Harold’s New York Deli Restaurant – Edison, NJ

Harold’s New York Deli Restaurant
3050 Woodbridge Avenue
Edison, NJ 08837-3460
(732) 661-9100

To summarize my Katz’s Deli experience, I would put it this way. Top quality pastrami, low value. As much as i love top quality experiences, deep down, I’m a sucker for value. Let me introduce you to value – Jersey style.

When people talk about the best NY deli’s now existing outside of Manhattan, they usually mean Brooklyn, not Edison. Harold’s New York Deli Restaurant has been called one of New York’s best delis, even though it is in New Jersey. I first heard whispers from a friend, who, after one of our Katz’s experiences, stated that she was fed up with the high prices and mediocre value.  “Harold’s is so much better value… you have to see it to believe it”.

Harold’s is run by the former operator of the Claremont Diner, and the Carnegie Deli. Harold’s is his personal vision of a super diner/deli, where he has combined the menus from both establishments into one enormous restaurant. Located just off the I-95, it can be a bit tricky to get to. It took me two passes before i got it right.

Attached to a hotel, I would use one word to describe Harold’s. Enormous. It’s classic Jersey Diner meets New York deli, this place has two enormous sections and the world’s largest pickle bar. You could probably seat half the city of Edison in this establishment, while the other half waited in line.

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Walt Street Pub – Red Bank, NJ

Walt Street Pub
180 Monmouth St
Red Bank, NJ
(732) 741-5936

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #4 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, Peter Luger,  is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

I remember one of the first food bloggers i ever read. This was really before blogging was all that popular. In one of his posts, he discussed the Walt Street Pub – a small pub in Red Bank, that served up some amazing burgers.

I’ve had images of that burger burning in my head ever since, and had to include the Walt Street Pub when exploring New York’s best burger.

Located on the idyllic south shore, Red Bank looks nothing like a foodie haven. More like a speed bump on the commuter highway to NYC. The drive out from the city took quite a while – and upon exiting the car, I knew the experience would be completely different from the any of the establishments in the city.

The pub itself has a homey sports bar feel. There was a friendly bartender, and a friendly server. The place was near empty.

The Walt Street Pub is famous for their wings – mild, hot or “killer death”. These wings were voted the “best in town” – by whom, I have no idea. And in terms of Red Bank, maybe not the biggest town. They were, however, quite tasty. Basted in very hot sauce, the wings were amply sized, and fried to a crispy exterior. I’m definitely in the wing camp that prefers a drier wing to a soaked, wet wing. The wings themselves were very juicy, with a nice crunch to them. The heat was a bottled hot sauce type of vibe, but I enjoyed these a lot.

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Peter Luger – Brooklyn, NY

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400‎

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #3 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

New Yorkers are famous for many things. Pastrami. Pizza. The Yankees. And a very brusque attitude. While visiting New York City over the years, other than some crazy drivers, I haven’t found the “New York” attitude to be all that prevalent. Impatient towards tourists? Often, yes. But unfriendly? Not at all.

One of the bastions of the New York attitude exists at Peter Luger. Famous Brooklyn steakhouse known for surly service, 5 week+ dry aged steak, and an astronomical bill. One Michelin Star. Voted best steak in New York for 24 years by Zagat, what isn’t as well known is they have a burger on their lunch menu. One that many consider to be the best burger in New York + Outer Boroughs.

The first thing you encounter upon walking into Peter Lugers is either crowds of people waiting, or the enormous bar. Everyone ends up at the bar eventually – since even with a reservation, you’re typically made to wait 15-20 minutes. Minimum. It’s not the worst place to be stuck though – reasonable  New York prices for drinks, an ok house label beer and some decent cocktails. If you’re of the male gender – expect some surly comments and banter – not always lighthearted, though it seems quite faux surly for the most part. Ladies are treated very nicely.

