappin' stories about where to find the best bones buried in the yard, and barkin' 'bout what they see fit. Thing is, Porta, like any other spot in your Thirty Mile perimeter, will have it's fans, it's detractors, and everyone in between. That's the fun part and the work sometimes - as you start to note who else likes what, you may get a better sense of how that relates to you and yours.**

                                *I realized, after the second time I suggested Porta to friends whose general look and demeanor would've been better suited to Stella Marina, that I should've been more detailed in explaining Porta to their Rumson-coddled brains. You know, something like, "Wear black and act like you don't care. . . . Oh, and stick with House wines and Tall Boy cans if you eat at the Bar."

                                **That being said, after I had reviewed this thread this morning, I realized a few things.

                                First, Stella Marina in AP is a good spot for "modern" Italian-American fare and a great view.

                                Second, Jimmy's in AP is a really good spot for "traditional" Italian-American fare and a great spot to overhear people using "words" like "Mannygot", "Gobbaghoul", and "Gavatel" when they take a break from singing the wrong lyrics to the Sinatra or Martin songs in the air.

                                Finally, Shipwreck in Brielle probably gets my vote for the Best Restaurant in any Monmouth County Shore town.

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  That Porta thread is still a fun read!

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    Does porta turn into some kind of dance club or something late at night? A few weeks ago there were just boat loads of kids around that place around 11:30 or so

                                      1. re: corvette johnny

                                        I've never been to Porta when it was even close to full of customers. Day or the one night I went. I like the place.

                                        1. re: corvette johnny

                                          I went on time on a Saturday night I believe I got there 9-ish and the kitchen is open till 11. No reservation and they wouldn't even put our name on the waiting list, two hours before the kitchen closed and they said, nope we are full for the night. So make sure you make a reservation if you are going to go on a weekend.

                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            I'll be going today. Around 5ish.
                                            I'm not much of a reservation type.

                                            1. re: SwallowsNest

                                              Perfect day/time for a first visit, imo! The nuttiness at Porta primarily happens on Fri and Sat. And fwiw I don't even know if they'll take a reservation...

                                              1. re: SwallowsNest

                                                You should have no problem getting in. Enjoy! Went to Taka on Saturday night after Zombie fest. The sushi was fantastic. I haven't been there in awhile and forgot how good their Sushi is. Another plus about Taka, they take reservations which we had since we knew Asbury would be crazy.

                                                1. re: toonik

                                                  Taka: my other favorite spot in AP!

                                                  1. re: toonik

                                                    Smart thinking! It's a little known fact Zombies don't eat sushi, but the steakhouses forget about it!!

                                          2. re: MGZ

                                            Well put MGZ, We will keep an open md.
                                            Shipwreck? That sounds Interesting. What cuisine is it?
                                            Btw, we really got a kick out of the mannygot , gobbaghoul, gavatel. Thats when you know you're really Eye-talian.

                                            1. re: SwallowsNest

                                              Shipwreck is best defined as a "New American Seafood" restaurant. It's a cool, soft space, offering above-average service, and quite a few solid plates. See, http://shipwreckgrill.com/

                                              As to Jimmy's, think of it as a chance to eat in the diningroom of the bar in Goodfellas. As a bonus, they make a damn, solid pie.

                                            2. re: MGZ

                                              Very good summary ,MGZ...I have always said that Shipwreck is the best and your analysis of the Italian places is "right on".

                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                Sounds like Christmas Dinner at my house.

                                                Oh don't forget Jimmy's offers a side of pasta or scharole wit your entree.

                                                I've been to Shipwreck a few times now, just for steak, and it has yet to disappoint.

                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                  To be fair to the OP, I seem to recall that you have had your steaks on the South side of the Inlet at Shipwreck Grille's sister restaurant, Shipwreck Point? http://shipwreckpointsteakhouse.com/ I think that's a great spot as well.

                                                  To be fair to you, I too have mistaken sisters before. The ones who didn't object were my favorites (those upstairs windows can be confusing).

                                                    1. re: SwallowsNest

                                                      We were at Shipwreck Grill on Friday. It's Mr. Bean's favorite. I almost fell off my chair when he did not order his usual rack of lamb. Instead he had the scallop and fois gras appetizer and the chorizo baked lobster with sweet potato hash.

