Crepes, Baseball, and Puns Oh MY! The Blue Collar Foodie visits the Field Of Creams Cafe’

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I recently caught wind of an establishment called Field of Creams Cafe, located at 550 Ramapo Valley Rd. Mahwah, N.J., inside Continental Soldiers Park, that seemed right up my alley.   Field of Creams Cafe is a converted concession stand in the middle of a park that serves up normal concession fare like burgers, hot dogs, and fries but adds a foodie flare with a full complement of Crepes and something called Bubble Tea, more on this strange little drink later.  Not only did Field of Creams entice me with their crepe selection that includes both the savory and sweet varieties but I am a huge baseball fan that thoroughly enjoys puns, so I was attracted to the name like a hipster to black rimmed eye glasses.  Furthermore, while perusing their website, I noticed that every Tuesday there is a vintage car show that occurs in their parking lot.  Baseball Puns, Crepes, and Classic Cars OH MY, my inner monologue repeated in the classic Wizard of Oz voice as I made arrangements to get my foodie on at the Field of Creams Café on the next available Tuesday.

As Kat and I approach the Field of Creams Café with our dog Lilly, the first non-human guest foodie that has joined us on our food expeditions, I was whisked back to my childhood on the Baseball Field.  Field of Creams Café is quite literally a concession stand, much like the one that I used to buy Big League Chew and sunflower seeds from during my days as a little leaguer.  As Kat and I discussed what to order we realized this was no ordinary concession stand.  Hamburgers for $2.50, Hotdogs for $2.00, Philly Cheesesteaks for $4.00, Baby spinach, chicken & cheese crepe for $6.50, Bubble Tea for $3.00 and Nutella covered French Fries for $4.00 are just some of the highlights of the offerings at this blast from the past.

We approached the counter to order after a lengthy discussion and we were met by a smiling clerk that seemed genuinely happy to assist us, which in this day and age is hard to come by.  We decided to order a small sampling of what Fields of Creams Cafe has to offer and split it knowing full well we had to save room for desert.  We ordered one Cheeseburger for $2.75, one Hot Dog for $2.00, a Chicken & Cheese Crepe with a side of Pesto Sauce for $6.00, and a Banana bubble tea for $3.00.  After ordering they took our name and we took a seat at the nearby Picnic Tables and awaited our order.

The ample seating allowed us to sit down and take in the activities that Continental Soldiers Park has to offer.   A few feet from the Café itself was a rather large, fenced in, play structure perfect for children to build an appetite while their dinner is being prepared.  Across the parking lot in the distance we could see a fully functional skate park for your teenage to blow off some of their built up angst before telling you the Hamburger you are about to eat is murder and chowing down on the Veggie Burger for $2.50, they ordered with a smug look on their face.  Meanwhile, the Fields adjacent to Fields of Creams Café were bustling with the sounds and sights of a soft ball game and a soccer practice and the parking lot was littered with cars that were made of steel and guzzled gas by the barrel.  Before we knew it, the clerk behind the counter was calling my name and handing me my very first bubble tea.

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Bubble tea, also known as pearl (milk) tea or boba (milk) tea, is a Taiwanese tea drink that originated from tea shops in Taichung, Taiwan during the 1980s. Bubble tea contains small chewy tapioca balls (fenyuan), commonly called “pearls” (zhenzhu).   Additionally, there does not seem to be people who are in the middle of the road when it comes to Bubble Tea, according to the research I did before ordering it, you either LOVE it or you HATE it.   I took my first sip of bubble tea from the abnormally large straw that is served with this foreign concoction and was surprised by the consistently of the Peals or bubbles.  There is no real way to describe the texture that these tiny treasures bring to the table other than slightly gummy, but that does not really sound appetizing now does it.  Kat and I fall into the LOVE category for this drink, but I do believe that it is a treat as opposed to a drink with a meal.  The Banana flavored juice was excellent and with the addition of the petite flavorful orbs creates quite a fun drink that I will be ordering again in the near future.

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After we were done being both mesmerized and confused by the Bubble Tea our food order was ready and Kat retrieved it from the window.  We cut each item in half and allowed the hot dog to bat in the lead off position.  The dog was a standard hot dog, nothing more, nothing less.   Which, when and if you have children you will be pleased to know.   Even though foodies love accompaniments and frills, kids love plain and simple.  The hot dog gets a single in my book, which if you know baseball, ain’t nothing to thumb your nose at.  The Cheeseburger falls into the same category as the hotdog, a simple, straight forward, concession necessity for people that tend to shy away from the out of the ordinary menu items that this foodie loves and seeks out.  The Cheeseburger, gets another single here, meaning there is a man at first and second for the number three hitter, THE SAVORY CREPE.

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We went with the Chicken and Cheese Crepe but because Kat is not a huge fan of Spinach, we added tomato instead.  This crepe was a very respectable portion considering what we paid and it was chock full of chicken, cheese and tomato.  We tried this crepe without the assistance of the Pesto sauce first and we felt that it was worthy of praise but was missing something.  We then dipped the crepe into the side of Pesto sauce and we watched the Chicken Crepe hit a solid triple off the wall.  The fresh made Pesto sauce sent this crepe into a League of its Own, and in both of our opinions completed the dish.