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Ah Beetz – Abbotsford, BC

2664 Gladys Ave
Abbotsford, BC
(604) 746-2121

Vancouver’s lack of decent pizza is well known amongst the city’s foodie circles. It’s hard to explain the dearth of a good slice. After all, the city is known for its vibrant food scene…and one would think that some of this energy would have rubbed off on pizza. Sure there are a few bright spots, but compared to a city of similar size like Portland OR, the Vancouver pizza scene is a wasteland.

The typical Vancouver pizza slice is greasy; the crust thick, cakey and doughy; and the toppings are institutional-grade (think “cheese” and “salami”).


Ah Beetz is a pizzeria about an hour’s drive away in Abbotsford. It has some underground cred: Vancouver Pizza fanatics have been known to drive this way just to get a decent slice of NY style pizza.

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Otto – New York City, NY

Otto Restaurant Enoteca Pizzeria
1 5th Ave
New York, NY
(212) 995-9559

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Otto: Italian for eight. In NYC, it means another Batali/Bastianich enterprise.

If you’ve read Heat, it’s hard not to remember Otto. The incident where Batali, angry at Bill Buford who has been pulled off the line and is standing in a corner, marches into the kitchen and stuffs his mouth with a large piece of griddle pizza and states “this is the taste America is waiting for”. Based on the crowds, apparently this was the taste they were waiting for.

It’s ostensibly a pizza and wine bar. But it has a fairly extensive menu. And is huge – this place is a stadium with the noise to match. It is quite hit and miss in my books. Pizza’s are good. Cooked on a griddle (not in an oven), they develop an interesting taste. A bit bland though.


The antipasti’s have their fans too. The vegetables were small servings of marinated or tossed vegetables. Have to say, at $4 a pop, it just wasn’t worth it.


The charcuterie was a bit of a disappointment. Cured meats were decent, but lacking in anything that blew me away. Lacked any punch or really interesting flavour.

Desserts, on the other hand, were spectacular. The cheese platters (uhmm, clearly taken a bit late in the meal) represented an excellent cross section of Italian cheeses.


And the gelato. I have to agree with my dining companions – some original, and surprisingly tasty flavour combinations. The best of the best was the Olive Oil gelato. Yes. Seriously. A total knock out. Creamy, fruity, a bit pungent, this was fantastic. All the subtlety of olive oil brought out in this chilled medium.

Otto is a reasonable place to eat. They take reservations, they seat a million, and the prices are pretty reasonable, especially for the location. I feel like they try to channel you to drink wine, which isnt a bad thing, but at the end of the day, you have some decent food at decent prices, and some sparkling dishes in a monstrous sea of choices. Experiment a lot or pick carefully. You will hopefully find some of those diamonds too.

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Pearl Oyster Bar – New York City, NY

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia St
New York, NY 10014, USA
(212) 691-8211

The Michelin Guide is probably the most celebrated restaurant guide in the world. Chefs spend years training and perfecting their art in the hopes of achieving a single star, let alone the 3 stars that denote the pinnacle of culinary achievement. While Michelin-starred restaurants are recognized and revered the world over, there are many lesser ratings that they hand out – of which the most interesting to me is the Bib Gourmand. “Good food at moderate prices”, think of it as Michelin’s value, or QPR award. I’ll be honest – i’m not really all that interested in 2 and 3 star restaurants anymore. To quote Scott Bryan of Veritas fame, “they play with their food too much”. Plus, I don’t care much for atmosphere and service. Don’t get me wrong, secure me a reservation to the Fat Duck, or El Bulli, and i’ll try it based on curiosity alone. I can appreciate good atmosphere, and obviously service must fit the establishment, but in general, i’d rather put my money towards exceptional food. Bib Gourmand winners interest me. It tells me they are serving up great food at decent prices, and things like flatwear and lighting be damned. Sign me up.

In the middle of NYC’s Greenwich Village,  lies a consistent Bib Gourmand winner, Pearl Oyster Bar. Just up the street from Murray’s Cheese Shop, this shop quietly opened in 1997, and based on exceptional demand, expanded in 2003. It is a slice of East Coast Americana – classic coastal ingredients treated simply and elegantly. While they carry a variety of dishes you’d expect from an East Coast eatery; chowder, oyster rolls, fish, to fried clams, they are most famous for their Lobster Roll. In fact, Pearl Oyster Bar is credited with making the Lobster Roll trendy again. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but anywhere that could get people to start eating rich, fatty foods in the diet crazed late 90’s is a great place in my opinion.

