Broadway Dog House Enters The New Jersey Hot Dog Battle Royal

As I press onward through this daft adventure called life, I find my palate is slowly getting more and more discerning.   I am further compounding this issue by actively endeavoring to hone it like a Shun blade in a feeble attempt to become a better foodie.  Due to my hobby, turned unpaid part-time job, I feel it is my duty to be able to dissect a dish mentally, and pick out even the subtlest of flavors.  This process has consumed me.  With every article I write, dish I cook, beer I sip, and plate I eat I fall farther down the rabbit hole, and I have now realized that I can get out.

Like a naked picture of your grandma that you find stashed in the attic in your grandfather’s army foot locker.  There are things you can’t un-see… or in my situation un-taste.   Since I started this blog I have sought out the best tasting food and drink that I could find, and as an unfortunate by-product my brain, belly, and taste buds have all united against me.  They not only crave this inspiring flavor, but they damn well expect it.

I no longer can rock a gas station taco and chug an Old E 64, before suiting up to play a baseball game in the hot July sun.  Call it getting old, call it selling out, or call it becoming refined, I have lost my love for almost as many foods as I have found over these years.

However, there is one particular food item I will never turn back on, no matter how much foie gras and Farmhouse Ale I consume.  Usually, and lovingly described as lips and ass stuffed inside the small intestine of a completely different animal.  This description should, but hardly ever does, scares anyone away.  I am of course speaking of the pride of American cuisine, the mother F’in HOT DOG!

Now, if you grew up in New Jersey, specifically the Bergen or Passaic County area, you know that the Hot Dog business is serious business.  Debates, arguments, even fisticuffs, have been known to break out at bars throughout this region when the topic of who makes the best dog is brought up.  I myself, am a Rutt’s Hut nut, but I appreciate all the old school joints; Johnny and Hanges, River View East, The Hot Grill, The Fireplace, Jimmy Buff’s, Hot Dog Johnny’s, etc.

With that said, when a new hot dog establishment sets up shop in my neck of the woods, I begin to salivate like one of Pavlov’s puppies.  My imagination begins to run wild, pondering the possibility of finding my new favorite dog.  Will they fry them, boil them, or grill them.  Will the cover them with chili and cheese, or will the dog bark for itself.  The prospects are seemingly endless; which leads to a fixation, that becomes a hankering, which turns into a craving, and finally manifests itself as an obsession!

Welcome To The Dog House

As if my beer soaked cerebral cortex was following the Fight Club Penguin’s wacky ass recommendation, my mania caused me to slide into a momentary lapse of Hot Dog dementia. I rode this metaphorical pork fat laden slip and slide all the way to Broadway Dog House, located at 27-03 Broadway, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

Can I take your order?

From the moment I walked into Broadway Dog House, I knew I was going to love it.  Memories of all the hot dog joints that I traveled to in the past gently washed over me.  The smell of the fryaltor alone was enough to conjure warm fuzzy recollections of Texas sauce, family meals, homemade relish, and long Sunday drives.  In short, if Broadway Dog House was on Tinder, I would swipe to the right so hard and fast that the app itself would file a restraining order on their behalf.

As I mentioned earlier, my roots are at Rutt’s, so I tend to favor dogs that have been bathed enthusiastically in sweet-sweet glistenin’ oil, as the lord intended.  Luckily for me, this is an option at Broadway Dog House.  However, unlike the old school joints that tend to treat boiled and fried like the dark side and the light side of the force, Broadway Dog House is all about the compromise.  Meaning, that since my heathen of a wife is not on team fried goodness, she was able to order her hot dog cooked in the more traditional, albeit wrong way.

Normally, the first time visiting and establishment like this, I would keep my order very simple because I want to taste the dog itself.  If an establishment uses sub-par pups, I am out.  However, as I was pondering my order, one specific menu item grabbed my attention and when it was my turn to order I opened my mouth and there was nothing I could do but speak its name… The Deep Fried Bacon Dog!  Kat followed the ordinary plan and requested a basic hot dog, but opted to add Broadway Dog House’s secret sauce instead of her usual ketchup.  We also ordered a Chili Cheese Dog, cooked heretic style, so Kat and I could share it.

Look at that sweet-sweet beautiful bastard!

In true Hot Dog joint form, our order was ready in no time and we were able to dive into our dogs.  Listen, I fully understand I am an easy mark.  I am like a wide-eyed Wisconsinite walking through downtown Paris near the Eiffel Tower, when it comes down to this particular fare.  With that said, because I love this shit so much, I know a good dog when I bite into one, and this my friends is a good damn dog!

Let’s discuss why, shall we.  A strong hot dog is like a solid house, it all starts with the foundation.  In the Hot Dog world that means good bread equals a good start.  Broadway Dog House apparently knows this decree, and have chosen the perfect bun to house their delicious meat stick.  The bun cannot be too large or the purveyor risks detracting from the flavor of the dog.  It can’t be too small either or the weight of the dog and the toppings could compromise the bun’s structural integrity leading to what we in the business call a dog-gone tragedy.   Alright, no one calls it that, but I really love puns, so freaking deal with it!

Working from the ground up, the next stop on this Hot Dog train of knowledge, is the Hot Dog itself.  NOT ALL HOT DOGS ARE CREATED EQUALLY!  Depending on how the dog will be prepared and what style you are going for, the choice of the dog is some pretty important shit.  Since Broadway Dog House rocks two distinct styles they had to choose their dogs wisely, and once again they excelled in this category.  The dogs were packed with flavor and even the one that was not fried had a solid snap to it when bit into.

The final element that must be discussed when constructing this illustrious snack is of course, the toppings.  This is where the magic happens people.  Assuming that one has heeded the aforementioned caveats, we should now have the perfect canvas to create a glorious meat monument.  If a structurally sound, fresh bun seamlessly snuggling a high quality, properly cooked, Hot Dog, doesn’t arouse your inner Bob Ross, you may very well be dead inside.  Whether, you are a simple Ketchup or Mustard type like Kat, or a balls-out topping fiend like me, there is something quite enjoyable about the customization of this amazing treat.

I digress… My diatribe about the perfect pup may be coming to an end, but I still have a bit to say about the Dog House on Broadway.  I did not confirm my suspicions and I don’t want to accused by our president for being fake news; but I believe Broadway Dog House actually uses two different brands of hot dogs in an attempt to achieve hot dog nirvana.  One for frying and one for the ones that are cooked wrong.

Even when they are cooked wrong they taste right!

I, of course had to steal a bite of Kat’s before she finished it and I was glad that I did.  The secret sauce is very similar to Big Mac sauce, just fresher, and I assume without the crack-cocaine that is obviously put in all the food served at McDonald’s.  I will admit the hot dog itself was pretty damn tasty, I mean I am still on team Deep Fry, but I no longer despise those who are not.  I don’t mean to be hyperbolic, but I think this Hot Dog might have saved our marriage!  Okay, of course, I mean to be hyperbolic, I am a writer, that is what we do.

