You Need Yo! Sushi In Your Life!!!

Within the spacious confines of the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ, there are innumerable shops, kiosks, and restaurants. A large majority of these establishments can be found at just about any mall that exists in a metropolitan area. However, since New Jersey is the Mall capital of the world and we are a Stone’s throw away from the greatest city in the world, every once in a while a spot opens up in The GSP that is worth getting excited over.

Back in the day, when I was a rebellious youth, I was what one would consider a “Mall Rat”. This was not just a title; it was a lifestyle. There were several crews that called The Garden State Plaza home, and each of us had our own “territory,” where we would rock some footbag, smoke, drink, and talk junk about the patrons that were actually there to buy something. Our clique staked claim near the Old Entrance 1, the crème de la crème of spots back then.

Entrance 1 gave us access to the food court and all the free samples we could eat, the bus stop was within eye sight, and Sam Goody was a 5 minute stroll away. For those of you that are confused, Sam Goody was a brick and mortar store that sold CD’s because at that time downloading one song took literally 20 hours.

Even though it has been quite some time since my friends and I called the GSP our home away from home, I still consider it to be my mall, and that specific area is special to me. Sam Goody went the way of the Dodo bird after being acquired by Best Buy, and the mall has had several face lifts since I kicked my last Footbag outside Entrance 1, but it still pained me to see a shoe store, a furniture store, or a clothing store occupy the space that once was the most popular storefront in the mall.

Yo! Sushi Sign

My suffering was extinguished recently when I heard that Yo! Sushi was moving into my old stomping ground, and from what I heard about this innovative Sushi joint, I was ecstatic. As stated above, the GSP will forever be my mall, and I was proud that MY MALL was chosen to be the first Yo! Sushi restaurant to open in the United States! Take that Palisades Center, perhaps they heard that you are slowly sinking into the earth!

YoSushi Entrace

Yo! Sushi is not just your run-of-the-mill Sushi place that you can find on every corner in North Jersey.   Yo! Sushi is delivering the art of “kaiten,” or conveyor belt sushi to our beloved mall, and you should be Fraking excited about it! That is right, I said conveyor belt sushi, as in, the chef expertly prepares your sushi in their open air kitchen, places the dish on the conveyor belt, and then that piece of fish travels throughout the restaurant until a customer yoinks it off the belt and devours it.

The Yo! Sushi delivery system!

The Yo! Sushi delivery system!

As the late great Billy Mays used to say, “But wait there’s more!” Yo! Sushi is not just about Sushi; they serve over 80 Japanese inspired dishes that include hot classics, sashimi, tempura, salads, hand rolls and desserts! I, for one, love Sushi, but if your date, comrade, buddy, mother, sister, or brother does not, have no fear Yo! Sushi has something for them to sink their teeth into

Calamari anyone?

Calamari anyone?

The procedure at Yo! Sushi is as simple as it is ingenious:

Step 1: Find a Seat

Step 2: Sit down, you look weird just standing there looking at a chair!

Step 3: Order your drinks and specials from the extremely helpful staff.

Step 4: Keep your eyes on the conveyor belt of yummy that will deliver fresh mouthwatering sushi directly to your table and eat.

Yo! Sushi Takoyaki

These balls were freaking Amazeballs!!!

How do they know how much Sushi you crammed in your craw, you ask? It is simple! When you have had your fill, just tell a team member you are tapping out, and they will count your dishes and charge you accordingly. Each dish is color coded and matches a price guide that you will find in your menu.   This way you can keep track of the damage as you fervently grab plate after plate of gorgeously prepared amazeballs, no seriously, they have a Crispy Octopus ball that is called Takoyaki (See Above) that I am pretty sure is the origin of that word!

I know this is all sorts of American but I like my Wasabi in my soy.  Deal with it Trolls!

I know this is all sorts of American, but I like my Wasabi in my soy. Deal with it Trolls!

Half the fun of Yo! Sushi is trying to identify the item that is passing by you on the belt before it is out of your reach and could end up in someone else’s belly. Eating at Yo! Sushi is like being on Tinder; sometimes you swipe left when you meant to swipe right, and your soul mate ends up dating Atticus Mc Hipster Pants.

