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Oct 26, 2013 01:09 PM

Juanito's Gourmet Mexican Bakery - Red Bank

I had a pretty good Torta here today. My Spanish is not the best so it was a funny scene trying to order and ask questions. I tried to confirm that the Torta bun was baked on site, but never did get an answer. The bread is key to a great Torta in my opinion.

I went with the pierna enchilada Torta. It is basically like their version of a roast pork sandwich cooked in a nice smoky red sauce assuming guajillo. It had lettuce, tomato, refried bean spread, white Mexican cheese, avocado, jalapenos, and a little mayo. The bread was very fresh and light. It reminded me of coco bread that you get in some parts of the Caribbean. If you haven't had a Torta, I highly recommend you do so soon. It is one of the great sandwiches of the world.

By the way, I feel like there are three or four places called Juanito's in Red Bank. This is the bakery on Monmouth Street and Bridge Avenue across from the Red Bank train station.

Does anyone know if the Torta bun is baked on site?

Any other good local spots for a good Torta or cemita? North of the border a few doors down seems to serve both. I went with the bakery assuming they bake the bread on site.

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  1. NoTB is a hound favorite - check the posts. They do everything well, but I know for a fact that they buy their bread for the sandwiches. If they have them when you go, get the tamales.
    As for Juanito's, I have walked past often but never gone in. Sorry.

    22 Replies
    1. re: seal

      Thanks Seal. I will try north of the border soon and see how it compares. I've heard good things.

      I heard there are also good places in Asbury Park. A friend from Mexico City mentioned a place that actually has a tamale torta. I forgot the name, but will find out and report back.

      1. re: LifeGeek

        I'll second the rec for North of the Border. They also have Cemitas, but as Seal posted, they don't bake their own bread. The Torta Cubano is a freak of nature, complete with a hot dog.

        1. re: LifeGeek

          I never heard of a tamal torta (note: plural = "tamales", singular = "tamal"), but did some research and it's called a Guajolota. It's apparently big in Mexico City, which is one reason it's hard to find here....not many immigrants from that area.

          Can't wait to hear abou tthe place that does it. The dish marks them as a seriously authentic Mexico City-type place, which will nicely skew everything they do. Also look for a "gringa", a taco made with griddled cheese. And tacos arabes (available in other regions, but often best in Mexico City).

          1. re: Jim Leff

            Tacos Arabes, used to be offered at NOTB, but I haven't seen them on the menu in a while. Their version was served on large flour tortillas, basically Mexican spiced 'Shawarma' style lamb. It seems that the name loosely translated means 'Arab taco's'. Not to far of a stretch, since traditionally Tacos Al Pastor are cooked vertically much the same way as Shawarma, although I've not seen it done that way in NJ.

            1. re: drubenero

              It's true that shawarma was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, and renamed al pastor. And some people (including a Wikipedia editor, I see) equate tacos arabes with al pastor.

              But it's a different thing. It's chunks of meat (often pork) marinated in lemon and oregano. More akin to souvlaki than to doner/shwarma/al pastor.

              Are there Mexcans that might make tacos arabes from al pastor meat? Always possible (it's a big country with countless culinary wrinkles). But I've never seen it.

              1. re: Jim Leff

                Agreed, but let me clarify, the Tacos Arabes at NOTB weren't made with the Al Pastor pork, it was lamb. The comparative I was making was to point out that Al Pastor is often stacked in the same manner as shawarma, so I'm thinking maybe it is a Mexican take on a Middle-Eastern dish? Either way, when done well, it's great Chow.

                1. re: drubenero

                  Ah, but here's the thing: al pastor is always made rotisserie-style, like doner/shwarma. That's what defines it. However, when places can't afford a rotisserie (they're expensive), they sometimes fake it with a simulated al pastor that's just basically chunks of meat. And chunks of meat is also what tacos arabes are. Hence the similarity!

                  But there's no relationship, to the best of my knowledge, between tacos arabes and al pastor (with the caveat that one can find exceptions to any rule about mexican cuisine!).

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    So I spoke with my friend originally from Mexico City and he had a few additional insights.

                    First, according to him, Juanito's Gourment Mexican Deli does in fact bake their own torta bread. I was pretty sure they did because of the freshness and the fact that it didn't completely fall apart while eating. (When they are not really fresh, I've found that the bread splits easily making the torta a real pain to eat.)

                    Second, he mentioned another place in Asbury Park in the back of a deli that serves good tacos. I've had really good luck with places hidden in backs of delis in the city. The bad news is that he couldn't remember the name, but he said it is right next door to a restuarant called La Tapatia, which he said was just ok.

                    Third, he had nice things to say about Azul Tequila in Long Branch.

                    Finally, he did mention a place on Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank that has the Al Pastor spit. This made me really excited. Again, he didn't know the name, but I should find out in the next few days and report back. A place with the spit recently opened in Manhattan called Sembrado. They are a little pricey and small, but they have a good happy hour and a killer Mezcal selection.





                    1. re: LifeGeek

                      Might Lino's Mexican Cafe be the Place on Shrewsbury Ave with the spit? There are a few bodegas further up the street but Lino's would seem most likely...

                      1. re: equal_Mark

                        Hi equal_Mark, I believe it is a little deli called International Mexican Grocery. It has a Mexican flag awning. I think it is 92 Shrewsbury Avenue near Locust Avenue. It is the type of place where you can make a copy, wire some money, buy some mexican groceries, and potentially get an al pastor taco all in a 600sq foot bldq. It seems promising. I will try to swing by this weekend and report back.