After the Savory Crepe hit a triple I was very excited about partaking in the desert offerings that Field of Creams is really known for.  Considering that ever since I came back from France I crave Banana Nutella Crepes like a dog craves peanut butter, I ordered one of those and Kat ordered a cone full of, the almost impossible to find, Hershey’s Birthday Cake Ice Cream.  The Hershey’s Ice Cream cone delivered a pretty solid double, due to the large amount of ice cream crammed inside and the overall quality of the Ice Cream itself.  I had never tried Hershey’s Ice Cream before so I was not sure where it would fit in the ever-growing list of Ice Cream makers.  I was very impressed by this Ice Cream, it was bursting with birthday cake pieces and the actual ice cream was very creamy and packed with flavor.
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Next up at the plate was the Banana Nutella crepe.  As stated before, Kat and I went to France last year and fell in love with Crepes, especially the ones of the sweet persuasion.  With that said, I am quite particular about my crepes now and tend to be a rather harsh judge when they don’t come through in the clutch.  Field of Creams Café’s Banana Nutella Crepe got up in the bottom of the 9th with two outs in a tied ball game and crushed the first pitch out the park for the walk off win.  This sweet crepe brought me and Kat back to the streets of Paris bite after bite as we ate this amazingly decadent desert.  This crepe not only tasted incredible but also looked absolutely scrumptious, from the dollop of whipped cream to the drizzle of Nutella on top.  When we were finished there was not a dollop of Nutella left on the plate as we fought over the last bite.
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In summation Field of Creams Café is not your everyday concession stand, although they do serve up some of the standards, like burgers, dogs, and chicken nuggets, for the less adventurous eaters in your clan. I suggest that if you have finicky friends or children let them stick to the conventional menu items while you unleash the foodie in you when ordering your food.  Some people might not enjoy the fact that there is no indoor seating but I for one think that this aspect only adds to the charm, and I was able to bring my pooch with me, which I always enjoy.  I also love their motto, which is a play off the quote from the movie Field Of Dreams, “If you serve it, they will come.”  As for the park atmosphere, you can’t ask for much more if you have a family, a park for the kids, a skate park for the teens, and classic cars for the parents, all for free I might add.  As a reminder, Field of Creams Cafe’ is a cash only establishment.   Furthermore, Continental Soldiers Park is about a mile from Lily’s favorite hiking spot, Ramapo Reservation, so we decided to walk off some of the desert we just ate which was the perfect ending to a wonderful night.

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Judgment:

Overall:                         3.5 out of 5

Taste:                           4 out of 5

Presentation:               3 out of 5

Value:                           4 out of 5

Hours:  7 Days a week 12PM-8PM

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The Blue Collar Foodie plunges into a true North Jersey Dive Bar with High Quality Food at Blue Collar Prices!

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As you drive up to Pub 199, located at 199 Howard Blvd, Mount Arlington, NJ 07856, you might ask yourself, why the hell did The Blue Collar Foodie send me to the end of civilization to some hole in the wall dive bar.  You might be pondering if you want to drink your beer out of the bottle instead of risk drinking it out of any cups this establishment might sling your way.  As you enter, you might begin to reconsider asking for a table in the dining room that is littered with taxidermy from the ground to the ceiling.  You may even grab your I-phone out of your pocket and contemplate deleting me as a friend on your Facebook account for steering you down this dark and dreary foodie path.  I implore you to put your phone back in your pocket and ask the server to your right to find you a table at one the best foodie finds in North Jersey.  Sure, it ain’t sparkling new like the chain restaurants and the decor leads you to believe that the owner might shoot your family pet and mount him on the wall, but if you can get past these small issues and shovel some food down at Pub 199, you too will be singing the praises of this establishment to all your foodie friends.

There are a few things that every person that is about to eat at Pub 199 should know before walking in.  I suggest reading the following list and informing any guests you are bringing with you of these important facts prior your arrival:

  1. If you are a member of PETA or just really can’t stand the idea of hunting, this is not the place for you.   When I say that Pub 199 has Taxidermy as decoration throughout the restaurant, what I mean is that you would be hard-pressed to find a square foot of empty space between the dead things that adorn the wood paneled walls.  Not only deer and bears either mind you, we are talking Giraffes, Elephants, Wolves, or some crazy antelope type things that only a biologist could identify.  This place is seriously like a museum of animals that the owner shot in the face.
  2. The reason why this restaurant can serve quality food at ridiculously cheap prices, and I will explain just how cheap in a minute, is because, it ain’t pretty.  If you want perfectly plated food served on a plate with gold inlay don’t go to Pub 199, if you want a huge amount of great food slapped on a plate delivered by a somewhat surly waitress, this is the place for you.
  3. They only take cash!  Credit card companies take a percentage of the bill when you pay with a credit card, and that percentage is always passed on to the customer in order to protect the owner’s small profit in the restaurant business.  The owner of Pub 199 fixed that problem and just does not except credit at all.  Go to the bank, the food is worth the hassle.   If you forget to grab cash, there is an ATM on site but you will be charged a service fee.
  4. If you arrive at Pub 199 during normal dinner time you are going to have to wait a bit for a table.  This place is no secret in the area and the amazing prices bring locals in by the hordes.

With that said, let’s talk about why this out of the way, inconvenient, and dingy Pub is still in business, THE FOOD.  Pub 199 offers some of the best deals on quality food that a true Blue Collar Foodie could ever hope for.  Whether you are looking for a 1 ½ pound Lobster for $13.95 complete with a mashed potato, a giant 16 oz steak for $12.95 with a potato and a veggie, their King Crab Leg and Steamer combo,  or several other tantalizing options you will not be disappointed.  Their gargantuan serving sizes can quell any tumbley that is rumbley, including mine, which is not an easy task I assure you.  I do recommend grabbing an appetizer of steamers for the table which are also at rock bottom prices per dozen.