                                                      I had the braised octopus Greek salad and the sauteed halibut with fava beans, lentils, corn, and tomato.

                                                      Everything was delicious as usual. I think you will enjoy it.


                                                      1. re: missybean

                                                        Wow. Both of them hose choice sound scrumptious. I must make shipwreck my next destination.

                                                        1. re: SwallowsNest

                                                          All four of the items were on their seasonal menu which had a decidedly late summer/early fall feel so may there may be some changes later in the season. There were also some recited specials. We have enjoyed many of their "regular" offerings.

                                                          I am not sure if they were needed but we made reservations. I know in the summer reservations are a must, and usually have to be made at least a week in advance, fall may be easier.

                                                          I look forward to hearing your review.


                                                    2. re: MGZ

                                                      My bad, you are correct, I have only been to Shipwreck Point. Since I've never visited the other location I often forget there are two, sorry for misleading.

                                              2. Many good suggestions but surprised Belford Bistro and Copper Canyon were not mentioned. These 2 along with Drews and Nicholas are our favorites. Enjoy

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: angelo04

                                                  shhhh! CC has enough business and I don't like waiting ; )

                                                  They have some new menu items if you haven't been recently.

                                                2. We chose Porta. We arrived on Tuesday around 5. Surprised that we had to pay for parking, a bit alarming since we arent in the city, but had to end up walking a block to pay since the meters werent working properly.

                                                  Walked in and immediately thought how cute it was. The community seating, warehouse ceilings, lights, open visible oven, side yard with tables and bocce court. Cute. We were one of the two tables seated and a few people at the bar. Waiter showed up at the table with menus and we ordered a pitcher of beer. 12 Yuengling We liked the simplicity of the menu and the eclectic ingredients they were using. My wife was looking very forward to trying ALL. lol We started off with the pork belly 12, cavolo nero 12, and the pan roasted octopus. 14

                                                  The flavor of the pork belly was amazing yet there wasnt enough of a serving for us both to share. The serving was a one inch cube. Yes. Thats correct. Kind of a tease for 12 dollars. Not reasonable at all. This is not 5 star dining, I am sitting at picnic tables. But eh? It is what it is.
                                                  The cavolo nero was scrumptious. Decent portion and just enough kick. The octopus was my favorite out of the meal. Exactly what it says it is, it is. Pan roasted octopus served with side of fennel salad. I loved it and ordered a second.
                                                  We chose 5 pizzas. Autumn Betty 16, carbonara 13, the 14 1/2 (name)16, Balboa16, and a regular margherita 8.

                                                  I was anxious to try the brick oven pizza, after the website information learning about the pizzaiola certification from the Association of Neapolitan Pizza Makers. As I witnessed the employees weighing and cutting the dough, I felt as if I was witnessing kindergartners playing with play-dough. (What I really want to say might offend some folks in the forum and the 'pizzaiola'!)
                                                  And NOT to my surprise they came out very chewy and unfortunately as well the bottoms of the pies were black with soot from the ovens not being swept and maintained of the ashes. This caused a black mud in the plate mixed with any moisture from the pie itself. Not good flavor. The toppings were piled in a glob on the pie and not spread evenly. For instance, on the carbonara the guanciale was all on one slice which made it super salty and the other slices had none. Just bare naked dough. All pies came out this way. Dismantled toppings, messy.
                                                  Let me also say that it is definitely not kid friendly. This is a bar. (We have no problem with this) It just so happens we had our nephews with us and there was nothing on the menu. We have read some posts that made us feel as if children would enjoy this establishment. When we asked the waiter for anything the kids could have, maybe just cheese on the pie, or please make a suggestion. We were bluntly told no. We later on learned that they have a Nutella Pizza which at that point we would have served the kids. At least it was something, but not suggested.
                                                  All of the above food was brought out in one shot, appetizers and pizzas. Throughout the meal, people kept trying to take the food from the table yet not any dirty dishes or empty glasses. Weird. Made us feel as if we were being rushed. At one point, we had to stop a server from taking food that was sitting in front of my brother-in-law. Also no managers in the building yet quite a lot of servers and such. No one that we recognized from the website.

