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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Casual Seafood on the Jersey Shore

The Inlet Cafe in Highlands, which turns 40 this year, has evolved from a tavern plus clam bar into a dependably good casual seafood restaurant. It’s not grubby or inexpensive (most entrees are in the $20s), but it’s still informal enough for dinner after a day at the beach, says jsfein. The menu includes grilled, fried and blackened entrees and seafood pastas, among other things. If the weather’s nice, sit on the deck and look out on the Navesink River and Sandy Hook Bay.

Another longtime Bayshore destination, the Keyport Fishery, was closed by a fire earlier this month, but its owners promise to reopen the 70-year-old carryout joint. “Best fried shrimp and scallops in my book, for over 30 years of my patronage,” says fpatrick, plus excellent house-made tartar sauce.

In Point Pleasant Beach, the Shrimp Box has been drawing crowds for half a century with fresh, moderately priced seafood. Some recent daily specials, priced in the mid- to high teens: crab-stuffed tilapia, lobster ravioli, and Prince Edward Island mussels marinara over linguine. Go for the early “Sunset Dinner”–“sooo much food for $15 or less,” advises Angelina, who’s hooked on their broiled crab-stuffed shrimp.

Down toward Cape May, Fish and Fancy in the Villas is a no-frills place for excellent fried or broiled platters, says Ellen. Order to go or sit at a picnic table on the covered patio. Also on the menu: chowders, salads, fried chicken, and rotating specials like shrimp fra diavolo, grilled tuna with seafood-garlic sauce, and clams with linguine and other seafood pastas.

At Cape May’s Lobster House, a Fisherman’s Wharf tourist magnet, avoid the crowds by bypassing the bustling main restaurant. Instead, advises Sethboy, grab the menus for the takeout counter and the raw bar, find a table on the deck out back, and ponder your order. Start with the raw bar (which serves chowders and salads as well as raw shellfish) then move on to the takeout counter for fried or broiled platters. Ellen suggests going the full takeout route and recommends their fish sandwich, lobster salad or bisque, smoked salmon or bluefish, and Key lime pie. “Get some Jersey tomatoes and corn on your way home,” she adds, “and you’ll have quite a feast.”

For a more downscale bite, go to fisherman’s watering hole Mayer’s for perfectly tender fried or sauteed scallops and a heavy dose of “local color,” suggests CapeMayChowhound.

Inlet Cafe [Monmouth County]
3 Cornwall St., at Shrewsbury Ave., Highlands, NJ
732-872-9764
Locater

Keyport Fishery [Monmouth County]
150 W. Front St., between Broadway and Beers St., Keyport, NJ
732-264-9723
Locater

Shrimp Box [Ocean County]
75 Inlet Dr., near Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
732-899-1637
Locater

Fish and Fancy Takeout Seafood [Cape May County]
2406 Bayshore Rd., at Texas Ave., Villas, NJ
609-886-8760
Locater

The Lobster House [Cape May County]
Fisherman’s Wharf, Cape May Harbor, Cape May, NJ
609-884-8296
Map

Mayer’s Bar and Restaurant [Cape May County]
894 3rd Ave., near Wilson Dr., Cape May, NJ
609-884-8980
Locater

Board Links
Where to Eat in Monmouth County, NJ
Lavalette and Point Pleasant: First time to Jersey
Cape May “Down N Dirty” recs
Sandy Hook/Highlands sat nite

Subbing In

If you’re serious about finding SoCal’s best meatball sandwich, you’ll head to Lakewood, says Kris P Pata. There, in the quiet bedroom community, you’ll find Foggia Italian Market, run by the Quarto family. Their sandwich features homemade, well-herbed meatballs, well-spiced marinara and fresh, crunchy Italian bread. It doesn’t get much better than this.

The meatball sub at Vinny’s is worth a regular drive from Hollywood, says lil mikey. It has big, tasty meatballs, good sauce and mozzarella, but what puts it over the top is that he pops it into the pizza oven, crisping up the bread and softening the inside.

On Mozzarella Mondays at Jar, they have lovely little meatball subs on a semolina roll. Still, Dommy! prefers Bay Cities–and a lot of hounds think this one’s the best.

On the opposite end of town Eastside Deli makes a mean meatball sub–connoisseurs prefer a combo with Italian sausage, peppers and cheese (the #3).

And for the South Bay, calabasas-trafalgar says: Giuliano’s deli in Torrance. End of story.