Here Chili, Chili, Chili

As for the Chili Dog, I usually don’t cheat on my true love, the Texas Dog, with its meatier more voluptuous cousin, but as they say, chunky sauces need lovin’ too.  The key to a good Chili Dog is simple, respectable chili.  It appears that Broadway Dog House grasps this basic concept because they did not just spoon some Hormel on top of their artfully prepared Hot Dog.  It seems they are using what I believe to be homemade Chili, or at the very least a high quality knock off.

Broadway Dog House sells other things than hot dogs of course.  Sliders, sandwiches, and traditional sides are a few of these items, and I am sure I will eventually eat them all.  However, one thing is for damn sure, every time I walk through their door I will be ordering at least one, DEEP FRIED DOG!  In my opinion, Broadway Dog House is a serious contender in the battle royal that the New Jersey Hot Dog scene is, and from my perception, always been.

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How to Win Valentine’s Day! The North Jersey Edition

Before I begin this post, I feel like a disclaimer is in order.  I am tired of receiving hate mail that uses phrases that would make Tyrion Lannister blush.  I am fully aware that the name of my blog is The Blue Collar Foodie and normally I attempt to stay in the great food at a great price wheel house.  However, there are a few exceptions.  One of these exceptions is Valentine’s Day.

Most people would not guess it, but I am a hopeless romantic.  I literally, love…love.  The whimsy, the intensity, the nervousness…Oh hell, the whole damn idea of it.  Therefore, even though I am cognizant that Valentine’s Day is a B.S. Hallmark, made-up Holiday; I thoroughly enjoy going all out and trying to wow my wonderful wife each and every year.

What does this entail you ask?  Ladies and Gentleman I present to you The Blue Collar Foodie’s Guide to winning Valentine’s Day!

valentines-day-craftsStep 1:  Send Flowers to Your Loved One’s Workplace:  I know they are expensive and I know they will die in a week, but suck it up Buttercup, today is not the day to think that way.  Every other day of the year, I am all about Shoprite Tulips and Gas Station Roses, but that just won’t do on V-Day.  When you get flowers delivered, you are sending a message and that message is clear and concise.  Dear Loved One. you are worth the forethought and the expense of these dying, colorful capsules of allergy laden dust.

Step 2:  Get a gift:  I know what you are thinking.  I just spent $60 bucks on flowers, I thought that was the gift.  Wrong!  I am not saying you have to go out and get your Bae a diamond necklace or anything; I mean unless that is how you roll, then by all means you do you Baller.  I am simply saying that a small thoughtful gift with a personal touch will be appreciated and truly show you care.  I feel like these should not have to be said, but since I know my audience all too well.  NO SEX COUPONS!  Get your ass to Etsy and do some searching for a great inexpensive gift.

Step 3:  Put Pen to Paper:  I know we are not all William Shakespeare or Robert Frost but for heaven’s sake do not give your significant other a Valentine’s Day card with the stock message and some X’s and O’s.  To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, if you write it, they will come! See what I did there… I assure you, even if you write the worst poem ever, the fact that you tried will be enough to set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Step 4:  Where you eat counts:  I know I don’t have to explain this to most of you, considering you clicked this link because you were promised restaurant suggestions for Valentine’s Day.  Where you eat and what you eat will go along way to set the mood.  For Kat and I, it is the single most important decision and also the single greatest contributor to our quarrels.  So, on this day in particular after spending so much time and effort in attempting to create the perfect day for my wife, choosing our eatery is a taxing task that I do not take lightly.

As I mentioned above today is not the day to hem and haw about prices, and lord help you if you whip out a Groupon.  Valentine’s Day is all about the ambience and charm of an establishment.  The story behind the restaurant can aid in the allure almost as much as the food.  Not to mention, it is the perfect excuse to drop some money on a wonderful meal that you don’t often get to experience.  So without further ado, I present The Blue Collar Foodie’s top 12 North Jersey Restaurants for Valentine’s Day:

Ninety Acres

Ninety Acres:  2 Main Street Peapack & Gladstone, NJ 07977

You have heard of farm to table, well Ninety Acres is quite literally a table at the farm.  This palatial establishment is located on the Natirar Estate which has spent the last 100 years being a private residence, a convalescent home for women, and even the vacation home of a Moroccan King.  In true farm to table form the menu is always evolving with the seasons, but have no fear, you will never be disappointed.   The food served here is equally as beautiful as the grounds of the estate.

The Deal:  Exclusive Offering of Special four-course Prex Fixe menu with options for each course: $125 per person, $175 with wine pairings.

Photo by Cathy Miller

Photo by Cathy Miller

Café Matisse:  167 Park Avenue, Rutherford, NJ 07070

This intimate and always impressive eatery is located in a historic decommissioned horse and buggy fire house in the heart of Rutherford, NJ.  Their garden has been called enchanting in the spring and summer, but their interior dining experience is almost equally as charming.  The menu at Café Matisse is stacked with stunning dishes that have depth of flavor that is rarely seen outside of the most esteemed New York Eateries.

The Deal:  Three Course (2 savory/1 dessert) – $75 per person, Four Course (3 savory/1 dessert) – $95 per person, or Five Course (4 savory/1 dessert)- $115 per person, plus tax and gratuities.

Note:  Café Matisse is BYOB

Batello

Battello:  502 Washington Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ 07310

If fine dining with a remarkable view is what gets your motor running, Battello is the place for you.  This epic eatery serves inspired fare with a side of a majestic view of the New York City Skyline.  ( The Best Skyline in the World)   The dining area is often described as luxurious and lofty, and exudes romance.  The food is almost as breathtaking as the view!

The Deal:  A Three-course prix-fixe menu, offered at $85 per person complemented by an optional wine pairing at $25 per person ($50 for reserve)

Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen

Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen:  110 South Street Morristown NJ 07960

This well-regarded establishment is located in the lavish Vail Mansion in Morristown, New Jersey.  The dining space itself is exquisite and makes you feel like royalty from the moment you walk in.  The fine dining area which radiates luxury and class, is a must for this special occasion.  Jockey Hollow is a haven for couples that truly love food and want to experience dining in a relaxed yet sophisticated environment.

The Deal:  Four-course prix fixe experience where guests select three savory courses and finish with one sweet course for $81 or a six-course, seasonal $108 chef’s tasting menu for the entire table for $108.

Restaurant Lorena's

Restaurant Lorena’s:  168 Maplewood Avenue Maplewood, NJ 07040

Restaurant Lorena’s is considered by many in the foodie world as the best kept secret of the North Jersey culinary scene.  Over the past ten years this quaint eatery has quietly amassed quite a few awards for their awe-inspiring dishes.  The menu is heavily influenced by French Cuisine and the Chef’s attention to detail shines in every dish.  If you and your beau are looking for an intimate and romantic night out, this very well may be your spot.