                        I've been to Lino's and it was more of a BBQ/grill/rotisserie place when I was there. I believe they also serve pizza. I remember liking my meal, but not being blown away. I did find myself wanting to try dishes that I saw other people ordering. (I always try to make it to a place a few times in case they were having an off day.)

                        1. re: LifeGeek

                          Yep. It's right next to the post office on Shrewsbury Ave. in
                          Red Bank. They have a picture of the rotisserie spit in the window.

                          1. re: vikingkaj

                            Thanks vikingkaj! Have you happen to make it there yet? I'm very excited by the idea. When down well, it is one of the best foods around.

                      2. re: LifeGeek

                        The "back of deli" joint in Asbury next to La Tapatia is the Tapatia grocery store...I'm pretty sure it's the same food considering they have Tapatia's menu there.

                        1. re: joonjoon

                          Hello joonjoon,

                          My friend was saying that the deli caters a bit more to the Mexican clientele and features more "street food." This is all second hand so I can't say for sure. I guess the only way to find out is to eat at both! Have you been to either of these places? Btw, I follow a lot of your posts and gain good insight from you. Keep up the good posts!

                          1. re: LifeGeek

                            Aw thanks! I'm happy to hear my inanity is helpful to someone out there! Whereabouts in Monmouth county are ya?

                            I've eaten at Tapatia a couple of times - it doesn't strike me as being materially better or worse than the other Mexican joints around Long Branch, which is where I prefer to go for my Mexican fix.

                            As for the grocery store, the only time I was there checkin out the food they didn't seem like they were exactly "open"...but I will take one for the team and go check out what they're serving up!

                            Back to your original post, the ex-manager of Red Bank Melting Pot used to tell me there was a place next to North of the Border where they serve up the best tacos ever in the back. He says all of his Mexican guys swore it was better than NoTB. Did the Juanitos bakery also have tacos? If so it must be the place he was talking about!

                            1. re: joonjoon

                              I moved to Highlands from the city about a year ago. This board has been a great resource. Where do you live?

                              I didn't see tacos being served at the bakery, but a lot of customers were ordering some great looking salads. I really need to go with my Mexican friends to get a better handle on what else they offer. They could have tacos, but not sure.

                              Red bank deserves a Mexican food crawl. There are so many little delis that serve food that aren't listed on the web.

                              1. re: LifeGeek

                                There are a few small Mexican owned joints in Keyport (north of Highlands) that you might find surprisingly good & very cheap. One in the center of the town makes very tasty take out.
                                It's called Tacos No Problem on Broad Street. The other is El Pollo Y La Oaxaquena on Maple Place & Broad.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  For larger groups (or taking home leftovers), El Pollo Y La Oaxaquena has a large platter for $20 that you can easily feed four adults from (Parrillada a la Sierra, #22 on the current menu).

                                2. re: LifeGeek

                                  "Red bank deserves a Mexican food crawl"

                                  OK, sounds good. Talk is easy. Action is really not much harder. Keep talking and encourage the folks who already love these places to step out and do it up!

                                  1. re: equal_Mark

                                    Funny! =Mark and I were privately discussing a taco crawl, but neither one of us wanted to organize it.

                                    Anyone want to step up and take control of this one?

                                    If so, I'm in.

                                    1. re: equal_Mark

                                      = Mark says...."Red bank deserves a Mexican food crawl"

                                      Does that include a bottle of Mezcal to 'pull off' of for the crawl? Or do we make this a respectable gambit and get a bottle of Patron or Don Julio?

                              2. re: joonjoon

                                Yupper Joonjoon. Right next to La Tapatia. I've often had breakfast tacos with the locals during the summer - they're reasonable and tasty.

                                It's also where I get my ingredients when I cook Mexican: jalopenas (if I'm making poppers), my cilantro (when I just KNOW that Wegmans or Foodtown inevitably has it all gone by mid afternoon) and Queso Cojita for my enchiladas.

                                Nice place to have should you live nearby.

              2. Jaunitos also has to go tamales and enchiladas sometimes. Both are good. Ask at the counter.

                2 Replies
                1. re: vikingkaj

                  Love their tamales. Best deal in town!

                  1. re: fershore

                    I've heard great things about the tamales. I can't wait to put a few in a torta, which they will do on request. I'm brushing up on my Spanish to do just that!

                2. I visited the place this morning and had a sweet tamale stuffed with raisins and bits of pumpkin. Utterly amazing. Is Red Bank the Mexican center of central NJ? It looks like it has more and better stuff than Perth Amboy or New Brunswick. This place alone is worth the trip though.

                  And the takeout cup of Atole was pretty great too.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: BrianYarvin

                    Hi Brian, that sounds amazing. I saw a tamale de dulce on the board last weekend. Was this what you ordered?

                    There are quite a few places in red bank as well as long branch and Asbury park. I haven't lived in the area or tried enough spots to crown a winner yet. I have to get to work on that.

                    1. re: BrianYarvin

                      There are some good small deli/taquerias in Freehold that are worth checking out.

                    2. Hi, I know this is an old post, but I just started digging around for some mexican food ideas in the Long Branch area. Having a graduation party and looking for some authentic tortillas to serve my guests at the Taco Bar I'll be setting up. Any ideas where I can find the best? Will be needing 100 or so!