Edible Red Bank
Community spirit is the strong and colorful thread that binds this town on the Navesink.
Since the days when the Lenni-Lenape harvested oysters off the banks of the Navesink River, the site of modern-day Red Bank has been a place where people go to feast on the finest foods that nature has to offer. Today, visitors flock to the town to do just that and more, feasting not only on its vibrant food scene but on its eclectic shops, its music, art and theater, and its joyful atmosphere.
With well over a hundred years of history ingrained in its stately, manytimes repurposed buildings, Red Bank is an old town made modern. Each generation of entrepreneurs falls in love with it in a fresh way and brings a new rhythm and energy to this bustling, exhilarating locale.
In today’s Red Bank, with very few exceptions, you won’t find chain stores. What you’ll find instead are small businesses owned and managed by people with a passion for what they do and for the city.
In any of these establishments, you’ll find the folks behind the counter happy to chat about tomorrow’s rain forecast or the festival planned for the weekend. They’re the ones to ask if you’re looking for the best new restaurant in town (Biagio Wood-Fired Pizza), or if you can’t decide on where to take your appletini-loving friend on Saturday night (Teak). They’re also likely to share reviews of the new show at Two River Theater Company (fantastic), or the season’s lineup at the Count Basie Theater on Monmouth Street, named for one of the town’s most famous sons, legendary jazz hero William “The Count” Basie, too.
And if parking in this lively little town is not always easy to find, that’s understandable; there’s so much to do in Red Bank that sooner or later just about everyone who lives north, south, east or west of Broad Street will find a reason to be here.
Residents start their day at places like No Joe’s Cafe, owned by Mike Tierney, a Red Bank resident, and warm up with flavored coffees and house-made hot chocolate.
In the evening, hungry for dinner and fun, the after-work crowd embraces happy hour. Chefs and bartenders all over town get busy serving as customers get busy enjoying appetizers and drink specials. Tom Cappello of Gaetano’s refers to Red Bank as a carousel, a place where people can come together to enjoy the flavors of the world, all within little more than one square mile.
Evident everywhere is the camaraderie among restaurateurs and store owners. People know each other here. More than that, people care about each other here. The reason for their solidarity lies partly in their shared challenges.
The tough economy of the past several years hit Red Bank with a powerful wallop. Then, when the city had started to emerge from the economic doldrums with new energy and gain ground, it suffered a new blow: Hurricane Sandy. However, like the Whos down in Dr. Suess’s Whoville when the Grinch stole their Christmas trimmings, the Red Bank community showed its true colors after last October’s storm. Although Red Bank survived Sandy relatively unscathed, the people of the town came together to support each other—and neighbors who had suffered much more.
At Via 45 on Broad Street, the sounds of a busy kitchen canbe heard in the dining room. But Claudette Herring and Lauren Phillips, the restaurant’s chef-owners, are relaxing at a table, sipping a healthy juice drink. It’s not yet time for them to begin cooking for the dinner crowd. So who is bustling in the kitchen?
“Oh, that’s Lynn,” says Phillips, referring to Lynn McKittrick, a coowner of Riverfront Cafe in Sea Bright. The café had sustained heavy damage during Hurricane Sandy, and with catering orders booked for the following weekend, McKittrick turned to her friends at Via 45 to ask if they would let her use their kitchen.
They didn’t know each other well at that point, but it suddenly didn’t matter. “Within an hour of my asking, they handed me the key,” says McKittrick. Thanks to their offer, she was able to fill all her catering orders. With her own restaurant still out of commission, McKittrick continues to borrow the Via 45 kitchen—with its owners’ blessing.
There was no electricity at Via 45 for the first few days after the storm. But the gas stoves were working, so Herring and Phillips cooked by candlelight—not an easy task. Nevertheless, when the owners heard about first responders in Monmouth Beach who were working while hungry, they sprang into action, delivering hearty, hot meals within hours, along with many of their fellow restaurateurs who were doing the same (see sidebar on page 59).
And it wasn’t just the restaurant owners and workers who lent a hand. “People who live in this town were really out there, helping each other. There’s a great sense of community here,” says Herring. That’s probably why Smithsonian magazine featured Red Bank as number three on its list of the 20 best towns in America in its May 2012 issue.
“We’re a tight-knit little community,” says George Lyristis, coowner of The Bistro at Red Bank with his brothers, Charlie and Taso. The trio also owns Teak on Monmouth Street and Zoe in nearby Little Silver. “I’ve been in this town 18 years, and you become good neighbors.”
