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Feb 20, 2014 07:49 AM

Firebird's Wood Fired Grill at the Monmouth Mall Eatontown, NJ

As usual I was finishing up a little late last night and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do………..and I remembered reading about this place opening at the Monmouth Mall so I decided to check it out.

I don’t even know where to start with this “experience”……..

I got there around 9:00pm, and I was the ONLY customer in the entire place. When I walked in I was greeted by a gentleman who welcomed me with “Welcome to Firebirds, we close at 10pm”. I assumed he was just letting me know the kitchen was closing at 10pm. When I sat at the bar, all alone, I asked the bartender and he confirmed the restaurant AND bar close at 10pm?!?!?! Now let me preface this with the fact the bartender seemed like a nice enough guy and I’m not trying to be mean or offensive, but I’m not sure he was “all there”. The lights are on but nobody’s home? A few fries short of a happy meal? Not the sharpest tool in the shed? A few peas short of a casserole? I think you get my point.

I ordered my normal drink Stoli Martini, no vermouth, olives. The bar is very elaborate with the bottles on mirrored shelves sorted by color to create a very impressive display. The problem is the pour bottles are also on these shelves and “Skippy” as we will call him was too short to reach the Stoli bottle. What I next witnessed could possibly qualify as some sort of Olympic event of jumping, squatting, jumping, and leveraging on a beer cooler before he was finally able to get the bottle off the shelf. A whole new meaning to “Top Shelf” liquor.

After pouring my drink and walking away I called him back to request the olives which I originally asked for, I figured the exertion of getting the bottle might have distracted him from how I ordered my drink. He acknowledged my request and then knelt down on the floor in front of a cooler and took out the contents, the fruit rack, jar of cherries, bottle’s of drink mix…..just about the full contents of the cooler only to turn around and tell me he doesn’t have any plain olives but will “wash out” some blue cheese stuffed one’s if I like. I declined his generous offer and just took the blue cheese stuffed olives.

I asked for a menu knowing the kitchen was closing soon. I looked the menu over and honestly I was so “uncomfortable” I decided to just get an appetizer and call it an early night. I ordered the crab cakes appetizer and handed him back the menu. As I tried to relax and enjoy my drink I couldn’t help but notice how diligently the bartender was “cleaning” the bar. He took every bottle out of the speed rack and placed it on the bar and squirted and rubbed, squirted and rubbed I honestly thought he might wear the finish off the metal speed rack. Then he moved on draft dispensers….same thing, this guys family must own stock in windex the way he was going through it. I stopped him a second and asked him; “How long have you guys been open now?” he responded “One week”…..I then asked him, how dirty can the bar be if it’s only a week old? He shrugged and went back to his cleaning.

To distract myself from him I took a good look around the place. The build out of the space is very impressive, the bar/lounge is really beautiful, large fireplace (gas fireplace was off) with large piles of wood on each side to fuel the gas fireplace, which again was off. But the place is very nice looking over all. Oh wait they also have a “Firebird” above the fireplace that looked like it was made from recycled Budweiser beer cans, but other than that the place is truly nice looking.

My crab cakes arrived and looked very nice, two of average size. ($15.95) It was served with some kind of a tortilla slaw in the middle and per the menu a “mango habnero chutney” –or- what I would like to call orange marmalade. The crab cakes weren’t bad…..but they also weren’t good either. The whole combination of the dish just didn’t work, the crab cakes had nice lumps of real crab meat in them……but it just didn’t work, I can’t explain it any better than that.

By this time it was nearing 9:45 and while a couple of women came in for a cocktail it was clear they were getting ready to close when the cleaning person came in the front door and started piling up her cleaning supplied at the hostess desk. Back Pack Vacuum (check), Caddy of cleaning supplies (check), box of large garbage bags (check). She then began to “undress” from her out-door winter cloths into her underneath cleaning clothes at the hostess desk as well.