The Deal:  Three course Prix Fixe for $150.00 per person, Oysters included

Note:  Restaurant Lorena’s is BYOB

pearl-front

Pearl Restaurant:   17 S Broad St. Ridgewood, New Jersey

For those of you that have Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams but are on a budget, this wonderfully romantic local establishment is perfect for you and your sweetheart.  Don’t let the amazingly affordable price tag fool you either, Pearl offers magnificent cuisine made with the finest meats, fish, and vegetables that are selected daily.  Pearl is the best value on this list by far, as their fare is comparable to establishments where I have paid triple the price.

The Deal:  Three Course Prix Fixe Menu for only $ 26.95 per person

Note:  Pearl Restaurant is BYOB

Scalini Fedeli

Scalini Fedeli:  63 Main St, Chatham, NJ 07928

Since we are in New Jersey and it is safe to say that at least 70% of my following is probably Italian, I would be remiss to not include my absolute favorite Italian Restaurant.  Not only is the food spectacular and each dish painstakingly prepared as if it was a piece of art, this astonishing establishment is located in a refurbished 260 year old farmhouse.  The moment you walk into Scalini Fedeli you feel at home, and the service is impeccable.  I seriously love this place and I am sure you will too!  Come hungry!

The Deal:  Three Course Prix Fixe Menu $59

cafe panache

Café Panache:  130 E. Main St. Ramsey, NJ 07446

This sophisticated eatery is located in the center of downtown Ramsey, New Jersey and has been a staple of fine dining in Northern New Jersey for over 30 years.  The Chef focuses on fresh, locally sourced ingredients that become the star of each dish.  Café Panache is a great place for the couple that has everything in common, except the type of cuisine they love, due to their wonderfully eclectic menu.  You don’t exist in the restaurant world for 30 years unless you are doing something exceptional and that is exactly what Cafe Panache is doing.

The Deal:  Ala Cart ordering

common lot

Common Lot:  27 Main St, Millburn, NJ 07041

Common Lot’s website sums up their establishment too perfectly to paraphrase, “The surroundings are elegant but unpretentious; comfortable but handsome — an expression of our personalities and our commitment to the dining experience.”  At Common Lot they have truly created a relaxed eating environment that allows us commoners to enjoy fine dining without feeling as if we are out of place.  Not to mention their plates are full of internationally influenced cuisine that are both creative and bursting with flavor.  Common Lot is for the couple that enjoys the finer things in food, but buys their clothes off the rack.

The Deal:  Four-Course Meal for $90 a person

Frog and The Peach

The Frog and The Peach:  29 Dennis Street New Brunswick, NJ 08901

This restaurant occupies an old industrial building, circa 1876, and the historical splendor of this establishment glimmers in every room.  The Frog and The Peach offers several areas to dine in and each exhibits their own charm and uniqueness.  Their menu offers American Cuisine with a refined flare created with only the best locally sourced ingredients.

The Deal:  A special prix fixe menu for the annual Feast of Love Three Courses $85

laurel and sage

Laurel and Sage:  33 Walnut St. Montclair, NJ, 07042

The Chef at Laurel and Sage has had quite a few gigs in restaurants during his illustrious career.  These restaurants specialized in Farm to Table, Asian, Mediterranean, and American fare to name a few.  His experience is on display at this delightful neighborhood restaurant, in each dish that he creates in his kitchen.  You never know what you might find at this eclectic eatery and that is why I love it.  Couples that can never decide where they want to eat will do well at Laurel and Sage.

 

The Deal:  4-course menu with options for $65 per person

Saddle River Inn

Saddle River Inn:  2 Barnstable Court Saddle River, NJ 07458

Before fine dining was hip, hell before hipsters existed, The Saddle River Inn was churning out some of the best food North Jersey had to offer.  Since 1981 this rustic, yet romantic establishment has been located on the William Packard Estate along the Saddle River.  Although the original owners of this long established eatery have recently called it quits, the new owners seem to have hit the ground running and are still creating wonderful French dishes.

The Deal:  Chef’s Season Tasting Menu described as a culinary journey including height of the season ingredients.  Four course $80, Five Course $90, and 6 Course $100

 

 

Hat City Kitchen Fills Your Belly and Your Soul!

Back in the day, before I was The Blue Collar Foodie, while Michael Phelps was taking bong rips and Kanye was telling Taylor Swift that he was going to let her finish, I was driving across this crazy country of ours.  The year was 2009, Kat, her brother Benni, and I decided to jump in an SUV and drive from one ocean to the other, just ‘cause.  I got the zany idea to blog about our adventure and thus I was bitten by the blog bug, which in turn gave birth to the site you are reading now.  So, I guess Stan, Cartman, Kenny, and Kyle were wrong, it is not Canada that is to blame after all, it is California… and Kanye… Always blame Kayne!

Love and marriage, love and marriage It's an institute you can't disparage

Love and marriage, love and marriage
It’s an institute you can’t disparage

During our expedition westward we visited countless cities that contained locations that we never thought we would see with our own six eyeballs.  Some of them were the ordinary tourist traps, while others were happy accidents that were nothing short of spectacular.  One such surprise was in a little town called Chicago!  The windy city treated us right, gifting us with the fountain from the beginning sequence of Married with Children, a giant deep dish pizza from Giordano’s, a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and a true Chicago Blues experience at a spot recommended by one of the natives.

While we were having our nightcap at this local after-hours joint, enjoying the live music and mouthwatering food, I remember trying to figure out why New Jersey did not have a spot like this.  Sure, New Jersey has a few local bars that have live music, but there was something about the energy and the vibe of this place that was utterly authentic.

It has been seven years and I thought I would never experience a place as real and raw as this tiny Chicago club in good ol’ Jersey.  That is, until I was turned onto a little place called Hat City Kitchen, located at 459 Valley Street, in Orange, NJ.

Welcome to Hat City Kitchen

Welcome to Hat City Kitchen

***Before my custom built D-Bag filter catches all your angry hate mail, let me add this little caveat. I am well aware that we live across the river from the music and food mecca known as NYC. I venture there quite often.  However, as a card carrying New Jersian, you can’t tell me that crossing those bridges and tunnels all the damn time doesn’t get F-ing annoying after a while.  Sometimes, hitting up a local, and epic eatery in this armpit we call our home, is just what the foodie ordered.***

Enter Hat City Kitchen, an eclectic eatery with live music six nights a week, a fully stocked bar complete with craft beers, and food that is so damn good it will make you sing.  The first time we visited this relatively new spot we were not sure what to expect, but as always we drove to the Restaurant with an open mind and empty stomachs.

Not a bad seat in the house!

Not a bad seat in the house!

The exterior of Hat City Kitchen is extremely welcoming and has an almost old school Saloon feel to it, which immediately set the mood for what we were about to experience.  As we entered, we were instantaneously greeted by the welcoming hostess and sat down within seconds.  The band was still setting up and the dining area near the stage was almost full, yet the service was still impeccable.  Our drink orders were taken within minutes of our arrival by our extremely vibrant waitress and we were left to peruse the menu and soak in the ambience.

