Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Habit Burger and Grill- New location in River Edge, NJ

Just thought I'd share this item that came my way. The Habit Burger Grill is opening a new location in New Jersey soon. Unfortunately I won't be able to get there for the grand opening, but it looks interesting and I'll be popping by in a couple of weeks and let you know what I think, and provide my own pictures. 

photo courtesy of The Habit Burger Grill 
The Habit Burger Grill to Open Second New Jersey Location
in River Edge

River Edge, New Jersey  (February 2015) -- The Habit Burger Grill’s ("The Habit"), delicious Charburger has been habit-forming across the West Coast since 1969 and soon lines will be forming in River Edge, NJ as it opens its second East Coast location. The burger centric fast-casual restaurant chain opened its first East Coast location in Fair Lawn, NJ in August 2014.

The Habit will open its doors on Wednesday, February 18, at 1081 Main Street, River Edge, bringing the total number of its restaurants nationwide to 113.

The restaurant will open for business officially at 10:30 am on Wednesday, February 18.

Some Habit food facts:

  • Burgers are always 100% fresh ground beef, not frozen 
  • Burgers are char-grilled over an open flame for extra flavor
  • Tuna steak sandwiches are made from line caught, sushi-grade albacore  
  • Lettuce, tomatoes and onions are cut fresh daily
  • Tempura green beans, French fries, onion rings and sweet potato fries are 100% trans-fat free, cooked in soybean oil
  • Fresh chicken breasts are hand-filleted and marinated in-house
  • Tri-tip Steak is trimmed and marinated in-house
  • Salads are fresh, made to order
  • House-made ranch dressing is prepared fresh daily in the restaurants
  • Every Habit offers a complimentary condiment bar featuring an assortment of peppers, lemons, limes and a range of sauces for guests to spice it up.

Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries.

Over the years I have been focusing on the burgers in this blog and I realized that it was time to take a closer look at some of the micro-breweries popping up in the Hudson Valley, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. This means a few road trips over the spring, fall and summer to visit, sample, and report on some neat places. To help me out I'll be bringing along some friends and relatives and we won't really be rating the spirits, but rather giving our thoughts on them. As I visit places, I'll be adding links here.

Besides micro-breweries we'll be hitting a few wineries and distilleries along the way. Before you go any further, I have to admit that I am not by any stretch of the imagination a connoisseur or expert on any of these topics. What I'll write is simply my impressions. 

If you are a brewery, winery, or distillery in any of the areas mentioned above and want to be featured, drop me an e-mail.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Seven years of blogging and counting . . . and making some adjustments.

I just looked and realized that I have been doing this blog for close to seven years now. That is quite a bit of dining out which resulted in over 450 posts. It also resulted in some serious excess weight, well I did eat a bit too much at home too. As a result I have been watching what I eat and have dropped close to thirty pounds so far, with a goal of another thirty. I'll soon have to update my profile picture.

Over the years my focus has been primarily on reviewing restaurants. I started with burger places, and have added other types of food with the emphasis on places regular people go. Some posts are more picture oriented and others more wordy. 

In the future I intend to continue doing restaurant reviews, but I will be doing more articles and announcements as well. 

Beer-I have been neglecting this part of the blog, so expect more reviews of beers and breweries. If you are a brewer and want to get the word out, let me know and I may pass it on for you.

Events and festivals-My favorite is the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival in the fall. If you are planning an event or festival, and would like some press coverage, send me your info and I will pass it on if it is in my regular areas. Want better coverage? Give me two press passes (my wife travels with me) and I will attend if I am in the area. You'll get some nice pictures and a writeup.

Restaurant news-If something exciting is going on in your restaurant, or you are opening a new one in my areas, let me know and I might just announce it for you.

Food trends-I will be looking at trends in the industry and reporting on them.

My areas of travel are the Hudson Valley of New York, Fairfield County, Ct., Northern New Jersey, The Philadelphia region, and Wilmington, NC. To get in touch with me drop me an email at or tweet me @ecforman

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kiernan's Pub & Tavern- Pine Bush, NY

Kiernan's Pub and Tavern in Pine Bush is owned by the same people who have Kiernan Farm, a grass fed beef business in the area. I've had their beef in other restaurants and when I heard they'd taken over the old Ajay's in Pine Bush, an interesting place in its day, I was excited and wanted to get there. 

