I am not usually one to venture to chain restaurants. I am more of a mom and pop shop kind of foodie that enjoys the individuality and personality that usually goes hand-in-hand with these types of small town eateries. With that said, I am not one to discriminate. I feel that every establishment no matter how vast their empire has stretched has a story to tell, and I don’t think that their success on a national level should automatically condemn them to an existence chock full of foodie condemnation. I am the type of person that is willing to go into any and all new situations with an open mind and open stomach, and this is exactly what I did when I was invited to the soft opening of Seasons 52 located near the Menlo Park Mall, at 217 Lafayette Avenue, Edison, NJ.
To me the phrase “back in the day” used to be something that old people said when they were talking about 8-tracks, Blockbuster Video Stores, and a world without craft beer, ::Gasp:: Relax, craft beer is here now, and most likely will remain for a reasonably long time, so there is no reason to hyperventilate. Nowadays though I find myself using that idiom quite often, in fact I am about to use it right now. Ready, wait for it… wait for it… wait for it…
Back in the day, when I was in high school, a double date meant a trip to the mall in my mom’s mini-van with my girlfriend and another couple. We ate the most economical food we could find at the food court, smoked cigarettes outside entrance 1 while foot bagging, and went to the movies to watch whatever sappy rom-com was starring John Cusack. A little less father back in the day, during our college years our double dates consisted of us trying to cook a gourmet meal with Ramen noodles, a half bag of stale stolen dining hall cereal, and 1 ¼ boxes of wine, while we waited for a deep intellectual movie to download on Napster, so we could watch it and discuss why the world was broken.
Unlike the disgruntled old timers that believe that everything was better back in their day, I have no delusions about what era that I enjoy the most. Sure I occasionally long for the days when I was in High School and my biggest problem was the pimple on my nose and the upcoming football game. Furthermore, who doesn’t miss their college days where they worked part-time at a retail job so they could afford a few 30 racks of PBR and a carton of Marlboros for the week while they spent the rest of their time waxing poetic about the fascist government’s capitalistic ways?
Sure some aspects of those archaic times were decent, but as explained above a double date was not one of them. Today, as Mikey from the Goonies would say, it is our time! Sure date nights might take a little extra planning now in order to work around everyone’s crazy schedule, but they are leaps and bounds above their predecessors. A normal double date for Kat and I consists of a pre-game get together at someone’s house to have a craft beer or two to start night off, then we travel to a restaurant that would make my college-self die from a foodgasm, followed by a night at The Twisted Elm or some such Gastro Pub that serves craft beer that would make Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch give each other atomic wedgies for daring to allow the swill that they once canned to be in the same category of alcoholic beverage.
Recently, Kat and I were able to find an open Saturday evening that somehow worked for not only us but another foodie couple that we often dine with, Kristen and Brian. After some hemming, hawing, and flip-flopping at a rate that has not ever been seen outside of Washington D.C., we all decided that the epicurean aspect of our date night would take us to Tierney’s Copperhouse located at 4 Little Falls Road in Fairfield, NJ 07004. Might I add, that this was a better decision than anyone has made in our government since the Thirteen Colonies declared our independence.
If you are coming to The Big Brew Beer Fest in Morristown, NJ, come visit my table for your free pretzel necklace! It only costs a like, and likes are free!
I am attracted to these establishments because I feel like they are shrouded in a cloak of mystery and mysticism as they operate in a world that needs no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to survive like some sort of restaurant sorcerer. At first when I drive past these archaic relics of the restaurant world, I scoff, but with each pass, I begin to get just a little more curious about what is contained within those clandestine walls. My most recent ride on the crazy train went something like this:
Why don’t they need to embrace the limitless world of Social Media? Do they think they are better than the rest of us? That’s it; they are just pretentious smug jerks! But what if they are not? What if their food is so damned amazeballs that they know if they join the social media scene they would break the internets with their culinary genius? What if the Vincent Van freaking Gogh of Lebanese food has been cooking down the street from my house at Rose’s Place and I am missing it?
These rides on the insanity railroad are usually short, considering they always end the same way. That is, Kat and I visiting said restaurant to make sure I am not missing out on something simply because the googles doesn’t know about it. The most recent stop on the irrational rail line was as I mentioned in my earlier rant, Roses Place, located at 32-01 Broadway, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.