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Even though the prices are, as “Crazy Eddie” once said, INSANE, the food itself is still of a higher caliber than most restaurants around.  Of course, you can find fresher more succulent lobster or leaner steak at an upscale eatery in the City, or perhaps in down town Montclair, but you will pay through the nose for it.  Pub 199’s steak is a modestly seasoned and untrimmed grilled hunk of flesh that allows the cut of meat to speak for itself, and it does.  This steak is not only juicy but bursting with true meat flavor that is not disguised by 37 different spices.     I enjoy it immensely, mostly because my favorite part of a steak is what I have coined, “meat gum,” or the fat that most places throw away.  Kat is actually not a fan of meat gum, which works great for me because I get to eat a little bit of steak while I dig into my Lobster.  Again, the Lobster might not be the best in the world but for the price there is no better, in all the land that we call New Jersey.  Pub 199’s lobster only needs the paper cup full of a melted butter served with it to accentuate the already fantastic flavor.  Truth be told, I have been to Pub 199 quite a few times and have never been disappointed with anything I have eaten there.

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                 On top of the wondrous selection of colossal foodie dishes, Pub 199 offers a full selection of beer, wine, and spirits.  Be cautious as you order drinks though, if you drink here like you drink at most bars the bill will sky rocket.  The drinks at Pub 199 are not as cheap as their food and this is where they make up some of their profit, so you have been warned.  But please don’t let that stop you from having at least one cold draught beer with your meal because not only is one drink mandatory but it also adds to the Pub 199 experience.

Pub 199 is a restaurant that screams Blue Collar Foodie, and I am proud to recommend it to all my readers.  When you go, remember to bring cash and an open mind and I promise you, you will leave this dive bar with a full stomach and a smile on your face.

Judgment:

Overall:                  3.5 out of 5

Taste:                    4 out of 5

Presentation:          2 out of 5

Value:                    5 out of 5

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Pub 199 on Urbanspoon

Burger Battle in Bergen County

In my honest opinion a burger is about as gourmet as a hot dog and therefore when all these new age, “Hipster,” burger joints broke onto the foodie scene I was skeptical.  Since I am a food network fanatic, which should be expected considering I write a food blog, I waited for the crowds to die down at Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace located in the new Bergen Town Center, and gave Mr. Flay’s burgers a try.  Since that moment many months ago, I have been a fan of these boutique burger eateries, and I will try any and all of them that come to town.

  1. Fuddruckers:  1813 Route 23 S. Wayne, NJ 07470

First to weigh in, is the Grandfather of these epicurean Burger peddlers, Fuddruckers.  I am a loyal guy when it comes to food establishments and furthermore as Kat will tell you I am also quite nostalgic so I have to at least mention the first great burger franchise in the area.  Even though Fuddruckers has been around well before I was chewing solids they still deliver a decent burger plus all the fixings.  Fuddruckers advertises that they are the world’s greatest burger and although I am not on this band wagon anymore, there was a point in my life where I believed this slogan.

Fuddruckers has a pretty extensive menu which offers the Original Fudd in 1/3 pound $4.65, ½ pound $5.50, 2/3 pound $7.50, and 1 lb. $9.50, as well as some serious specialty burgers, for $1.75 more, like the Southwest which is topped with smokehouse bacon, guacamole and pepper jack cheese or for fans of exotic meats some of the Fuddruckers are even starting to offer Buffalo, Elk, and Wild Boar burgers in an attempt to compete with the new burger places that we will discuss a little later.  Fuddruckers also offers something that I have not found at any of the other burger bistros, a self-serve toppings bar that allows the customer to add as much or as little of the dozens of toppings that Fudds offers.  Additionally, Fuddruckers has a full service bar featuring beer, wine, and spirits which is a huge plus in the ever growing burger trade.

Fuddruckers is by far the best burger place in this article for a family to go to grab a much needed burger when you just don’t have the energy to spark up the grill.  The kids can much on some memory making meals while soaking in the kid-friendly atmosphere while you take a ride down memory lane with a Fuddrucker burger in one hand and a frosty beer in the other.


Fuddrucker's on Urbanspoon

2.  Bobby’s Burger Palace:  Bergen Town Center Paramus, NJ 07652

Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace was the first of the new wave of Burger spots to break into the Bergen county market when the Bergen Town Center was renovated.  As I stated earlier, I did not expect much from this establishment, but I was happily surprised.  I was hesitant to believe that a world renowned chef like Bobby Flay could dive into the burger market and make a difference.  Mr. Flay apparently left a lasting impression on many Bergen County residents, including me, because his simple burger shop is still crowded every time I drive by.

The Burger Palace offers a selection of high-end burgers such as the Bobby Blue Burger, topped with Blue Cheese, Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato for $7.75, The Dallas Burger topped with spices, coleslaw, Monterey Jack cheese, BBQ sauce, and pickles for $7.75, or the L.A. Burger topped with avocado relish, watercress, cheddar cheese, and tomato for $7.75.  Bobby Flay’s cooking style truly comes out in these creations, which are not overly seasoned, yet are simply bursting with flavor.

One issue that I had with Mr. Flay’s offerings is that the burgers are sold separately from the fries and onion rings, which always irks me about these restaurants.  In a perfect world I could order a meal that would combine a burger, a side, and a drink for one price instead of attempting to do math in my head to find out if I have enough cash on me for a true dinner, but alas our world is not perfect.  Fortunately, however Bobby’s Beer Battered Onion Rings are! When John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings, he must have been envisioning these tasty deep fried morsels of yummy, which are a must try if you step into the Burger Palace.