With spring here and the economy on the upswing, there are already plenty of reasons to visit Red Bank. But a group of restaurateurs is working hard to extend an even warmer welcome to visitors. In 2011, some of the city’s restaurateurs established Red Bank Flavour, an alliance of eateries, restaurants and food-related businesses, with a mission to market the town’s culinary offerings in as many creative ways as possible. The group promotes the members’ special events and offerings, and also works closely with RiverCenter, the downtown business alliance, on a variety of activities throughout the year that RiverCenter produces to attract tourism—and business—to the area. Successes to date include the annual Wedding Walk, which invites bridal parties to explore the wealth of wedding services here, the Guinness Oyster Festival in the fall, and the warm-weather Food and Wine Walks that lure people off the beaches for a nibbling and wine-sipping tour of Red Bank’s restaurants.
“Our last four Food and Wine Walks sold out, summer and fall,” says Nancy Adams, RiverCenter executive director. The next one is scheduled for June 16.
But don’t wait for summer to feast on this cool little town on the river. Red Bank’s warmth comes from its people—and that makes it a town for all seasons.
FEEDING A CROWD
After Sandy hit, the restaurant community were among the first to lend a helping hand and a hot meal.
On Oct. 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy tore along the Shore, ripping up some 60 miles of coastline in Monmouth and Ocean counties and leaving many towns virtually uninhabitable.
Chris Wood, owner of Woody’s Ocean Grille in Sea Bright, knew it was going to take an army to get the town back on its feet, and somebody needed to feed the troops. Despite the fact that his own restaurant had been ravaged by the storm, he and his chef, Onofrio Moscato, rounded up some grills and began cooking outside the firehouse. It was a mission that eventually evolved into a full-fledged community effort, thanks to donations from food vendors and neighbors on the other side of the Shrewsbury River.
Marie Jackson, owner of The Flaky Tart bakery in Atlantic Highlands, headed to neighboring Highlands with soup, sandwiches and sweets that she and her staff had prepared.
In Rumson, Fromagerie chef/owner David Burke and staff assembled 500 box lunches and delivered them to Keansburg and Union Beach. When George Lyristis of The Bistro on Broad Street in Red Bank heard about 700 people in a Keansburg shelter in need of a hot meal, he recruited 14 fellow restaurateurs to help. They cooked up 100 gallons of soup and delivered them to families taking refuge in a local middle school. The group, with the help of donations from Sugarush on Front Street, also provided meals to National Guard troops stationed in Sea Bright. And The Bistro, The Melting Pot, The Danish Café, and other Red Bank establishments, invited those without power to come in, charge their phones and warm up.
“You don’t turn your back when people need you,” says Lyristis. —E. Moon
Editor’s note: The above are just a few of the countless instances where New Jersey chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, food purveyors and others lent a hand to those in need in Sandy’s wake. Their generosity and willingness to help at a moment’s notice gave new meaning to the words hospitality and sharing.
SAVE THE DATE:
Sunday, April 28
2nd ANNUAL INT’L FLAVOUR FESTIVAL
White St. Parking lot, Red Bank
Sample your way around Red Bank’s restaurants as local chefs make culinary magic. Great food, live music and free people-watching. Friday, May 31 through Sunday, June 2
Marine Park, Red Bank
Enjoy sun, sunsets and evening stars along with the best Red Bank area restaurants, live music and family fun for everyone. For more information on these and other events, visit: A Cool Little Town • Red Bank Flavour • Red Bank
Carter & Cavero Old World Olive Oil Company
19 Monmouth St. | 732.219.0506
Sample extra-virgin olive oils and vinegars from around the world at the tasting bar and browse the wide variety of imported gift items, cookware and pottery.
The Cheese Cave
14 Monmouth St. | 732.842.0796
Indulge your passion for cheese. Visit on Fridays from 5–8 pm for a sampling of cheeses from around the world and specialty foods for $5 per person. It’s BYOB, and they’ll provide the glasses.
Juanito’s International Marqueta
197 Shrewsbury Ave. | 732.212.0660
This recently opened 4,000-square-foot super-market on the borough’s west side offers hard-to-find Mexican & South American specialty foods.
Red Bank Chocolate Shoppe
17 White St. | 732.219.0822
Try the Red Bank Twist (a chocolate-covered, caramel-stuffed pretzel), take home a pound of chocolate-covered cherries, or pick out a special chocolate Easter bunny.