These balls were freaking Amazeballs!

A bird’s eye view of the open kitchen.

Kat and I were invited to experience Yo! Sushi during their soft opening soiree, and we are very grateful that they included us! Even though they had just opened, we could not have been more impressed. The staff was friendly and helpful, the ambiance was hip and chic, and the food was utterly magnificent. I have been to numerous Sushi spots all over this country, and I believe that Yo! Sushi was on par with the best of the best of them. The fish was fresh, the rolls were skillfully constructed, the variety was immense, and the creativity should be applauded.

Ain't that pretty!

Ain’t that pretty!

Yo! Sushi may not be the best spot for a first date due to the hustle and bustle, but in my opinion, it is the perfect place for a second or third date, a gathering between friends, or a dinner shared by a recently realized, “old married couple,” like ourselves to reminisce about the days of yore.

Kanpai (Kan-pie) translates to

Kanpai (Kan-pie) translates to “dry the glass” and is how you say cheers in Japan.

If all these damn words did not convince you check out my stash of leftover food porn from the Yo! Sushi soft opening party!

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Yo! Sushi on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Helps You Decide! Restaurant Week 2013 Edition

Restaurant Week 2013

Restaurant Week 2013

It is that time of year again folks! New York City Restaurant Week is about to commence and this year 317 restaurants will be serving up some of the finest food New York City has to offer, from January 14th until February 8th.  Each and every year more restaurants jump on the proverbial chuck wagon and attempt to compete for your business during the most hectic two weeks in the New York City restaurant business and the hardest part is choosing which restaurant to visit.  If you are as bad at making a decision as Notre Dame was at playing football this week, The Blue Collar Foodie has got you covered!  I have reviewed, inspected, and studied the New York City eateries participating in restaurant week this year and handpicked a few of my favorites to make your decision making process go a wee bit easier.

Before I get to the restaurants that made this exclusive list I first want to explain how these establishments were selected.  I evaluated each restaurant using the following criteria; the restaurant’s history, the building the restaurant is housed in, the menu offered, and of course the food they serve.  I then used a complex algorithm, not really but this sounded way too awesome not to write, and selected restaurants that not only serve remarkable food but also provide an amazing eating experience for the customer.

Considering I only get to visit these prestigious restaurants twice a year during restaurant week, due to budget restraints, my restaurant selection has to be more than just about food.  I want to visit famous buildings, have the chance to rub elbows with celebrities, dine where history actually happened, and do it all for 38 bucks plus tax and gratuity.  If you are looking for the best food this immense list has to offer this is not the review for you, but if you are looking for a once in a lifetime New York City experience keep reading!

It should be noted that I have not visited all of the restaurants that are on my list, so most of my research was done using the interwebs.  So if the restaurant that you choose is not as amazing as I say it is, please forward all your hate mail to

To make your life even easier, I have broken down my selections to match the “by cuisine,” categories that are used on the NYC GO website, which lists all the restaurants that are participating.  I have also decided to follow Twitter’s lead and only use 140 characters to capture the essence of each eatery, I call them TweeViews.  If you like what you see in the Tweeview please visit the restaurant’s website to see more about the venue, by clicking the establishment’s name.  Furthermore, these selections are in Alphabetic order by cuisine type then restaurant name.  If you use this list to pick a restaurant out, I would love to hear about your experience in the comment section below, so please post.  Remember an outing into the City is really what you make of it, so as Barney from How I Met Your Mother would say, “Suit Up, and have a Legend, wait for it, Dary evening!”


Food Map

Gastronomic Map

American New

Butter:  A unique interior design inspired by nature paired with an eclectic menu featuring uncommon dishes make Butter a force to be reckoned with.

Hospoda:  Czech inspired fare paired with fresh pilsner instead of the normal wine creates a fresh take on fine dining at this upscale eatery.

The Lambs Club:  A famous chef and a building on the National Register of Historic Places that was home to one of America’s oldest theatrical organizations.

Leyla:  Boasting one of the finest menus on the restaurant week circuit, what it lacks in history it more than makes up for in culinary creativity.