Also during the time I was there the place was visited by a variety of curious people. I assume mall goers that wanted to poke their head in for a look, but I’m not 100% sure of that or if they were members of the bartender’s family checking up on him. I couldn’t really tell.

Various employees mulled around in various forms of uniform and street clothes as it was nearing closing time I assume. The bartender did check on how the crab cakes were and I lied through my teeth and said “excellent thank you”. I would have imagined a manager or someone from front of the house staff would have stopped by to check, introduce themselves or just acknowledge the only customer in the place…..but perhaps they were busy ordering more windex for Skippy.

I honestly haven’t experienced a more bizarre experience in recent memory. Given the location of this place, The Monmouth Mall, in a location an Old County Buffet couldn't cut it I have no idea who this place is trying to appeal to. If this place makes 1 year I will be shocked.

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  1. this is why you don't go to the mall to eat JR ; )

    just kidding....i guess I will pass on this (not that I frequent the mall much.)

    I still want to try Joes crab shack to see what that is about.

    3 Replies
    1. re: corvette johnny

      I hated Joe's Crab Shack so much it inspired me to "re-join" Chow just to post this review, enjoy;

      1. re: jrvedivici

        I have no idea what you wrote about Joe's Crab Shack, but I'm impressed (and amused) by your sense of purpose. That place must have caused some seriously strong emotions. I guess now I have to go and read it.

      2. re: corvette johnny

        I like Joe's Crab Shack. I only ate there once, but thought the portions were huge and nothing tasted freezer burned. I don't drink very much so I didn't have any interaction with the bar. I do think it is waaaaayyyy too loud for my elderly ears in there. I ate at the one in Lawrenceville.

      3. Even the name of the place seems off. Surprised to see it's a chain.

        1. ok I guess I will cross joes off my list too LOL

          1. Having worked for a National Chain as part of a Regional Corporate Training Staff to open new facilities.....the cleaning you described is commonplace and required as a part of training and ultimately their cleaning duties before being checked out before the end of their shifts.

            Thanks for the memories...

            8 Replies
            1. re: fourunder

              A few weeks ago I was talking to somebody who services cooking equipment for restaurants in New Jersey, and he said hands down the White Castles in the area are the cleanest.

              1. re: ebchower

                The Private Sector....could learn very much from the Corporate Chain Sector....on how a restaurant should be run, both administratively and operationally...especially when it comes to .standards for food safety and cleanliness.

                1. re: fourunder

                  A friend who has been a waiter at many diners and chains told me he would only trust a chain not to recycle bread that a patron didn't eat.

                  1. re: ebchower

                    He lied, bread can often be recycled. Even if not for service as bread again, for croutons, stuffing, bread pudding any number of things.

                    I taught my children from the time they were babies, when eating at a diner ALWAYS bite the pickle. End the pickle cycle, there are pickles in circulation in NJ diners that were put into service when Nixon was President. Ohhhh if diner pickles could talk!

                    1. re: jrvedivici

                      JR, your posts never fail to make me smile. And yes, restaurants do recycle the bread (breadcrumbs, croutons, etc.

                      1. re: jrvedivici

                        So you're saying if a customer leaves a dinner roll behind, it's acceptable for the restaurant to use it for bread crumbs? That's what he was talking about. The dinner roll you were served may have been served to previous customers who didn't bite into it.

                        1. re: ebchower

                          I'm not saying it is acceptable, but I am saying in probably 50% of restaurants that serve bread/rolls etc will recycle what has been left behind, unused in a basket. Yes. Actually I would say more like 70% as I think of it.

                          If you walk into a typical diners kitchen dishwasher station it will rival the most advanced city recycling center. There are buckets for recycling of un-squeezed lemons, pickles, crackers, butter name it they recycle it.

                2. re: fourunder

                  I agree completely, all I'm going to say is you had to see this guy clean.

                3. Maybe people were home in bed for work or home watching the Olympics. It is a week night in the dead of Winter. No football, etc.