Foggia Italian Market & Deli [South Bay]
5522 Del Amo Blvd., Lakewood
562-627-0987
Locater

Vinny’s Pizza [South LA]
8412 Lincoln Blvd., at Manchester, Los Angeles
310-641-8666
Locater

Jar Restaurant [Midtown]
8225 Beverly Blvd., at Harper, Los Angeles
323-655-6566
Locater
Amazon Locater

Bay Cities Italian Deli [Beaches]
1517 Lincoln Blvd., at Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
310-395-8279
Locater
Amazon Locater

Eastside Market and Italian Deli [Chinatown]
1013 Alpine St., Los Angeles
213-250-2464
Locater

Giuliano’s Delicatessen & Bakery [South Bay]
3849 Torrance Blvd., Torrance
310-540-2500
Locater

Board Links
Meatball Subs?

Off with a (Shao) Bing

Start your day the Taiwanese way–with soy milk and fried (unsweetened) crullers. yclops lays out a detailed short list of favorites:

Yi-Mei, a cozy (read: cramped) spot in the Dingho strip mall, is almost always packed, and with good reason. Their shaobing (fried bread), danbing (eggs with crepes) and soy milk (made in-house and available hot or cold, savory or sweet) are excellent. So are the compact, juicy, and hefty buns. Pork and mushroom bun is a great mixture of potent soy sauce, pork, and mushroom flavors. Pork and cabbage is also really good. Preserved snow cabbage and pork bun is terrifically pungent…maybe an acquired taste. Chive turnovers and steam-fried pork buns, though, are disappointing. The Yi-Mei in Rowland Heights has fantastic baozi (steamed buns); the one in the San Gabriel Superstore complex is more spacious, but the food less impressive.

Yung Ho Tou Chiang is a usual suspect for Chinese breakfast–grimy, but quite popular. It’s gone downhill a little, says Porthos, but it’s still very good. Strong points: salty soy milk and shaobing. Danbing leans toward the eggy side, and the buns have gristly meat and not much flavor. On the plus side, their extensive menu has English translations.

Ding Pangzi boasts very good danbing and big, pillowy baozi, but bad shaobing. Mushroom and pork bun and preserved mustard and pork bun are both recommendable, chive turnovers might still be good too. They don’t make their own soy milk, though. The menu is only in Chinese, but there are plenty of bilingual folks around on the weekend, when it’s packed. Note that this is two restaurants side by side; the breakfast part is on the left.

Another hole-in-the-wall, Mei Lin, has a wide variety of baozi that are reliably good if not spectacular. The flavors are a bit more subdued than at some other places, but chive buns and pickled veggie and pork buns are solid. Soy milk is also usually good, and they have a range of jiaozi and zongzi (sort of like Chinese tamales, with sweet or savory fillings) as well.

Yi-Mei Chinese Bakery Shop [San Gabriel Valley]
736 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park
626-284-9306
Locater

Yi-Mei Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
608 E. Valley Blvd. # G, San Gabriel
626-280-8568
Locater

Yi Mei Deli [Inland of LA]
18414 Colima Rd., Rowland Heights
626-854-9246
Locater

Yung Ho Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
533 W. Valley Blvd., at New, San Gabriel
626-570-0860
Locater

Yung Ho Tou Chiang Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
1045 E. Valley Blvd. # A105, San Gabriel
626-280-9317
Locater

Ding’s Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
117 N. Lincoln Ave., Monterey Park
626-288-2211
Locater

Mei Lin Tou Chiang Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
1257 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra
626-284-1868
Locater

Board Links
Closest Taiwanse Breakfast to the Westside

Oriental BBQ Chicken Town

Oriental BBQ Chicken Town boasts a remarkable name, bizarre tiki decor, and some delicious chicken, reports David Boyk. You can get your chicken roasted or fried, with or without sauce. They also have fish, but that seems besides the point. Fried chicken with sauce is fantastic. The sauce is a hot red syrup thing, sort of like sriracha, but more warming, sweet and barbecue-y.

Oriental BBQ Chicken Town [Temescal]
Telegraph Ave., between 61st and 62nd Sts., Oakland
Map

Board Links
Oriental B.B.Q. Chicken Town, Berkeley/Oakland

And the Best Sausage Pizza Is…

The best sausage pizza in all of the Bay Area is at Nizza La Bella, reports rworange. The thing to order here is the “For Lombardi” pizza, with fennel sausage and aged mozzerella. They make their own sausage and their own cheese. The sausage embodies every goodness of Italian sausage: a deep fennel flavor, an intense meatiness, all without any greasiness. The cheese is lovely and flavorful, and the little dabs of sauce are nice, too. The crust is appropriately thin, with good crackle. It is a deeply, gruntingly satisfying pizza. It is also a distinctly Italian pizza, so don’t go expecting a classic New York slice. Says twocents, all the pizzas are good, but any with that fennel sausage on it is truly great. Important: to get house-made cheese, you must request it.