Hat City Kitchen is decorated with numerous paintings of famous musicians that would have played at a venue just like this, when venues like this actually still existed.  We played the fun game of guess the artist with each painting in the room while we carefully read the menu in order to choose just the right meals for our night. To be honest, after tasting what we chose, I am not sure if we would have been disappointed with any of the selections we were hemming and hawing about.

We decided to go with an order of the Hot Buttered Mushrooms to prime our appetites before diving head first into the entrees.   Kat decided to heed our helpful waitress’ advice and order from the specials menu, which will soon become the New Fall Menu at Hat City, and went with the Braised Short Ribs whereas I could not help but order the Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken.  Since our entrées came with a side dish each we chose to go with the Garlic Mashed Potatoes and The Collard Greens.

As we ordered our food, our first round of beers arrived and soon we were left to our own devices to enjoy the band that was about to begin their first set.  In no time I was transported back to that bar in Chicago, as the room transformed into a scene out of a movie.  That vibe that I had been longing for quite some time slowly creeped into the city of Orange that night, all thanks to Hat City Kitchen, and I loved every second of it.

MMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmushrooms

MMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmushrooms

Just when I thought this spot could not get any better, our first course arrived.  At first, when the dish arrived I was a little under whelmed.  As I am sure you can see from the photo, this crock full of mushrooms did not look like anything special.  Once again, I failed to mind my Grandmother’s wise words about never judging a book by its cover.  Upon tasting this bowl for amazing, I realized that the mushrooms were simply a vessel for the sauce that if sold at a grocery store could most definitely rock the label, Awesome Sauce.  This lemony, garlic concoction was not only on the mushrooms, but had absorbed into the mushrooms during cooking and created the perfect juicy bite.  I am not ashamed to say that I literally drank the sauce from the bowl.  Although the people sitting next to us seemed to be judging me as I sipped the ramekin like the Queen at high tea, pinky out and all, like the majestic honey badger, I didn’t give a shit.

As we finished our appetizer, we ordered another drink and once again allowed the band to make sweet, sweet, love to our ears.  Yup, I heard it as I typed it.  That was a weird, weird sentence. Sorry for that internets.  Anyhow, the entrees arrived and the sheer size of the dishes took us by surprise.  Both of our entrees were ginormous, and I am not going to lie, their girth combined with the aroma that was emanating from them made me one happy foodie.

Nothing is better than a giant plate of meat!

Nothing is better than a giant plate of meat!

We decided to dig into the Braised Short Ribs first.  The meat was fork fight tender, which is what I look for in a good Short Rib and cooked expertly.  Even though, the meat was phenomenal, once again the sauce stole the show.  Not to mention the fact that when I dipped the Garlic Mashed Potatoes in the gravy, I took a one way trip to flavor town!

Holy Hot Honey Batman!

Holy Hot Honey Batman!

We then, at first reluctantly, moved on to the Fried Chicken and Collard Greens.  At this point in the meal I was starting to see a pattern.  The food at Hat City Kitchen is not only top notch, but it is drizzled, slathered, or swimming in dressings, sauces, or pastes that are otherworldly.  So, when I saw a small container of what appeared to be honey sitting next to my chicken I could not help but dip my fork in it and give it a quick taste.  I was not wrong to do so.  This bold, fiery, mixture was none other than homemade hot honey and it was glorious all by itself, but when paired with the juicy, dare I say the forbidden foodie word, moist, fried chicken, it was straight up tastegasmic.  Look at that chicken people!  Okay, stop looking, you are drooling on your keyboard and your co-workers are starting to wonder about you.

No Bread Pudding For Me, Said No Sane Person Ever!

No Bread Pudding For Me, Said No Sane Person Ever!

Somehow we managed to eat all the food that was placed in front of us and just when we thought we could not fit one more bite of food in our mouths, the waitress came over and said the words that always seem to fix our stomach capacity issues, Homemade Bread Pudding.  Kat and I both locked eyes and lovingly, yet somewhat begrudgingly said “yes, please!,” in unison.  Do yourself a favor and order this sweet treat when you go to Hat City, it is a legitimate contender for best bread pudding I have ever stuffed in my craw!  This unique dessert tastes like bread pudding and creme brulee did it like they do on the discovery channel and had a baby.  Then of course, Hat City Kitchen, takes this wondrous hybrid and plates it with a sauce that is both decadent and divine.

The next time you are looking for a new place to eat, drink, and be merry I highly recommend you jump on the Parkway and head over to Hat City Kitchen.  From first dates to dinner with friends this spot can accommodate all.  I mean if you don’t like great food, lively music, and drinking beer then by all means sit at home in your recliner and watch PBS. However, if you still have a heartbeat and strive for something fun and exciting to do with your evenings, do yourself a favor and get your keister down to Hat City Kitchen, you won’t regret your decision.

Missy’s Main Street Cafe Is What New Jersey Breakfast Is All About!

I consider myself a nomadic gastronome, meaning that although I truly heart the Garden State, I will forever roam the planet in search of amazing regional fare. Not just by car either people, I have been known to base entire vacations around a particular type of food, that I could seriously have delivered to my house in 15 minutes, simply because the internets says it is better in some random state. I understand it is a sickness, but I hope they never find a cure, because my wife and I have had some amazing adventures bouncing to and fro from unheralded eateries, roadside stands, established restaurants, dive bars, and on one startling occasion a chance encounter with a gas station mini-mart that served us a hamburger that I still have wet dreams about. To paraphrase the proclaimers, I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked a thousand miles, to chow down at some random store.

With that said, during my gastronomic walkabouts I tend to catch a craving that can only be quenched by my beloved home state. New Jersey may smell like death and cheese and have more D-bags per capita than most states in the union, but there is one thing that we do right in Dirty Jersey, and that my friends, is Breakfast. I ain’t talking about the B.S. that the fly over states call breakfast either, with their Denny’s and their IHOPs. Denny’s might be America’s Diner but that is only because they don’t’ got what we got, and it ain’t corn. Jersey is peppered with classic Diners, mom and pop pancake shops, and eclectic Cafés that serves the type of breakfast that makes you want to take a nap shortly after finishing your 12th cup of coffee.

Welcome Home!

Welcome Home!

When I return from an extended epicurean exploration, I long for a true New Jersey breakfast like musicians yearn for a time before American Idol. Recently, I went on a Ramen bender, which lasted longer than I would like to admit, and included three states. Full of broth, salt, and embarrassment, I reentered New Jersey with breakfast on my mind. A simple diner would not fix my sodium-laden, yet bourbon driven hangover. I knew I needed something special, and then it hit me. I felt the need, the need for Missy’s!

Missy’s Main Street Café is located at 181 E. Main Street in Rockaway, New Jersey. Missy’s is the type of place that once someone declares their intentions to go there, there is no discussion. Everyone just accepts they are going and finds themselves driving in a car dreaming about the glorious food that they are about to cram into their talking holes.

