Holy Hell, Habit Burger, May Be Habit Forming

I am what some people might label a food snob. Although, we prefer to be called Foodies, Epicureans, and Gastronauts, I have accepted that there are individuals that see my chosen perspective on food to be mildly pretentious. To be honest, I am sure those D-bags in Fedoras, fashion glasses, and tight jeans would rather not be called hipsters, but if the ironically worn croc fits…

As with any personality quirk that some people perceive to be annoying, once you accept it and embrace it as part of how you are, it seems to grow exponentially; hence the unequivocally maddening progression of the selfie.

My growing love affair with the foodie realm has an unfortunate price though, and that price is my increasing abhorrence for the gastronomically challenged grub that is served at almost every chain restaurant in the good ol’ U.S. of A. I know what you are thinking, “Mr. Blue Collar Foodie that does not seem like a problem at all.” It may not seem like an issue at first glance, but there are two reasons being on this epicurean soap box which is teetering on the fence of smugness is not the best place to be.

The first issue is most of your friends enjoy restaurants such as The Olive Garden, T.G.I.Fridays, Chili’s, and all the other flair wearing, slop slinging, chains that litter the highways, and therefore you tend to alienate yourself from the group by shunning these establishments. Secondly, no one likes a hypocrite, and I don’t care how much of a foodie you claim to be on your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram page, every single one of us have a weakness. It may be a Big Mac, a Whopper, a Crunchwrap Supreme, or a 7-11 Taquito, but every now and again that craving hits and until it is satisfied, that Duck Confit Cannoli tastes bland and ordinary.

My edible Achilles Heel comes in the form of an infamous fast food hamburger so gastronomically filthy that by merely writing this sentence I could be thrown out of the League of Extraordinary Eaters for life. (That club does not exist, but it does now! Hit me up to Join!)

To paraphrase A Clockwork Orange , “And the thing that always flashes into my gulliver is that I’d like to have one, right down there on the floor, the old In-N-Out, real savage.” That is right; my foodie transgression is none other than an Animal Style Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger. Unfortunately, not only is In-N-Out a chain restaurant and dining there could get me black balled from every farm-to-table this side of Pennsylvania, the closest In-N-Out is in freaking Texas! So even if I decided to give in when the hankering hits, I am shit out of luck, and my only recourse is to visit one of the many east coast clones that fail to compare to MY PRECIOUS!!!  That is until NOW!

Welcome to Habit Burger

Welcome to Habit Burger

The Habit Burger Grill, another California based burger chain, just fell from the heavens and landed smack dab in my hometown! The address for this new burger joint is 3101 Promenade Blvd. in Fair Lawn, NJ 07410. When it first arrived, I have to admit it; I believed it to be just another trend following fast food chain serving sub-par, salty meat pucks to the masses one stale bun at a time. I honestly did not give them a second thought.   That is until the buzz began. Slowly but surely like the well-deserved hatred for Ray Rice that swept over America, a phrase was being uttered in Bergen County. A phrase that once bounced off my ear drums, made this uninformed Habit Hater enter the newly constructed burger spot and literally eat my words.

What was the phrase you ask? It was very simple but insanely incendiary, “Habit may very well be better than In-N-Out.” This sentence echoed in my head, rattled around like a bouncy ball in an elevator before snuggly resting in my frontal lobe. I pass by The Habit Burger Grill twice each day, and every time I drove past this utterance reverberated once again. Until one night I made the executive decision that Kat and I would visit The Habit for dinner.

Eventhough quite a few people with appetites that I trust were talking up Habit, I still had my reservations. In my eyes, comparing a burger to my Double-Double is like comparing a common man to Jesus Christ, or a comedian to Robin Williams, you don’t do these things lightly. However, as Kat and I entered The Habit Burger Grill, the wafting smell began to seduce us. It did not smell of grease and fat. There was actually a scent of grilling meat that permeated the air. Furthermore, the set up of the restaurant had a familiar Californian feel, with an open kitchen and simplistic yet diverse menu hovering above the cashiers.

