One Visit To Empanada Mania Will Make You An Empanada Maniac!

Living as a foodie is very similar to walking through life as a perpetually pregnant lady, we are always hungry, we constantly have cravings for strange food at all hours of the night, and unless our desires are met we are not fun to be around. Living as a foodie’s significant other is in turn comparable to being the partner of an expecting mother when these oddly specific and damn near impossible requests come out of left field. So, this past weekend when Kat did not get any empanadas at a certain Food Truck Mash-Up, I sensed the storm approaching and devised a proactive plan to conquer the impending category 5 foodie tornado that was about to rain fire and brimstone upon my house.

My strategy was simple and sound. I figured the googles knows everything, except for what the hell Korri Sabatini’s freaking infuriating forehead tattoo means, so I consulted my favorite online resource to find Bergen County’s best Empanada’s.   Upon researching this topic I found that most people whom answered this question on Yahoo answers or other forums designed to help wandering internet souls such as myself, enjoyed rubbing in the fact that the best place to get Empanadas in Bergen County was at their grandmother’s house.   Well smart asses, my Abuela does not specialize in Empanada’s she specializes in Matzo Ball Soup, so your answer does me no damn good and deserves the thumbs down rating I gave it. After I sorted through all the responses that were trying to make me visit their elderly family members in order to satisfy Kat’s craving for a fried stuffed pocket of awesome, I stumbled upon Empanada Mania, located at 62 S Washington Avenue,   Bergenfield, New Jersey, 07621.

Empanda Mania

The interwebs informed me that Empanada Mania was voted Best New Restaurant in 2013 by 201 Magazine and almost every review that I read stated that they were serving the best Empanadas in the county as well. Trusting my fellow Bergenites and internet gastronauts, I informed Kat that her craving would be quenched thanks to Empanada Mania. Since I was in disaster mode, I was unable to sense that I too, caught the empanada bug when we were turned away from the food truck with empty stomachs, and I soon realized that if the Empanadas at Empanada Mania did not meet or exceed our expectations, the ride home would be akin to traveling with two pregnant women, ready to pop, on a 100 degree day, with no air conditioning. Needless to say no one wants that at all.

When we arrived at Empanada Mania we were greeted as soon as we walked in the door with a smile and a genuine welcome from the owner’s father. This family orientated business approach honestly makes my soul smile, and it helped even more that this gentleman was kind, helpful, and made us chuckle on numerous occasions while we were at this establishment.   This kind of service and mindset is what is missing from all the chain restaurants that are unfortunately pushing the mom and pop shops out with every flavorless catchy named appetizer that is sold.

Empanada Mania Menu

Empanada Mania has a rotating menu of at least six empanadas a day, which in turn creates a daily menu that is ever changing. On the day that we decided to give Emapanda Mania a whirl, they were offering the following varieties Beef, Buffalo Chicken, Pizza, Chicken Quesadilla, Spinach and Feta, Two Cheese, and Cheese Burger.  Kat and I were trying to be conservative, and since we were only eating lunch, we ordered five of the seven that were on the menu. We decided to order a beef for the traditionalist is us, a buffalo chicken to kick it up a notch, a Pizza because if not Kat’s father would disown her, a Chicken Quesadilla because I am a cheeseaholic, and a Spinach and Feta in a vain attempt to healthy.

After ordering, we once again began to speak with the front house manager of Empanada Mania and soon enough the proprietor of the shop, Mr. Galo Grijalva, came out to greet us. He introduced himself, and we spoke for a few minutes about the business and his future plans to climb aboard the food truck band wagon and use his mobile munchie maker as a promotion device and a as a way to give back to the County. After mere minutes of speaking to him, I could tell right away that this man was truly passionate about not only his Empanadas but his business as well, which only got me more excited about the food that I was about to chew on.

Empanda Mania Platter

When the food arrived at our table, Kat and I were so elated that our Empanada feast was about to begin that we could barely contain ourselves, none the less wait for these fresh fried morsels to cool down, but alas we are smarter than your average Hot Pocket eater.   I took the first deep fried purse of holding out of the basket and divided it into two pieces thus allowing the heat to escape quicker and permitting us to see what type of empanada we were about to ingest.

Spinach Empanada

Our first victim was the Spinach and Feta Empanada, and as I was cutting it, I already knew that it was going to be remarkable. The crust was the perfect consistency as I could feel the flawless crunch and flakiness under my knife as I pressed down firmly. After I broke through the outer layer, my plastic cutlery flew through the moist savory filling faster than A-Rod can deny any and all allegations of wrong doing.   Our first bite instantly converted us to Empanada Maniacs, and there was no turning back. The Spinach was seasoned expertly and the ratio of feta to greens was spot on.

Buffalo Chicken Empanada

Next up was the Buffalo Chicken Empanada. As soon as I saw this inventive and whimsical item on the menu, I knew I had to try it. I was very pleased that it was among the empanadas that we chose to sample.   The expressive flavor of the filling combined excellently with the crunchy texture of the shell to create a wonderful marriage in my mouth.

Pizza Empanada

The Pizza filled empanada was next on the chopping block, and we were not disappointed yet again. The quality of the cheese as well as the quantity was not unnoticed by this foodie.   The addition of just the right amount of marinara sauce only added to the charm of this vegetarian friendly empanada.

Chicken Empanada

The Chicken Quesadilla empanada fell just as its brethren did; one fantastic bite at a time. As Kat and I finished off this fanciful fowl, we were saddened that we only had one more of these miraculous pleasure stuffed indulgences left to consume.

Forkin' Empanada

Fortunately Kat and I saved what was in our opinion the best for last, the straight up, traditional Beef Empanada. I was surprised that I, an aficionado of all things strange and odd in the culinary world, would find myself choosing the seemingly “boring” beef empanada as the winner of our little taste test, but this deep fried mighty meat package was anything but boring. The seasoning was impeccable and created a fresh and crisp palatableness that was simply insurmountable.

As we looked down at our empty basket, the realization sank in that we were all out of these amazing delicacies, but then a smile come over my face. This Joker-esque smirk was followed by me returning to the counter and ordering two more Empanadas before even discussing it with Kat. We ordered one more beef, because it was that kind of good, and I also ordered a Cheese Burger. The Beef was saved for last because we were well aware of its foodgasmic powers. As we ate the Cheese Burger Empanada, I began to comprehend that it was not just one of their Empanadas that are noteworthy, but it is all of them. Every last empanada that we ate on our first of many outings to this eatery was simply divine. They all have their merits, and I could literally eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next month and still come back for more.

Empanada Mania Sauce

Empanada Mania also offers a homemade hot sauce to pair with their tasty treats. The house manager informed us that he came up with the recipe for this phenomenal sauce while he was still in his mother’s belly, and I believe it.   This prodigious sauce was the ideal companion to the already sublime taste of these Empanadas. As Kat and I ate each of them, we tried them without sauce first, which caused us to swoon, but after adding some of the sauce we fell in love. Since this sauce is homemade it may be somewhat spicy for the average consumer, so it is recommended that you taste the sauce first before slathering it on.

Empanada Mania Closeup

If reading this article about the outstanding things Empanada Mania is doing with fried dough does not make you wish that you could beam down to Bergenfield immediately and try their culinary delights, than maybe this will. Galo, The Empanada Master, recently added a new addition to his cooking staff, Ms. Emma Scher from Ridgewood, N.J., who recently competed on the Teen episode of the Food Network Show, Chopped. Mr. Grijalva has agreed to show Ms. Scher the business end of working in a restaurant, in order to give back to the community that has helped him realize his dream. During our visit to Empanada Mania, we had the pleasure to meet Emma, and after our short conversation, Kat and I could see she is destined for greatness in the epicurean world.

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The Q-Crew BBQ Catering Company Rocks Out With Thier Hog Out!

So, you want to throw a backyard Barbecue that will make one of Andrew Jackson’s epic White House parties seem like a lame Jack and Jill shower, but even though Yan Can Cook, You Can Not.  You may think that you have no options and sheepishly accept your fate as merely a party attendee and not the host with the most, but you would be wrong.  Perhaps you can cook with the best of them, but you are lazier than a freshman in college after partaking in your first all night weed and fast food festival. Not that I condone that sort of thing, I mean fast food is horrible for you.  Maybe you are not lazy or gastronomically challenged but just want to be able to enjoy the legendary soirée that you are planning without having to man, or woman, the grill all night while your friends enjoy the giant bouncy castle and life size wrestling Ring full of Jell-o shots that you rented for this event.  If you fall into any of the aforementioned categories you need to request the Q-Crew to come to your next event!

Andrew Jackson sure did love to party!

Andrew Jackson sure did love to party!