We went on a snowy Saturday after the roads were cleared and while the bar was packed with men who'd just finished a marathon session of snow plowing, we were the only diners. The inside is rustic, all wood, with sporting and outdoors themed pictures on the walls. The bartender was also waiting tables, but in spite of covering such a large area, she gave us excellent service.

I knew what I wanted before we even left the house. Having been watching what we eat for the past two months (27 pounds lighter at this writing) I wanted a big juicy burger. We both ordered the half-pound burger medium with a salad to replace the fries (have to cut some of the calories). Mine was thirteen bucks as I added Swiss cheese and Teresa's burger was twelve bucks. 

The meat they use is grass fed and 90% lean and that can be dangerous to cook properly as it can dry out easily. This was not the case here even though my medium was closer to medium-well. It was a good burger, not awe-inspiring or life-changing as I had hoped, but a good burger none-the-less. What was lacking was any seasoning that I could detect. Simple salt and pepper would have brought out the flavor of that delightful meat.

Would I go back? Yes, I will. Oh, and they don't take credit cards, just cash and personal checks. They do have an ATM.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Smashburger- Paramus, NJ

Smashburger is definitely my favorite chain now, even though we've only been to one location. Today we popped into the other one on rt. 17, the one in Paramus. The service was polite and friendly and the food excellent. I got the New Jersey burger and it was magnificent. With it I ordered a side salad at three bucks and it was a nice salad. Yes, I do love their fries, but I am losing some weight (25 pounds so far) and fries are off limits for a few months. Teresa got the black bean burger with a side salad as well and she liked it. 

If you have not yet been to a Smashburger, do so and soon. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hanna's Middle Eastern Restaurant- Danbury, Ct

Beef Gyro Platter
 We stopped by Hanna's a few weeks ago and found out that they close from 2:30 to 5:00 between the lunch and dinner services. Bummer, as I was in the mood for some good Middle Eastern food.  Danbury has a rather large Middle Eastern population and Hanna has a good reputation so I wanted to try them. This time we arrived at noon and it was certainly worth the return trip. 

The restaurant is small, seating forty tops, and well appointed. When we were there four other tables were occupied and something smelled good. We looked over the menus and I decided on the gyro platter at eleven bucks. It was quite good and even came with a small house salad with a nice tangy dressing. The gyro meat is not made in house, but it was of good quality and they cooked it just right. The taziki sauce was just right as well, creamy with just the right amount of garlic. 

Teresa went with the special of the day, a chicken and Lebanese couscous stew at eleven bucks. I tasted it and it was good, and very hearty. She was pleased and next time she wants the moussaka. It came with a salad as well. They also gave us a basket of really nice, thin pita bread. 

Overall, good food at reasonable prices with excellent service, well worth the return trip. They even have a market next door where you can buy Middle Eastern foods. We'll be going back again. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Nikki's Fresh Gourmet- Wilmington, NC

Nikki's has a few locations in the Wilmington area and we went to the one on Racine last year, and we liked it. Being downtown on a chilly afternoon, and hungry, we decided to try the one on Front Street. It turned out to be a good decision. 

I ordered the special rolls at fifteen bucks, my daughter got the salmon bento box, my grandson got the black bean burger, and one granddaughter got the tempura, another the quesadilla. Two wraps finished out the order. I mention all of the orders to give you an idea of the range of selections available. Also, everything was quite good.

Overall, nice place with good food and good service. We'll go back again.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Red Robin- Wilmington, NC

I like Red Robin, yes I know it is a chain and I normally stay away from chains but I do like them. I find them generally consistent and a good value, plus when they screw up something they make up for it and are genuinely concerned. We stopped by the Wilmington location with a large group for a celebration and were not disappointed.

I had their new premium smoke and pepper burger at $13.50 and substituted the bottomless fries for an unlimited side salad (I am cutting back on what I eat and while I like fries, I find them to be unfulfilling calories). I ordered the burger medium, and it came out a perfect medium which is a feat that many high-end restaurants are incapable of. The ciabatta bun was fresh, the peppered bacon tasty and properly cooked, the cheddar cheese plentiful and perfectly melted. It was a very good burger worthy of the price and as good as any high-end burger I've ever had. 