                                                  My wife and I truly feel they have a wonderful concept yet are in dire need of "practicing what they preach" so much of in their website. They could have a very big following yet it seems more of a hangout and a bar than anything else. To bad. If Porta was closer to us we would enjoy to stop in every now and then to have a beer and the octopus salad. Other than that. Definitely overrated.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: SwallowsNest

                                                    Always a risk to recommend a place. I stand by the octopus salad and it was the only recommendation I made to you should you visit there. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. For me, the octopus salad is worth the trip if I'm already in AP. I can get beer, pizza and bocce at home. I park in the neighborhood and avoid the fees.

                                                    My husband and sons had a similar reaction to their pizzas on their first visit. I don't recall the service being much to mention one way or the other. I think Porta tries to be relaxed and casual in EVERY way.

                                                    Calling it over rated when so many of us here like the place, well maybe you were underwhelmed .. For a first timer you dove right in and order more food than I ever have.. I give you that :)

                                                    1. re: SwallowsNest

                                                      I am sorry to "hear" your disappointment, but grateful to "hear" your honesty. I agree with the fundamental notion that Porta serves some great food, but it is by no means a great restaurant. Perhaps, someday, you and your wife will have a moment to yourselves in which to take a drive down Ocean Ave. on one of those first sunny Sundays in Spring, take a walk on the Boardwalk, and stop at the bar at Porta for a beer, a salad, and a pie. That's kinda the category that me and Mrs. Z have put it into, and given your comments, it seems you might agree.

                                                      For future reference, I find that Mossuto's in Wall makes a very similar wood oven pizza and is a bit more geared towards families in general (actually, that's not really a "plus" in my book, but if I had children in tow, I'd appreciate an environment where several others often did). http://shop.mossutosmarket.com/index.... The dry aged steaks, grilled to eat in or cut from the butcher shop to take home, are a, significant, added bonus. I'm not sure if it's really a "destination" spot though, unless you're really craving pizza in that style and the extra-lovin'-funk that dryin' a strip for almost a month can provide you with the next day.

                                                      1. re: MGZ

                                                        I posted that my last trip to Porta, after having FREE mediocre pizza at Johnny Mac's, was a bit of a let down having mediocre pizza for $8.00 or $10.00.

                                                        I've never had the infamous octopus salad, just their pizza's, and after my first good experience, my subsequent visits haven't lived up. Word on the street is 2014 will be bringing us a couple of new Porta locations in the state, so perhaps they focus is on their big picture, rather than the little Asbury Park spot.

                                                        It certainly seems to me that the bar has become the revenue engine for the location.

                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                          It's funny, the last time we went to Porta, my much beter half said, "this place is in danger of getting even more Asbury and 'jumping the shark' - they'd be a lot better off in Belmar or something." Moreover, I agree that the bar revenue drives just about every "new" place in AP these days (except for the deep seated corruption of the development machine).

                                                          To the OP, I should mention that there are great wood fired pizzas to be had in Red Bank now, at a sister restuarant to Mossuto's, called Biagio's, on Broad Street. It's a short ride from the other side of the River. http://biagiowoodfiredpizza.com/ Sorry, I had forgotten to think of it previously.

                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                            Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't this a joint venture between Mossuto's and Zebu who use to occupy this location?

                                                            If I recall correctly this location is the first of what they hope to be a franchise, being that the founder of Zebu was also behind the once popular Manhattan Bagel.

                                                      2. re: SwallowsNest

                                                        Nice review. I always wondered what the appeal is to this place. I hear so many people on here talk about it and I always wondered "are the pizzas THAT good?" I might get there one day and unfortunately don't eat octopus.

                                                        If I recall you are in middletown area. Give Zonis a shot. I have been there twice and have tried 3 different specialty pies...not amazing but since you might live close by, I'll repeat, there is better pizza around in my eyes but this could work for you since everyone likes different styles and the convenience factor could be there for you. I'd check it out. It is BYOB Next time I want to try just a plain pizza. They are coal fired pies too.

                                                        MGZ, I have to check out that new spot. thanks for the tip.

                                                      3. My 5 year old grandson certainly finds plenty to eat at Portas.... it is very child-friendly place.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: SusieQQ

                                                          I believe it wasn't the menu selections that weren't kid friendly but rather there are no price reductions, or a "kids menu" with reduced sizes and prices.