Recently, I had the honor of officiating the wedding of two of my friends, one whom happens to be a fellow blogger. (Check out his humorous child rearing blog by clicking here.)   You read that right, I not only have a 9-5 job and write about some of the best Blue Collar Food I can find, but I also happen to be an ordained Reverend!  I thoroughly enjoy performing marriage ceremonies, and I have a blast at every wedding that I get the chance to preside over, although, this wedding had something that made this member of the cloth salivate like never before.  Instead of a pretentious indoor, five course meal, offering the same menu that has been served at receptions for 35 years, this couple made the executive decision to call in the Q-Crew to cater their special day.

Whole Pig Roast

Here Piggy Piggy Piggy

The Q-Crew is not your stereotypical catering company.  Instead of chasing stuffy white gloved waiters throughout a banquet hall, creating a live action Pac-Man like game that ends in you eating three shrimp and one pizza bite that you had to wrestle from your Great Aunt Bertha, you get to watch the Q-Crew in action as you mingle with the other guests during the cocktail hour.  Q-Crew does offer many different packages for any event that you could imagine, but by far their most impressive is the roasted whole pig complete with Pre-dinner photo ops.

Grilling

The Q-Crew hard at work!

This particular event not only featured the whole roasted pig, but the privileged guests of this amazingly meaty shindig got a one way ticket to flavor country courtesy of the Bride and Groom, via the Q-Crew express.  The menu for this grand affair consisted of St. Louis Style Ribs, Pulled Pork, Barbecue Chicken, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Grilled Vegetables, and a plethora of fixings that paired perfectly with this meatgasmic offering.  Although the Bride was beautiful, the Q-Crew spread gave her a run for her money as the most stunning attendant of this fine affair, but since she was the one who brought this eating orgy to my world, I will say she beat the pig by a snout.

So much meat! TWSS

So much meat! TWSS

Once the food was ready, I was like Alex Rodriguez in a Performance Enhancing Drug store; I did not know which wonderful concoction to try first.  Since there was only limited plate space and I am a carnivore at heart, I decided to fill my first plate to capacity with the tantalization flesh of my most favorite farm animal, the pig!  As I was scooping the hearty portions of this fantastic meat onto my plate, the wafting aroma overwhelmed me with so much joy and happiness; I could barely make it back to my table before shoveling copious amounts of this picturesque BBQ into my drooling mouth.  Before I damn near ran to my table, I hit up the sauce bar to dress my swine properly before eating the hell out of this masterpiece that I created.  Not knowing which sauce was going to be the best on the pork I added a small amount of each type strategically so they did not comingle and contaminate each other.

Plate of Pig

Meat my plate of pig! See what I did there?

My first plateful consisted of two ribs, a generous helping of the roast pig, some pulled pork, a piece of corn bread, and a few pickles.  Considering I had been peering at Wilbur throughout the afternoon much like a 12 year old boy studies the first playboy he finds hidden in his father’s garage, I decided that it was the most logical starting point for my adventure down BBQ lane.  As I took my first bite, all I could think is if I were Zach Braff in Scrubs, my favorite pork memories would be playing in my head in slow motion with a horrible 80’s ballad added in for good measure.  Alas, I am not Zach Braff, although I think Kat would not be opposed to it.

Divine Swine

Divine Swine

Even though there was no divine swine montage, the pig was uber tasty.  It was moist, yet firm, with the proper bite that should be associated with good, wait check that, great barbecue.  The smoke flavor was not overbearing but still created that slight wood cooked twang that barbecue aficionados search near and far for.  I also loved the fact that the meat was not over seasoned or over sauced. The Q-Crew allowed the meat to speak for itself and not only did it talk but it sang!

Ribs of plenty

Ribs of plenty

After demolishing the pile of roast pig I had liberated from the buffet table, I moved onto the ribs.  When most people discuss ribs they rave about the meat falling off the bone but not I and much to my euphoric joy not the Q-Crew either.  In my opinion, ribs should have a slight firmness that requires a small amount of effort to remove the succulent meat from the bone, which perpetuates the primal sensation one gets when eating a bone-in cut of meat. The Q-Crew’s rib was not only expertly prepared in this fashion, but it also had a flawless smoke ring that added to its esthetic appeal.   As for the taste, the sweet smoke flavor paired perfectly with the tanginess of the barbecue sauce and spices creating a cacophony of flavor that made me want to create a Facebook page for these ribs simply so I could become friends with this rib for real because we all know you ain’t really friends with someone until you are friends on Facebook!

Pulled Pork

Pork that is pulled makes me happy!

The pulled pork, which had been waiting patiently as I fell in love with the pig and then cheated on her with the angelic ribs, was finally ready to be devoured.  I created a sandwich with the pulled pork and topped it with a liberal slathering of BBQ sauce, because that is how I roll.  See what I did there, sandwich, roll, get it, get it… Oh to hell with you, that was funny.  Once again this pulled pork was not drowned in sauce but instead the Q-Crew let the natural flavors of the porky goodness be the star of the show.  Don’t get me wrong, this pulled pork had some righteous flavor, but the predominant taste was good ol’ fashion pig and that is just how pulled pork should be.

Hamburgers

Just in case you’re a traditionalist.

I would be remiss as a card carrying member of the foodie community if I did not try everything the Q-Crew had to offer, so as I explained to Kat, it was my civic duty to say to hell with our diet and rock some seconds. On this trip up to the buffet line, I had to try some of the Q-Crew’s chicken because I had yet to sink my teeth into that BBQ favorite, but I simply could not pass up the opportunity to grab some more pig, pulled pork, and ribs.  Once again, there just was not any room for sides or the hamburgers and hotdogs, but I was told by other guests that they were mighty good.

Corn Bread

Mmmmmmm Corn Bread!

As for the chicken, at this point if you expected anything lower than stellar marks for anything that graced the Q-Crew’s grill, you have not been paying attention to this review very closely.  The flavor profile on the chicken was simple yet palatable, and it was cooked impeccably.  Chicken can be tougher than Howard Wolowitz’s Mother’s brisket, to cook properly on an open flame in large quantities, but the Q-Crew’s professional staff made it look about as easy as finding a celebrity who has a drug problem.

If you are looking to be the envy of the entire Social Media community that was not invited to your next backyard bash, you need to contact The Q-Crew BBQ Catering Company at 908-256-1198.  I warn you though, whoever can’t make it to the event due to a prior engagement will have to be put on suicide watch after they read all your friends’ status updates.  Furthermore, if I was you, I would warn my neighbors that the Q-Crew will be cooking at your function so they don’t think that you rented your house to a purveyor of cinematic filth when they hear the sounds of pure ecstasy escaping from your guests’ mouths after they take their first bite of the serious barbecue that the Q-Crew will deliver.  The Q-Crew slogan pretty much sums up the awesomeness of hiring these BBQ connoisseurs to bring their epicurean treats to your next jamboree and that is, “You Chill…We Grill.”

Grilled Veggies

BTW, Their Grilled Veggies were pretty good too!

Schlotzsky’s: Funny Name, Serious Sandwich

While I am on my perpetual quest to be the most interesting food blogger in the world, I don’t always venture to restaurant chains, but when I do they have to be special.   To be honest, even the grand marshal of the pretentious foodie parade, no matter if they admit or not, occasionally has a hankering for the chain restaurant of their childhood. I believe all the foodies in the world should attend meetings to admit our closet cravings that would shock the general public. I’ll start, hello Interwebs, I am The Blue Collar Foodie, and I am addicted to McDonald’s French Fries harder than the Kardashians fiend for fame.

Schlotzsky's Front Door

Since I am willing to admit my admiration with certain food that would be considered beneath the foodie scene, and embrace not only the sentimental longing for such food but confess that most of it tastes pretty darn good too, I was intrigued by the story of a local entrepreneur, Lea Dalleggio. Her tale was the classic saga of girl meets Schlotzsky’s, girl falls in love with Schlotzsky’s, Schlotzsky’s doesn’t exist in New Jersey, so girl grows up and buys 17 Schlotzsky’s franchises. Wait a minute; I am not sure if that explained anything to anyone. I think I might have to explain this a little more, probably starting with the question that is on most of the minds of my Jersey readers, “What the hell is a Schlotzsky’s?”

Schlotzsky’s is a restaurant chain that was started in Houston, Texas way back in 1971 by Don and Delores Dissman, who tasted a sandwich in the French Quarter of New Orleans and fell in love. Their tiny store front that served their rendition of this sandwich called the original which did and still does consist of ham, salami, and melted cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses layered with black olives, red onion, lettuce, tomato, mustard and their signature dressing on a fresh made toasted Sourdough bun. No one really knows, or at least the googles doesn’t, why this sandwich caught fire faster than Michael Jackson’s hair in that Pepsi commercial circa 1984, but it did. As Schlotzsky’s notoriety grew, the Dissman’s decided to open more stores and as Schlotzsky’s took over town after town, their menu followed suit.   Eventually, the Dissman’s dove into the wild west of franchising head first, which spread the Schlotzsky’s brand further than they ever imagined.