Not taking any reservations, the queue for Pearl Oyster Bar usually starts 20-30 minutes before they open. Having been turned away twice, I decided to lurk around the Village, shopping and dining, while waiting for them to reopen for dinner service. Showing up 20 minutes before they opened placed me 25th in line – something that concerned me but needed not to. With the expansion, there is plenty of room for everyone. Though the long queue outside tells me that not everyone was so lucky. I especially feel for the people first in line – so close, yet having to wait for a freshly seated diner to finish their meal before being seated themselves.

Having a similar layout to Swan’s Oyster Bar in San Francisco, an institution well worth visiting in itself, I sat at the counter with several friends to be at the centre of the action. Recognizing us from being rejected twice, the staff was kind, and sympathetic to our cause. A great selection of beers are available for us to toast our success at securing a seat.

Service was friendly, yet perfunctory throughout . No time for small talk. They were swamped, they always are, and the lineup outside says “order quick, eat efficiently, enjoy, and please leave”. I have no complaints about this – if i wanted a leisurely 2 hour meal, I’d go somewhere else.

The whole purpose of the visit is to eat the lobster roll. Our orders are quickly taken, and I get some time to sit back and watch the action in the kitchen – working fast and furious – they churn out endless orders of fish, chowder, and of course, lobster rolls.

The lobster roll is a massive endeavor, and served at “market price”. On this day, that was $28.  It consisted of the tail, and meat from both claws, and is accompanied by a massive amount of shoestring fries, and some green for plating. The roll itself is a classic, buttery soft white roll. Stuffed inside is a fresh, tender, extremely flavourful lobster, mixed with a great mayo, and seasoned just right. Now, i know many people have argued that these lobster rolls are no different than what you can eat in Maine, or Massachusetts, but to me, the difference is we’re in NYC. Reputation or not, this is a great lobster roll. The fries are excellent as well, though on this day, a bit underseasoned. I typically prefer them to be full on salty. They had a great potato flavour though.

Honestly, the photo doesn’t do it justice, and the haste with which i took the photo should tell you how eager I was to chow down. Overall, the food was excellent. The service was satisfactory, and everyone had a great time. I really don’t have much more to say – as far as im concerned, they embody the essence of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand: good food at moderate prices. If Maine isnt high on your list of places to visit, try Pearl Oyster Bar for a lobster roll the next time you’re in NYC. If you close your eyes long enough, you just might believe you were there.

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Joe’s Pizzeria – New York City, NY

Joe’s Pizzeria
7 Carmine St
New York, New York 10014
(212) 255-3946

When I have been drinking, I usually get a serious case of the munchies. In most cities, this means either 24hr fast food, a bag of chips, or cooking up some interesting fridge skillet. But in the city that never sleeps, there are always great options. And let’s be honest, nothing hits the spot quite like a nice greasy slice. In the Village, even at 3am, there are great options – the best of the lot is Joe’s Pizza.

In the pantheon of NYC Pizza, Joe’s Pizza generally falls near the top of everyone’s list. Ray’s, Grimaldis, DiFara follow closely behind. Even though they wildly promote their appearance in Spiderman, NYC locals already know about Joe’s. What they serve is a classic slice of NYC pie. NYC pie generally is a thin crust, crispy yet maleable like a true neapolitan pizza, and is eaten folded over on itself. Toppings are very simple – simple cheese, pepperoni, or sometimes as complicated as sausage and onion, mozarella, or pepperoni mushroom.

Slices are served at all hours – my fuzzy memory recalls that they are open until 4am on weekends. While standing in line for my second serving (my fourth or fifth slice), an argument breaks out in front of me over the appropriate condiments for a slice. Straight up parmesan on one side, parmesan and garlic powder on the other. I love New Yorkers 🙂 Personally, i side with the garlic powder people. It’s delicious.