Read the full review here!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Webster’s dictionary describes Dim Sum as, “traditional Chinese food consisting of a variety of items (as steamed or fried dumplings, pieces of cooked chicken, and rice balls) served in small portions. Whereas, The Blue Collar Foodie describes Dim Sum as, “a magical buffet of enigmatic food offerings that makes my foodie soul happier than Grumpy Cat on Prozac.” (Sorry about starting this blog post off the same way horrible wedding speeches usually commence on bootleg sitcoms, but I thought it worked.)
If you have never experienced Dim Sum before, the epicurean in me cries for you and if you have and claim to not enjoy it, then you are crazier than Paul “Bear” Vasquez appears to be in his famous viral video Double Rainbow! Dim Sum is not only about the food that is offered, it is also about the unique way this fare is served. Traditionally, these mini meals are carted around the dining area while the customers choose as many different varieties as they wish to become part of their smorgasbord for all to enjoy. This distinctive style of service is what makes Dim Sum not only a meal but a fun interactive way to dine with friends. Furthermore, when visiting a Dim Sum eatery, you should channel your inner Peter Griffin and be happy that at Dim Sum, the Buffet comes to you!
Recently one of my foodie friends recommended a restaurant named Noodle Chu which is located at 770 US Hwy 46 in Parsippany New Jersey that transforms into a Dim Sum establishment every Sunday. Normally, Sundays are reserved for cooking, drinking, and watching football for this Blue Collar Foodie, but I just could not resist a brunch time Dim Sum extravaganza.
To read the full review click here!
Since November 30, 2013 was Shop Small Saturday, I being a foodie took that as a cue to not only visit my favorite local shops but also to support the local eateries around town. For breakfast Kat and I stopped off at our favorite bagel shop, Modern Bagel, located at 23-59 Fair Lawn Avenue in Fair Lawn. I know, I just inadvertently started Bagel Wars on the internets by claiming that Modern Bagel was our favorite, but that is not what this article is about so please refrain from threatening my first born son, lovely wife, and/or cute dog, because you feel that there are other bagel shops in the area that are better. I respect your opinion, even though it is wrong, Sick Burn, so you should follow what theChive.com says, Keep Calm and Carry On.
Once our bellies were full, Kat and I decided to venture down the road a bit and visit our favorite and damn near the last true comic book store in the world, The Joker’s Child, located at 12-23 River Road in Fair Lawn. If you have any Big Bang Theory types on your Christmas list this is the only place to go to fill their stockings chock full of nerdy goodness!
While Kat and I were browsing everything from Archie to Zombies, we were discussing our dinner. I know what you are thinking blog reader man, “dude you just ate breakfast, and you are already thinking about dinner!” To that I say, don’t judge us, Kat and I like food, like the Grinch loves misery, like Frosty hates global warming, and like Justin Beiber (There should be a link here for the Beebs, but I refuse to perpetuate his fame and therefore, no Wiki link for him!) likes selfies, so thinking about dinner before lunch makes perfect sense, Jerk!
Kat and I are very serious about dining out. You see, there are many pros to being The Blue Collar Foodie, but there are some Cons. One such Con is that we don’t get to frequent the same place very often because I am always on the hunt for a new and exciting place to write about, so a lot of thought normally goes into to where we should dine. However, this decision was somewhat simple, thanks to one of my Facebook friends Carolina P., who informed me about a new Fair Lawn eatery that moved into the Picnic’s old digs. So, before leaving The Joker’s Child, with a handful of gifts for our friends, Kat and I decided that The Istanbul Café & Grill, located at 1425 Plaza Road North in Fair Lawn, NJ, is where our Small Business Saturday Smorgasbord would be. I dare you to try to say the name of this Restaurant without singing this song in your head. Go.
With that decided, Kat and I could enjoy the rest of our Saturday pontificating, dreaming, and salivating, patiently waiting for dinner time to arrive. Since we seem to never have a spare moment in our lives, the day went by relatively fast and soon enough we were pulling up to The Istanbul Café & Grill packing a camera and our normal hearty appetites ready to devour some delicious Turkish food.