We had six adults and three children, plus a baby who didn't eat, and the tab was just over eighty bucks including tip. Not bad at all. The service was excellent, Kayla was very attentive and efficient. There was one mixup on a burger and they apologized, replaced it, and comped it. That's why I like them, they really care about getting it right and pleasing the customer. 

Overall, Red Robin may be a large chain, but they are one of the few that get it right and I will continue to patronize them for a reasonable meal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tower 7- Wrightsville Beach, NC

Tower 7 on Wrightsville Beach is part of a small chain of four restaurants, well five restaurants counting the coffee bar in the Tower location. I'd been to three of them, both of the K38's and Las Olas at Mayfaire and liked them, so today we stopped by Tower for lunch with two of our children to complete the set. It was a good choice. 

I ordered the fish bowl which had some perfectly fried tilapia in a taco bowl with lettuce, cheese, cabbage, avocado, and a neat dressing for ten bucks. It was filling, but not heavy in taste. Teresa got the vegi bowl at ten bucks and it was good as well. Rachel had the burrito, a huge one, and Mark got the poor surfer's plate. All told it was just under forty bucks with tax.

The service was good and friendly, the food was good, and the ambiance nice. Tower has the feel of a nice surf themed beach bar serving good food. My favorite of the chain is Las Olas, but this is a real close second. Stop by and see what I mean.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Carytown Burgers and Fries- Richmond, Va.

We stopped by Carytown Burgers and Fries on our way down the behated Interstate 95. It's a bit off the main road in a shopping mall in a confusing maze of one way streets. The restaurant a bit eclectic, bordering on eccentric. You order and pay downstairs and tell them if it is takeout or dine in. If it is dine in they bring it to you at the table. It took less than fifteen minutes from order to delivery, and they were fairly busy at the time.

I got the blue cheese burger with the "works", lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup, mustard and mayo. It had plenty of blue cheese on it and the burger was pretty good. The bun was a bit stale. Teresa went with the regular burger with the "works" and she said it was okay. The total bill was under fifteen bucks, not bad. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Caleb's American Kitchen- Lahaska, Pa.

We've passed by Caleb's many times and I often wondered what it was like. Well, today we decided to stop in and see. On the outside it looks small and simple, on the inside it seems bigger and the decor is somewhere between casual, trendy, and sophisticated. You know, the kind of place where you could go in jeans and a t-shirt or a suit and tie. 

I ordered the tilapia fish tacos at sixteen bucks. There were three of them with a side salad and they were quite good. Teresa went with the burger at fourteen bucks and substituted a side salad for the fries. I tasted it and it was a good quality of meat cooked and seasoned perfectly. 

Overall, Caleb's is a nice place with good food. Stop by and see what I mean.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ship Lantern Inn- Milton, NY

In a word, amazing. The building which houses the Ship Lantern Inn predates the Revolutionary War and it has been a restaurant since 1925. A restaurant that has stood the test of time for 89 years must be doing something right. We were last there years ago, and I remembered it as having been excellent. Well, when we went for lunch today with my mother-in-law it was a wonderful experience, even exceeding my memories.

The dining room we sat in had a slate floor, wood walls, plenty of glass and a wooden beamed ceiling giving that slightly rustic colonial feel amplified by the roaring fire in the large fireplace. The waiters, men who have been there for many years, were dressed in tuxedos. On the walls hung nautical themed images and model ships reflecting the seafaring past of the Poughkeepsie area, there is even a ship's wheel in the entryway. I would call it a sort of rustic elegance wherein all of the elements worked well together and were not at all incongruous.

We were given three menus, the regular one, the specials, and the prix fixe menu. There were far too many dishes that interested me, but we all chose to go with the four course prix fixe menu at $24.50 each. We each had the soup du jour, a crab bisque, which was hearty and delicious. This was followed by a nice salad. Oh, and there was a delightful bread on the table as well. 

For the main course Mom and I went with the petit filet mignon with a béarnaise sauce, potatoes, spinach, green beans, and a mushroom quiche. Mine came out a perfect medium-rare and melted in my mouth, Mom's was a perfect medium-well just the way she likes it. Teresa went with the gnocchi dish and it was also delightful. 

Desert was included, so Teresa and I both had the chocolate pecan torte and Mom ordered the profiteroles. All were perfect. The prix fixe was an amazing value and we all left full, and satisfied. 