Meanwhile, sometime during all this craziness Lea Dalleggio found herself visiting her family in Houston, Texas quite often and fell in love with this whimsical sandwich shop. Unfortunately for Lea, much like the Wawa’s and In and Out’s of the world, Schlotzsky’s had never broke into the North Jersey area. As a young girl, Lea had to wait for her trips to Texas to partake in her favorite food from Schlotzsky’s, and so her long distance relationship with her one true foodie love began. That is until she was old enough to do something about it.

Englewood Schlotsky's

Instead of moving to Texas to be with her epicurean Romeo, Lea Dalleggio decided to share her childhood dream with the rest of Northern New Jersey by opening her first Schlotzsky’s at 39 Nathaniel Place, in Englewood, NJ one day after her 25th birthday. Since Lea was nice enough to bring Schlotzsky’s to New Jersey, I think it is my duty as a foodie to investigate what made her fall for this chain so many years ago.

Schlotzsky's Dining Area

Before Kat and I ventured to Schlotzsky’s, we did some research on the restaurant’s menu and found that they offered quite a variety. The aforementioned Original is still offered as well as several other sandwiches featuring roast beef, chicken, turkey, and even veggies for all the herbivores that walk the earth.   They also have a plethora of Pizza options that are chock full of tasty toppings atop a seasoned sourdough crust. A few salads also grace the menu for those looking for something a little lighter to nosh on. Furthermore, for those of you with a sweet tooth, Schlotzsky’s offers Cinnabons and Carvel soft serve to calm your sugar craze.

Armed with knowledge and appetites, Kat and I entered Schlotzsky’s with a pretty good thought on what we were going to order. As most of you already know, I am sucker for specials and “for a limited time only”, gets me every damn time, so when the interwebs informed us that Schlotzsky’s is offering a special Schlotzsky’s 66 menu featuring the Windy City Pastrami and Swiss, California Chick, and Albuquerque Turkey, we really did not have much of a choice in the matter. Proof that my wife is the best wife ever, she agreed to split two sandwiches with me so we both could taste half of the California Chick described as thinly slices roasted chicken breast, pepper jack cheese, bacon, guacamole, red onion, tomatoes, lettuce, fat free spicy ranch piled high on a toast jalapeno cheese bread and the Albuquerque Turkey which consisted of Smoked Turkey, crispy bacon, cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses layered with fire roasted vegetables, chipotle mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, Schlotzsky’s sauce, also on a jalapeno cheese bread. We also ordered two garden salads and two drinks to round out our meal. The total bill came to just under $27.00, which we thought was reasonable even before we tried the food.

Soda Machine

After ordering our food, we were given our drinking cups and directed to the soda machine that dispenses 129 different varieties of soda or juice. This machine kept me occupied for quite some time considering I flip flop and waiver more than a modern day politician when I have seven options at Taco Bell, so after staring at the machine for longer than I would like to admit, I finally decided on Cherry Mr. Pibb and joined Kat at the table.

Garden Salad

When are food arrived, we realized that not only was $27.00 for this meal reasonable, it appeared that is was a deal. The Garden Salad was served in a huge bowl that was filled to the brim with fresh veggies, olives, and warm cheesy garlic pesto flatbread. The sandwiches were stacked with meat and all the fixings and appeared as if they were going to be uber filling.

Schlotzsky's Bunz

After we took a brief pause so I could complete my always annoying, yet necessary Phoodie Photo Shoot, Kat and I experienced our first Schlotzsky’s meal. I have to admit, I am happy that Lea went all those years longing for Schlotzsky’s, because without her suffering, I would not have experienced the moment of sandwich bliss that occurred that day. Normally I am all about the innards of a sandwich, and usually feel the bread is just a canvas for the masterpiece to be placed upon. This is simply not the case with the Schlotzsky’s sandwich.

Schlotzsky's close up

Don’t get me wrong the meat was fresh and full of flavor, the cheese and the bacon added the salty, creamy crunch that every sandwich needs, and the combination of the sauces added just the right amount of kick. Truth be told, this sandwich placed on two ordinary pieces of white bread would be a formidable foe in the underground world of sandwich battling. But when these ingredients are lovingly arranged on a Schlotzsky’s famous bun, it amplifies the awesomeness of this handheld treat exponentially. These buns have been handmade in every Schlotzsky’s that has ever opened its doors, and the freshness and unique flavor and texture adds a level of deliciousness that is unparalleled in the realm of sandwich shops.

Schlotzsky's Sandwich

Kat and I opted for the medium sandwich which houses 4.4 ounces of meat; if you are really hungry, there is a large that holds a heaping 8.8 ounces of yumminess. Furthermore, if you are someone who enjoys a good ol’ fashioned test of gastronomic willpower, Schlotzsky’s has a Lotza Meat Challenge that offers its customers the chance to get their picture on the wall and a free Cinnabon. All you have to do is devour a large sandwich in 10 minutes or less, I know it sounds easy, but I assure you it is much harder than it sounds.

Garlic Pesto Bread BiteThe garden salad was a great addition to this meal and was the perfect companion to the Schlotzsky’s sandwich. However, the Garlic Pesto Bread that shared a bowl with our salad made me happier than a Met fan on Harvey Day. Everything about this seemingly perfect side was spot on, the cheese was gooey, the garlic was vampire deterring good, the pesto was not overbearing, and the bread was Schlotzsky’s. This delicious addition is a must try when you venture to Schlotzsky’s.

As I stated in the opening paragraph, I am not one who frequents chain restaurants a lot, but I am also not the type of person to write them off completely. What you should always remember about chain restaurants is that they grew to the size that they are now because of something, and that something is usually damn good food. Now, that is not to say that most chains lose their roots and therefore lose their way shortly after their growth, I do not believe this is the case with Schlotzsky’s. I thoroughly enjoyed the playful atmosphere, wonderful food, and attentive staff at Schlotzsky’s, and I completely understand why a young Lea Dalleggio was enamored by this establishment all those years ago.

 

The Cloverleaf Tavern: Come For The Beer, Fall In Love With The Food

The Cloverleaf

Most Blue Collar Foodies would rather have a cool refreshing craft beer paired with their meal rather than a hoity-toity glass of wine. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for wine, and I do enjoy a goblet of grapes every now and again, but my heart belongs to the hops and barley that can be found in every mug, pint, or stein of carbonated class in a glass. There are only a few spots in the North Jersey area that stimulate craft beer enthusiasts better than a pill of Viagra at the Bunny Ranch, and there are even fewer that not only have a remarkable beer menu, but also a food menu that is worthy of praise. It is my goal as The Blue Collar Foodie to find these institutions of higher inebriation and shout their accolades from high atop my soap-box, known as the interwebs.

Welcome To The Clover

Welcome To The Clover

One such location is The Cloverleaf Tavern, located at 395 Bloomfield Ave., in Caldwell, NJ. Considering that The Cloverleaf Tavern has been continuously operating for over 75 years, this extraordinary establishment should not be a secret to any craft beer connoisseur that rests his or her rump within the Tri-State area. What these pint professors may not realize, and neither did I at first, is that The Cloverleaf Tavern, or The Clover, as it is known by the regulars, not only offers an awe-inspiring beer menu, but also serves up some serious eats as well.

First off, I feel that in order to properly discuss The Clover’s true appeal I will need to approach their exuberance for craft beer and their epicurean prowess separately. This way I can guarantee I will devote enough verbiage to each of these astonishing contributions that the Clover is making to the foodie community on a daily basis.

Mmmm Beer

Mmmmmmmmmm Beer

The Clover doesn’t just serve craft beer; they embrace the very notion of its very existence and attempt to house as much variety as they can possibly fit within their beer centric structure. Their ever changing beer menu reads like the phone book of Hop City, USA and is constantly updated via their website. The Clover is one of the first beer lists that I peruse as soon as the interwebs get all twitterpated about a specialty beer that has a limited release, because odds are not only will they have it but they will be throwing an event in its honor.

Lots of Beer!

Lots of Beer!

Furthermore, they have a free to join program known as the Masters of Beer Appreciation, MBA that now has over 1550 Alumni whose names adorn the walls on plagues that are updated with each new graduating class. This beer aficionado’s dream come true, escorts the participant in a veritable world tour of some of the best brews that can be procured on a regular basis by the Clover. To add to the charm of this intoxicating self-guided tour, after you earn 15 and 30 credits, you receive a $15 clover gift card. After you earn 45 credits your name will be added to the wall as an M.B.A. graduate and you will be entitled to a 20oz pour instead of the standard 16oz pour the common folk receive. There are also accolades for completing multiple MBA programs, like receiving your Doctorate, but don’t get ahead of yourself sparky, one degree at a time.

Masters of Beer Appreciation

You know you want it!