Upon entering The Istanbul Café & Grill, we were immediately greeted by not only a friendly member of the wait staff, but also the fantastic aroma that can only be attained by the low and slow cooking of fresh quality ingredients. Since Istanbul Café & Grill is a BYOB establishment, we brought a bottle of middle of the road white wine to accompany our meal, and our helpful waitress showed us to our table before whisking the bottle away to be opened post haste. Once seated we realized that this restaurant was perfect for not only couples but could easily accommodate the two large families that were in attendance. Although, I do suggest a reservation for larger parties, as the dining room was mostly full when we arrived.
Our waitress soon returned with our now uncorked bottle of wine and our reading material for the evening, the menus. To be honest, as much as I love a good book now and again, I will honestly take the menu from a respectable restaurant over a Dostoyevsky any day of the week. We filled our glasses with wine, toasted to a rare date night, and perused the menu with the logical profoundness of Mr. Spock. As we carefully weighed our options, as to not make the wrong decision and be destined to have plate envy for the entire evening, we decided that there simply were too many options to choose just one and sharing was in order.
Once we made the decision to go all Karl Marx on our dinner, the decision was much easier, considering we were guaranteed to have at least half of each other’s food, thus negating plate envy altogether. Now we only had to worry about eater’s remorse. We soon decided on the Eggplant Salad for an appetizer, combined with the Mixed Grill and Stuffed Cabbage as out main courses.
With our order complete, we were then able to sit back, relax, and sip our wine as we absorbed the ambience of The Istanbul Café & Grill. The first thing I noticed is that Istanbul Café & Grill is bucking the trend that seems to be in many new foodie approved eateries across the land, and that is a dark and dimly lit dining area with dub step blaring over hipster speakers. The Istanbul Café & Grill was well lit with soft light and had quiet, modern, culturally influenced music as the soundtrack for our meal. I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of The Istanbul Café & Grill which allowed me to both see my lovely wife and enjoy a conversation with her without using more hand gestures than a sign language interpreter would use during an old school Micro Machine Commercial.
While Kat and I were relishing in our peaceful conversation, which was most likely about either food or Grumpy Cat our waitress delivered a basket of warm fresh bread paired with a bowl of olive oil complete with a few olives and house seasoning. Warm bread makes me happier than an Elf eating candy wrapped Schnapps cake on December 26, 2013, so I immediately grabbed a hunk of this deliciousness and dipped it into the olive oil. I savored each bite of this toasty, doughy, and somewhat crispy slice of awesome and only halted my delight when our appetizer arrived.
The color of our dish was so vibrant it looked like an Andy Warhol painting that should be on the wall rather than in a bowl. After the requisite photo session, Kat and I attacked this aromatic dish with the tenacity of a honey badger. Being a purist, I ignored my instinct to grab another hunk of the warm bread and dip it into this eggplant laden concoction, and instead guided a forkful towards my awaiting taste buds. The flavor of this dish was elegant and delicate, yet so complex that it lingered long after I had swallowed it. Nothing about it was overbearing which allowed all of the tastes to marry together flawlessly. After tasting it by itself, I was unable to resist the urge to create a bread and eggplant conglomerate, and so I did. The warm bread danced with the cold eggplant salad and created a wonderful juxtaposition that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Shortly after Kat and I finished our appetizer our main courses arrived at the table. The first thing I noticed upon its delivery was that the portion sizes at The Istanbul Café & Grill seemed to be very generous. The Mixed Grill, described as a combination of Chicken Shish, Adana Kebab, and Chicken Adana was paired with a substantial amount of rice pilaf and a garnish that we found to be perfect for cleansing our palates in between the different types of meat. Each of these appetizing morsels of meaty goodness were fork tender and teeming with flavor. As we were consuming each style it seemed as if the one we had just eaten was our favorite; that is until we tried the next one. I would highly recommend this dish to the Istanbul Café & Grill virgin, as it gives you the opportunity to try a few varieties of the awesomeness that is being grilled in the kitchen.
After trying a few pieces of the delectable meat that formed the Mixed Grill, we moved on to the Stuffed Cabbage that was described as cabbage leaves stuffed with ground lamb and rice served with yogurt. To be honest, I am usually not a huge fan of Stuffed Cabbage, but Kat loves the stuff. I really wanted to try the yogurt sauce, so I acquiesced to the ordering of this dish. I should remember moments like these when I question listening to my wife because she was absolutely spot on about this entrée. Not only was this easily the best Stuffed Cabbage Rolls I have ever tasted, but the yogurt sauce was damn near perfect. This simple, smooth, and creamy sauce not only was an impeccable companion to the Stuffed Cabbage dish, but it also went quite well with all the meat from the Mixed Grill.
