- Joined: 2/4/2004
- Location: scotch plains, NJ
Urban NJ Day Trip
Fri, 06/12/09 7:26 PM
I love the small and medium sized inner cities of urban New Jersey. Yesterday it was time for a day trip to several of them. First stop was about ½ hour from home at the fairly new Calandra’s Italian Village in Caldwell. http://calandrasitalianvillage.com/ This an Italian Food lover’s paradise… an entire strip mall tied to the locally famous Calandra Bakery (originally of Newark, the original is still there). There are several different choices, each with their own separate door entrance, but also each is interconnected from the inside. After spending a little while scouting out the place (not very busy at all at Noon on a Thursday), in the bakery area one sign caught my eye: Pizza $6.99 Monday thru Thursday. These are not bar pies but full size pizzas. The ones in the display case looked pretty good. The girl behind the counter told me that they could make thm to order but it would take 20 minutes. Perfect! I ordered two, a regular pie and a white pie. This gave me 20 or so minutes to look around. First I checked out the deli area and truth be told, the food in the display cases looked a little tired. I think the problem is that they are not doing any volume at all and the stuff is just sitting there all day. I walked over to the trattoria, which was virtually deserted. The cozy “taverna” was a little more busy, a handsome upscale but homey looking room with a nice bar and several tables. I decided to have a glass of red wine at the bar and kill the remaining 15 minutes until my pizza was done. The pizza was just coming out of the oven when I got back to the bakery area. I brought the pies out to the car and had a slice of each. It was quite good, probably not in the Top 10 in New Jersey, but at $6.99 each, these pizzas might be the best food bargain in all of NJ! (Note on weekends the pies go for $8.99, still a bargain). Nicely mellow from the generous glass of wine and two slices of pizza, it was time to head East on I-280 and the Pechter’s bakery outlet on Jersey Street in the old industrial section of Harrison. I’ve written about this place before, Freshly baked 2 Lb Rye breads, sliced to order for about $4. I also bought a dozen salt rolls (like an oval-shaped kummelweck) for all of $1.98 and among the best rolls I know of. The whole experience has the feel of a step back to the 1920’s. A short drive north into Kearny and the Two Galores. That’s what I call them. They are two 40+ year old storefronts, somehow related but run by different owners, right next door to each other on Kearny’s Main Street (Kearny Avenue) : Subs Galore and Chicken Galore. First stop was Subs Galore. Local blogs seemed to favor the Hot Turkey melt sub, so I bought a large one of those, and a large order of Toasted Ravioli, an item which seems to be showing up here in there in New Jersey lately. Subs Galore is a busy local food spot, something which I love about urban New Jersey towns, they all seem to still have these type places. There are several tables but most of the business seems to be takeout. Sack of food in hand I went next door to Chicken Galore and ordered a dozen broasted chicken strips ($10) and a family order of fries ($4). There is no seating in Chicken Galore, so I took a 10 minute walk in town and then picked up my food. They cook everything in industrial strength broasters which have been there as long as the place has been there. Probably needless to say, neither of these places have websites. I took all this food over to a park a few minutes away on the Passaic River and chewed down. I had ½ of the turkey melt which was terrific, with excellent homemade gravy on the side. Then I dug into a couple of chicken strips and some fries. The fries were the “steak fry” type, which I usually don’t like, but these were fabulous, golden brown and cooked perfectly. It must be the broasters. I topped all this off with a couple of toasted ravioli. I’m sure they won’t make anyone from St. Louis envious, but they were pretty good. I’d order them again. Now it was time for a drive thru New Jersey’s industrial urban wasteland over to Jersey City. This drive reminded me of the opening sequence of The Sopranos. In fact my route passed “Pizzaland” on Belleville Turnpike. (Decent Pizza, from a previous daytrip with my wife – The Sopranos Eating Tour). The traffic around downtown Jersey City was a gridlocked mess so I ditched the GPS and used my instincts to head away from the traffic and found a parking space in an industrial area about ½ mile away from my next stop. Good enough, I needed a walk anyway. 10 minutes later I was seated at the counter of La Conquira Latin Restaurant waiting on a takeout order of a Cuban Sandwich and 4 tacos, (two chicken, two beef). http://laconguita.com/ (Caution: Loud Music upon opening website) Nice busy place in the heart of JC, and a very interesting mix of people. My order was ready in about 10 minutes (much quicker than I expected) and came to a TOTAL of only $12. The portions were not huge, but still a bargain. I walked this back to the car and had half of the Cuban. Sad to say, it was just OK. As I find all too often, the pork tasted reheated, and one thing that doesn’t work for pork is reheating. I was getting a little stuffed (I was on my 4th or 5th lunch), so I saved the tacos for home. My last stop was a mile or two away, still in JC, and the totally Old School Astor Bar & Grill (725 Montgomery Street). Another very busy Thursday afternoon late lunch crowd, a good mix of blue color, white color, and, apparently, no collar (i.e. unemployed, with no hope of EVER being employed). All presided over by a crotchety 75+ year old bartender. I know he was a few years past 75 because his “Look Who’s 75” T Shirt had at least a couple of years worth of beer and pizza stains on it. They are noted for their bar pies, but I saw some other good looking Italian Food and burgers coming out of the small kitchen. Anyway I sat at the bar and ordered two bar pies to go and a draft Youngling. The 75+ guy slides my draft over to me and yells loudly into the kitchen “Here’s another guy who thinks this is a F*cking Pizza Hut, he wants two pies to go!”. It took me all of about 10 sends of double take to realize that he was of the Crotchety But Lovable school rather than the Crotchety and Nasty school of bartender. In any event, I liked that greeting much better than “Hi I’m Tiffany and I’ll be your Server today”. The pies took a little while (the place was quite busy, my favorite group was the four 70-something ladies at the far end of the bar eating hot dogs, drinking beer and cocktails and watching Soap Operas on the TV. That’s the way to live one’s later years! Mr. 75+ turned out to be friendly enough, and wished me a good weekend when I left with the pies. I left a good tip. I gave this place a very high mark in the Old Man Bar category. I was only able to stuff down once small slice at my car, but it was a good thin crust style pie. And in 35 minutes I was home spreading my haul on the kitchen island for my wife’s imminent arrival home from work (No cooking tonight and probably tomorrow night too, honey!). An excellent day.
Edit: I'm still having problems with pasting from a Word document, I've now tried to edit it, again.
<message edited by ken8038 on Fri, 06/12/09 10:50 PM>