I felt it was somewhat busy for a Monday night, but that will happen when a new restaurant comes to town. Even though the line was decently long, the staff handeled it with ease and kept us moving at a brisk pace. When it was our turn to order, Kat and I decided to try what The Habit Burger Grill was most famous for, their Char Burgers. Our thought was basically if we like their original creation then we will have an excuse to come back and try their other offerings such as the BBQ Bacon Char Burger, Teriyaki Char Burger, Veggie Burger, or Fresh Albacore Tuna Sandwhich.

The fixins'

The fixins’

I ordered a Double Char Burger with a side of Onion Rings whereas Kat decided to go a little smaller. She ordered the single Char Burger with the Californian flair of avacado and a side of Tempura Green Beans. You heard that right, Fresh Cut Green Beans, lightly battered and flash fried at a Fast Food Burger Joint. While waiting for our food to be made fresh to order, we grabbed a table, filled up our drinks, and visted the Fixins bar. The Habit offers various hot peppers and numerous different dipping sauces that we helped ourselves to while we awaited our meals.

Double Char Burger

Double Char Burger

When our buzzer, well, buzzed, we approached the counter and gathered our food. It was the moment of truth for The Habit Burger Grill in this foodies’ eyes. I quickly snapped a bunch of photos to utilize for this post and then without hesitation grabbed my Double Char and chowed down. My friends, it was love at first bite. In my head, the act of chewing on this sandwhich played out like a cheesey romance movie, where the couple runs in slow motion towards each other for their first embrace. The Mayonnaise, pickle, and carmelized onions joined forces with the melty cheese and expertly prepared burger patty to create a burger that was equal, if not better than the crack-cocaine that is my In-N-Out Double Double.

Onion Rings

Onion Rings

After almost demolishing my entire Double Char before even trying the sides we ordered, I was able to gain control of myself and put the burger down for a moment. My first stop was the capital city of Onlandia, the Onion Rings. They were battered and fried quite well and came with a ranch dipping sauce that paired nicely. The best part of these fried wonders were the onions that were choosen to be used. I believe it was a sweet onion, it may have been a Vidalia, but whatever it was, it was chock full of yummy goodness.

Fried Green Beans

Fried Green Beans

As per usual, my lovely wife was extremely generous and allowed me to sample her Tempura Green Beans.   Not only are these a healthier option than the sterotypical fries and onion rings that usually accompany a fast food burger, they were extremely flavorful as well. Furthermore, they only got better when dipped into the the Ranch sauce that I mentioned earlier.

Once our meal was resting ever so nicely in our bellies awaiting its eventual digestion, Kat and I began to discuss how The Habit Burger Grill faired. We both enjoyed the hell out of the Burgers and appreciated the variety of sides that could be ordered to compliment it. The fixins bar is always a plus, because you can, as the Defecting Monarch Of Burgers says, Have it your way. We also respected the history behind The Habit, which started out as a small endeavor by two brothers with big dreams.

Single Char Burger

Single Char Burger

When everything was said and done, we left The Habit Burger Grill happy and full. As for the burger and how it compares to my clandestine long distance love affair with the Double-Double. I give the Char Burger the highest praise I can bestow on a fast food burger, it is different than yet equal to my beloved In-N-Out, and I assure you, there is not enough Michelin Stars in this world that will ever bypass that endorsement.   RESPECT THE BURGER INDEED!

Click to add a blog post for The Habit Burger Grill on Zomato

The Blue Collar Foodie Goes On A Foodcation

When normal people go on Vacation, they spend hours, if not days, obsessing over which monuments to visit or which museum has the most, must see artwork, within its confines.  I however am not an ordinary person, I am a foodie through and through and my vacation planning begins with the googles and ends with a list of must have foodie finds for whatever foreign land I am venturing to.

In the past, I have ate my way through a road trip spanning across this beautiful country of ours sampling all the spectacular food that the fly over states have to offer.  Kat and I then went on an International foodcation to see what eats Europe had to offer, while stopping off at London, Paris, and Rome. No matter where Kat and I journey, as Snoop  Dogg once kind of said, “We got our mind on our food, and our food on our mind.”