Not only was everything that we ate at the Istanbul Café & Grill tasty and wonderfully prepared but the bill was just right too. Don’t get it twisted, this establishment is not cheap, but you most definitely get your money’s worth. It is apparent that this eatery serves high quality, fresh food that is cooked with love, on site, by an expert. If you are in the Fair Lawn area, and you are in the mood for a meal with Turkish Flair, I highly suggest you make your way down to the Istanbul Café & Grill and try a few of their subtle yet flavorful dishes.
If you read my work or know me at all, you are well aware of my somewhat unhealthy obsession with all things food related. I wouldn’t say that I am a food addict, but I am most definitely addicted to good food. I could see that Eli Manning-esque, confused yet oddly intrigued, look on your face as you read that last sentence and thought, “wait, what the what, being a food addict and being addicted to good food are two different things.?” Let me explain. A food addict does not care what they shovel into their Honey Boo Boo sized mouth hole because they love the sheer act of eating. I, however, love the act of eating good, no scratch that, great food.
Now that we have established that in the, “hierarchy of my love”, which by the way would have made a banging title for an 80’s love ballad, the order is as follows; my wife, my family (furry and not so furry), and my food. Fulfilling, this constant need for a foodie fare fix is about as hard as finding crack in Camden in the Northeast. However, when I am planning to go on vacation, a skinny, sad voice in the back of my head whispers scary thoughts like, “What if you eat at the wrong Taco stand.” Once this kernel of doubt is implanted in my skull, I immediately begin to panic. OMG! WTF! And several other silly ass acronyms that my older readers will have to google. What if I really do eat at the wrong Taco Stand? I will lose all sorts of Foodie Street Cred! I will no longer be able to call myself a Gastronaut or an Epicurean! As I take the brown paper bag out, that once held my Cronut, and breathe deeply into it to stop my hyperventilating, I remember that I am okay. I got a system, and this system works!
My system is foolproof guys, and it not only helps you find the best food available in the area, it also puts a big fat smile on the faces of food bloggers everywhere. Next time you decide to go on vacation, contact the Top 20 or so food bloggers on Urbanspoon.com for the region that you are headed. Write a very simple e-mail that includes a little bit about yourself and what type of food you are looking for, then sit back and wait. Unless you contacted the world’s worst food bloggers most of these food bards will be glad to help you in your time of need.
This system has never failed me so as Kat and I prepared to visit Miami for one night before boarding our cruise ship, I followed the BCF way. Spoiler Alert! I was not disappointed with the sage advice that was hurled at me from my fellow blogosphere citizens. Damn near every one of them that I contacted suggested a few restaurants to try, but most of them then added that if I truly wanted the Miami Food Experience of a lifetime, I should check out Miami Culinary Tours. I let my fingers do some walking and researched this foodie friendly tour before I devised my pitch to the wonderful little lady. After a few short minutes of checking out their website, my pitch was pretty much sending a link via G-Chat and writing the ever poignant comment, WE NEED TO DO THIS!!! Note the three exclamation points for added pitchiness.
As Elton John once sang, “It’s the Circle of Life and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place on the path unwinding, in the circle, the circle of life.” This strangely deep and poignant verse from a song that was created for a Disney movie not only describes the circle of life for living creatures but explains the development, growth, and eventual demise of eateries as well. As Simba learns through the Lion King, mourning cannot be perpetual and a time comes when one must end the lamentation phase and move on to the acceptance stage.
When a restaurant closes its doors for the last time, it is always a time full of melancholy and sorrow, but as many a Disney movie has taught us, that gloomy period will eventually give birth to a ray of hope, because as one chapter ends another one is sure to follow. The Brunch Club Café in Fair Lawn was a staple on Fair Lawn Avenue for as long as I can remember, so when the doors were closed for the last time, I, like most Fair Lawnites, were sad to see them go. Soon after though, as I drove, walked, or ran past, I noticed the resurrection had begun and after several weeks from the ashes of the Brunch Club rose the Dish Eatery located at 19-01 Fair Lawn Ave., Fair Lawn, N.J. 07410.