As for the Cloverleaf’s culinary prowess, I have to say I was initially surprised with the caliber of food that I was served the first time I ordered one of their insanely good burgers. Not to say that pubs serving decent food are unheard of but, the food that the Clover is offering to its patron is not just good, it is “shiv your best friend for looking at the last bite of your food” good. I am not just talking about the burgers either; I have thoroughly explored their menu and have not been able to find one thing on it that was not excellent. On top of their regular tasty menu, the Clover offers a weekly specials menu that allows even the regulars to indulge in something different.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled, straight from the heavens, Pork Sandwich

On my most recent visit to the Cloverleaf, I was in the mood for some good old fashioned American Barbecue, and since it was lunchtime, I decided to go with the Pulled Pork Sandwich served with homemade coleslaw, a pickle, and I opted to swap the fried for their jaw-dropping beer battered Onion Rings all for $10.99. One of the best things about The Clover is that even though they serve prodigious food and astounding beers they consistently keep their meals affordable for us Blue Collar folks that still want great tasting grub.

Onion Rings

Crispity Crunchity

When it arrived, the smell was utterly divine, and the pulled pork was blended with a BBQ sauce that was unearthly. Each bite of this sandwich sent shock waves of flavor from my mouth to my stomach, which in turn sent hate mail to my brain for only ordering one. After forcing myself to put down a sandwich that could only be described by using a made up word such as, amazeballs, I tasted one of the Onion Rings that were recommended by our awesome waiter, whose name I can’t remember because I am a horrible person, and I was in love… With the Onion Rings, not my waiter, I don’t think Kat would have been amused if it was the other way around. To add to these crispy and tangy fried rings of yummy, I dipped one into the Maker’s Mark Gourmet Sauce that the Clover places on each and every table, and I thought I had died and went to Texas, which as everyone knows is what BBQ heaven is called.

Maker's Mark Gourmet Sauce

Saucey Sauce Sauce

The moral of this article is that if you like food and/or beer and have not entered the hallowed walls of The Cloverleaf Tavern then you should be removed from the foodie guild immediately. Luckily, as a card carrying member of both the Clover and the Foodie Guild of America, or the FGA, which I just made up and am imposing an instant trademark on, I have talked both organizations into an amnesty program. They both agree that if you take it upon yourself to get your ass to the Cloverleaf before the summer is over; you will still be allowed to be a member of the FGA. Seriously though, all it will take is one visit to the Cloverleaf Tavern, and you will be sending angry emoticons to all of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, for not alerting you to this food and beer sanctuary earlier.

Cloverleaf Tavern on Urbanspoon

The Iron Horse Serves A Burger Unlike Any Other

As the days last longer and the sun gets warmer, my stomach forces my brain to envision wonderful afternoons spent in backyards whilst the wafting aroma of seared meats fills the air. The days of summer will soon be upon us, which means, hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken that have been flame kissed to perfection will be as easy to procure as a joint at Snoop Dogg’s house. The problem is I suffer from a little known ailment referred to as Impatient Seasonal Cravitis, so I tend to get a hankering for certain seasonal food well before they are readily available. Okay so I made that word up, but it’s true I crave certain time sensitive cuisine worse than Paris Hilton pines for attention. Sometimes, unfortunately, due to time restraints or New Jersey’s finicky weather, I can’t as Paul Hogan would say, “light up the barbie.”

Iron Horse Front Door

One of these climate related cravings that always seems to inflict me around this time of year is the good old fashioned American hamburger. But, since I am an intelligent Gastro scientist I keep an up to date foodie approved list of acceptable places to score a plump juicy summer puck inside my coconut at all times. At the very top of this directory of meaty goodness, lies an eatery that serves a hamburger so tantalizing that if the Hamburglar himself ate just one of them he would kick himself in the nards repeatedly for wasting the prime of his criminal career trying to steal the sorry excuse for a burger that the golden arches is peddling. This amazing restaurant is none other than The Iron Horse, located at 20 Washington Avenue, in Westwood, New Jersey.

First and foremost, I want to explain to everyone that The Iron Horse has a rather extensive menu that is sure to please any and all guests. In fact, I have never been disappointed with anything I have ever ordered and subsequently eaten there over the almost decade that I have been a customer. With that said, if you are an Iron Horse Virgin, you must order a Cheeseburger with Rail Road Fries, Cole Slaw, and Pickles on your first visit. If you don’t plan on doing this, you might as well stop reading this article now and go back to updating your Facebook status with meaningless memes that no one cares about.

Iron Horse Burger

Now that we understand each other, let me explain why the Iron Horse’s Hamburger is something special. The Iron Horse not only serves burgers that are fantastically fresh and constructed out of 100% pure ground beef, they stuff these delicious meat muffins with scrumptious gooey cheeses of all types. I know what you’re thinking Mr. Jaded Pretentious Foodie man, everyone does that, why do I have to go to the Iron Horse when I can go to, fill-in-the blank, restaurant for a cheese stuffed burger. To that sir, I say, you can get a steak at some gas stations but wouldn’t you want to go to a steakhouse instead. The Iron Horse has been stuffing burgers since most hipsters where stuffing their pampers, so they have mastered the art of creating these orbs of yummy on a bun. If you are looking for the best stuffed cheese burger you have had in your life, you need not go to some far off land, you only need to drive to The Iron Horse, and let them blow your mind.

The restaurant itself has an amazing hometown appeal that very few places are able to create. This ora of local pride that every chain restaurant that requires their employees to wear pieces of flare is yearning for, naturally flows from The Iron Horse without any effort at all. The reason that The Iron Horse exudes this rare vibe and the T.G.I.Fridays’ of the world simply cannot is that The Iron Horse follows Yoda’s wise rule, “Do, or do not, there is no try.” The Iron Horse seems like they have hometown pride because they do, and that is something you just can’t fake.

For over 30 years they have been serving the community of Westwood and now serve over 150,000 customers a year. This charmingly rustic eatery has ample seating and damn near spans an entire block of the downtown district. Their walls are adorned with pictures that create a visual timeline of not only their history, but the history of the neighborhood as well. Furthermore, every time I visit The Iron Horse the staff is always very welcoming and extremely courteous.

Last week my wife, Kat, and I decided to have dinner at The Iron Horse before attending a friend’s birthday party. Normally it takes me forever to choose something to eat but at The Iron Horse, it is usually pretty simple. You see, they offer a Burger of the Month special, and I am a sucker for specials. I feel that a special is always better than a regular menu item because every Tom, Dick, and Harry can order a normal dish, but I, Michael, The Blue Collar Foodie, get to have something that no one else in the world might ever taste again. I know, I know, the special is usually just the stuff they could not sell yesterday in most places, but like I said I am a sucker for specials. What do you want from me? At least I can admit it.

Iron Horse Burger Selfie

On this joyous occasion, the Burger of the Month was particularly enticing because just reading the description made me want to jump into bed with it. I ordered the Old Number 7, which was described as, a burger stuffed with Boar’s Head horseradish white cheddar cheese, topped with Jack Daniels BBQ short ribs on a toasted Ciabatta roll served with their famous Railroad Tie fries, all for only $12.99. Kat decided to remain somewhat healthy and went with the Turkey Burger, which was described as a ground turkey patty served on a giant toasted English Muffin with cranberry mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and of course Railroad Tie Fries for the low, low price of $11.99.

In addition to the plethora of menu options the Iron Horse offers, they also provide a large selection of libations to pair with their appetizing entrée. Their beer selection includes all the usual suspects you would expect an old school eatery to have, such as Budweiser, Coors, and Miller, but The Iron Horse also provides a small but impressive list of craft beer for the beer snobs of the world. If craft beer is not your cup of tea, and you prefer a nice Chianti with your Fava Beans or a Martini shaken not stirred, have no fear, The Iron Horse has you covered as well with a full service bar.

Before our meals came to the table we were given our complimentary Cole Slaw and pickle plates which are a tradition at The Iron Horse. If you ask any of the regular customers, and there are quite a few, they will attest that this is one of the best parts of venturing to The Iron Horse. The Cole Slaw has no chemical taste to it, like so many other Cole Slaws that are an after thought at restaurants all over this country. The pickles are top notch and taste as if they came right out of a Jewish Deli located somewhere in Brooklyn. These small but satisfying appetizer is the perfect companion to any of the meals that The Iron Horse will serve you and I highly recommend getting it every time you eat there.

When my Old Number 7 came to the table, I could have sworn I heard the angelic singing of a cherub. The utter appearance of this gluttonous, cheese filled, hamburger made me happier than TMZ gets when Lil Wayne does something ridiculously stupid. The first bite of any of The Iron Horse’s burgers causes every taste bud that exists in your mouth to stand at attention like a police recruit saluting the flag. With every subsequent bite, you mourn the loss of a little more of this gift from the heavens. If you have ever tried to make a stuffed burger, or ordered one from most of the places that attempt to serve them, you know that after the first bite the structural integrity of the burger is usually compromised. This unfortunate breach of the burger’s hull sadly will allow all the cheesy goodness that was once trapped inside its meaty shell, to flow freely onto your shirt and pants before emptying the rest of this delectable treat onto your plate, as you curse Newton and his stupid gravity. I believe the Iron Horse may have made a deal with the devil because their burger does not follow the conventional rules of physics and somehow through the use of this dark magic retains all of its cheesy goodness throughout the entire meal. Just in case you were wondering, I am still having dreams, mostly dry now, of this burger, due to the addition of the short ribs that sat on top of this epicurean masterpiece.