Trust me, the food is amazeballs, but we will get back to that. I feel like I must first discuss the ambiance and atmosphere of Missy’s Main Street Café to explain just how remarkable this place really is. When you enter this establishment you feel like you have gone back in time, and not in the holy crap dinosaurs, kind of way, but in the warm, fuzzy kind of way. Missy’s has a home town feel that chain restaurants try to imitate but simply can never duplicate, no matter how many pieces of fake local high school memorabilia they can nail to their walls.

The Wall of Fame

The Wall of Fame

The best part is, Missy’s exudes this charm, without seeming like they are trying to. From their smiling servers that never come off phony to the picture wall that portrays their regular customers, Missy’s simply is a home town café, which is why it feels like one. Not to mention that once a week they select a customer to create and name a special that will be featured at the restaurant.

Get it... Get it... Come On!

Get it… Get it… Come On!

First off, Missy’s Main Street Café’s Menu is chock full of word play, which I find hilarious. Veloci-Wrap-Tor! Get it! Get it! Come On… Screw you… that is funny. Stupid Internet… Anyway, if there is one thing I like better than a good pun it is food, and this joint has that too. On this occasion I decided to get the Doc’s PB&J French Toast with a side of Bacon, Kat went with a Western Omelette paired with home fries and our friend Rory went with a breakfast wrap from the specials menu. How about, Gansta Wrap… Still nothing… I hate you guys.

While we awaited for our food we soaked in the scenery, chatted with our waitress, people watched and even though Missy’s was bumping, we relaxed and enjoyed our Sunday Morning. Something about this quaint café just allows you to forget about the chaos that is happening all around you and ponder the most important things in life, like wondering how many strips of breathtaking bacon will Missy serve me today!

When our food arrived, my train of thought was derailed by the fantastic sight that was my meal. The plate that was placed in front of me exemplified why states like Minnesota can never beat New Jersey in a Breakfast brawl. Sorry, Minneapolis, but Rockaway just pulled out a shiv made out of French toast, peanut butter, and jelly and made Saint Paul an only child.

Holy Hot Damn!!!

Holy Hot Damn!!!

Look at that decadent pile of awesomeness and ask yourself why the hell you have never had this in your life. It was not as sweet as it looks, which was a surprise, but it was as tasty as it appears. The toast was toasty, the peanut was peanut buttery, and the jelly was straight up legit! All together these components teamed up to make a sandwich that was not only memorable but damn near orgasmic.

Egg-Cellent

Egg-Cellent

When Kat ordered her dish, I thought that it was kind of Katish, I mean with the menu this place is rockin’ an omelette is one of the last items I would choose. However, this was a serious omelette! It was a flawless combination of fluffy, flavorful, and scrumptious. Every bite was chock full of ingredients that were hand picked to not only be appealing but delivered an explosive appetizing experience with each and every forkful.

Wrap it up B!

Wrap it up B!

Rory went with a special, which is the usual method to my madness so I respected his gumption and he appeared to make the right decision. Although I did not get to try taste his meal, because it would have been weird to ask, it looked amazing and he seemed to like it a lot considering there was none left by the time our breakfast was over.

MMMMmmmmmmmm BACON!!!

MMMMmmmmmmmm BACON!!!

And then… Then there is the bacon. Bacon so perfectly crisp and delicious that one would think there is a farm behind Missy’s. Where this salty, fatty, yummy comes from may be a mystery but I assure you that it is magical. So magical that one might think these angelic strips of crazy come not from pigs but from the last blessing of unicorns that roam this wonderful planet.

Missy’s Main Street Café serves lunch as well, which I also thoroughly enjoy, but TBH it is their breakfast that keeps me coming back, time and time again. Not to mention that visiting this fancy as fuck greasy spoon is like eating at Grandma’s house. That is, if my Grandma knew how to cook like a boss and had a shit ton of bitchin’ tattoos.

Yo! Sushi Schools The Blue Collar Foodie

As I get older there are more and more things that I miss from my youth.  Besides the fact that a hangover that used to last 2 hours, now lasts two days, and in the morning, my bones and my cereal sound like they are having a conversation as they both snap, crackle, and pop.  One such component of my youth that I never thought I would miss is oddly enough school.

I am now almost certain that time travel will not be invented during my life time, because as I just wrote that sentence, a 6 year old with a scraggly bowl cut and a 15 year old rocking JNCOs and a chain wallet didn’t just appear in a DeLorean and take turns kicking my shins.

It is not actually school that I miss, but the learning that accompanied it, because let’s be honest only like 42 people in the history of mankind actually liked high school when they were there.  This perpetual thirst for knowledge is very similar to my thirst for beer on a Thursday night, as in, it is very hard to quell.  Shut up, maybe you have a problem!

Since I still haven’t truly decided what I want to be when I “grow up”, I have yet to choose a Master’s program that I can truly torture my brain with, and so I seek education in unconventional places.  Not to mention, my current chosen path to knowledge is a hell of a lot cheaper than going to grad school.

This time around, my never ending quest for knowledge steered me in the direction of another thing I miss from my youth, The Mall!  That is right, I grew up in Northern New Jersey in the 1990’s, which means that I was a Mall Rat.  Not just any Mall Rat mind you, but a Garden State Plaza Mall Rat; GSP Represent!  Back in my day, the mall you called your home was important and any other rat from any other mall wasn’t even welcome in your hack circle.

01yosushi

Sorry, I veered off course there for a minute.  Anyway, back to my journey.  The interwebs informed me that at my former stomping ground, an eatery that I have written about once before, Yo! Sushi, was now offering a two-hour comprehensive Sushi School.  I was interested, I was intrigued, I was… concerned about the cost.  I subdued my excitement, while I clicked some links and skimmed some sites, all the while worrying that this class might be out of my price range.  Then I saw it.

Our work station for the night.

Our work station for the night.

How much is Yo! Sushi charging for this class you ask?  $30 for a single student and $49 for a pair of pupils.  This is not my first time dabbling in the dark arts of back alley cooking classes, so I know what some of them cost.  I once took a wine class in the city and even with a Groupon it cost me $45 bucks a person, and I left more sober than a 15 year old trying to buy booze with a fake ID that was made with MS Paint and an Ink Jet printer.  The how and why Yo! Sushi is pulling off this price point matters not, I only know they are, and I was in!

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!

Here is how this class works.  Each Sushi master in training is provided their own rolling mat, gloves, recipe cards and ingredients, and a YO! Sushi head chef will walk you through the process of creating all different types of Sushi.  The syllabus includes, making sushi rice; cutting fresh fish; and mastering the best techniques for rolling maki, mini iso and hand rolls.  As the late great Billy Mays used to say, “But wait there is more!” once all dishes are completed, students will leave with their rolls, along with a recipe book, a certificate, and a special discount voucher for their next visit.  Not to mention if you are as my wife lovingly puts it, a competitive jerk, after you learn your new skills you can put them to the test against the rest of the class by participating in the Yo! Sushi Rolling Challenge.  The winner gets a $10 gift card, a spot on the in-store leader board, a shout-out on the Yo! Sushi Instagram page, and best all BRAGGIN’ RIGHTS!