Kutshers:  A modern Jewish American bistro, with roots in the Catskills, which offers Grandma’s favorites with a contemporary twist.

Park Avenue Winter:  A rustic American restaurant offering seasonal fare and a corresponding design that is only open until the end of winter begets spring.

Perilla:  With only 18, it is hard to score a table at this neighborhood restaurant, turned foodie mecca that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Sprig:  Located in the Lipstick Building this posh eatery offers artistically prepared seasonal fare inspired by Northern California cuisine.


American Traditional

‘21’ Club:  A former New York City speak easy, still frequented by many celebrities, expertly serving awarding winning food with high class flare.

The Darby:  This former legendary Jazz and Blues Club turned chic eatery serves up creative cuisine with a side of swag in the form of live music.            


Asian Fusion        

Ajna Bar:  Beautiful interior design, renowned DJ’s, and a collision between French and Asian cuisine make Ajna Bar an appealing spot for 2013.



Hill Country BBQ:  New York’s own piece of Texas, serving up huge portions of fresh Barbecue for all of us with a city addresses but country souls.     



Hakkasan:  This ain’t your local Chinese takeout joint; this is refined Chinese fare which is combined with a sophisticated and stylish dining area.



The Russian Tea Room:   A New York City Icon that was founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet and is frequented by the worlds’ most fastidious foodies.



L’ecole:  The ground floor of Fine Dining, located in the Int. Culinary Center; students from everywhere collaborate to create awe inspiring dishes.



Kellari:  A warm and inviting atmosphere that sets the tone for a Grecian inspired meal that the Chef lovingly prepares to celebrate his homeland.       



Junoon:  An extensive selection of interesting and delicious Indian dishes that offers the restaurant week veteran a wonderful escape from monotony.

Tamarind:  This trendy eatery is one of the most popular Indian restaurants in NYC, and one look at the décor coupled with the menu should explain why.



Asellina:  Sleek, posh, and chic describe this hip establishment where authentic Italian food collides with the modern day reality starlet scene.   

Barbetta:  Known as one of the most romantic restaurants in New York City, this is a great place for a couple to fall in love all over again.

Cipriani Dolci:  Located inside the majestic landmark that is Grand Central Terminal, Cipriani offers something to the architecture lover that others cannot.  

Pó:  An intimate space and fresh ingredients delivered daily by foot or bike by the surrounding markets, serving Italian food as it should be.     

The Leopard at des Artistes:  First time diners come for the buildings historical significance and the impressive art collection, but they come back for the food.



Megu:  This establishment transports you to the Far East like no other restaurant I have ever been to, from design to dish, Megu is a phenomenal.



Bann:  A fantastic place to experience a variety of tantalizing Korean food while being surrounded by stunning authentic Korean décor.



Ilili:  Ilili combines Lebanese cuisine with a Mediterranean flare, an epicurean delight perfect for the foodie looking to expand their palate.



Maya:  Traditional Mexican cuisine meets modern culinary expertise at this contemporary eatery that promises warm Latin hospitality.



Raymi:  Billed as the best Peruvian restaurant in New York City with a menu and dining area that appears to back up that claim.

Rayuela:  A truly innovative and beautiful restaurant that created its own culinary genre known as estilo libre Latino or freestyle Latino.



FishTag:  Mediterranean inspired seafood dishes expertly paired with wine from the imaginative culinary mind of world renowned chef Michael Psilakis.   



Mesa Grill:  Bobby Flay combines his passion for Southwestern cuisine and his love for grilling which leads to a marriage made in foodie heaven.



Andanada 141:  A restaurant week menu truly built for adventurous foodies combined with a bull fighting theme makes this a great spot for thrill seekers.



The Capital Grille Chrysler Center:  Located inside the Chrysler Center’s Trylon Towers, this highly rated chain steakhouse is an architecture aficionado’s dream.



Kittichai:  An exquisite design that lends itself to a romantic dinner for two with a menu that offers an inventive take on traditional Thai dishes.



Le Colonial:  This one of a kind eatery transports you to a forgotten world known as French Indochina and serves French inspired Vietnamese cuisine.

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.