Iron Horse Turkey Burger

Kat was nice enough to allow me to try her Turkey Burger, and I have to say, even though it was not stuffed with anything, the cranberry mayonnaise was a phenomenal addition to, in my opinion, what is generally a mundane meal option anywhere you go. I also enjoyed the giant English Muffin that this juicy and flavorful Turkey burger called its home.

Iron Horse Fries

Both of our meals included the Iron Horse’s famous Railroad Tie Fries, which, in my opinion, are the perfect hamburger cohort. These fries are somewhere between steak fries and shoestring fries with just the right amount of potato covered in a crispy skin that adds just the right amount of texture. I always opt to dip them into a side of BBQ sauce to add a small amount of kick that brings these already outstanding fries to another level all together.

As stated before, The Iron Horse offers a wide variety of extremely tasty food, which I implore you to try… AFTER and only after you have a chance to chew on what I consider the best Hamburger in Bergen County, if not the State of New Jersey. Not only does the Iron Horse serve up remarkable food at reasonable prices, I for one, love supporting local businesses that have deep roots in the community that they serve, and that describes this establishment flawlessly.

 

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The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Tierney’s CopperHouse in Fairfield, NJ

One of my favorite aspects of being a food blogger, or Gastronomer, is the fact that I get to chat about food all the time.  Food is something that I can talk about for hours on end and never get tired of telling tales of the perfect steak I once had in Nebraska, the greatest hot dog I ever ate in Chicago, or the time I ate nothing but meat at a Brazilian Barbecue spot in Newark for three hours straight.  These conversations usually lead to an enjoyable night of drinking and reminiscing, but they sometimes result in a wonderful payoff for this aspiring epicurean author.  In the midst of participating in these hedonistic, often embellished, tit for tat dialogues, if I am lucky one of the contributors might bring up a new restaurant that is not on my foodie radar.  When this happens, I can’t help but get excited because I have been doing this for quite some time now and finding eateries that inspire me is about as easy as combing the desert, for a princess, with an afro pick.

SpaceballsTrooper

Combing The Desert

This wonderful happenstance occurred the other night while I was out at a bar with friends.  Due to the fact that much like beautiful women and rich men, foodies tend to hang out with other foodies, our conversation soon turned to edibles, and we were immersed in a round of culinary “fish stories.”  During this sybaritic discussion, a friend of mine began talking about a Dry Aged 48 Oz Porterhouse they had heard wonderful things about that is served at a restaurant in Fairfield, NJ by the name of Tierney’s CopperHouse located at 4 Little Falls Rd. After hearing my fellow foodie friend describe this colossal slab of meat with adjectives that I have only seen on bathroom stalls of bars of ill repute, there was absolutely no way I was not going to pay the CopperHouse a visit.

Tierney's Copper House

Tierney’s Copper House

Considering, the Googles is the Watson to my Sherlock, I consulted it immediately.  While my 3G did my research for me, I found that the reason that Tierney’s CopperHouse was not on my radar was not because my radar lost its bleeps, sweeps, and creeps, but rather because Tierney’s CopperHouse just opened in April.  With that in mind, the fact that their fare was already being strewn about in epicurean blitzkriegs, like gourmet grenades, said something about this fledgling eatery.

As we approached the building, the first thing I noticed was that this was not a small establishment.  The expansive modern exterior looked quite alluring, even in the misty rain that decided to fall on us as we got out of our vehicle.  As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted at the door and escorted through the bar area, complete with a warm inviting brick fire place, into the gorgeous dining room.  Once seated, we were given our menus and we ordered our first round of drinks.  I was very pleased to see that Tierney’s CopperHouse offers a large selection of craft beers featuring some Cricket Hill selections, which are born and raised right in Fairfield, NJ.  This fact alone is worth getting off your couch and making your way to the Copperhouse, considering that Cricket Hill creates some of the finest beers in New Jersey, if not the country, and I am always overjoyed about the chance to drink a fresh draught out of a frosty mug. One great thing about fine dining in New Jersey, and just from the looks of this place I had a feeling I would be dining quite fine, is that the prices of beverages always seem to be much more reasonable than those over the river, and I don’t mean at Grandma’s house.

Warm Inviting Fire Place

Warm Inviting Fire Place

With our drink orders in, it was time we got down to the nitty-gritty, the most daunting task of any meal, ordering the main course.  I attempted to sway my partners in crime to assist me in devouring the TC Family Bedrock Steak, which weighs in at a formidable 64 Oz of meaty goodness, only because it would have been the largest steak I have ever ordered in my foodie career.  Alas, I was only able to convince one of my fellow patrons to join me on a gluttonous meaty adventure and therefore, we decided upon the aforementioned Dry Aged Porterhouse for two, which was accompanied with two sides of our choice, the grilled asparagus and Spinach Mushroom Quinoa, and rang up at $79.00.  Our better halves, that apparently did not want to eat damn near half a cow, opted for dishes that were slightly less excessive but sounded equally as appetizing, electing to order the Free Range Chicken described as an Amish free range half chicken paired with potatoes and asparagus for $19.00 and the TC Chicken Pot Pie described as free range chicken, carrots, Yukon gold potato, peas, corn, pearl onions, with puff pastry for a modest $14.00.

Tierney's Copperhouse Menu

Fancy!

The anticipation of this Fred Flintstone sized steak, which was in my mind carved from the flank of a Brachiosaurus, was causing me to salivate like a Pavlovian test subject.  Each time the kitchen door swung open, I was distracted from our polite diner conversation, in hopes that the server that exited was carrying our savory feast.  Sooner rather than later, my hopes were realized and our table was adorned by a plate that was only matched by the beauty of my wonderful wife. (10 points for me!)  Not to say that the other food that was delivered to our table did not look eye-catching, but I mean, come on people, this was a 48 Oz. Steak I was staring at; it is like comparing other girls to Marilyn Monroe, it is just not fair, not fair at all.  I could barely contain myself through the picture taking phase and almost said the hell with it, and dug in, but I was a virtuous little food blogger, and waited until all the photos were snapped before digging into the pre-cut slices of pure happiness that graced my plate.

48 Oz. Porterhouse Steak

48 Oz. Porterhouse Steak

If the price that I mentioned above frightened you away from ordering this behemoth steak, I want you to know that this steak damn near forced me to reevaluate my frugal tendencies.  Every bite I took was packed with flavor and only made me want to have another delectable morsel.  For those that are not math majors, I alone, ate 24 Oz. of this meatastic meal, and I think I could have eaten 24oz more.  Combined with the side dishes this meal was well worth the price tag and was a feast fit for a king.

The perfect porterhouse bite

The perfect Porterhouse Bite

Even though, it was hard for me to stop partaking in this succulent beef barrage, I had to force myself away to try the other dishes that were ordered.  I was lucky enough to be dining with people that support my gastro gallivanting and they had no qualms about me eating a small portion of their meals to uphold the integrity of my writing.

TC Chicken Pot Pie

TC’s Chicken Pot Pie

I tasted the TC Chicken Pot Pie first and it was delightful.   In my opinion, Chicken Pot Pie is an extremely tough dish to make because it must be perfectly seasoned and have the proper texture in order to really be a respectable dish when surrounded by other high end meals.  Executive Chef Jeff J. Orel has found that balance between comfortable and innovative, which is quite difficult mind you, and served us an amazing Pot Pie.

Tierney's Free Range Chicken

Tierney’s Free Range Chicken

Next up was the Free Range Chicken that was served in its natural au jus.  This dish was not dry, yet still had a crispy flavorful skin.  I have a hard time accomplishing this task cooking one chicken for two people, so the fact that the Chef was able to pull this off while cooking 20 other meals and balancing a whole kitchen staff is a complement to his skill and professionalism.

TC's Cheesecake

TC’s Cheesecake

It may have been the alcohol talking or I could have been a bit meat drunk, but even though I had just eaten two days’ worth of calories in one sitting, I had a hankering for desert.  My tablemates agreed that a nice sweet ending to our dinner would be appreciated, and we decided to share two plates between the four of us.  The dessert we decided upon was a slice of cheesecake that literally melted in our mouths and a chocolate Ganache cake that was so decadent that sugar itself is jealous of it.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Tierney’s CopperHouse is a must visit eatery for any foodie in the area that is looking for a cold craft beer paired with a phenomenal meal in a faultless setting.  For those of you that were scared off by the prices of these meals, if you check the menu out on the CopperHouses’ website I assure you, you can find something that is in your price range that will be just as amazing.  There are some restaurants that I eat at that are forgettable, this is not one of those places, after one meal at Tierney’s, I could sense that they are passionate about food, and I will be returning again and again, although next time I plan on conquering the 64 Oz. Bedrock, whether my companions consent or not!