Go Fish!

Go Fish!

Sounds great, right?!  I am not going to lie, I was skeptical too.  Even more so when our Sushi Chef came out to the table and introduced himself to us.  His name was Stuart, and he was definitely not from Japan.  He was actually from Scotland as we learned once he began to speak to us.  However, after about three minutes into the class we realized it was not the nationality of the chef that mattered, but the passion that he brings to the cutting board.

Say hello to Stuart internets!

Stuart; Internets   …   Internets; Stuart

Stuart not only knew his stuff, but to use an often uttered 90’s colloquialism, he had the mad phat skills to pay the bills.  As he waxed poetic about the history of not only Yo! Sushi but Sushi in general, he demonstrated an array of knife skills that would make a samurai weep.  He went on to explain how to choose the fish you use, how to prepare it, and he also shared the secrets to the most important element of any great Sushi, the mystical rice.  Within the first 15 minutes of the course, Stuart’s extensive knowledge, skills, charisma, and overall teaching method had quelled my hesitation about the class, and I was excited to get my hands dirty.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” -Albert Einstein

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” -Albert Einstein

As if Stuart read my mind, he began doling out the ingredients for our first roll. Stuart guided the class through each and every step of the process, making sure that our Sushi somewhat resembled the masterpieces that he was creating.  This was no easy task, because my hands were meant for catching footballs and carrying heavy things, not for Sushi making, but somehow he made it work.

Hands off my Sushi! Get it... Cause it is a Hand Roll... Come on, everyone appreciates a Dad Joke!

Hands off my Sushi! Get it… Cause it is a Hand Roll… Come on, everyone appreciates a good Dad Joke!

Each and every type of Sushi that we created not only came with instructions but also a brief history lesson or anecdote that made the class that much more enjoyable.  Throughout the class, you could tell Stuart was not using a script from a corporate Power Point, he was simply talking to us, while he was teaching us.  He even added some war stories from the Kitchen which are always fun to hear.

Rollin' with my Homies!

Rollin’ with my Homies!

As we were jumping from Sushi type to Sushi type, Stuart stressed that this class was not simply about learning how to make the Sushi that we were preparing today but gaining a skill set that will allows us to use our imagination in the kitchen.  After the completion of this course, you could follow the recipes on the cards that Yo! Sushi provides, or you can use any ingredients you can think of to make whatever concoction your heart desires.  Once you “perfect” the art of slicin’, dicin’, and rollin’, the world of Sushi is yours to explore.

Much to learn you still have…my old padawan. … This is just the beginning! – Yoda

Much to learn you still have…my old padawan. … This is just the beginning! – Yoda

As we made our last roll, Stuart collected all of our creations and began to cut them.    As he went through the cutting procedure for each style he described the theory behind each cut.  I am not going to lie, while he was doing this, I got a serious case of knife envy.  I don’t have crappy knives mind you, but compared to the hardware Stuart was wielding, I might as well be brandishing a shiv that I fashioned out of a toothbrush.

Now that is a doggie bag!

As promised, our extremely fresh and somewhat amateurishly made Sushi was cut, boxed, and ready to go at the end of the class, thanks to Yo! Sushi and Head Chef Stuart Foster.  As we prepared to leave, we discussed the implantation of this new found culinary skill.  Imagine instead of pigs in a blanket and pizza bagels decorating your dining room table at your next gathering, an assortment of freshly made Sushi.  The best part is, you don’t have to be a master Sushi Chef to pull this off, the effort alone is going to get you plastered on every Instagram, Facebook, and Snap Chat in the house.

That is some fine ass fish!

That is some fine ass fish!

When all was said and done, Kat and I left Yo! Sushi with head full of knowledge and a bag full of Sushi, ready to put our newly acquired skills to good use.  If you are a foodie who enjoys putzing around the kitchen, this is a great way to bolster your culinary aptitude, while not spending a gill and a fin.  Furthermore, if you have someone special in your life who shares your passion for all things palatable, you would be hard pressed to find a better date night that would offer more bang for your buck.

T-Pain Directs The Blue Collar Foodie To Kimchi Mama

If you are a true foodie, seeing a new and interesting restaurant open its doors in your neighborhood probably makes you about as happy as a trippin’ hippie at a Dead concert.  The other day I was driving home from work and took an unexpected detour to avoid a huge accident, thanks to my navigator T-Pain on Waze, and I passed a sign I did not recognize.  My foodie radar began to ping and the bleeps, sweeps, and the creeps directed me to further investigate this new eatery.  As I drove past I was able to catch the name of Fair Lawn’s newest establishment, Kimchi Mama, and I knew I would be eating there in the near future.

A few days later Kat and I were tired and hungry after a long hike in the Ramapo Mountains and we decided that we needed to eat something before we continued the rest of our day.  After a brief discussion it became apparent that Kimchi Mama would be the perfect restaurant to fill the void in our bellies and we were excited to give it whirl.

Welcome to Kimchi Mama

Welcome to Kimchi Mama

Parking is slightly rough because Kimchi Mama is located at 7-09 Fair Lawn Ave., Fair Lawn, NJ and there are several other businesses that are located on that stretch of the road.  However, since we had our pups in tow and it was stupid hot that day, Kat stayed in the car with them, so I could park in the Chase parking lot, across the street.

As I entered Kimchi Mama I noticed that there was no seating in this restaurant, so plan to take your meal home with you or drive a few blocks to the park and chow down alfresco style.  I was greeted immediately when I entered by, who I can only assume, is The Kimchi Mama, and she was very personable and welcoming.

Furthermore, she was extremely knowledgeable, considering there were a few things on the menu that I not only could not pronounce but I would have had to google the shit out of to find out if they were vegetable, animal, or mineral.  She was very good at recognizing that although I was adventurous, I needed some assistance throughout the ordering process, and she was patient to boot.

After speaking to her for a brief period of time, I contacted Kat and like a coach devising a plan during a timeout, we quickly mapped out our meal.  By the way, I want a white board with the outline of a belly on it so at a restaurant I can huddle up my friends and devise a true food play.   Patent Pending, don’t steal my ideas you jerks!

We decided to rock Dukbokki, Pork KimBap, and a Vegetable Pajeon Pancake for our appetizers and a large order of Dwaeji Galbi (Korean Spare Ribs) for our main meal.  Since it was our first time there we were unaware of the portion size and we had the hike hunger, so we decided to go big.  Don’t judge us!  Think of our gluttony as your research!

We knew we were ordering big, but we did not realize just how big.  The amount of food that was handed to me from THE Kimchi Mama was unexpected and extremely appreciated.  When we arrived home we began to unpack the two bags of food that were wafting a wonderful smell throughout my house.  I had to fight the urge to attack the first thing out of the bag with a fork with a determination that few have ever summoned.