In summation, Bobby’s Burger Palace offers simple yet divine Hamburgers at a price that will make some blue collar foodies blush. Their seating style is strange to say the least and may have you sitting next to, or at the same table as, strangers so for the sanity of all who are trying to enjoy their food be aware of bringing your wee ones to join in the cowgasm that Bobby Flay is serving at his Burger Palace.

Bobby's Burger Palace on Urbanspoon

3. Smashburger:  556 Rte. 17 North, Paramus, NJ

Smashburger boasts that every Smashburger menu is specially crafted to reflect the tastes and flavors of your city or state, which I have to admit sounds very intriguing.  Upon further review, it appears that only one burger on the menu seems to change as I searched through all of their menu’s online but the state specific specialty burgers almost makes me sad I went on a road trip before I knew about the Smash.

Smashburger offers a classic burger of course, but let’s be honest if you are like me those burgers are merely on the menu for the unadventurous people we bring with us to try out a new foodie find.  The specialty burgers are really where it is at which feature the New Jersey Burger is piled with applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese crumble, grilled onions, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on an onion bun for $7.19, the Spicy Baja consists of pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo and fresh jalapeños on a spicy chipotle bun for $7.19, and of course a few more premade specialties. But Smash also offers the option to create your own craziness with your choice of buns, toppings, and cheeses, which permits you to craft seemingly endless burgers formations, as you strive to reach meatphoria.

Smashburger also offers a plethora of side dishes that you can opt to add to your burger, for a nominal fee of course.  They have SmashFries in original or sweet potato for $1.99, that are tossed with rosemary, olive-oil and garlic, and are a great addition to any of their burgers and my suggestion for your Burger’s Robin.  They do offer Fried Pickles for $2.29, which I am usually Pepe Le Pew style in love with, which did not impress me. I felt that they were a tad over salted, and I just could not get into them.

Where Bobby Flay’s burgers were simple, Smashburger’s burgers are complex.  I feel it would take dozens of visit’s to this eatery to find and refine my go to burger, which for me is tremendous because I love to eat new and exciting meals, but for some I could see it being slightly overwhelming, I am looking in Kat’s direction as I write this sentence.  Once you do finally order your burger concoction, I do not think you will be disappointed because everything I have eaten at Smash has been fantastic.  Smash is slightly more kid friendly than Mr. Flay’s establishment but still not anything close to Fuddruckers.  The last thing I feel I have to report, as a native New Jerseyan, is that I was slightly disappointed that the New Jersey Burger was lacking Taylor Ham, but I guess if Snooki does not eat it on the Jersey Shore then it must not exist.

Smashburger on Urbanspoon

4.  Boom Burger: 375 W.Passaic St., Rochelle Park, NJ.

When this place first started to make waves in the foodie realm, I thought nothing of it.  I figured it was merely just another burger joint jumping on the bovine bandwagon.  As the Boom craze picked up speed and word continued to spread, I decided to go check it out.  After one visit to Boom, I figured out why everyone simply could not stop jib-jabbering about how incredible Boom Burger was.  Their top-secret ingredient to their success is their booze.  Don’t get me wrong their food is rather special too, but what separates Boom Burger from the ever growing crowd of chic burger spots is the fact that Boom Burger is firstly a colossal bar and secondly they have remarkable burgers.

Boom Burger offers several specialty burgers that include the Boom Burger, which is described as an explosion of cheese in your mouth due to the fact that the cheese is on the inside of the Burger for $8.00, the Cuban which is topped with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and mayo for $7.00, the Breakfast Burger topped with Taylor Ham, Fried Egg, and American Cheese for $7.00, and a few other fancy looking burgers as well.  Boom Burgers shtick with their burgers is that they are cooked to perfection every time, which means you cannot order them at any other temperature, which annoyed me slightly, but only because I am a control freak. Boom Burger also seems to be the only Burger Joint that uses Pat LaFrieda’s or “the master of meat’s” special burger blend, which I am apparently a fan of.

Boom Burger offers a few sides to pair with their burgers which include French Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, and Parmesan & Rosemary Fries at a nominal fee yet again.  They also offer a variety of bar style foods like Chicken Fingers, Chicken Wings, and Fried Calamari to name a few, which can be eaten as an appetizer or paired with your burger choice as well.

If BoomBurger and SmashBurger had a blind taste test I would have a hard time telling their food apart and then I would go to BoomBurger to grab a beer and celebrate the contest.  What I am trying to say here is that what this battle comes down to is the libations that Boom offers which Smash is lacking.  Not only does Boom offer a respectable beer list but their insanely large signature drinks definitely inspire some wonderful conversations.  Not to mention the fact that Boom has giant televisions strewn about the restaurant which are always showing all the premiere sporting events.

When all is said and done, each of these Burger Boutiques caters to different clientele and has found their own niche.  They all serve up fantastic food at about the same price, so it all matters on what type of atmosphere you are looking for. The following is a quick and easy guide that should help you make your decision:

  1. If you have children and want a good old fashioned hamburger Fuddruckers is the place for you and your family.
  2. If you are looking for a “gourmet” Burger and need to do some shopping but don’t mind cozying up to some strangers, Bobby’s Burger Palace is where you should go.
  3. If you want a burger that is smashingly good but don’t really want to have to deal with the cast of Jersey Shore taking JagerBombs at the table next to you, SmashBurger is your spot.
  4. If you want to wash a fantastic burger down with some beers and watch the baseball game while crazy twenty-somethings take body shots off one another, I will see you at BoomBurger.

