It was my first time to New Jersey. We got a great room in East Brunswick for three nights, and it would serve as our base for New York City over the coming weekend.
On our first morning, we headed south to the Hightstown Diner for breakfast. As we were heading into town, which was remarkably beautiful, we noticed a big yard sale and pulled over. We gave it a good going over scouring for bargains and I found a copy of Julia Child’s 1989 book, The Way To Cook. I picked it up for three bucks (even though I knew I would have to haul it about 6,000 miles to get it home. I’ve got it now and it’s a nice addition to my library. By the way, they had her kitchen on display at the Smithsonian and it was a real treat to check it out. We were just in Santa Barbara and went to her favorite taco stand, La Super Rica. Of course, any excuse to check out a taqueria works for me. In addition to watching Julia, I remember how much I loved to watch The Galloping Gourmet. I was just a boy when it first came out, but I’ve been a foodie my whole life. It’s no wonder I would grow up to watch the Food Network.
The Hightstown Diner was great. The girls there were real friendly and the manager brought us over a free chocolate cookie, fresh out of the oven. Anna ordered a Belgian waffle with whipped cream and I had a few bites (I was saving room for the Bayway Diner). By all appearances, the people who live in Hightstown have it good. The diner is light and bright, clean, roomy, with great food and great service (at a great price too).
We headed north, with the Bayway Diner in our sights. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to order, but I knew it would be something good. I was thinking along the lines of a big goopy breakfast sandwich with sausage, eggs and cheese. The Bayway is also special because it was Guy’s first DDD location. We pulled up and my heart sank to find they were closed. They’d had a kitchen fire and they were repairing the damage.
We wiped away the tears and headed even farther north for the White Manna Burgers in Hackensack. Unbeknownst to us, the drive would took us right past Manhattan and we got to see that from afar. I never saw it with the twin towers (which is a shame). We pulled in and got all set to eat the sliders and watch the grill work. We ordered four of the little sliders with cheese and an order of fries (which are cooked in the back). It was a novelty and a fun little outing.
Now that we’d had some lunch, it was time to head over to the Tick Tock Diner and try a little dessert. The place is huge and our waitress was slammed. We ordered the Elvis Shake which has vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and banana. It was frosty good (despite the very long wait—the waitress had to make it herself when she was finally able to get around to it). It’s too bad we couldn’t “Eat Heavy” but we had big plans for dinner and had to save room.
We jumped in the car and headed back south for the Jersey Shore and the seaside town of Belmar. We spotted the 10th Ave. Burrito Co. and had time to go check out the Jersey Shore before dinner. We walked down the boardwalk as long as we could stand it, but it was freezing cold and the wind coming off the ocean was blowing right through our jackets. It was beautiful however, with big houses and wide beaches. The boardwalk seemed to go on forever and I would have liked to keep exploring.
We were decidedly hungry by the time we got to 10th Ave. Burrito Co. We got a great table up front, and a friendly server named Lisa who took great care of us. We told her we had driven all the way from Southern California and that we were touring DDD places all across the country. She blurted out, “Shut up” (in a good way of course). We chatted quite a bit except that she had other tables that needed her attention.
We started off with an order of nachos which were deeply satisfying (especially with the chipotle cream sauce on top). I ordered a Grilled Steak Burrito for dinner and Anna ordered a house specialty of Pan-Seared Chicken in Adobo Cream Sauce over Rice and topped with Cheese. The ingredients were super fresh, which seemed strange being so far from home (where we take freshness for granted). I knew we were going to love the food, which is why I made sure we arrived hungry. The nachos were so good we could have just had another order for dinner and rolled out of there happy.
Lisa brought the chef/owner, Brian, out to meet us, and explained that we had driven there from Southern California. Guess what he said? If you guessed, “Shut up” then you get a gold star. I was happy to tell Brian that we saved the best for last and we weren’t disappointed. I only wish we could have eaten more. Brian was gracious and chatted with us for a few minutes; which gave us the opportunity to tell him how much we enjoyed watching him with Guy on DDD.
We had the best time and hated to leave. It’s the kind of experience we’d like to have at every DDD place we go to. As we were getting close to leaving, Lisa brought out a 10th Ave. Burrito Co. tee shirt and told me that Brian wanted me to have it. I was really moved, and it’s a great looking shirt. It’s a dark forest green with a logo and some cool artwork on the front, and the back says, “Eat Burritos!” which is succinctly put. Not only do I treasure the gift, but I hope to cross paths with Brian again some day. He’s a special guy and a shining example of why we love the show so much in the first place. Great food and great places are a lot of fun. But the thing that means the most to us is the people. I love to see people following their passions and doing what they love.
On our last morning in New Jersey, we stopped for breakfast at the Brownstone Diner and Pancake Factory. It’s a very attractive building and it was nice inside too. There was a waiting list (Mother‘s Day), but the wait wasn’t too long. We both ordered pancakes (go figure) and they were golden, brown and delicious. We gobbled them up and were on our way to the Holland Tunnel. I didn’t want to drive in Manhattan, but if you want to get your car to Connecticut from New Jersey, there’s not too many good alternatives (if any). We didn’t hit any DDD spots in New York, but I will write about our big weekend in New York under the Food Network.