Doo-Dads, Whazits, and Awesome Sauce!

Doo-Dads, Whazits, and Awesome Sauce!

Not only did we receive all the things we ordered but there were several small containers of pickled doo dads and spicy awesome sauce, scattered throughout the bag.  Not to mention the rice, Miso soup, and of course the Kimchi that also made an appearance.  Altogether, Kimchi Mama hooked us up with quite a spread for under 40 bucks, and that is how we like to Roll!

Pancakes... Pancakes...Pancakes! The Rockland Boulders fans know what I am talking about.

Pancakes… Pancakes…Pancakes! The Rockland Boulders fans know what I am talking about.

We decided to take the pancake for a test drive first.  If you like the Scallion Pancakes that are on the menu at your local Chinese Take-Out spot, you need to order this immediately.  The texture was a perfect combination of crunchy and chewy, and the heaps of vegetables contained in the pancake added a wonderful roasty and earthy flavor.  When paired with the sauce that we believed it should be dipped in, a dark soy-like liquid, all the flavors melded together to create an umami grenade of sheer delight.

Porky...Pork...Pork... I love Pork!!!

Porky…Pork…Pork… I love Pork!!!

Next up, in our marathon of eating was the Pork Kimbap.  Basically, this tasty treat is a pork sushi roll, but have no fear the pork was cooked.  As you can see from the picture above this dish was beautiful, what you can’t tell, is just how tasty this treat was.  Stupid future, get on that stuff, Edible 3-D Printing, make it happen.

Miso Hungry!

Miso Hungry!

As our bellies began to fill, we decided to clean our palates and take a breather from solid food before continuing this ambitious feast.  We slowly sipped our Miso Soup and discussed our battle plan to destroy the rest of the food that littered our table.  The soup was a wonderful intermezzo and was on par with most Miso that one could procure from a high-end Chinese Food Restaurant.

When in doubt...Try it out!!!

When in doubt…Try it out!!!

We moved on to the Dukbokki, and with limited knowledge on what we were about to eat, we deiced to forego the Googling and dive right in.  I fell in love at first bite!  On the menu this dish was described as Rice Cakes, Fish Cakes, and Onion stir fried in a sweet and spicy Korean pepper sauce.  This cup of amazing, was slightly fishy, slightly spicy, and when poured on top of the rice was all sorts of awesome.  Each forkful brought new flavors and interesting textures that made this dish my favorite thing we tried, thus far.

Adam would have never given up one of these ribs! #SorryEve #NoMoreHumans #MoreRibs4Adam

Adam would have never given up one of these ribs! #SorryEve #NoMoreHumans #MoreRibs4Adam

I had to put the stipulation of thus far in the paragraph above because we tried our main course directly after the Dukbokki, and holy hell I was impressed by these meaty bone-in tidbits of yummy.  By themselves they were tasty, but when wrapped in the provided lettuce and slathered in the sauce we were instructed to pair them with, they entered a whole new level of flavor country. A region of savory that I do not believe I had ever visited before.  It was as if Kat and I were Lewis and Clarke, and this dish was 100 miles west of the Mississippi River.  If you venture to Kimchi Mama, and you should, make this dish your first choice and I guarantee you will return.

The moral of this story is, when T-Pain tells you to make a left, you make a damn left, because you never know where the road may take you.  My detour directed me to Kimchi Mama and for the foreseeable future, I will be taking this detour quite frequently.  The service was wonderful, the food was amazing, and you can’t beat the price point.  “In a quarter of a mile, Amaze-balls!”

Kimchi Mama’s menu can be found on their Facebook page and on GrubHub.

Essex Junction Craft Kitchen and Bar Is Turning Heads, in Bloomfield and Beyond

“Find something you love to do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”    There is a solid chance that we have all heard this idiom at one point in our lives.  As impressionable adolescents, wayward teenagers, or “struggling” college students, some “wise” old kook uttered this to us, in hopes of mending a wound that would eventually heal itself.   This phrase rattles inside all of our heads, like the lub-dubbing of the old man’s heart that tells a tale, every time we compromise on a life goal.  Gradually making us all believe that by not achieving this unrealistic and naïve goal, we somehow failed the main objective of this choose-your-own-adventure book we call life.

I happen to believe that this supposed failure is simply not the case, and this common expression is dead wrong.  I feel that once you make something you love your job, you will begin the slow painful descent towards loathing something you once got great joy from.  If you happen to have an influential role in a young person’s life, I implore you to throw out clichéd and quixotic advice such as this and stick to achievable goals based on real life experiences.

In place of this wide-eyed expectation, I tend to follow the rule of; working to live, as opposed to living to work.  I love to eat and I love to write, however I also love my freedom and integrity.  This is why I thoroughly enjoy being a freelance food blogger as opposed to being a professional food writer.  I have no deadlines, I have no allegiances, and most importantly, like Bernie Sanders, I can’t be bought!  My 9-5 affords me the opportunity to do what I love, and that is the reason I will never cease to adore it.  Furthermore, I have created a virtual foodie militia via various social networks that recommend eateries all over the East Coast that they believe will make my epicurean soul smile.

The anticipation was killing me!

The anticipation was killing me!

Recently, I was bombarded with messages from copious amounts of gastronomes singing the praises of the recently christened Essex Junction Craft Kitchen and Bar located at 90 Washington St. in Bloomfield, NJ.  I can’t visit all the establishments that are recommended by my culinary constituents, however, when a whisper turns into a clamor, which builds into a roar, effectively shouting a restaurants name from the top of the internets, I take notice.

Welcome to Essex Junction.

Welcome to Essex Junction.

Since the webernets was all abuzz about Essex Junction, I decided to make a reservation for Kat and I, as to not risk a longer wait to see what all the hubbub was about.  Good thing we did too because when we arrived at 7:30 P.M. on a Thursday, it was jumping.  We walked in and skipped ahead of the line, due to our forethought, and were seated in the dining room.

Before we even had menus in our hands, Essex Junction was racking up brownie points left and right.  First off the décor is… Listen, I could google some asinine decorating style like, modern industrial shabby chic, that in turn you will have to google to decipher its meaning, or I could tell how awesome it was in seven simple words.  It was like dining in Gotham City! That is right, I felt like I was Bruce Wayne eating dinner with some reporter/Model that I will eventually hook up with just before she gets kidnapped and her life is threatened for the rest of the movie.  Come to think of it, dating Bruce Wayne is about as safe as Tindering in Detroit, I wouldn’t recommend either of those adventures ladies… Just saying.

Nice F-ing Dining Room! Honk! Honk!

Nice F-ing Dining Room! Honk! Honk!

Adding to the ambience of the urban design scheme, we noticed a large movie screen on a wall in the dining room that was playing Bettlejuice!  That is right, YOU HEARD ME… BEETLEJUICE!  We were so intrigued by this concept that Kat and I actually sat on the same side of the table, so we could watch a bit of the movie while we perused the menu.  Don’t judge us!  You would do the same thing!  It was freaking Beetle…, better not say it three times, just in case.