This past week Kat and I were traipsing through LA LA land, over on the left coast, and I was not disappointed with the fantastic food that I found while I lived among the movie stars and crazy meth addled homeless people that seem to live next door to each other in good ole’ Los Angles. The following is my Top 5 Blue Collar Foodie finds in the L.A. area.

5.  Bar Kitchen 819 S. Flower Street, Downtown LA

“When in Rome” is the Cliché that should roll off every foodie’s tongue when foodcationing (Yes I just made that word up and by the way, it is Trademarked).  One should not go to Philadelphia and opt to eat a Cheese Steak without Cheez Whiz because they are on a diet, just like one should not go to the Musée du Louvre in Paris and opt not to see the Mona Lisa because the line is too long, it is decisions like these that make the rest of the world believe that Americans are uncouth, and this foodie will not allow that to happen on his watch.

With this thought in mind, I could not let my fellow East Coasters down, even if every frugal bone in my body was tingling like Spiderman’s spidey sense at Doctor Octopus’s New Years Eve Party, as I walked into the posh downtown eatery known as Bar Kitchen.  From the moment I walked into this establishment my hipstrometer, which of course is my scientific device that measures the approximate hipster level a restaurant gives off, was reading Michael Cera in a Starbucks with a Mac Book Pro, which is the highest reading I have ever seen before.

When in Rome I thought to myself as we were seated adjacent to the wall that was showing a looped, muted, black and white version of The Never Ending Story and offered a libation before our five course Chef’s Tasting began.  I ordered a Golden Road, Point the Way I.P.A, which is one of the few beers that is brewed and bottled in sunny Los Angeles, California.

With my first bite of the first course, a Quail salad with sweet potatoes and pomegranate seeds, I was ready to don an ascot, black glasses, and sing to Weezer while driving down Hollywood Boulevard in my Smart Car.  With every bite I was whisked away to a foodie paradise via Falcore the Luck Dragon, the creepy flying dog from The Never Ending Story, and I savored every second of it.

With a tiny bird and some greens in my belly, the courses hit the table like a flurry of punches from Mike Tyson, not the pigeon wrangling medicated Tyson either, the biting people’s ears off crazy Tyson.  The Mussels with Catalina beans and Tasso Ham were so rich and decadent they would make Bill Gates jealous, a Chicken Chorizo skewer topped with a lime aioli that tasted as if it was grilled on Jesus’s barbecue outside the pearly gates, and a Sock-Eye Salmon that was served with Fava beans and an Olive Compote that was so light and flaky that I mistook it for actress and damn near asked it for its autograph.

With the savory courses done, our Motley Crew sat back in our chairs like the hedonistic rulers of age old societies as we loosened our belts and discussed the fine food that graced our table in celebration of our friend Benni’s bachelor party and all agreed that this grub was in fact better than the obligatory stripper laced bachelor party that is the ordinary agenda for a party of this magnitude.   Just when we thought we could not eat another bite, a small glass of sherbet and cantaloupe arrived in front of each of us.  The chef at Bar kitchen is apparently smarter than the average bear, and knows no one in Los Angles can turn down Sherbet and Fruit no matter how stuffed they are.  This final course was simply divine and was the perfect ending to a tremendous meal.

When I entered this eatery I fell into the age old trap of judging a book by its cover and I was wrong to do so.  To add insult to my injury their price was half as much as one would expect to pay a New York Restaurant for a 5 course tasting meal, and I gladly ate the chef’s humble pie for only 35 bucks!  Well done Bar Kitchen, my compliments to the chef.

Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

 

4.  Bob’s Big Boy 4211 Riverside Dr. Burbank, CA

There are quite a few things that New Jersey is known for, some of them we are proud of and others, not so much. A true Jersey native will proudly boast about first game of baseball being played in Hoboken, cringe at any Snookie related nonsense, and give you directions to one of the 17 billion malls that are located in the Garden State.   Even though New Jersey is known for all of these things, the one thing that Jersey has that no New Jersian can truly live without, is the magical Diner.  In most of the other states that I have traveled to finding a Diner is quite a task, but not in our wonderful little armpit. I am pretty sure that every town has a law about having at least one diner, and if that diner closes your town risks being shunned and forced to become a part of Pennsylvania, and believe me, no one wants that.

Everyone enjoys having a small slice of home when they are on vacation, including Kat and I, so if we can have breakfast  at a diner when we are away  it makes the start of the day that much better. Enter Bob’s Big Boy, which is not just any old run of the mill diner, but a full service diner that has been feeding the residents of Burbank, California since 1949.  Whenever we are in the L.A. area Bob’s Big Boy is a must stop for at least one leisurely breakfast.

The door for Bob’s in Burbank is like a time portal that whisks you away back to the 1950’s when Diners were chock full of plump oversized booths  and smiling waitresses.  As you walk into this amazing historical landmark, you can feel the Americana oozing from every corner, from the plague that informs you where the Beatles ate to Bob Big Boy statue that is displayed within the dining area.   If there is one thing better than the décor, it is the deliciously comforting food.

At Bob’s you can, of course, get the normal diner fare, but in my opinion normal is just another way to say mundane.  If you decide to go visit Bob in Burbank I recommend getting the Big Boy Scramble which is described as scrambled eggs mixed with ham, bell pepper, onions and tomato, topped with cheddar cheese and is served with fresh hash brown potatoes, a side of salsa and toast, English muffin or biscuit if you are hungry yet want to appear healthy.  I for one, use the mantra go big or go home a lot when I am on vacation, so when I go to Bob’s I order the Deep Fried French Toast with bacon, eggs, and home fries.   That’s right I said DEEP FRIED FRENCH TOAST, try to read the rest of the article before booking a flight to Big Boy Land please.

Bob's Big Boy on Urbanspoon

3.  Food Trucks (Lardon’s Obituary)

The first time Kat and I wandered around the streets of California we had never partook in the offerings of mobile gastronomy purveyors, or food trucks in layman’s terms.  It was on this first adventure to Los Angles that Kat and I realized the folly of our ways.  While we were looking for expensive chic restaurants in preparation for our trip, we should have been scouring the interwebs for mobile eateries and then chasing them down California Highway Patrol style sans the goofy looking tan shorts and bad 80’s hair.

The food truck that converted us to the church of portable cuisine was none other than the delectably decadent Lardon.  This now extinct beast was the countries’ first and, as far as I know the only Bacon themed food truck.   Lardon was so popular due to its Baconey goodness that it was featured on numerous Television Shows including everyone’s favorite Ginger, Conan O’Brien.  Just reading Lardon’s menu literally added cholesterol to your system.  Some of the menu highlights were, The Bacone which consisted of three strips of exotic bacon, such as Duck or Wild Boar, Chicken Wings covered in bacon hot sauce, topped with hot sauce covered bacon served with a bacon blue cheese dipping sauce, and of course the BACO, a Taco Shell made entirely out of BACON!

I honestly could write a dozen sonnets in iambic pentameter about Lardon and their porky yumminess, but alas they are no more, so I will mourn in silence for our deceased friend.  In the meantime, let me explain how these trucks work for those of you who are not in the know.  The first step is to find a truck you are interested in trying before you arrive in L.A., which is easy enough thanks to the good ol’ googles.  If you are feeling lazier than usual, you can choose one from the Zagat’s Top 10 L.A. food truck list.

Once you have a truck in mind, for example the Grill ‘Em All truck, head over to their website and check out how you can follow them around town.  Most trucks use their Twitter and Facebook feeds to tell potential clients where their truck will be parked for breakfast, lunch, and diner.   Once you are following your food truck via your preferred method of social media, the rest is simple.  Check feed, find truck, and eat food.