Urbanspoon Leads The Blue Collar Foodie Down the Road to Juicy Platters

One day last week Kat and I were famished and looking for a cheap local spot to grab some food on the go.  I reached for my trusty I-Phone and opened up my Urbanspoon application for guidance.  For those who have not used the Urbanspoon application or the Urbanspoon website, it is a Foodie’s dream come true.  Whenever you find yourself wondering where to eat, in a foreign place or right in your own backyard, you can turn to Urbanspoon for some much needed assistance.  You have the option to browse Urbanspoon’s vast database of restaurants utilizing their many built-in filters, including but not limited to types of food, prices, hours of operation, and top picks.  If you are feeling frisky you can always just shake your phone and the application will randomly chose a restaurant in your area for you to visit, I can’t tell you how many times this application has solved our restaurant choice arguments after a long day in the city.

On this particular random weekday the Urbanspoon’s magic 8-ball like powers lead us to a local eatery named Juicy Platters located at 22-18 Broadway.  Upon further review of the Urbanspoon Application’s profile of Juicy Platters, I found that they serve Greek, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern fare and the average price for an entrée was listed as under $10. After a quick review of the menu, reading a few reviews online, and, of course, the okay from Kat we were in the car and on the way to Juicy Platters.

Without truly knowing what to expect we ventured down Broadway looking for this new restaurant that we have never seen before on our travels up and down the commerce-laden strip that is Broadway in Fair Lawn.  When we arrived, we saw that Juicy Platters is nothing more than a tiny store front in the plaza that used to house the Hyway Theater. This establishment is comprised of the main counter where the customer can place their order, a rather large kitchen and a small eat-in bar with five chairs.

According to the aforementioned online reviews, Juicy Platters is known for their tzatziki-style white sauce that you can pour over your platter and chicken wings.  Armed with this useful knowledge, Kat and I, ordered two Mixed Platters and an order of Super-Hot n’ Garlic wings.  The total including the Vitamin Water we decided to split came out to $24.40, which we gladly paid and then grabbed two empty seats at the small eating area.  As we waited for the food to arrive, we did some people watching and noticed that most of the clientele that was coming in and out of Juicy Platters were ordering their food to go.  There were quite a few customers that picked up their orders while we were in the restaurant and all seemed to be repeat patrons, which usually is a good sign that a restaurant is doing something right.

When our mixed platters arrived, the first thing we noticed was the generous portion size that was offered at Juicy Platters.  Not only was there a huge amount of rice that filled the aluminum serving container but the mixed grill meat was damn near over flowing.  Kat and I both drizzled the white sauce over the top of our mixed grill platter and each took a bite. With that first bite, Kat and I knew that we had stumbled upon something delightfully unexpected.  Seconds after taking the first bite, Kat uttered a phrase that I cannot add to this review, but let’s just say I knew that she liked it. The meat was tender, juicy, and plentiful, while the sauce was tactfully seasoned to complement both the meat and the rice, and the vegetables were flawlessly cooked.   Juicy Platters had not only shattered our expectations but done it at a price that is both honest and affordable.

We savored each bite like it was the last as we slowly but surely made our way through our Mixed Platters.  We were so overjoyed by this remarkable dish, that when the wings came out, neither of us attempted to even open the box that they were housed in. Finally, I was able to pull myself away from the Mixed Platter long enough to try one of the boneless wings that we had ordered. Sadly, I was unimpressed with the wings that Juicy Platters offered. The wings were not bad, but compared to the Mixed Platter they were nothing spectacular.  The sauce was as advertised both spicy and full of garlicky goodness, and when dipped into the house white sauce they were respectable as far as boneless wings go.  Before a final decision on Juicy Platter’s wings can be made I will have to try their bone-in variation which might be better. My suggestion as of now, is to skip the wings and double down on the Meat for your platter, not only will save a few bucks but you will be just as full, and twice as happy.

After eating our share of the wings both Kat and I dove back into our main course and fell in love with Juicy Platters all over again.  The combination of the amazing taste explosion and the low-low prices that they charge has earned Juicy Platters a spot in our regular rotation of fast food choices.  Kat and I will definitely be returning to Juicy Platters again and again to try all of their offerings and we suggest that you do as well.

On a side note, for all of the Vegetarian foodies in the area, Juicy Platters offers several vegetarian options that I have heard are just as memorable as their meat coma-inducing counterparts.  In a world that treats vegetarians as it does lepers, this is a welcomed change for most of my friends that walk through life as herbivores.

Overall:               4 out of 5

Taste:                  4.5 out of 5

Presentation:     3 out of 5

Value:                  5 out of 5

Juicy Platters on Urbanspoon

 

The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Fossil Farms in Boonton for a Truly Unique Memorial Day Experience

Being a foodie is all about experimentation and having no hesitations about trying innovative and exciting dishes. One cannot just eat the same food all the time and experience all that the world of fine cuisine has to offer. I also feel that although dining at top-notch restaurants can broaden your horizons in the realm of gastronomy, cooking your own foodie-inspired fare gives you a satisfaction that is unparalleled. Furthermore, being a male that loves food the way I do, and also enjoys cooking, the approaching summer means that I get to light the grill and start cooking with fire again.

