Barcelona's Pizza

Big Portions, Great Prices, and A Forkful Of Nostalgia Can Be Had By All At Barcelona’s In Garfield, NJ

Like most food bloggers I love to scour the internets and discover the shiny new restaurant in the area so I can post about them before anyone else. But even though the thrill of the hunt is half the fun of this hobby turned damn near full time job, I try my hardest to follow the advice of one of my favorite punk bands of all time, H2O, “don’t forget your roots!”

My foodie roots firmly established themselves when I was quite young, and my father and I would watch Yan Can Cook , The Frugal Gourmet, or Julia Child, the OG’s, Original Gourmets, of Food Television before he entered the kitchen to create a random concoction that none of us had ever, or would ever eat again.  I still to this day carry on that tradition when I cook by throwing caution to the wind and mixing flavors together based off an idea not a recipe.

It was not only these pre-pubescent culinary kitchen escapades that lured me into the sordid realm of the epicurean, it was also the local eateries that my family would journey to when my parents could scape together enough spare cash.  Since saving money was always a concern, we never ventured to places that would be considered gourmet by the one-percenters, but through the rose colored glasses of a child, the places we went were enchanted.

Barcelona's Restaurant and Bar

Barcelona’s Restaurant and Bar

Still to this day I am drawn to establishments that harness that old world, blue collar charm that I covet, like Twitter followers are flocking to Sir Patrick Stewarts amazing tweets .  Places like Dp’s in GarfieldPub 199 in Mount Arlington and of course Barcelona’s Restaurant and Bar located at 38 Harrison Ave, in Garfield, NJ, have a certain, “je ne sais quoi” that people that would normally punch people for saying things like, je ne sais quoi, absolutely love.

When you pull up to a restaurant such as Barcelona’s, you may feel as if you just exited a police call box that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside  with a Doctor that shares a name with a famous first baseman.    In other words, restaurants like these are a blast from the past, before decorators were hired to build business, television shows praised dives, and social media marketing firms spread your name, these mom and pop shops survived on word of mouth advertising, quality food at a fair price, and a wait staff that made you feel as if you were home.

Barcelona's Garfield

Welcome to Barcelona’s

As you enter Barcelona’s, you will be greeted by one of the welcoming employees that will seat you in the dining area or point you to the bar.  Once you are seated in your region of choice, you will be given their famous and extensive menu, that if you are anything like me will take you quite some time to peruse.  Fortunately for us, who make food decisions slower than a 14.4k modem was able to download a naughty picture, Barcelona’s offers a full wine, beer, and cocktail menu in order to assist you in passing the decision making time.

On my last visit to this nostalgic land of foodie goodness, I brought my parents out, along with my wife to celebrate my Father’s birthday.  We won’t say how old he is, but we will say that when he was born the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn, the Lakers in Minneapolis, and Harry S. Truman was eating Cornmeal Dumplings with Turnip Greens in the White House.  At Barcelona’s it is not uncommon to see several generations of families huddled around a table pontificating and politicking while breaking bread together, as if it was the old days and we were no different on this occasion.

Pitcher of Beer

Nothing washes down great food like a cheap pitcher o’ beer.

As we sipped our cocktails, we meticulously read the menu as if the perfect item was going to leap off the page at our taste buds.  To be honest though, I have never had anything that was sub-par at Barcelona’s, so I could technically close my eyes and play pin the fork on the menu game and be satisfied, but where is the fun in that.

Since my mother and my wife were giving me the same death stare which regardless of the translation made every single hair on the back of my neck stand at attention, I decided that my time with the menu had come to an end, and it was time to make my final decision.  As always, I deferred to ordering last to give me that last 30 seconds to make up my mind.  While I was scanning the menu faster than Dr. Sheldon Cooper can read a comic, my mother ordered the Spinach Ravioli, Kat ordered Chicken “Italian Style,” and my father ordered an Antipasto Salad, a small Sausage Pizza, and an order of mussels… and you wondered where I get my appetite from.  With reckless abandon, I spewed forth my order, which consisted of a plate of mussels and Spaghetti with Anchovy Sauce.

Antipasto Salad

Nothing like taking a healthy salad and topping it with everything that is unhealthy and tasty in the kitchen

As we discussed the world outside Barcelona’s from the friendly confines of this welcomed time warp, we all felt at ease.  Kat was not even playing Candy Crush at the dinner table, perhaps due to some sort of anti-technology force field that Barcelona’s emits from their kitchen, but it was a nice change of pace.