The food truck scene in California is amazing because the weather year round is perfect for outdoor dining and standing in line.  Although the New York Metropolitan area is trying to catch up, there seems to be a lot more red tape on this coast that these small businesses have to cut through in order to open up shop.   With that said, these mobile business ventures do seem to disappear overnight never to be heard from again, so if you see one you like and you have the opportunity to eat there, do it while you can.

2. Smoke House  4420 W Lakeside Dr. Burbank, CA

While driving around the Burbank area, Kat and I drove past this unassuming eatery and noticed a neon sign that read, “fine food at a fair price.”  You would think that the sign read, “Free Bacon,” because the next day Kat and I were on our way to explore Smoke House with some friends and family that we were visiting with during our stay.

Me, being me could not resist doing a little research on the place before just walking in, so out the I-Phone came and onto the Googles I went.  I found out that the Smoke House is one of the oldest restaurants in Burbank, California and was opened in 1946.  Due to its location, near the Warner Brother’s Studio, it became a haven for celebrities in its hay day.  Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Errol Flynn, Milton Berle, Judy Garland, and even James Dean could be found dining at the Smoke House on any given Friday night back in the day.   While now George Clooney and Andy Garcia are known to pop in from time to time, Clooney even named his production company after this place.  The more and more I read about this spot, the more and more I knew I needed to eat there.

The Smokehouse Restaurant is yet another time travel device tucked away in Burbank California.  As you walk in, the old Hollywood Lounge vibe is stronger than Charlie Sheen’s coffee after a weekend binge.   I almost expected to hear a traditional lounge singer crooning over a bad P.A. system and be assaulted by plumes of cigarette smoke from the patrons.   As we traveled to our table, the nostalgia level only increased, from the in booth telephone jacks, the artwork on the walls, this was in fact Hollywood the way I only wish I could experience it.

Not only was I excited just to have the opportunity to dine at this sweet establishment, when we looked at the menu is only got better.  We had apparently arrived at the Smoke House during their 66th Anniversary celebration and we were able to order off a special menu that shaved off about 7 dollars a plate.   My research insisted Kat and I try the Smoke House famous Prime Rib with a side order of “The World’s Best Garlic Bread,” and we are not ones to argue with the foodie community or the googles for that matter, so Prime Rib it was.

Not only did I feel like a pimp sitting in this restaurant, I felt like a King eating the food.  The Garlic Bread was bursting with flavor; the salad portion was larger than Christina Ricci’s five head; and the Prime Rib was simply amazing.  To top it all off, the wait staff was wonderful and treated us like we were one of the many celebrities that has placed their rump in their vintage comfy seats.

If you find yourself in Burbank, California and you don’t hit this remarkable establishment up, you sir have failed the foodie that lives inside of you.

Smoke House on Urbanspoon

1: IN AND OUT BURGER (212 locations in CA)

If you don’t know about In and Out Burger, then you need to fly to the West Coast immediately and put some of their crazy good burgers in your belly.  I know I have done articles about Gastro Burgers and sung their praises but there is something about the simplicity of a good old fashioned In And Out burger that makes my stomach smile.  You can ask Kat, when I enter a state that has an In and Out located within its borders (Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, or Utah) we are driving until In and Out is in my belly.

Before I get a hundred nasty grams from you guys, I should clarify that I am fully aware that it is just a burger and fries from yet another fast food restaurant.  But, because I can only have one every so often they become a forbidden fruit, a red button that you are told not to press, or a wrapped toy that you can’t play it, it gets to the point that I dream about them.

Not to mention the fact that In and Out has a super not so secret menu that you can order off of to procure items that are not listed on their very limited menu.  If you do intend to go to an In and Out during your travels you should definitely study this clandestine menu so you can experience the best  In and Out has to offer.   I love ordering off the secret menu because you feel as if you are a member of a fraternal order and only you and the cashier know the handshake.

I have a standard order when I go to In and Out for the first time in a long time.  I get myself a Double Double Animal Style with a side of Animal Style fries and wait in anticipation for them to call my number.  After ordering, I am like a child on Christmas morning waiting for their parents to wake up, I pace around the restaurant in anticipation getting the napkins and ketchup prepared so when my number is called all I have to do it sit and eat.