With Memorial Day around the corner, I thought that I would let the foodie community in a little secret that is tucked away in a seldom traveled area in Boonton, NJ. Although right off the highway, Route 287, this remarkable shop is somewhat off the beaten path in an industrial park off Myrtle Ave. The clandestine market that I am referring to is named Fossil Farms, located at 81 Fulton Street, Boonton, NJ 07005, and they specialize in Exotic Meats. If you want your Memorial Day party to be talked about for years to come, this is the place you need to stop at to procure all of your holiday meats.

I, for one, will be grilling Kobe Beef sliders made from the Kobe Beef Ground Meat that Fossil Farms offers as well as a veritable smorgasbord of insanely tasty sausages consisting of Venison Sausage with blueberries and merlot wine, Wild Boar Sausage with cranberries and apples, Pheasant Sausage with hazelnuts and cognac wine and Rabbit Sausage with Dijon mustard. I will, of course, be serving chicken as well as good old American hot dogs, for the less daring eaters in my clan, but I have a feeling the star of the show will be the outlandish sausages that will grace the holiday spread.

I prepared this Memorial Day menu knowing that my family is not full of foodies and they may shy away from the hyperexotic meats that Fossil Farms has to offer, but if your family is adventurous, the sky is the limit when it comes to bizarre eats in Boonton. Some of the outlandish eatables they offer include Alligator, Antelope, Elk, Emu Eggs, Kangaroo, Quail, Rattle Snake and Yak.  This list is not by far a complete representation that this niche company offers. The complete list of their delectable foodie fare can be found on their website, where you can order from, complete with dry ice shipping. I, for one, would rather save the shipping cost and take the ride over to Boonton and spend my savings on more meat, but as they say, “to each his own,” I suppose.

Due to the rarity of the food that is offered by Fossil Farms, you must be prepared for the prices when you shop there.  As the title of my blog infers, I am usually frugal when it comes to any and all purchases I decide to make.  With that said, one of the main things that I remember when purchasing food from Fossil Farms is that they are the only purveyors of this product in the area. It is not like I can go to ShopRite or Pathmark and pick up a pound of Wild Boar and be on my merry way. It is for this reason, that I can justify paying $10, $20, sometimes even $30 a pound for a delicacy that I have yet to attempt in my foodie career.

I also feel, I must inform all of my readers that just because an item appears on the Fossil Farms website does not necessarily mean that the store has it in stock.  The brick and mortar store for Fossil Farms is not a huge place and only has a few freezers that hold their product.  They simple cannot carry every product they sell at this location, but I have been told they can and will do special orders if you do not see what you are looking for.

If you do decide to venture up to Fossil Farms, I must insist that you drive a little bit further on Myrtle Avenue and visit the best liquor store in North Jersey, Liquor Outlet Wine Cellars, located at 289 Myrtle Avenue in Boonton. Believe me, nothing pairs better with a 12-ounce Elk Steak than a cold craft beer, and Liquor Outlet has an unsurpassed selection of craft brew. From the wall of single bottle craft specialties to endless coolers, full of six packs that offer hundreds of selections I can always find something special of this establishment. Not a beer person, no problem, their wine selection is out of control as well. Even better than their gigantic selection that appeases even the most finicky palate, is the fact that their prices simply cannot be beat. Do yourself a favor the next time you find yourself in the neighborhood of Myrtle Avenue in Boonton, stop in and see for yourself.

Although, Boonton may be a drive for some, I assure you that everyone will remember your Memorial Day Party if you take the commute. Not only can you pick up some of the most obscure meats your guests have ever heard of, but they can wash down the food with a selection of fine craft ales from around the globe. The combination of Fossil Farms and Liquor Outlet in Boonton will not disappoint the foodie that lives inside us all.

I would not feel right publishing this article without mentioning the true reason this important holiday exists. Although, Memorial Day is now known for BBQ’s and family fun, this holiday is for honoring the fine men and women who ultimately gave their life defending our country. Whatever is on your agenda this Memorial Day, remember that if it was not for these brave young men and women the freedom to partake in these festivities might have been revoked years ago.

The Twisted Elm Tavern Surprises the Blue Collar Foodie!

For most of my life the corner of River Drive and River Road in Elmwood Park near Marcal was home to the same three establishments.  The Riverview Sunoco, where seemingly every single teenager growing up in Elmwood Park worked at one point or another, including me;  The Riverview East, which I discussed last week; and the Elmwood Barn, a small restaurant which was the stomping ground of the over 40 crowd in the area.

Sadly, the Elmwood Barn closed its doors one night and those doors remained closed.  I don’t know the exact details behind this but one day they were open and the next they were not, and for a long time the dilapidated building remained on the corner closed for business.  That is until Mr. Jim Rogers decided that he would open his newest business venture at this location. Slowly but surely while passing by every day I could see the transformation occurring as the old went out and the new came in.  Finally, a sign appeared claiming the old Barn was now to be The Twisted Elm Tavern.

Being from the area and still living not 10 minutes away from the Twisted Elm Tavern, I was intrigued at the idea of a new watering hole opening up in my neck of the woods. I expected a small town bar with the same old draught beers and fried foods.  My instincts were wrong about the Elm, and in this case that was a wonderful thing. The Twisted Elm offers an ever changing variety of award winning Micro-Brews that would tantalize even the most refined beer connoisseur’s palate, and pairs this surprising beer menu with a unique artisan fare that is not expected in the suburban town of Elmwood Park.  In addition to the great beer and food they also offer a lovely selection of wine and spirits that round out the menu nicely.

