The Blue Collar Foodie Goes Round For Round With The Duke at Charlie Blood’s

Occasionally the fact that I have a food blog comes up in conversations and when it does I typically get mixed reviews, pun intended.   Some people respond to this statement as if I just told them that I kick dogs for fun, while others reply as if I had told them I write for the New Yorker.  Although, I tend to enjoy the latter as opposed to the former reaction, by far my favorite response is also the most common; “That is, (Insert Favorable Adjective Here), you should really check out, (Insert Restaurant’s Name Here).”

This is exactly what happened a few weeks ago while I was at my local watering hole, The Twisted Elm, and ran into a few old friends.  One of them was unaware that I write this blog and as soon as I mentioned it she instantly began throwing names of restaurants out faster than I could digest them.  As I fervently tapped on my phone with my giant clumsy thumbs, trying to capture all the potential Blue Collar eateries that were being hurled in my direction, one seemed to stand out amongst the crowd, Charlie Blood’s Restaurant.  Not only was the name appealing but the way she described this joint lead me to believe that it was right up my alley.  She may or may not have used the phrase Dive Bar a few times.

Charlie Bloods

Charlie Blood’s Restaurant

The following night Kat, our friend Rory, and I embarked on our culinary quest to Charlie Blood’s, which is located at 147 Frederick St., in Garfield, NJ.  As we pulled up to what I assumed was the front of the building, more on this later, I could feel the blue collar vibe emanating from this establishment.   The yellow brick of the building illuminated by the welcoming glow of the neon beer sign in the window attracted Rory and I like a tween to sparkly vampires.

Upon entering Charlie Blood’s Restaurant we were whisked away to a wondrous world of wood paneling and draught beer, that I lovingly call DiveBaria.  This extraordinary land is a lot like Narnia from the acclaimed novel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, except that the Wardrobe is a bar, the Lion is food, and instead of a witch there is beer.  Come to think of it, there are really not any similarities between these places, except of course, they are both magical.  Once inside, we grabbed a table adjacent to the bar, ordered a round of drinks, and asked for a few menus.

Inside Charlie Bloods

Inside Charlie Blood’s

While we swigged our first round, we discussed the menu and conversed about the astonishing selection of food that this seemingly unimposing tavern has to offer.   Even though Charlie Blood’s offers a wide variety of Italian American fare, my mind was made up the second I picked up the menu and saw “The Duke’s” face staring back at me.  The Duke is Charlie Blood’s Famous 24oz Ribeye Steak and I felt obligated to my readers to conquer it, especially since it was only $17.95.  Kat opted to attempt to keep her girlish figure, which this blog does not help at all, and ordered the 12oz steak for $11.95, while Rory went with the Seafood platter, which is described as Shrimp, Calamari, Mussels, and Baked Clams for $14.95.  To add to the affordability of this spot, all of our meals came with a house salad and fries as well.

After the hardest part of the evening was over and our food ordered, we took our beverages in hand and drank in all that this restaurant has to offer.  The walls of Charlie Blood’s restaurant are covered from floor to ceiling with local sports memorabilia and hometown heroes.   I am not talking about the kind of crap that is draped all over the walls at your local Applebee’s, that was clearly professionally framed and placed there by a decorator either, I am talking about  the genuine article.  A large poster of this establishment’s namesake, Charlie “Blood” Benanti, hangs in the bar alongside this memorabilia.

Charlie Blood's Logo

Charlie Blood’s Logo

According to the Googles, “Charlie gained his nickname “Charlie Blood” at a young age from his reputation as a street tough fighter during his school days. He began professional boxing at the age of 16 to aid his family in the pre-depression years. Many of his fights were held in Garfield, Jersey City, and Paterson.  He gained the New Jersey Lightweight crown in 1928. With a winning record of 65-5, he retired in 1931. In 1940, Charlie took over a tavern in Garfield from his father-in-law and is now owned and run by his son Sal Benanti, and his family.”

Our salads arrived and I have to say I was impressed by the portion size.  That is not to say that the salads were over sized but they were not overtly petite either.  To paraphrase a famous blond girl who broke into a bears house, it was not too big or too small, but just the right size.  The actual contents of the salad appeared to be fresh and as far as a dinner salad goes, it did its job flawlessly.

The Duke

Charlie Blood’s Famous 24 oz. Ribeye Steak

With my appetite intact and properly primed, I was ready to go round for round with The Duke.  As this 24oz beast of a steak came to our table the theme song from Rocky was playing in my head.  I have never met a steak I could not finish and I was determined to make sure that the Duke was not the first.  So far Charlie Blood’s Restaurant was not disappointing this blue collar foodie, but as the first forkful of steak was slowly approaching my craw, I knew that the moment of truth was upon us.  For, a cheap bill is not the only requirement for a restaurant to be Blue Collar Foodie approved.   But alas Charlie Blood’s Restaurant did not dissatisfy, it was love at first bite.

The Duke

The Duke’s Close-Up

This colossal slab of cow was perfectly cooked, medium rare, and seasoned just enough to enhance the natural flavor of the meat.  This was one of the best steaks I have had in a long time, and I could not believe that I was having it at a place like Charlie Blood’s Restaurant.  Kat and Rory seemed to be enjoying their meals too, considering the conversation that we were having when the food arrived had not only stopped but was only a distant memory.  As I finished my steak, I found myself sopping up the juices with my French fries so I would not waste any of the deliciousness.