In and Out Burger has been pumping out fantastic burgers and fries since 1948 and the basic process has remained the same.    They don’t freeze, pre-package or over-process their beef patties.  They hand leaf their lettuce so each piece is inspected before landing on your burger.  Their fries are individually cut at the store that you walk into, so they are the freshest they can be.  The best way to put it is that In and Out Burger just make things the old-fashioned way, and that is why their food tastes so good.

I, by no means claim to have a working knowledge of the California Foodie Scene and I am sure a California native could throw out the name of ten places that are bigger and better than the five restaurants I mentioned above, but then they have missed the point of this article completely.  This post is merely designed to explain that a vacation can be turned into a foodcation with a little research and an open mind.   Next time you venture out of your area don’t just visit the monuments and museums, explore the local culture one forkful at a time.

The Blue Collar Foodie Gets Lucky on River Road!

As a Fair Lawnite, I was very sad to see Sub Base’s reign at 18-50 River Road come to an unceremonious end.  I always had very fond memories of the location that Lucky’s Steak Plate has chosen to set up shop, because my Grandparents used to bring us there as a special treat when I was growing up.

One of the reasons I believe I became a foodie in the first place is because the taste and sheer smell of food can be linked to some of my strongest and happiest memories during my youth.  Just ask any individual of Italian descent to describe their Mother’s gravy or a member of the Jewish faith to discuss their Grandmother’s Matzah Ball soup, and you will hear the passion that food can instill in people, as just the thought of this comfort food transports them back to a simpler and happier time in their lives.

With that said, I was reluctant to go to Lucky’s at first because I wanted to remember Sub Base as it was lodged firmly in my psyche. Luckily, pun intended, Kat was not attached to Sub Base like I am, and she convinced me to give this spot a try.  Don’t tell Kat this, but after visiting Lucky’s Steak Plate I realized I should probably listen to her more frequently.

Kat and I entered Lucky’s and were greeted with a smile and a, “howdy” by a welcoming employee who was standing behind the counter.  This often overlooked and seemingly insignificant interaction is always appreciated by Kat and I whenever we go out, whether it is to a restaurant or even a clothing store.  I was ecstatic to see at Lucky’s, this, thought to be, dead art is strolling around searching for brains just in time for Halloween.

As for the décor, Kat and I truly thought that Lucky’s was a chain restaurant when we first walked in, and that is not the insult that it sounds like.  The color scheme, the paint, the uniforms, and even the menu are so well thought out that it seemed like they were all designed, implemented, and kept up by professionals.  I tip my hat to the proprietor of this establishment, because to be honest most newly opened restaurants look like they were decorated by a student of the Helen Keller institute of design.

I can hear my fellow foodies while I type this review, “WTF!, since when did the BCF turn into a furry Martha Stewart.”  I know this blog is about food and believe me if Lucky’s Steak Plate was just another flashy chain with  required flair this Blue Collar Foodie would not be doing a write up on them.  If you are familiar with my blog, I praise blue collar food done right, and Lucky is, well, doin’ it right.

On our first visit to Lucky’s, Kat and I were in the mood to sample a variety of the fare that Lucky’s is offering.  We decided upon the Cheese Steak Hero with Onion, Sweet Peppers, and Hot Peppers, a side order of hot wings, and a helping of the Disco Fries to round off our healthy meal all for $28.04.

After we ordered our food, the lovely waiting staff instructed us to have a seat and they would bring the food out to us when it was ready.  In the dining area there are several televisions that keep you entertained as well as a great soundtrack of American Rock and Roll, that Kat and I were convinced was someone’s I-pod with a playlist simply entitled Lucky’s. Once we were seated it was only a few minutes until the food arrived and we were able to dig in.