Much to my surprise, I found that The Twisted Elm Tavern was in fact the area’s first Gastro Pub.  If you are not from around this area, the idea of a Gastro Pub in a town like Elmwood Park is much like the idea of a hot girl that likes science fiction novels, you know they could exist but you never thought you would actually run into one. The thought of a Gastro Pub in my neighborhood sent chills down my back, but before this bar became my own, I had to do some further investigation.

When you enter The Twisted Elm Tavern, the bar area is off to the left and is complete with a large chalkboard that the purveyor hand writes the beer selection on.  This method is necessary due to the fact that the beer menu changes with every kicked keg.  The bar itself is rather large and forms a U-shape around the bartender which can house quite a few people.  If there are no bar stools available, which is becoming a problem more often that not as word spreads about the Twisted Elm throughout the area, there are a few tables to handle the over flow.

Every time I have entered this establishment the beer choices have varied and I can always find something new and exciting to imbibe. The best part of their beer selection, is that not one of their taps has ever housed Coors Light or Budweiser, not that I mind these beers for a barbecue, but since I graduated college I have become quite a little beer snob, and the Twisted Elm is not helping cure this ailment.

The Twisted Elm also offers a dining area that is located off to the right of the entrance that has quite a few tables.  The menu is somewhat limited but what they do serve has never disappointed me. During my most recent trip, Kat and I dined on a few selections from the menu. We, of course, ordered a round of drinks to start out with and while we perused the menu, the waiter brought us a basket of bread with a fantastic seasoned butter spread.  Kat ordered the Market Greens salad, $6.00, as an appetizer and the Meatball Sliders, $7.00, for her entrée.   I went with the Three Cheese Bacon Mac and Cheese, $7.00, as an appetizer and the Beer Brewed Corned Beef Sandwich, $9.00, for my entrée.

The Market Greens came out first, considering the Mac and Cheese takes about 30 minutes to cook.  Kat thoroughly enjoyed her salad and was impressed by the freshness of the greens themselves.  She also highly praised the, what appeared to be homemade, dressing.  Shortly after she finished her salad the main course arrived and it both looked and smelled amazing.  The Mac and Cheese was served in a small Cast Iron Skillet keeping the tiny shells warm and the cheese gooey.  The Sandwich was overflowing with corned beef and was served with a side of grain mustard that was both plentiful and mouth watering. Kat’s meatball sliders appeared to be larger than the average sliders and looked very appetizing.


All the food tasted amazing. The Mac and Cheese combined with the bacon was heavenly, as the bacon added just the right amount of smoked flavor to the cheese concoction.  As for the sandwich, the grain mustard and marbled rye bread flirted with perfection as it mixed with the hefty portion of corned beef.  Kat’s meatball sliders packed a large flavor in a small sandwich and she seemed very satisfied with her selection.

Another nice element to the Twisted Elm is that you can order all the food from the regular menu at the bar or on the Restaurant side.  This comes in handy when you arrive at the bar hankering for the munchies but still want to hang out with your friends and watch the game.

Overall, the Twisted Elm has done nothing but impress me since it has opened.  The Owner of this establishment is a regular and can be seen nightly conversing with the patrons.  The Beer list is always amazing featuring the likes of Stone Brewery, Dogfish Head, and Oskar Blues to name a few. On top of this the Foodie inspired menu has yet to leave me unfulfilled.

With that said, I would be remiss to not mention the pricing at the Twisted Elm Tavern which tends to scare off more than a few of the clientele that walk into this establishment. What must be understood, when dealing with craft beer, is that unlike the domestic watered down swill that is served at dive bars across the land, these beers are created in small batches by beer aficionados. These one of a-kind ales not only taste great but some of them pack the punch of 2 or 3 regular beers.  The same basic principal must be afforded to the finely crafted food that the Twisted Elm serves on a daily basis.  Bar food that included local fresh ingredients combined with great taste which is Chef prepared does not come along every day, so paying few extra bucks is not that terrible.

If you are looking for a domestic draught beer with a side of Mozzarella Sticks for $4.99 the Twisted Elm Tavern might not be for you, but if you are a foodie with a side of the beer crazies like me this should be your new bar, I know it is mine!

Judgement:

Overall:       4 out of 5

Taste:         4 out of 5

Presentation:  4 out of 5

Value:         3 out of 5

Twisted Elm on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodies’ ‘Best in Show’

Almost every state or region is associated with some type of specialty dish that they can call their own.  These foods spawn dozens if not hundreds of restaurants that boast the best blank in town, which causes crazed fans to damn near kill each other. Philadelphians quarrel over cheese steaks; Marylanders dig their claws into each other over crabs, Texans try to slaughter each other over their steaks, New Yorkers hem and haw about their Pizza Pies, and of course New Jerseyans berate each other over their beloved Hot Dogs.

As the warm weather approaches and the brown drab tree limbs left behind by the coldness of the winter begin to fill in with an inviting shade of green, my mind begins to wander. I think of Baseball and my beloved Mets, I attempt to decide where I want to go hiking this year, and of course most of all I salivate at the thought of all the great foods associated with nice weather. For me the impending climate shift means a multitude of BBQs with friends and family complete with Hamburgers, Ribs, Chicken, various salads, and New Jersey’s favorite red headed step-child, the Hot Dog. In order to prepare for the upcoming assault of smoked and grilled protein I decided throw a couple of briquettes on the fire that is the debate of who sells the BEST DOG IN TOWN.

