19 Dennis Street
New Brunswick, NJ
The day after my meal at Martino’s, I was in adventure mode again. After all, despite a couple of things went sideways, it was a good meal and that raised my mood. This time, I went further east-southeast from where I was staying, into the neighboring city of New Brunswick (which, of course, should not be confused with the Canadian province of the same name). During my “research”, I found out this ought to be a good place for good eats. However, given my driving “skills”, I ended up lost *again* (due to me being in the wrong lane and forced to turn into an almost endless street without driveways to do a 3 point turn) and driving around almost aimlessly. The original place I was looking for was a small eatery called “Stuff Yer Face“, which serves stromboli – something that looks like a mix of calzone and a wrap. Sure, I was business dressed but, hey, I will do almost anything for food! I ended up in some wacky streets and noticed a restaurant called Frog and the Peach which Christina also mentioned. When I parked the car (a block and a half away, I must add), I then realized there was somebody who appeared to be a bouncer standing outside (which, I will admit could have also been the valet). In an odd way, I felt intimidated… Could I be thrown out because I was taking pictures with my external flash, aka, Speedlight (as it looked quite dark from outside)? Not wanting to risk that possibility, I went to the other (almost unnoticeable) restaurant futher down the same block: Delta’s. Again, not willing to wander around aimlessly…
After I walked in, I couldn’t help to notice the ambiance was quite fancy. A bar, some dimly tables on the ground floor. The main dining room; however, was upstairs. Given I was by myself, that meant me in a small table which allowed me to take this picture from the area below.
OK, not the best picture but it gives a good idea of the restaurant. On that topic, I think I hit jackpot when I found out this restaurant is Southern/Soul food. While I haven’t been on business trip down there, I have always wanted to try authentic Southern/Soul food… So, after I made my order, I got my complimentary bread… Oh, wait, since this is a southern/soul restaurant, that would be cornbread!
Cornbread, split in half.
Before I continue, I apologize for the pictures. As mentioned above, some of the tables on the ground floor were dimly lit; this trend was carried over to the second floor. Short of bringing out the Speedlight, I had to hope for the best. Oddly, I shouldn’t have been so wary about it – later that night, when I was already halfway my meal, a party of six young women (I will have to call them as such, as the waiter was giving them hard time regarding alcoholic drinks) were taking pictures willy-nilly and, as expected, firing the flash every single time…
Anyway, back to the food. The cornbread was still warm and the butter was easily spread. One thing I noticed is that the cornbread had some corn kernels in it – something that, depending on the recipe, might or might not be used. While full of taste, it wasn’t too sweet, a perfect balance!
To start off, I had a spinach salad. Hey, you need some vegetables, you know! In general, the way I like my spinach salad is: a slightly warm dressing using the fat from bacon, mustard and red wine vinegar with some salt and pepper. Drizzle this on some spinach, toss them, add some of the bacon, serve with tomato, mushroom and hard boiled eggs. In this case, it was mostly that way, except the tossing side was tossed out of the equation. In this case, the dressing (an using this term loosely, as it was quite “fatty”) was on a side and there was some oil/fat at the bottom of the plate. Not necessarily a pretty sight which wasn’t helped by the texture of the “bacon”. If you look at the picture above, it indeed looks like bacon; however, it wasn’t the crispy bacon I am sure a lot of us are familiar with. Instead, it felt like cured ham and then cut into pieces – not necessarily “fried”. It was a bit nasty.
For my entree, as soon as I looked at the menu, I only had two dishes in mind: Fried chicken and chicken and waffles. OK, it is mostly the same dish, except the second one had, well, a waffle in addition to the regular chicken. With the order, I had the option of two side dishes and I went for okra and macaroni and cheese.
The okra was good and bad at the same time. I understand a lot of people do not like it because of the slimy texture; however, that wasn’t that much the case here. Instead, the issue was that it ended up being a bit too crunchy for my liking. Also, there was the issue of the tomato: outside of the crunchiness of the okra, you couldn’t taste much else aside from the tomato. C’mon, this is not a tomato dish! As for the second side dish, the mac-and-cheese, I did not like it that much. It wasn’t that it was bad; instead, I thought the (Cheddar) cheese was overpowering. I guess I prefer my own version of homemade macaroni and cheese over this one, where it makes more emphasis on the creaminess… However, at the same time, I have the odd feeling a lot of people would like it, specially that crust that developed on the top.
Now, the main part, the fried chicken! In one word… Disappointing!!!!!!! Looking back at the picture, I am surprised as to how small the pieces where. Were they cutting the pieces from a cornish hen? Or they are using smaller pieces of chicken? Size of the pieces aside, the skin was overcooked and the meat inside (in this case, I asked for all dark meat) was borderline dry, without much of the juices flowing. Furthermore, it felt… Bland, not even some hint of pepper! I had the odd feeling these were prepared in advance and then (re-?)fried. If that was the case, how come it took so long between ordering the meal and getting the chicken? Why there wasn’t any juices in the pieces?
Service was quite good, though with several checks, it felt borderline intrusive. Otherwise, everything felt it was timed exactly, almost as if working with a clockwork precision. However, while that worked well, I couldn’t help to feel disappointed. Fried chicken, being that quintessential Southern/Soul food dish ordered in a Southern/Soul restaurant. If they couldn’t deliver…
Yup, once again, this will be a two post day. Come back at around noon (PST!).