Kat and I are quite the wing lovers so both of us started off our entrée with one of the, “Lucky Wings.”  Lucky’s wings had the perfect ratio of crispy skin to moist meat, which is always a tricky balance to master.  The hot sauce was full of flavor but not punch you in the nuts so you can’t breathe kind of hot.  For those of you who like to lose all your taste buds for a week when munching down on some hot wings, Lucky does supply a bottle of hot sauce on the table to increase the heat.

Next we divided up the Cheese Steak Hero, which as a Chef I would be scared to serve to Kat, due to her roots in Might As Well Be Alabama South Jersey, but she seemed to like it.  I for one was a fan, if not for any other reason but the quality of the steak.  Most North Jersey eateries try to pass off store brought frozen “Steak-Um’s,” as a “Philly” Cheese Steak but not Lucky’s, they use fresh rib eye steak which is served on a fresh baked hero roll.  Furthermore, as a New York Sports fan that despises any and all Philadelphia sports fans, this includes Kat during baseball season mind you; I always love finding a proper Philly Cheese Steak in the North because then it is one less excuse Kat can use to drag me down to Philly to visit the city of brotherly hate.

After a few bites of the Cheesesteak and another wing each, we moved onto the Disco Fries, which as the menu says truly is a Jersey thing.  The fries were cooked well and tasted great due to whatever magical oil they fill their fryer with.  They were also smothered in mozzarella cheese, which is a must for any self-respecting order of disco fries, but sadly the gravy was lacking something.  Don’t get me wrong I would still order them again, but I may ask for the gravy on the side this time.

All in all the food that we tried at Lucky’s was worthy of praise and most definitely earned Lucky’s Steak Plate a return visit, so I can eat me some steak.  Although I was sad to see Sub Base leave, after seeing what Lucky’s is all about, I truly hope they stick around for the long haul and create more than a few memories for the foodies in training that are running around Fair Lawn today.

Lucky Steak Plate on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Rocks out with Rony in Glen Rock , New Jersey

As most of you know my blog is published on the Patch.com, and since I live in Bergen County I also subscribe to most of the area’s Patch.com sites to keep up to date on the Über local news that is provided by the Patch. While I was perusing the Ridgewood-Glen Rock Patch,  I noticed an article about a relatively new Hamburger shop in Glen Rock that needed some community support to get off the ground.  After reading the article, I decided it was not only my civic duty but my foodie duty to give Rony’s Rock Burger, located at 192 Rock Road, Glen Rock, NJ, a whirl and see if he was making some Blue Collar Foodie worthy Burgers.

Kat and I invited a special guest foodie with us; we will call her Ms. Pupin, to partake in Rony’s Rock Burger.  Since this was the first time that any of us had been to Rony’s Burger place, as I drove down Rock Road I asked Ms. Pupin and Kat to keep an eye out for the restaurant so we did not miss it.  Kat and Ms. Pupin failed at this game so I turned around and tried once again, this time around they spotted our destination and then the parking spot pursuit began.

As a former Glen Rockian, I know that parking on Rock Road is about as much fun as listening to Ben Stein read the phone book, but such is life and Rony’s Rock Burger cannot be blamed for the lack of parking in the down town district of Glen Rock.  Once a parking spot was procured we ventured inside Mr.  Rony Alvarado’s burger joint, and right off the bat I was impressed.  The walls are full of rock memorabilia that comes from a time when rock, well rocked.  Pictures and records of Elvis, Hendrix, Morrison, not Van but Jim, Rolling Stones, Guns and Roses, and a plethora of other Hall of Famers decorate Rony’s Rock Burger and give it the ambiance that a true burger joint should have.

Now, this is not an interior design blog, so honestly if the walls looked pretty but the food tasted like New Jersey smells, I would not be writing this blog post.  The truth is, after one bite of Rony’s Rock Burger I was transported to Paradise City via a Crystal Ship, where I was All Shook Up with Satisfaction.

The Menu at Rony’s Rock Burger reads like a who’s who list of American Rock and Roll, using the rock stars name and personality as the inspiration for each item. For Example, I ordered the Bob Marley which is described as a burger with Cajun spices, topped with grilled onions, bacon and cheddar cheese to which I also added avocado.  I, of course, opted to make it a combo and added the upgraded curly fries and a drink, for the reasonable price of $10.75.