37 E. Front St. | 732.414-9044
When it comes to cupcakes, Sugarush takes the cake. Frost and fill your very own cupcake or choose from their made every day selection.
21 W. Front St. | 732.741.0333
This three-generation Red Bank business specializes in gourmet catering and gift baskets. Stop in for caviar, wine, Tobin’s hams and giant, homemade chocolate chip cookies.
The Wine Cellar
23 Monmouth St. | 732.219.9935
Choose wines from the best-known vineyards around the world as well as a selection of the finest wines from New Jersey’s own vineyards.
Basil T.’s Brewery and Italian Grill
183 Riverside Ave. | 732.842.5990
Red Bank’s only craft brewery is also a Zagat-rated restaurant and winner of 23 Open Table Awards since 1987.
Biagio Wood-Fired Pizza
12 Broad St. | 732.933-3888
The new kid in town offers entrees, salads and appetizers, but it’s their authentic Neapolitan-style pizza that’s attracting a fan following.
14 Broad St. | 732.530.5553
American fusion favorites that include sizzling calamari, spicy Asian caesar salad with cashews and wontons, Kobe burgers on onion brioche and an impressive sushi menu.
The Broadway Diner
45 Monmouth St. | 732.224.1234
Open 24 hours, the Broadway Diner is renowned for its pancakes; a great place for a burger and shake after a night on the town.
Danny’s Grille and Wine Bar
11 Bridge Ave. | 732.741.6900
Well known for its pasta, sushi and dry-aged steaks, Danny’s also makes a bar pizza that holds its own in the competitive Red Bank pizza scene.
13 White St. | 732.345.7070
A Jersey Shore favorite since 2004, Dish’s devotion to using the best ingredients and their special attention to detail makes it a must-visit venue.
30 Monmouth St. | 732.747.6699
Come for the craic—enjoy a Guinness and traditional Irish specialties while you watch soccer or listen to live Irish music.
Front St. Trattoria
31 W. Front St. | 732.747.9569
The freshly made pizzas, pastas and antipasto at this cozy neighborhood favorite have been garnering wows for nearly 30 years.
10 Wallace St. | 732.741.1321
Enjoy the tastiest and most authentic Italian specialties, including fresh brick-oven pizza and homemade pasta, at this newly expanded restaurant.
20 E. Front St. | 732.842.5572
The hotel that’s not a hotel is the place to go for the best burger in town, especially with cheddar cheese sauce and spiral fries.
Good Karma Café
17 E. Front St. | 732.450.8344
Passion for cooking, love of the earth and commitment to using only the best ingredients come together here to create a unique dining experience.
The Inbetween Café
56 English Plz. | 732.741.9684
Some locals say this is where to get the best breakfast in town. Try the smoked pork chops and three-egg breakfast or savor a plateful of their apple-and-cheddar crepes.
Molly Pitcher Inn
88 Riverside Ave. | 800.221.1372
Indulge in the Molly Pitcher’s lavish Sunday buffet—Asbury Park Press Readers’ Choice Award for Best Brunch every year since 1996—while enjoying stunning views over the river.
Murphy Style Grill
26 Broad St. | 732.530.6659
Huge steaks, double-portion pork chops and individual rack of lamb are popular entrées here. Try them Murphy Style—with hot peppers, sweet peppers, potatoes and onions.
No Joe’s Cafe
51 Broad St. | 732.530.4040
Laid-back neighborhood place with great coffee and an impressive selection of burgers. Hearty portions and friendly service add to the hometown vibe.
2 Bridge Ave. | 732.224.1233
Authentic Thai cuisine in a lush, casually exotic atmosphere. Soups, beef, seafood and vegetarian entrées, as spicy or as mild as you like them.
128 Broad St. | 732.383.8473
It’s one of the few Italian restaurants serving breakfast as well as lunch and dinner. Stop by in the morning for a cappuccino or Italian hot chocolate or later for pasta and gelato.
64 Monmouth St. | 732.747.5775
This is the hotspot for sushi, signature drinks and relaxing, Asian-inspired décor. Come for happy hour appetizer and drink specials, Tuesday through Friday.
45 Broad St. | 732.450.9945
With a menu that’s Italian-inspired yet diverse, Via 45 owners believe the restaurant is a home away from home—for them and for their guests. BYOB.
For more information on these and other Red Bank restaurants and eateries, visit Red Bank Flavour.
WHERE TO STAY
Molly Pitcher Inn
88 Riverside Ave. | 800.221.1372
Oyster Point Hotel
140 Bodman Place | 800.345.3484