While we were all immersed in conversation, our food began to arrive at our table.  The portion size compared to the price was all sorts of preposterous, and that is just how I like it.  As we partook in what always tastes like a home cooked meal at Barcelona’s, we all just smiled and chewed.

Barcelona's Pizza

Not liking this pizza is downright UnAmerican!

If you are a Barcelona’s virgin, I highly recommend at least sampling the thin crust pizza that has become somewhat famous in the area.  The sauce is downright delightful, the cheese is of the utmost quality, and the home made dough is the perfect texture.  I also always recommend trying one of the many pasta dishes that Barcelona’s has to offer, as they are an Italian restaurant at heart, and every pasta dish I have ever tried has been simply delicious.  My pasta with Anchovy Sauce was not the exception to this rule either, the expertly cooked, Al dente, pasta paired with the salty goodness, TWSS, of the sauce was flawless.  To add to the wonderfulness of my meal, the mussels that I ordered were larger than most and extremely tender.

Pasta with Anchovy Sauce

Barcelona’s knows Pasta like Bo knows well everything!

The décor and the sentimentality of Barcelona’s is not the only thing that is circa 1970’s dining, the prices are as well.  This family owned and operated eatery is still a place that an entire household can come to and find something to eat at an affordable and fair price.  For over 74 years Barcelona’s of Garfield has been serving North Jersey families as if they were part of their own. Every time I have entered this legendary blue collar eatery, I have not only been satisfied with the meal, but my wallet has left a lot heavier than it would have if we ate at any of the newfangled restaurants that pride themselves on razz ma tazz instead of tradition.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some razz ma tazz as much as every employer that has ever watched Barney Stinson’s video resume, but sometimes all I want is large quantities of magnificent food served at a reasonable price, sans the flair, and that is why I love dining at places like Barcelona’s.

Note:  Barcelona’s technology defeating force field apparently works on credit card machines as well, so when you venture to this all American old school Italian joint make sure to bring your Benjamins.  Although, they were nice enough to find an ATM that is equipped with an anti-technology nullifier for your convenience, which is located on site.

Italian Style Chicken

The Italian Style Chicken Is Quite Photogenic

Barcelona's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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 takes a bite out of DP’s Pub in Garfield, NJ

DP’s Pub

732 River Dr

Garfield, NJ 07026

Many years ago, a friend of mine invited me to a place called DP’s Pub in Garfield, NJ after raving about their fresh seafood dishes that they obtain daily from the Fulton Street Fish Market in New York City.  I was expecting an upscale modern Gastro Pub with extravagant prices to match their extensive menu.  I was wrong.   When I first drove up to DP’s that night, I thought I might have looked up the wrong address on the interwebs. As I meandered closer to the building, I thought to myself, this two story multi-colored suburban house could not be the seafood haven that my friend was speaking so highly of. Again, I was wrong.

Upon entering the building, I half expected the inside to not match the outside, in some mysterious Dr. Who like way, but yet again, I was wrong.  As I walked into DP’s, the wood paneling that covers damn near everything, reminded me of the folly of 1970’s design.  At first sight, DP’s is the type of bar that you would be nervous ordering a draught beer from, none the less sit down for a three course meal.  Never the less, I trusted my friend’s foodie knowledge and sat down expecting the worst.  What I got was a much needed lesson in; don’t judge a book by its cover.

DP’s décor might be stuck in the 1970’s but much to my delight, so are their prices.  Their regular menu features amazing dishes that are so inexpensive that you really feel like you just got out of your DeLorean and stopped for a bite to eat before you have to go, Back to the Future. Appetizers, such as Fried Clams for $1.75 a dozen, Clams on the Half Shell for $6.75, and Shrimp Scampi for $4.95 are just a few of the great choices. Their entrees are equally as amazing, for example you can dine on Chicken Parmigiana for $7.95, Broiled Twin Lobster Tails for $13.95 or Sliced Steak with Butter Sauce for $8.95.  Even though these items always sound tempting, and my fellow diners seem to order these items more often than not, when I go to DP’s I only order off one menu, the daily specials.