So overall; excellent food, charming atmosphere and impeccable service. The dishes came out perfectly spaced to allow for maximum enjoyment. The Ship Lantern Inn is the way a top level Continental restaurant used to be years ago without being stuffy or pretentious in the least. It is the epitome of class.

If you have not yet been there I suggest you do so, and soon. The Ship Lantern Inn is now on my list of favorites and we shall be returning soon, and often. There are so many items on that menu I want to try.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Ground Hog- Wappinger Falls, NY

We have been passing by The Ground Hog for years and wondered what it was like, so I did some research and found that people rave about it. Well, today we stopped for lunch and now I wonder if my experience was different from others as I was disappointed and underwhelemed. 

It is an eclectic place with motorcycle stuff, dessert cases, and memorabilia on the walls. My first impression was that the place was freezing. My second was that they needed to vent the kitchen better as the smell of grease from the griddle permeated the air. My third was that the prices were a bit high, but that could have meant stellar food. I was wrong on that mark, but I was right on the grease in the air as I can still smell it on my coat.

After perusing the menu I decided on the Black Angus  burger at twelve bucks. It came with a small amount of cole slaw and a pickle and I could tell immediately that it was a frozen patty done on a griddle which meant all of the grease remained. They did cut it in half for me, well more so that the cook could see if it was fully cooked. There was a distinct lack of any flavor other than grease so I added some dressing from my wife's sandwich. It didn't really work and I can still feel the grease sitting in my stomach. Remember, this wasn't a six dollar diner burger, but rather a poorly executed twelve dollar burger. 

Now the pastrami panini was pretty good as they used Boar's Head meat, and at twelve bucks it should have been good. In retrospect I should have had a sandwich instead of the burger. In further retrospect we should have gone elsewhere.

Overall, we were not impressed with the overpriced, mediocre food. Oh, and they only take cash.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Derby Restaurant- Poughkeepsie, NY

The derby Restaurant in Poughkeepsie has been around since 1934, the first saloon to open in the city after prohibition. As such it has tons of character with a long bar, tons of wood, and plenty of room. The current owners have been there for about six years or so and they have improved the menu to make it more bistro. 

We stopped early on a Saturday afternoon and they had just opened so we had the place to ourselves. After quickly looking over the menus, I decided on the basic burger for nine bucks with cheddar cheese and added a house salad instead of the fries for an extra buck and a pint of Guinness. Teresa went with a rueben with a house salad for twelve bucks. We went for salads instead of fries as we are watching what we eat lately and didn't want to load up on calories from fries. 

The salads were quite large and fresh with a nice tangy balsamic vinaigrette. Teresa said her rueben was good and not greasy in the least bit. 

My burger was quite delightful. It was quality meat cooked to the medium that I ordered, perhaps even a bit below that medium, which is becoming a rarity of late. Sorry, no bad pun intended. The brioche bun was fresh, and the bacon was nice and crispy. Delicious and even though the juices were flowing from the meat, there was no greasy taste at all. It was a darn good burger.

Service was great too. Beth was friendly and attentive and after she commented on my camera we talked and I found that she is quite an accomplished photographer. 

Overall, a nice dining experience and we'd go back again. 

Derby Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Maxwell's on Main (MOM'S)- Doylestown, PA

Spicy Moms Burger

Maxwell's on Main is a neat restaurant done up in my favorite style. They have wood floors, exposed brick walls with dark wainscoting, and tin ceilings. There are two bars that I saw, one was on the ground floor and the second one upstairs with another dining area. The place has a feel of an old British public house mixed with that warm and inviting Pennsylvania colonial style. 

I saw this place the last time we went through town and put it on the short list. We stopped for lunch at two on a Saturday afternoon and while there were quite a few people there, we were seated right away. They have a rather extensive craft beer selection, but since I was in the midst of a long drive home I passed and went with water. Good cold water that they kept topping off for me. 

After looking over the menus we decided to go with burgers. Mine was the Spicy Moms burger with jalapeño cheese, fried jalapeños, and a side of sweet potato fries at eleven bucks. I ordered it medium and that is what I got, a perfect medium. It was quite deliscious. Teresa went with the special of the day which had hummus on it for eleven bucks as well. She opted for the salad. She said it was good, but just a tad less than the medium-well she'd ordered (the burger, not the salad). She ate it all though, but we'll keep this in mind when ordering next time.

Overall, a really nice friendly place with quaint ambiance and excellent food at reasonable prices. We'll be back.