Kat chose the Stevie, after Stevie Nicks I would presume, which is described as a burger topped with American cheese, pineapple, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Rony’s signature Terriyaki-Based Waka Sauce.  Kat also opted to make her meal a combo, and chose to upgrade her side dish to the onion rings.  Kat’s burger also set us back a sensible $10.75.  Kat also decided to add the avocado, which, she asked me to add, was freshly sliced, and just ripe enough.

Ms. Pupin went off the reservation and opted for a black board special called the Rage Against the Burger which was described as a burger topped with Bacon, crumbled Blue Cheese, and buffalo sauce.  Ms. Putin decided to try the original Rony’s fries, so her meal only came to an economical $8.75.

After ordering our food from Rony himself, who was apparently acting as owner, host, waiter, and cook, which is why I love mom and pop eateries, we took our seats and waited for our food to grace our table.  Within minutes, Rony brought our food out and I swear I heard the angelic chorus of cherubs in the distance, alright so I was hungry, sue me.  Once the food touched our lips there was a moment of silence as the flavors collided with our taste buds and then we began to discuss our orders with one another.

The Bob Marley that I ordered was fantastic, the Cajun seasoning was not just dashed on top of the burger like some other Cajun burgers that I have had in the past, it was actually mixed into the chopped meat allowing the flavor to be evenly dispersed.  The Bacon was freshly cooked and crisp, and you could easily tell was not made by Oscar Meyers.  The burger was so damn good, I did not have to put any condiments on it at all, which really says something, because I literally have an entire shelf for condiments in my refrigerator at home.  As for the curly fries, they were seasoned to perfection and not overly salty like so many of the curly fries that are served at the foodie hamburger joints that are popping up throughout New Jersey these days.

Kat’s Stevie was unlike any other burger I have ever had before.  The pineapple combined with the Bacon and the Waka Sauce, an all-purpose tropical pepper sauce native to the Philippines, made for an interesting party in my mouth.  Even though the burger was great, the real star of Kat’s meal was the onion rings that were deep fried and crispy, surrounded by just the right amount of flavorful batter.  These onion rings would make other inferior onion rings leap off the table to their own demise, due to the shame of not being a Rony’s ring.  They were so yummy; she was forced to share them with the table.

Ms. Pupin’s Rage Against the Burger was equally as tasty all thanks to what appeared to be the fresh blue cheese that overflowed from the bun.  The Buffalo sauce was not too tangy but had a slight kick which complemented the burger instead of overpowering it, which was a welcomed surprise for a sauce that tends to be a bully.  Ms. Pupin’s regular Rony fries were equally as impressive as my curly fries and if you are low on funds when you give Rony’s a whirl, I would suggest skipping the upgrade and sticking with these classically good shoe string potatoes.

While we were eating our meal, Rony himself came over to chat with us, and supply us with a free sample of Rock Sauce, which I highly recommend as a dipping sauce for your fries by the way.  He asked if we were locals and discussed his food with us, and as you can see I like to talk about food, so I was in all my glory, with a burger in one hand and a fellow foodie to converse with.  Rony explained that all his food was made fresh to order and that the meat he serves is not only homemade, like damn near everything else that he serves, but high quality as well.  While speaking to Rony, I could tell he has a passion for not only preparing the food he sells, but preparing it properly and with the best ingredients he can find.   Rony is truly a diehard foodie at heart and he happens to be serving some of the best hamburgers in the area.

So the next time you have a hankering for a hamburger, don’t go to SmashBurger, BoomBurger, or any of the other dozen or so chains that are bursting onto the foodie scene, support a local business man like Rony Alvarado, not just because you want his business to survive but because his Burgers are the real deal!

Judgment

Overall:                  4 out of 5

Taste:                     5 out of 5

Presentation:        4 out of 5

Value:                     3 out of 5

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