Our first mission was to choose a drink to quench our thirst while we decided what to dine upon.  This was not an easy task, considering Essex Junction offers 15 draft lines full of rotating Craft Beers, a variety of beer and wine bottles, and their selection of Local Legend Cocktails.  We were in a beer mood, as it was Thirsty Thursday, so I chose a Boulevard Tank 7, and Kat went with a Dogfish 90 Minute.  However, next time we visit, we will have to dive into the Local Legends, because not only are these inventive cocktails created with New Jersey Celebrities such as,  Kevin Smith, Queen Latifah, and Steven Colbert, in mind, but 50% of the proceeds go towards the Bloomfield School System.  (As long as you hashtag the restaurant and @ The Celebrity via twitter after taking a selfie with it.)

As stated above, this hobby, turned part-time job has transformed into an obsession, so when Kat and I take a new restaurant for a test drive, we do more than just kick the tires.  In other words, we order a crap ton of food in order to get an accurate representation of the Chef’s repertoire and then we try to eat it all before the gluttonous guilt sets in.  This occasion was no exception to our rule.

We ordered four small plates to start; Sweet and Spicy Wings, Smoked Pork Belly, Duck Meatball Mac & Cheese, and Fried Brussels Sprouts.  Being the hedonistic mongrels that we are, we then ordered two large plates; the Bone-in Rib Eye and the Pork Chop.  Excited about the feast that was about to rain down on our table like dollar bills falling from MC Chris’s fat stacks, we sat back and sipped our hoppy goodness while we awaited the boom.

BACON ON BACON!!!!

BACON ON BACON!!!!

The first plate to make an appearance was the Smoked Pork Belly served with Pickled Vegetables and Candied Bacon.  I am not going to lie, this dish was getting a gold star no matter what in my book because the crazy bastards at Essex Junction essentially decided to put bacon on bacon, and that my friends is the type of decadence that I love to reward.  Furthermore, the dish was perfectly balanced and full of depth thanks to the sweet candied bacon, salty pork belly, and vinegary vegetables all playing off each other.  Not to mention the juxtaposition of the soft belly and the crunchy bacon created a stupendously unique mouthfeel.

I would sing Silly Little Love Songs to these magnificent treats. Get it?

I would sing Silly Little Love Songs to these magnificent treats. Get it?

As we were just getting over the recent demise of our Pork Belly dish, Mr. and Ms. Sweet and Spicy wings arrived to offer their condolences.  These saucy behemoths were cooked to flawlessly and had the perfect meat to fat ratio.  Not to mention, that when paired with the blue cheese sauce these pub food Privates were promoted to Sergeants at Arms…errrr…Wings.  You get my point!

Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, MAC! AAAAAHhhhhhhhhhhhh

Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, MAC! AAAAAHhhhhhhhhhhhh

Next on the food train was the Duck Meatball Mac & Cheese served with a Béchamel sauce.  I will reiterate, I am all about decadent food pornography and this dish gets is the equivalent of Hugh Hefner in the food world.  No!  Not because it has balls, you sick SOB, get your mind out of the gutter.  The luscious Béchamel sauce combined with the rich savory awesomeness of the duck meatball makes this dish a scrumptious win.  On a side note, they use my favorite noodle in this dish, Bucatini, which marries Ziti and Spaghetti to form the most flawless sauce carrying implement known to man.

To paraphrase Rick James, "Fried Brussels Spouts are a hell of drug! "

To paraphrase Rick James, “Fried Brussels Spouts are a hell of drug! “

Last but most certainly not least, the Fried Brussels Sprouts in Sweet Soy, Sriracha, served with Shallots, and Garlic arrived.  Kat and I were nervous about ordering these, not because we buy into the horrific PR nightmare that Brussels have suffered through over the years, but because we envisioned an over-battered ball of Brussely sadness.  WE WERE WRONG!  This was by far our favorite small plate of the night.  These delectable, lightly fried, crack-like morsels of amazeballs were chock full of Umami goodness.  The ingenious process of first pan frying and then baking them in a small crock with the Sweet Soy and Sriracha concoction created an exceptional texture and flavor tag-team duo that could whoop The Legion Of Doom’s ass.  Do yourself a favor and dig all the way to the bottom of the crock when you order this.  There is where you will find the brown bits, that are covered in this damn-near mythical sauce that conveys such supernatural flavor that one can only assume that Chef Justin Caldwell must have created it with the happy tears of Unicorns.

While we were waiting for our main course, our server Mike stopped by to inquire about a second round of drinks in preparation of our impeding meal.  Mike not only remembered what we had ordered (+1 point), but offered a few suggestions that would pair nicely with our entrees (+1,000,000 points).  This is commendable in a restaurant that is well established, but in a new spot like Essex Junction, this is extraordinarily impressive.  His suggestions were spot on too, so we ordered a second round.

Steakey, Steak, Steak, I love Steak!

Steakey, Steak, Steak, I love Steak!

As my Bone-in Rib Eye was approaching, I noticed just how lovely it looked sporting a duck egg like a yarmulke whilst sitting next to a basket of Parmesan Frites.  My first impression was that this steak was large enough to justify the price point.  I then cut into the flesh and realized that it was not just properly cooked, but it was cooked with the precision of a master.  A flawless sear on the outside and a deep pink core on this inside.  Finally, I dipped a slice of this mega steak into the bordelaise sauce, and transported to my mouth, and it was love at first chew.  My apparent fullness from the previous courses melted away as this delightful meat treat melted in my mouth.  (TWSS)

This little piggy went to my belly!

This little piggy went to my belly!

After seeing my dish, I thought the bar for beauty was set fairly high, but Kat’s Pork Chop served with Spicy Jicama Slaw, Brussels Sprouts, and topped with a Vermont Lardon drizzle sank my meat ship.  Her dish looked as if they stuck a Chef’s hat on Zombie Claude Monet and forced him to create food art.  Not only did her dish look amazing, it tasted just as good.  The slaw added a crunch and a kick that danced well with the sweet Vermont sauce that was drizzled over the scrumptious pork, while the lardons kicked this dish into 5th gear.

If my ferocious verbosity paired with the filthy food porn you just were witness to does not make you visit Essex Junction post haste, I don’t really know what I can say in these final words that will convince you.  Every detail of this establishment was not only taken into consideration but tediously worked on so it looks and runs like a shiny new machine.  The hostess greeted us with a smile, the wait staff took excellent care of us, and Chef Justin Caldwell delivered dish after dish of phenomenal food that not only looked fantastic but tasted even better.  In the restaurant world this trifecta is like meeting a down to earth Supermodel that cooks gourmet meals and does keg stands.  If you don’t want to feel like Batman, while imbibing a craft beer and watching a freaking classic movie, then maybe you should stay home.  Then again maybe you should get your head examined, because Essex Junction was all kinds of epic!