Tierney’s CopperHouse

Address:
4 Little Falls Road, Fairfield, NJ 07004

Hours:

Mon. – Fri. 12:00PM – 12:00AM
Sat. 4:00PM – 12:00AM
Sun. 4:00PM – 10:00PM

Tierney's Copperhouse on Urbanspoon

The Best Pizzeria In Millville, NJ May Very Well Be The Best Pizzeria In The World!

New Jersey, in general seems to be everyone’s least favorite state, and to be honest our bulbous surly governor and the entire cast of the Jersey Shore does not help our cause. With this said, there are a few things that New Jersey is not only known for, but dare I say it actually loved for. First and foremost, we have Taylor Ham and you don’t, and if you are from this area you know all about this flavorful salty pork puck, that former Jersians crave so much, they have to make a yearly pilgrimage to a true New Jersey Diner just to get their fix. Secondly, New Jersey supplies its residents with bagels that are so damn tasty that no one seems to notice that this popular breakfast treat has about as much nutritional value as tree bark wrapped in bacon. Lastly, and at least in the context of this article most importantly, New Jersey is home to the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD! Calm down, New Yorkers, I can hear you cursing me out from across the G Dub, you are a close second, and seriously you are New York F-ing City, you beat us in every other category from Architecture to Zoos, so please let the red headed step child of the union that is New Jersey have this one.

Now that I have thrown the gauntlet down and expressed my love, no, obsession for New Jersey Pizza, and basically lost all of my readership from New York and Pennsylvania, I feel that I might as well further alienate myself, and piss off the New Jersey folks too, by proclaiming, in my opinion, which Pizzeria is slinging the best slice. Now, by making this statement I am breaking my own rule, which states one should never start a conversation which is bound to turn into a debate, and ultimately into a no holds barred battle royal, by bringing up politics, religion, or Pizzeria Prowess, but I have decided to throw caution to the wind and shout my declaration from the roof tops, or at least from the top of your internet browser. As I write this, I am anticipating a crap load of hate mail from every Tony, Don, and Horatio that trolls around the internet looking for blogs to flame, but remember first place is a lot like the Highlander, there can only be one, and this foodie, unlike our society today, does not hand out participation medals, so send your nasty grams somewhere else. Now without further ado, I, The Blue Collar Foodie, from atop my virtual soap box, proclaim, with the entire internets as my witness, that BIMS Pizza, located at 618 E. Main St. in Millville, NJ, is the indisputable champion of the Pizza World.

BIM's

BIM’s

As you enter BIM’s, which stands for Best In Millville, you will be greeted by Joe Pierce, owner, Chef, sole employee, and story teller extraordinaire who has been tossing pizzas around Cumberland County for over 35 years. This house, turned pizza shop, is literally a one man show, and Joe Pierce has been there from the beginning, taking orders, and making pizza. Surrounded by a seemingly endless army of conveyor belt frozen pizza shops that are taking over New Jersey towns much like the outlaws did in the Wild West, Joe, like a modern day Pizza Sherriff, remains persistent and dedicated to making fresh, consistently fantastic pizza for his loyal customers on a daily basis.

Joe Pierce

Joe Pierce, Owner, Operator, Chef, and Pizza Sheriff

BIM’s is not like your ordinary pizza shop; they don’t make chicken wings, meatballs, sandwiches, or salads, hell they don’t even sell slices. What they do sell, however, is a pizza pie in several sizes that is made fresh to order, using homemade dough and sauce which is made daily on the premises. Even though Pizza is all you can get at BIM’s that does not mean you can’t customize that pizza to experience a new BIM’s masterpiece each and every time you visit. They offer the following toppings that can be added to your pie for a nominal fee; Extra Cheese, Double Thick Crust, Pepperoni, Sweet Sausage, Mushrooms, Sweet Green Peppers, Anchovies, Onions, Bacon, Black Olives, Broccoli, Tomato, Garlic, and Hot Peppers.

Bim's Pizza

Customized BIM’s Pizza

The Pizza at BIM’s is so damn good that I travel two hours and thirty minutes just to eat a few slices, before heading back to North Jersey until the craving strikes again. BIM’s expertly prepared pizza has many levels of perfection that when combined create a pie that is out of this world. Like all pizzas the first level, and the canvas to this piece of artwork, is the crust. BIM’s pizza is constructed on fresh hand-made and hand-tossed dough that when cooked crisps to just the right amount of awesome. Piled on top of this righteous crust is a home-made sauce that balances between sweet and savory flawlessly, and then Joe invites not one type of cheese, but two to join the party. This combination of cheese and sauce eventually turns into a masterful blend of gooey yumminess once the oven has done its magic. The result is a pizza pie unlike any other, because all the recipes are a Pierce family secret and therefore cannot be duplicated, believe me I have tried.

Building The Perfect Pizza

Building The Perfect Pizza

If you plan on visiting BIM’s you will not only get to taste the single greatest Pizza to ever grace the inside of a Pizza Oven, you will also get to meet and perhaps even hear a story or two from Joe. Much like the small business owners of yesteryear, Joe, embraces the idea of customer service and actually enjoys what he does, including interacting with his customers. Whether the conversation is about Millville, The Phillies, The Eagles, fishing, or life in general, Joe has a way of simplifying things and imparting wisdom about virtually any topic, like a zen pizza making life Sherpa, all the while continuing to take phone orders, toss dough, make pizzas, and restock extras. Joe epitomize the ethos of what a small business owner used to be and in a world where this style of business ownership is dwindling to damn near extinction, it is great to see that some people refuse to allow it to disappear forever.

Building The Perfect Pizza

Joe Multitasking

Attempting to explain the wonderfulness of a BIM’s pizza is much like trying to describe the Mona Lisa to a blind person. A person without sight, might mistake this extraordinary painting for just another portrait of a female, just as one might look at a BIM’s pizza and merely think that it is just another mundane pie. If, however, through the miracle of science that very same blind person’s sight was somehow restored, they would easily see that it is the intricate detail that makes Mona a true work of genius. Luckily for you though, you don’t need scientific intervention to have the same realization about BIM’s pizza, you only have to taste it to see the light. I assure you that after that first bite, you will be hooked on BIM’s like The Blue Collar Foodie is addicted to Bacon.

The Perfect Pie

The Perfect Pie

There are a few things you should know before you go to BIM’s Pizzeria. As stated before this establishment is an epic one man show and the operating hours reflect that. BIM’s is open Wednesday to Sunday from 4 P.M. to approximately 10 P.M. Furthermore, BIM’s is a cash only restaurant, so leave your plastic at home. Lastly BIM’s does not have tables, so in order to eat your remarkable pizza pie you must pick it up and go elsewhere or get it delivered to your house.

BIM’s motto is,” We specialize in pizza because pizza is the only thing we make,” which can be found on their menu as well as a sign that hangs in the shop. This phrase scares some people off, because they want variety but I suggest that you embrace this unique singularity. BIM’s does not have 101 different items on the menu because Joe concentrates on his one true passion, Pizza, and anything else would only distract him from creating the best Pizza Pie on the planet!

Damn That Is Pretty

Damn That Is Pretty!

Bim's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Morris Tap & Grill for a Beer Paired With a Side Of Awesome

If there is one specific type of eatery that exemplifies the Blue Collar Foodie movement that I have been trying to showcase throughout my blogging career it would have to be the Gastro Pub.  These establishments combine good old fashioned blue collar elements with a twist of foodie flair causing epicurean adventurers like myself to flock to them like Charlie Sheen to a dysfunctional twenty- something with daddy issues.  Since this movement is catching like wild fire, it is hard to keep up with all the Gastro Pubs that are popping up faster than a New York Mets fan gives up on the season, but one specific Pub caught my interest a while back and I vowed to pay them a visit.   I am referring to none other than Morris Tap & Grill, located at 500 Route 10 West in Randolph, NJ.

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill has been on my radar since they damn near slapped me sober with foodie brilliance at the Morris Town Beer Fest.  Since that day I knew I needed to make the trek down to Randolph to try the full MTG experience.   So, Kat and I made plans to meet with another Gastro Centric couple, Brian and Kristen, who are from those parts and head over to Morris Tap & Grill for a fun-filled evening of tempting vittles and libations.

When we arrived at the Morris Tap & Grill, I was surprised to hear the harmonious hums of a live band jamming out in the bar area.  Much to my delight the band was playing at the perfect level as to add to the ambience of the restaurant but still allow pleasant dinner conversation at a normal speaking tone.  If you are anything like my past self you may have just shot the computer screen a derision-laden glare in response to that comment, and most likely thought of me as an old fuddy duddy who does not like his music loud anymore.  I assure you, I still feel there is a time and place for loud music, but while I am trying to eat dinner is not one of them, so I was very happy that the Morris Tap & Grill were savvy enough to take that into consideration.