The daily specials are equivalent to a five-star seafood restaurants, except that DP’s menu is on the wall, made out of wood, of course, instead of an ornate menu that is handed to you by a server in white gloves.  On any given day the specials differ and that is just how I like it. From Broiled Cajun Catfish for $7.95 to Shark Steak for $8.95 you never quite know what sea fare you will be dining on when you walk into DP’s, but I can guarantee it will be fresh, delicious, and inexpensive.

DP’s was my initial choice for the first review because I feel it epitomizes the idea of the Blue Collar Foodie Blog, so off to Garfield, NJ we went.  We drove around the block to find parking, which is scarce but can usually be found on one of the adjacent streets, and located a parking spot about a block away. When we arrived, there was a short wait, approximately 15 minutes which is to be expected on a Friday or Saturday night.  To pass the time, I suggest procuring a drink from the bar and watching whatever sport is on the televisions that are strewn about the dining area.

Within minutes we were seated and the waitresses took our order promptly. I was very excited to see a new item on the Daily Specials that I have never encountered before, Lobster Mac and Cheese for only $6.95, which I ordered as an appetizer with the Broiled Stuffed Flounder for $8.95 as my entrée. My wife, Kat, who does not eat seafood by the way, ordered Fried Clams for her appetizer, which shows how good these are, and Chicken Parmigiana for her entrée.  The guest foodie that accompanied us, could not resist ordering the Lobster Mac and Cheese as well, and went with the Stuffed Shrimp as her main course.  Every entrée at DP’s comes with a salad and a side dish, which by the way, should never be anything other than garlic fries, unless of course you ordered an Italian dish, which should be accompanied by their pasta. The pasta is topped with a homemade tangy pasta sauce that is truly a welcome treat.

While we waited for our food to arrive we decided to have another round of drinks.  DP’s serves a selection of bottled and draught beers, as well as wine and cocktails.  To be expected though, you are not going to find $50 dollar bottles of wine or obscure micro brews at this establishment, the wine comes in small single serve plastic bottles and the beer is mostly domestic brews that can be found at any local tavern.  But to be honest I am not at DP’s to get a fancy drink and discuss politics, I am there for the seafood and to relax after a hard day’s work.

Our appetizers arrived first and the Lobster Mac and Cheese was out of this world!  I have had this dish before at other, self proclaimed, foodie spots and have always been disappointed with the amount of lobster they put in this dish. Not DP’s, every bite I took had Lobster in it and it was swimming in a delectable cheese sauce that was just salty enough.  Both our friend and I devoured this wondrous appetizer and did not leave as much as one noodle in the bottom of the dish.  As for Kat’s Clam Strips, there is not much to say about these delightfully fried morsels of yumminess, other than they never fail to make me smile. They are fried to perfection every time and served with a side of tartar sauce or cocktail sauce.

The salad was then served, which comes with a choice of dressings.  This is not an endive salad with raisons and gouda cheese, this is a basic salad to cleanse your palate and get your taste buds ready for the insane amount of flavor that is about to rock your world when the real food hits the table. It consists of lettuce and 2 tomatoes, nothing more, nothing less.

As far as the main courses go at DP’s, I have never been disappointed and this outing was no different.  The portion size is always absurd compared to the pricing and I have not once left this eatery hungry.  With that said, some places promise large portions and deliver tasteless, bland, albeit huge dishes. Not DP’s, every bit of food that is served on your plate is not only of the highest quality but it is cooked and seasoned with precision.  The Broiled Stuffed Flounder was a mouthwatering delicious piece of fish that was busting at the seams with crab meat, scallops, and more.  Sitting beside my flounder was a generous portion of Garlic Fries, which are a perfect companion to this dish.  Sure you can get rice or vegetables to be healthy, but I can be healthy any day of the week, I go to DP’s to eat!

The best part of the dining experience at DP’s pub is that when the meal is over and the check hits the table you don’t gasp for air.  The damage for this awe inspiring meal and libations that I just described was $66.00 with the tip included.  I must also mention that at DP’s cash is king and no other form of payment is accepted, so stop at the bank before you head over.  Reasonably priced fresh amazing food is why DP’s is a must for all Blue Collar Foodies from near and far.

The Blue Collar Foodie Says:

Overall:                 4 out of 5 Lunch Boxes

Taste:                   4 out of 5 Lunch Boxes

Presentation:         3 out of 5 Lunch Boxes

Value:                   5 out of 5 Lunch Boxes

DP's on Urbanspoon