Seafood Melody

Seafood Melody

All in all, Charlie Blood’s Restaurant is the perfect two punch combination, it is affordable and the food is terrific.  This is yet another establishment that makes you hear your wise mother’s voice urging you not to judge a book by its cover, in that motherly tone that we all love to hate.  These hyper local Blue Collar foodie havens are difficult to find and get harder and harder as the years drag on.  There is something extremely comforting about Charlie Blood’s, a Cheers’esque’ quality, that is sadly endangered nowadays.

There are a few notes about Charlie Blood’s Restaurant that I wish I knew before we visited that I will now share with you.  This blue collar foodie find, much like many others, only takes cash.  They do have an ATM on site, but if you want to save the fees stop at the bank before you head over.  Furthermore, if you are not into eating at the bar, I have been told that there is a full service restaurant side to Charlie Blood’s Restaurant that I will be checking out on our next visit.  The entrance to the restaurant is apparently around the corner from the door we used to get in.

Judgment:

Overall:                          4 out of 5

Taste:                             4 out of 5

Presentation:                3 out of 5

Value:                             5 out of 5

Charlie Bloods on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Cooks With Science

As the Holiday season is approaching faster than Frosty melts in Al Gore’s very unpopular remake entitled Frosty’s Inconvenient Truth, everyone tends to overlook one of the greatest holidays of the year.  Everyone that is, except for the foodie community.  I don’t understand what is not to love about a holiday that is all about giving thanks for what you have, eating food until you feel like Jabba the Hutt, and then taking a nap while watching football.  Forget about Christmas and Chanukah people, Thanksgiving is where it is at!

Now that we have determined that Thanksgiving makes those other winter holidays feel like Daniel Baldwin at a family reunion, we are ready to celebrate, so put away your yule tide cheer for just a few more days and let’s talk Turkey!

Thanksgiving is a time for foodies everywhere to roll up their sleeves and prove to the world that they are not in need of an intervention because they watch Food Network every spare second of everyday.  Thanksgiving is a holiday tailor made for all of us that are just the right amount of food crazy.  This food-centric day gives all of us the opportunity to showcase our culinary skills to our beloved family and friends.

If you are anything like me, before you even acquired a kitchen and a dining room of your own, you hatched a James Bond-esque strategy to seize Thanksgiving from your kin, once grandma relinquished control.  This is not an easy task mind you; annexing a holiday is pretty much like licking your elbow, damn near impossible. (Go ahead and try to lick your elbow, I won’t judge. Can’t do it right? I know it is weird; you are so close but yet so far away.  Never mind that now, keep reading.)  But now as the victors of the great Thanksgiving conflict of 2010, Kat and I have won the right to host Thanksgiving and the traditions we create this year may be blogged about by our children someday, so we better bring the pain. The only question was how.

Right about now, you may be asking yourself, “Self, what the hell do I care about this crazy man’s Thanksgiving, I have my own Turkey anxiety to worry about?”   That is a very good question, and if you don’t want to learn how to cook with science and make every single person at your Thanksgiving table this year yearn for your turkey like Govenor Chris Christie and I crave bacon, then close this window and head over to RachaelRay.com and read all about her turkey.

Oh look who decided to stick around and keep reading.  Was it because this crazy foodie mentioned the possibility of cooking with science?  Good, because that is what this blog post is all about.  That’s right the Blue Collar Foodie is going to school you on cooking with straight up, Bill Nye approved science and cause all your relatives to doubt every other turkey cooking method they hold true to their heart.

Back in the 50’s Grandma baked her bird, then when Dad took over Thanksgiving in the 80’s the fowl was put to flame on the grill, and even Cousin Jebediah jumped into the mix circa 2000’s with a fry daddy and a truckload of oil, but if I was going to keep Thanksgiving at our place I had to come up with something huge.  Enter the Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer and the age of infrared cooked Turkey!

Anyone who has ever dreamt of deep frying a turkey but can’t shake the constant nagging reminder of the 100’s of You Tube videos that are forwarded to your many E-mail accounts this time of year depicting horrific Thanksgiving accidents when dealing with Frying, this baby is for you.  The Big Easy Oil less Fryer is the perfect compromise for the dare devil foodie that is willing to throw caution to the wind and his practical wife that is contemplating the best route to the emergency room during the Thanksgiving parade. This Bunsen burner on steroids can cook up to a 16 pounder in 8-10 minutes a pound and leaves your bird with crispy skin and moist, succulent meat.   Not to mention that you will get to post on Facebook the amazing picture of your Turkey, with the caption, “Cooked With Science,” and if you’re a foodie nerd like me, it does not get much cooler than that.  For my fellow science nerds here is an image that explains the science of infrared cooking.

As the late, great, Billy Mays use to say, “But wait there’s more.”  For all the traditionalists, who are about to comment on this article shunning this remarkable invention, put your blackberry away and relax.  Not only can you still brine your turkey just like you always do but you can also add a dry rub or inject a marinade as well.  Not to mention the fact that your oven is free to cook all your side dishes without the encumbrance of a giant feathered friend taking up 75% of it. 

Still not convinced, just look at the pictures of the nine pound chicken I cooked the other day, in 90 minutes I might add.  Let me explain it to you this way, you can keep cooking your turkey in the oven until someone in your family buys a Big Easy and starts cooking with science, thus commandeering your holiday!