I for one cannot be impartial when discussing this topic.  I am a Rutt’s Hut fanatic and no amount of debate can change this. Rutt’s Hut, is located at 417 River Road, in Clifton NJ.  I cannot truly remember the first time I took a bite of my first Ripper — this is what they call their deep fried hot dogs — but ever since that day I have been hooked, like zombies to brains. Rutt’s Hut is by no means the fanciest or prettiest restaurant in town, I think it’s held up by the years of deep fried oil that coats the walls, but that is just part of the charm. Like all things in life, fond memories can sway ones opinions and with Rutt’s I believe this may be the case for me. My grandfather brought me to Rutt’s Hutt on special occasions; money was tight in those days, and we would order a pair of rippers together. To this day when I bite into the crispy skin of one of their dogs covered in their famous mustard relish, a must try, I can remember those simpler times.

Rutt's Hut on Urbanspoon

As with most Jersey-born Hot Dog fanatics, we all had back up joints. Sometimes driving all the way to Clifton was not an option, other times instead of a plain dog you wanted a Texas Wiener, a hot dog with Chilli Sauce, Mustard, and Onions.  For me and my family when the latter craving struck, there was only one place to venture to, Johnny and Hanges which used to be located in Paterson and which now can be found in Fair Lawn, at 23-20 Maple Avenue. Johnny and Hanges Texas Hot Dogs are still good but the original recipe, which was lost when the new owners bought the name in 1999, was the stuff that dreams are made of.  Nothing to this day — and I have searched — has compared to the amazing Texas Hot Dog of Ye’ Olde Johnny and Hanges. With that said, nostalgia and a close but no cigar attempt to reproduce this amazing Texas Sauce, has kept me going to Johnny and Hanges since they reopened.

Johnny & Hanges on Urbanspoon

The best Texas Dog on the market today in Kat’s — my lovely wife who until she moved to North Jersey did not even know what a Texas Hot Dog was thanks to her South Jersey roots — opinion resides in Paramus, NJ at the Fireplace Restaurant, located at 718 Route 17 North. Now as I stated earlier, fond memories may skew certain opinions and since not only was this Kat’s first experience with a Texas Wiener (That’s what she said), but we also worked our way through college serving these fine dogs to thousands of Bergen County residents. I must admit though the Texas Hot Dog that the Fireplace serves is among the finest in the area.  The combination of the thick homemade sauce, spicy mustard and fresh onions all on top of a quality grilled hot dog does leave you wanting just one more for the road.  Every now again we like to take a walk down memory lane at the Fireplace after a long day of shopping at one of the 25 malls located in Paramus.

The Fireplace Restaurant on Urbanspoon

While on the topic of Texas Wieners, I would be remiss to not mention, The Hot Grill, located at 669 Lexington Avenue in Clifton, NJ. The Hot Grill and Rutt’s Hut are like the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, cross town rivals through and through. There are a few things that are bound to start an argument with your friends, discussing religion, politics, or in this area the great Hot Grill Versus Rutt’s Hut feud. I for one believe that they offer two slightly different variations of the classic New Jersey Hot Dog, but others seem to think that liking both establishments is nothing short of heresy. The choice is simple, if I want a Texas Wiener I go to Hot Grill, seeing as Rutt’s does not serve a true Texas, but if I want a plain old hot dog, as I mentioned before, the Hut is the only place for me. With that said, the Hot Grill serves up a great Texas Wiener and you can get these wonderful treats until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday or 1 a.m. every other night of the week. Believe me nothing is better than ending a good summer night by celebrating the early morning hours with a few Texas Hot Dogs at the iconic Hot Grill.

Hot Grill on Urbanspoon

Since I grew up in Elmwood Park, I would be thrown out of the guild if I did not bring up Elmwood Park’s famous River View East. Now, I for one am not a huge fan of their Texas Wieners. I am going to get punched for that sentence by at least three people so I hope you all enjoy my honesty, but they are not bad either. Each place I discussed has brought something unique to the table: Rutt’s deep fries, The Fire Place’s chunky sauce, the Grill’s late hours, Johnny and Hanges’ rich history. But River View does not really excel in any category. With that said, River View East does not fail at anything either.  It is the difference between the student that gets all A’s in Math but C’s in English and the student that gets straight B’s. River View is the straight B student that you can be proud of Elmwood.

Riverview East on Urbanspoon

Something to keep in mind when dining at any of these establishments is that they all have their own languages and subtle nuances that make them memorable. Don’t just walk in grab a dog to go and walk out if you have never been before. Have a seat or in some places take a spot at the counter and enjoy the history these eateries ooze.  From the barker at the counter, who will contort your order into some secret code that only the true regulars and the cooks can understand, to the pictures on the walls, these restaurants tell the stories of each and every city they are located in the only way they know how, through tradition. And remember a true foodie can appreciate the finest of foods as well as the arses and elbows of the food world, so go have a hot dog and welcome summer in a true New Jersey fashion!

These are merely a few of my favorite hot dog purveyors in Northern New Jersey.  Before you delete me as your Facebook friend for not mentioning your stomping ground, post a comment about your favorite place. Upon discussing this article with a few of my friends, I already caught a rash of crap for not including a few places such Jimmy Buff’s, located at  60 Washington Street in West Orange, and Libby’s, located at 98 McBride Avenue in Paterson, NJ.  Although I have never been to either of these popular Hot Dog spots I have been told great things and they have been added to my list of places to venture to.