We pulled out of the city and headed for the Black Duck Café in Westport, Connecticut. It was a little after nine by the time we got there (later than I anticipated). The place was empty. I ordered a beer and had a look around the place (lots of cool boat racing stuff). I didn’t see the point in holding up the kitchen (and we still had some driving to do) so we decided not to stay and eat. We stopped for the night in New Haven. Being in New Haven, I really wish we could have sampled the burgers at Louis’ Lunch, but they are closed on Sundays and Mondays and we just didn’t have the time to hang out till Tuesday. In case you missed it, Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian says the burgers at Louis’ Lunch are the best he’s ever had and the ultimate in hamburger flavor. I hope to make it back to New Haven some day, because if I do, it will be to visit my friend, Irwin Schiff.
We got a great night’s sleep, had a leisurely morning, and headed for lunch at Crazy Burger in Narragansett, Rhode Island. It’s a funky place alright. Funky décor and a funky menu. We ordered two of the burgers: a patty melt, and a gorgonzola burger. The food was okay, but it seemed a little under-seasoned which disappointed. The service was perfunctory at best, and the owner wasn’t in. We rolled out of there kind of blah, but looking forward to a fun-filled day exploring Newport.
We found some free parking on Bellevue just off the main drag, and struck out for the “Cliff Walk” which is about three miles long and change. It sounded perfect. Obscenely large mansions on one side, the open ocean on the other, three miles… what’s not to love? The only thing that could have made it better was a seafood shack and some dancing girls. The Cliff Walk started easy, but it sure didn’t end that way. I was determined to get to the other end, because that’s how I roll. The farther we went however, the more arduous the “walk” became. We were jumping across boulders, ledge walking some retaining walls/fences, and the farther we went the more desolate, dreary and cold it got.
We finally made it to the other end and were rewarded with a park bench to sit and take a much needed rest. We struck out for the Breakers, a famous mansion, and wanted to see the fronts of all the mansions that we had seen the backs of. It was a long walk indeed, with no benches anywhere. By the time we made it back to the Breakers, Anna could hardly walk. Her feet were blistered, and we had just finished two long grueling days humping up and down Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. I pleaded with Anna to stop and wait for me to come back with the car, but she insisted on pushing on (cause she’s a trooper and that’s how she rolls).
We got to see a lot of interesting sights, but it ended up being over seven miles; which is a little more than we bargained for. It’s a good thing we made it back too because I think her legs were about ready to quit working altogether. Needless to say, we were good and hungry by the time we drove up to Tiverton for dinner at Evelyn’s Drive-In.
Evelyn’s is a nice destination. The weather was warm enough to sit outside on the patio and enjoy the water and the setting sun. We ordered a fish and chips dinner and a BLT to knock the hunger off. The food was excellent, and our server was great. We really couldn’t have asked for a nicer experience (which is one of the advantages of watching DDD).
Everything was just great—until the bill came. I’m sure the whole thing was a fluke, but I’m going to share it with you anyway. The outdoor dining is adjacent to the parking lot where our car was parked. In the back of the car, we had plenty of bottled water that we hauled all the way from home (thousands of miles). Evelyn’s doesn’t have an indoor public bathroom and so we figured they didn’t want to serve us their tap water (or if they even have tap water). We asked for water and the woman inside gave us two bottles of water, and we didn’t think anything of it. That was my mistake, and I made a poor assumption. According to the menu board inside, most of their market price seafood dinners were in the twenty dollar range or higher. We didn’t ask for bottled water, so we just figured that’s what they serve (if their tap water isn’t palatable). How much does a bottle of water cost, 10 cents? The bill came and I nearly fell out of my chair to discover that they wanted to charge us two bucks each for the water. Having our own bottled water in the car just a few feet away, you can imagine how upsetting that was. For four bucks, you can buy a whole case of bottled water, retail.
I told our waitress that we didn’t mind paying for the water, but we did mind being price-gouged like tourists. They weren’t even charging that much in Manhattan. We bought ice cold bottles of water there for a buck. We asked her to have our bill adjusted, and she said there was no one there with the authority to do that (which upset me further). In a grand gesture of doing whatever she could to make the best of a bad situation, our waitress suggested that we just take it out of her tip! Of course, we weren’t having any part of that. Her service was excellent and we tipped her accordingly. We paid for the high priced water, under protest, and left. I was thinking that I would write a letter to the owners when we got home, but I didn’t follow through with it. If they can charge their customers two dollars for a 10 cent bottle of water, and sleep at night, that’s fine for them. The part I was upset about was that there was no one there with any apparent authority, which is no way to run a successful business.
So, go to Evelyn’s and enjoy the great scenery, the great food, and the great service… just be sure to bring your own bottled water (or have a beer). We won’t be there.
Next DDD destination: Boston (DDD count: 76)