Upon reaching our table and meeting up with our fellow foodies, we were almost immediately welcomed by our server Katrina who offered us our Menu’s and whole hearted greeting, which was appreciated immensely.  I seem to be able to tell a greeting that is laced with contrived emotions, but Katrina honestly seemed like she enjoyed her job and was happy to help us, which instantly set the mood for our dining experience.

Beer Flight

Beer Flight

My first mission when I visit a Gastropub is the challenging task of picking my first beer of the evening.  If you have never been to a Gastropub, you may not have ever had this issue, but once you venture down the rabbit hole that is craft beers you will find that sometimes selecting a beer can be as hard as catching the white rabbit.  So, if you are an over analytical beer fanatic like me and you find yourself staring at an extensive and impressive beer list the likes of the Morris Tap & Grills,  this process could take several minutes and some arduous decision making, which may cause your wife and friends to stare at you with an ominous ire as their stomachs grumble.  Fortunately, Morris Tap & Grill has once again thought of this problematic situation before you even walked in the door, and are nice enough to offer what is known as a flight of beers as the solution.   For anyone that has never had a flight of beer, it is quite simply, four small beers instead of one big beer, which allows you to taste multiple beers instead of only choosing one.  With the knowledgeable assistance of Katrina, I was able to piece together my beer flight and our drink orders were on their way to the bar.

With our first undertaking considered to be success we moved onto our next imperative task of the evening, our meals.   I am not sure what is more comprehensive and grandiose, the Morris Tap & Grill’s beer menu or there dinner menu, but one thing is for certain, they both can make a Blue Collar Foodie salivate like a German Shepard at Pavlov’s B&B.  Since, I knew that I was attending Morris Tap & Grill and was already their friend on Facebook, I launched a pre-emptive attack on my ever-wavering entrée contemplation, and asked the MTG what they suggest I eat to fully experience their Chef’s culinary modus operandi.  Much to my surprise, Chef Eric Levine, himself wrote me back and suggested a few dishes that he felt a Blue Collar Foodie, such as me would enjoy.   Chef Eric recommended the following dishes; the Trio of bacon, the Pork Shank, any of the Burgers, particularly the Baconeater, the Southwest, or the BBQ, The Shrimp cannelloni, the Twisted Chicken Pot Pie, and finally the Avocado “Fillet.”  If you follow this blog at all you know damn well which dish I chose!  Chef Eric Sir you had me at Trio of Bacon.  My beautiful wife, Kat spun the gastronomy roulette wheel and it landed on the Short Ribs, which she is drawn to like a teenager to a sparkling vampire. Brian decided to stick to the Chef’s recommendations which was also highly indorsed by Katrina and went with Twisted Chicken Pot Pie where as his lovely lady also chose off the Chef Eric approved list and decided upon the BBQ burger.  We also ordered a Spinach Artichoke Dip for the table to prime our stomachs for the meals that were forthcoming.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

With most of the decision making behind us, we were able to absorb the overall atmosphere of the Morris Tap & Grill.  I felt quite at home within the rustic yet elegant confines of this eatery and as we lost ourselves in conversation our appetizer arrived at the table.  The Spinach Artichoke dish that arrived on our table carried with it such a heavenly aroma that I was barely able to take a picture of it before everyone at our table was jockeying for position to dive into it.  As I dipped my first chip into this diptastic concoction, I could tell the texture was just right.  Firm enough to stay on the chip, but forgiving enough to not break this conveyance vessel.  This potion was not only the right consistency but the flavor was spot-on as well, let’s just say that once it landed on our table, it was not long for this world.  After polishing off the Spinach Dip, we ordered another round of drinks from Katrina, and shortly after their arrival the entrees made their appearance.

Trio of Bacon!

Trio of Bacon!

The Trio of Bacon consisted of Mustard & Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, Bacon Baked Beans, and Grilled Pork Belly.  From the shear looks of this dish, I could tell right away that I had made the proper choice.  I first tried the hearty Baked Beans which had a thick palatable sauce which smothered the copious amounts of bacon that were swimming with the beans.  The beans packed quite a flavor punch, and I found myself eating bite after bite, before moving on to the Pork Loin, which was expertly cooked, causing the medallions to be not only delicious but tender as well.  Lastly I picked up a piece of the Grilled Pork Belly with my fork and brought it to my mouth slowly with anticipation.  You see, in the healthy world we live in now, eating Pork Belly is tantamount to calling the Queen of England a, well let’s just say a word that rhymes with punt and starts with a C, shall we.  Yet these tasty morsels of piggy goodness are what my stomach’s wet dreams are made of, and I cannot thank Morris Tap & Grill enough for affording me the opportunity of savoring every last bite of these perfectly cooked cholesterol loaded pork gems.

PORK BELLY

PORK BELLY

Kat was generous enough to allow me a small taste of her short ribs so I could experience, in her words, all their beefy magnificence.  After I tasted her dish, TWSS, I completely understood why she wanted me to try it.  First off, the ribs were cooked in such a way that the meat literally fell apart, as Kat gently poked them with her fork.  Furthermore, the meat was so tender and the sauce so tasty that I had to eat another piece of my pork belly to stop from distracting Kat, and stealing another piece off her plate.

Short Ribs

Short Ribs

I was also afforded the opportunity to try Brian’s Twisted Chicken Pot Pie and Kristen’s Burger.  The Twisted Chicken Pot Pie, consisted of all the standard ingredients of chicken pot pie, but instead of being in a pie crust, Chef Eric stuffs those ingredients inside the chicken itself.  I find normal chicken pot pie to be rather hum-drum so this inventive twist was a welcomed changed.  It also helped that it tasted better than any pot pie that has ever graced my well versed spoon.  As for the burger, it was perfectly cooked and chock full of flavor.

Twisted Chicken

Twisted Chicken

I am not one for dessert right after my meal.  I would much rather allow the flavors that I just assaulted my taste buds with to loiter a while, and I feel that dessert hinders this effect.  With that said, while perusing the MTG menu one particular item caught my eye, and I felt that I would be doing every one of you a disservice if I did not at least try it.  Morris Tap & Grill offers something that I have never heard of before, listed as beer cocktails on the menu.  I was so intrigued by this concept I simply had to order one of them.   I opted for the one that utilized Left Hand’s Nitro Chocolate Stout as its base, and rolled the proverbial dice. This drink consisted of the Stout, Espresso Vodka, Godiva Vodka, and Chambord, topped off with a Chocolate Drizzle. When this creation hit my lips I was forced to rethink everything I ever claimed to know about beer and liquor, so much so that I had to memorize a new rhyme.  Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear, Beer before liquor you will never be sicker, Liquor in beer and Holy shit that’s good!  Alright I am still working on the Rhyme, but you get my point, order one, you will thank me.

Chocolate Beer Concoction

Chocolate Beer Concoction

I, for one enjoy the almost ironic, albeit Alanis Morissette irony not actual irony, feeling of eating proper foodie fare in a pub like environment paired with a craft beer, instead of wine.  This duality is the exact reason that I love Gastro Pubs!  These wonderful establishments, Morris Tap &Grill included, embody the very essence of being a Blue Collar Foodie.  Sometimes I wish I was not a foodie, my life would be easier if I could stuff my craw with bland mush and tasteless chops, but then I visit places like Morris Tap & Grill and with one forkful, edible enlightenment this notion is whisked away and replaced with yet another blissful epicurean memory.

Morris Tap and Grill on Urbanspoon

Muscle Maker Grill Is A Welcomed Change To The Often Mundane and Unhealthy Fast Food Culture

 Your Health In Mind

     For some foodies the rudimentary idea of calorie counting, dieting, and eating healthy is an unfathomable notion.  These words and phrases in the foodie community can be met with the ire of a grandmother that just heard their innocent little angel drop the C-word, and you all know what C-word, I am talking about, THE ONE AND ONLY C-WORD!  The thought that any meal that is good for you, simply could not taste even half-way decent, is extremely widespread throughout the foodie community.  So, as I got older, and my pants got tighter, I thought my days of being a foodie were over.  I grieved longer that Artie Lange did, when he found out that Hostess Cakes went out of business, thinking I would have to eat turnip salads with okra nuggets for the rest of my life.  Fortunately, I learned through necessity that this notion is and always was completely untrue.  Not only can healthy food be just as delicious as unwholesome food, but one can splurge every now and again on bacon wrapped bacon bites, as long as it is not every day.