Chicken paillard is unexpectedly great, says Morton the Mousse. The breast is perfectly cooked. “Some would send it back as too rare, but those folks don’t know what chicken should taste like,” he says. The chicken is tender, moist, and vastly superior to the majority of boringly grilled chicken breast. It’s served over fries, which makes them limp but wonderfully chickeny.

Also recommended: socca, salade lyonnaise, salade anchoiade, macaroni gratin, onglet steak-frites, skirt steak frites, and bouillabaisse. Their cocktails are uniformly beautiful and uniformly excellent.

The place has gone through some staff changes, and is in the process of expanding and Italianizing their menu. Food quality has increased dramatically. So if you went long ago and were disappointed, give it another shot; many, many chowhounds have begun to fervently recommend the place. anli dares claim that the new incarnation of Nizza La Bella even beats out Pizzaiola.

Nizza La Bella [East Bay]
827 San Pablo Ave., Albany
510-526-2552
Locater

Board Links
Albany–Nizza La Bella – The Bay Area’s best sausage pizza

Tofu Tip

The life of store-bought tofu can be extended for a long time. Just store it in a brine solution of tap water and kosher salt. Do change the water occasionally (i.e., every other day or so).

Board Links
Here’s how long beancurd lasts:

Milkshake in a Bottle

Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, and Fudge Brownie ice cream flavors now come in milkshake form, bottled a la Starbuck’s Frappuccino. Made with shelf-stable milk, they don’t require refrigeration (chill before drinking, though).

Dexters has tried Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey, and likes the latter the best, but calls both “decent.”

Read a review of these new products from the Free Press.

Board Links
Has anyone tried the bottled Ben and Jerry’s Milkshakes?

Best References for Fast Meals

Fresh Food Fast,” by Peter Birley: A vegetarian cookbook with plenty of appeal for omnivores, arranged by season–plus menus and shopping lists.

Seriously Simple,” by Diane Rossen Worthington: Quick, easy, and often elegant dishes that aren’t dumbed down for time’s sake…with plenty of simple variations so you won’t get bored.

Fast Food My Way,” by Jacques Pepin: Easy and sensible recipes, perfect for everyday meals.

Twenty-Minute Menus,” by Marian Burros: A no-nonsense, practical approach, emphasizing healthful recipes.

Everyday Food Magazine: tasty, quick recipes using fresh ingredients.

Warning: chowhounds have found that Rachael Ray’s “30-Minute Meals” are simply impossible to produce in 30 minutes…unless you have a prep cook.

Board Links
Fast Meals Cookbook

Wild Blueberry Cream Pie

If you’re able to get your hands on some fresh or frozen wild blueberries from the Northeast, this recipe (courtesy of Candy) is the perfect way to showcase both their intense flavor and deep color. Chock-full of tiny wild berries, when you cut into the pie, “it almost looks like caviar.” (Note: this recipe doesn’t work well with the usual big, cultivated blueberries.)

1 unbaked 9” piecrust
4 cups wild blueberries
2/3 cup sugar
4 T flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place blueberries in crust in pie plate. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over berries. Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool before slicing.

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Wild Blueberries

Holsten’s: Good Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in Bloomfield, NJ

What keeps people coming back to the venerable Holsten’s, established 1939, is ice cream of superior flavor and creamy texture. Vanilla fudge, nutty coconut, and cookies-n-cream are big favorites. Also, anything “chip”–coffee chip, mint chip, or chocolate chip, advises Felixnot: “It’s been our favorite for years, and we are fortunate that we can take a long walk to it on a summer evening.” Holsten’s wins bonus points for atmosphere. “I love the old-fashioned ice cream parlor. It reminds me of the good old days!” rhapsodizes nizza.

Other New Jersey ice cream lovers swear by Thomas Sweet in Princeton and New Brunswick (go for chocolate with a raspberry blend-in, urges fpatrick) or Applegate Farm, a mini-chain with eight stores in Bergen, Essex, Union, Morris, Monmouth, and Passaic counties.

Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery [Essex County]
1063 Broad St., between Watchung and Johnson Aves., Bloomfield, NJ 07003
973-338-7091
Map

Thomas Sweet Ice Cream and Chocolate [Mercer County]
179 Nassau St., between Vandeventer Ave. and Moore St., Princeton, NJ
609-683-8720
Locater

Thomas Sweet Ice Cream and Chocolate [Middlesex County]
55 Easton Ave., between Condict and Somerset Sts., New Brunswick, NJ
732-828-3894
Locater

Applegate Farm Homemade Ice Cream [Jersey-wide]
multiple locations

Board Links
The best homemade ice cream