There isnt much more to say. NYC style pizza is a mandatory food group everyone needs to try. Put it this way – after an evening at Masa, tapas at Boqueria, then drinks at the Mandarin Oriental, the most memorable thing of the evening was taking a cab from the Upper West Side to the Village for 5 slices of greasy, heavenly goodness. Joe’s Pizza is good stuff – and im even pretty sure it wasnt the booze talking!

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DiFara’s Pizzeria – Brooklyn, NY


DiFara’s Pizzeria
1424 Avenue J (between 14th and 15th Street)
Brooklyn, NY  11230
12:00pm – 11:00pm, Tue-Sat
Cash only

I love pizza. Cheese, meat, dough. How can you go wrong?

Made with love
DiFara’s: round pie, The “Special”

A cool spring day in NYC found us wandering around Manhattan. From the Upper West Side, we decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, hitting street vendors along the way, until we made it to Grimaldi’s, the veritable Brooklyn institution just on the other side of the bridge. Grimaldi’s is well known for via their #1 Zagat rating, and their “coal-brick oven”. Apparently too well known, as the lineup was estimated at 45-60 minutes to get in the door. After a recent 3 hour waiting extravaganza to eat at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix (best pizza in NA, hands down), we decided to abandon the Grimaldi’s plan and head deep into the bowels of Brooklyn and try DiFara’s Pizzeria. Next to the Avenue J station on the Q line, it is actually a fairly convenient place to get to.  No lineup as well. It was a good start.

We get inside and are instantly hit with one overwhelming sense – chaos. People are standing around, jockeying for position. Some people have ordered. Some people havent. Who’s pie is this? Stop! Wait! He’s stealing my pie! Hmm, perhaps not as easy as first anticipated.

Find the line where people are ordering – stand firm and get your order in asap. Dom DiMarco, the genius who rolls out your pie, can only do 3 at a time. He’s been doing it for over 20 years. Trust him. No more than 3.

The ordering system, notes scribbled in a yellow pad and ripped into 10 as tickets – very dangerously inconsistent. Place your order quickly, lest someone else take your place in the book. Give them a unique name so it stands out – don’t use Joe, or Mario. Once ordered, do NOT leave the counter area, seasoned vets knowingly tell me – your pie can easily be given to someone else. Track your order like a hawk. And be patient when someone who showed up 20 minutes after you gets their pie first. It is a ripped yellow pad after all.

brilliance in action

Enjoy the show. Dom does a phenomenal job pulling your pie. Topping your pie. Baking your pie. Many people call it theatre. Some even applaud. They need something to occupy their time in the subsequent hour(s).

They come in a variety of simple types – round, square. Go with the square. Toppings are fairly basic, or customized to your liking.  Most swear by the Sicilian, some by the Pepperoni. Many get “The Special”. My suggestion? Don’t get cute. Simple is better.

Bam! Olive oil. Boom! Sauce. On goes the cheese. Toppings, judiciously spread for optimal coverage. Into the oven. Out it comes in all its anticipated glory. A litlle more EVOO, some basil (“Thai Basil”, Dom confides to me… “you know why? ’cause asians basil got the best flavour you know!”), the box, and boom, onto the next one.

The crust? Crispy, chewy, slightly charred. Really quite good. Crust is what pie is all about. The slices are quite large, with a few too many toppings – this slice needs the New York fold, or you’ll be wearing it in under 3 seconds. Toppings? Fresh. Excellent. Not as good as my charcuterie-inspired dreams, but they are not out of place on the sublime crust. Eat fast. Enjoy. And then get out of the chaos, as there are many other people waiting to grab your table.

Look, this is not the place for everyone. The wait is often 1-2 hours. Yes, it is greasy. Yes, the pie teeters on folding over. Slick from EVOO, your toppings threaten to slide onto your lap at any given moment. Yes, hygiene is in question. No, i don’t really care anyway. It has fresh toppings, really good crust.

This place has character. This place has charm. This place makes a great slice. This place is slow. And it’s worth every bit of time spent darkening their doorways.

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