RIP TWINKIE

Rest In Peace, Indeed

For those of you who still are under the impression that nutritious food can’t tantalize your palate I suggest that you make a voyage to Muscle Maker Grill and check out their healthy yet scrumptious offerings.   I will pause for a moment to allow the grumpy cat fan club grumble and murmur about chain restaurants, and how they destroy the very fabric of foodie culture, and blah, blah, pretentious know-it-all gibberish, blah.  Are you good now haters?  You got that out of your system?  Can we move on?  Sure, Muscle Maker is a chain restaurant, but my problem with franchises has nothing to do with the idea of them ruining some silly pompous notion of the epicurean elite, I have always found that they tend to scrimp on ingredients, forget about freshness, and serve calorie laden unimaginative meals, once they turn to the dark side of the gastro-force.  Thankfully, this is not the case with Muscle Maker Grill.  The Muscle Maker Grill that I chose to visit for the purpose of this review is located at 14-29 River Road, in Fair Lawn, NJ, but that is the beauty of franchises, you can search to find one closer to you.

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

Before ordering from Muscle Maker, Kat and I went for a rather vigorous two hour hike and neither of us was in any mood to cook, so we decided to get take-out, before we started Googleing recipes that involved cooking and eating our dogs and cats.  (Relax PETA people, I am joking, I love my pets like family.  Furthermore, why are you reading a foodie blog? Go eat some kale that is dressed with your salty tears because you are crying about how the pesticides that treated your organic shrubbery that you are eating most likely killed a dozen bugs.)  Kat and I inspected the menu and found that the selection at Muscle Maker was much larger than we expected, and to add to the robust selection, when ordering most of the menu items, you can choose the type of protein you would like to have in your meal.  In addition, every menu item lists the caloric intake for the entire world to see, unlike many other “fast food,” restaurants that conceal the nutritional information of their food, as if they were protecting Carmen San Diego.

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego

Carmen San Diego

Kat and I both chose the El Mexicana, which is described as fajita grilled chicken breast or steak, sizzling onions and peppers, reduced fat cheddar cheese, and salsa over brown rice and beans, garnished with tomatoes and scallions for $9.99.  Kat decided on the chicken breast, while I chose to upgrade my order, and went with the shrimp.  As I was on my way to pick up the order, I began to have orders’ remorse,  I was very nervous that healthy merely meant small portions that are designed to fill up a dainty bird like lady, not a large land mammal such as myself.  I fretted and worried the entire drive over to the establishment, and then even more while I fidgeted with my phone at the counter while my food was placed into bags.  With our Muscle Maker Grill in hand, I raced back to the house, filled with apprehension and foodie anxiety.

As I removed our meals from their plastic confines, I was relieved to see that my trepidation was all for not.   The food not only smelled and looked fantastic, which is a feat in amongst itself while be housed in take-out containers, but the portion size was extremely generous.  I began to eat my entrée and observed that the ingredients all fused together flawlessly to create a tremendous amalgamation of zesty flavor.  There was no one ingredient that overpowered the dish, and half way through eating it I completely forgot that this flavorsome meal was low in calories and chock full of nutritious morsels.  I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the menu, that each of these entrees is large enough for two servings, but I was definitely full when I was done with my meal.

El Mexicana from Muscle Maker Grill

Our Meal

All in all, Muscle Maker Grill provides healthy food at the speed of most fast food joints, and the prices are sensible to boot.  As the heartless cold nights of winter give way to the warm embracing days of spring, even foodies have to begin to think about shedding some of the winter weight their hibernation has welcomed.  So, next time you are too tired to cook, don’t grab a Big Mac or some Lo Mein; give Muscle Maker Grill a whirl, your belt and pants will thank you.

Muscle Maker Grill Fair Lawn on Urbanspoon

Old San Juan Makes The Blue Collar Foodie Say ¡Wepa!

One of the phenomenal luxuries of living in Bergen County New Jersey is the never ending list of culinary quests that one can embark on, within mere minutes of their residence.  There are very few cuisines that a simple Google search cannot turn up five or more restaurants within a reasonable proximity.  So, when I do have the opportunity to visit a restaurant that is sharing a scarce delicacy that I normally have to venture into New York City for, I get rather excited, especially when I score a Groupon for said indulgence.   The style of gastronomy that I am referring to is none other than Puerto Rican food, and the establishment that is delivering this tantalizing fare to the Bergen County area is Old San Juan, located at 165 Route 46 West in Saddle Brook, NJ.

From the outside, this restaurant seems quite unassuming, mainly due to ear defiling noise and the unpleasant eye contamination that occurs when your next door neighbor is a bustling freeway.   Thankfully, once you enter Old San Juan you are whisked away from this suburban netherworld and brought to a veritable wonderland of peace and tranquility, complete with the heavenly aroma that only accompanies the wonderful cuisine of the islands.  When Kat and I entered the restaurant we were instantly greeted by a smiling face and escorted to our table promptly, which is always appreciated.  Furthermore, the modern, fresh, and clean interior design seemed to comfort Kat and I, almost immediately.

Old San Juan

Old San Juan Exterior

Once we were seated we were given menus from our waitress and she took our drink order as well.   Old San Juan, like most non-chain restaurants in New Jersey does not have a liquor license but they do allow you to bring your own bottles of wine or beer.  In addition Old San Juan offers an added bonus of B.Y.O.B Sangria, which allows you to supply the wine which they will serve with their own blends of fruits, creating an island inspired cocktail that pairs perfectly with Puerto Rican Food.   Kat and I perused the menu and after some serious deliberation we made our selections and signaled the waitress to join us once again.

If you have ever used a Groupon before you are well aware that there are specific guidelines to follow for each and every Groupon that you purchase and in order to take advantage of the substantial discounts, these rules must be followed.   I always present my Groupon to the server before I begin the ordering process.  The reason I do this, is because some of the regulations can be somewhat convoluted and the wait staff will be able to guide you down the path that allows you to use your Groupon at the end of the night.  There is nothing worse than attempting to pay for a bill with a Groupon and finding out there is an issue with using the deal, because of something you ordered.  Our Groupon stipulated that we could order 1 appetizer and 2 entrees, so we chose the Tostones Rellenos de Pernil , Stuffed Plantain with Pork, for $10.95.  Kat then ordered Churrasco, Skirt Steak, for the reasonable price of $21.95, while I decided upon the Pargo Rojo Entero, Whole Red Snapper, in a garlic sauce, for a sensible $23.95.  Each of our meals came with a choice of rice and beans, plantains, or a salad as a side dish, but considering that going to a Puerto Rican restaurant and opting to not try the rice and beans is tantamount to giving a purple nurple to a UFC fighter, we wisely chose the rice and beans to accompany our meal.

Roast Pork stuffed Plantain

Roast Pork Stuffed Plantain

When our appetizer arrived, I knew we were in for a treat.  Not only was the presentation of this traditional Puerto Rican dish exquisite, it smelled so damn good I almost divorced Kat on the spot so I could marry the chef, regardless of his or her sexual orientation.  Kat and I each took a forkful of the mountain of roast pork that was erupting out of the crispy fried plantain, which soon joined the pork on our fork, and took our first bite in unison.  The noises that we made after that first bite are usually heard in sleazy hotel rooms located on highways, not restaurants, but we did not care, because it was that good.  The textures married perfectly with each bite while the flavors hopped, skipped, and jumped across our taste buds.   When our waitress delivered our appetizer she pointed out that our table was equipped with homemade hot sauce that she warned was very hot.  Kat and I might as well be the co-presidents of the Hot Sauce Fan Club, so we did not heed the waitresses warning at first and added a little bit too much hot sauce to one forkful of yummy which started a five alarm fire on our tongues that was not easily quenched.  After our battle, we experimented with different amounts of this forceful yet flavorful sauce and found just the right quantity to use, which added tremendous taste without scorching the earth.

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce

Shortly after we finished our appetizer our main courses arrived.  As our dishes were delivered, we noticed that once again the presentation was lovely and the portions were generous to say the least. Kat’s skirt steak was at least 12 ounces and my Red Snapper probably weighed in at 2 pounds.  Kat and I began to eat our entrees and all semblance of conversation ceased for at least 5 minutes.  We were mesmerized by the food that was brought to our table.   My fork tender, juicy, Snapper was swimming in a butter garlic sauce that heightened the snapper’s natural flavor tenfold.   Kat’s expertly prepared, tender steak was served with a Chimichurri sauce that was delicate yet delicious, not overpowering like so many others I have tasted.  As for the rice and beans, it would not be a complete Puerto Rican meal without them; they were the perfect side dish to an amazing meal.

Red Snapper With Garlic Sauce

Red Snapper With Garlic Sauce

If you are like me and you are looking to explore the world one plateful at a time, I highly recommend Old San Juan.  Everything we tried was terrific and prepared exactly how we asked for it.  In addition, even without the Groupon, the prices are reasonable and the service was fantastic.   In the lovely words of the land that inspired this beautiful meal, ¡Wepa!

 

Puerto Rico

Even the Fish Loves Puerto Rico

Old San Juan on Urbanspoon