crossposted from TriState, per someone's recommendation
Returned home to North Caldwell, NJ to visit Mom this weekend, and I was struck anew by just how much bloomfield avenue in Caldwell has changed since I was a youngster, or even since I moved away in the late 90s. The density of restaurants of every stripe is pretty remarkable, almost urban, certainly rivaling Montclair. The retail sector has almost compeltely disappeared...bye bye Shantz's hardware, so long Grand Variety. But the town does have great ethnic restaurants, some nice high end Italian, as well as some old standbys. The following is a roundup of this visit and the last couple before it.
For dinner one night, we tried the new Sushi place that's right down past the Cloverleaf Tavern. The name escapes me now and it's killing me, so if anyone knows please chime in. It's across the street from Nori and Chicken Holiday. Something about "modern" on the signage. Really good spicy tuna maki, and some delicious (according to my SO) velvety red snapper ngiri. Probably some of the better sushi I've tried in the area--I've always been a fan of Sukeroku on Pompton Ave., but this was at least as good, and closer to home.
Chicken Holiday--ahh, definitely not a new place, but it was fun to go back. I probably haven't eaten here in 12 or 13 years, but I couldn't resist giving it a shot again. Being here reminded me of my Dad and wiffe ball, for reasons that I can't quite place (probably went here with my Dad once after playing wiffle ball with my brother). Got two pieces fresh out of the fryer, and they were as I remembered: moist, decent, comforting...the breading could probably use a little bit more zip and crunch, but I doubt CH will change anything after all these years. I've lived in Massachusetts for the past four years, so when I saw they had friend clam plates, I had to ask "Where are your clams from?", to which I got the response..."Uh, the ocean." I then asked whole bellies or strips, and he said "they come in a box pre breaded." hahaha....I do know that the chicken is quartered and breaded in house, so I would stick to that.
Bagel Loft--there are plenty of bagelries further down the ave. in West Caldwell (thought my favorite Stein is under new ownership), and the other direction in Verona, but this place is fairly new according to my mom, and right in the center of Caldwell. I think it's part of a renovated building where Shantz's used to be, and there is a chinese place next door. Decent, fresh tasting bagels, very light, and not as dense and chewy as I prefer. But, sitll, about a zillion times better than anything in New England. I also had a really good baily here, but when I went back a second time, they did not have them anymore. Maybe just a weekend thing.
Gelotti's ice cream--in the spot that used to be baskin robbins. Another place that reminded me of childhood, though the pink spoons are no more. Ice cream is much smoother and tastier than BR's ever was, and they even have gelatto that looked pretty good, although I did not indulge.
Forte's--On my previous trip home, the entire front of the building was demolished...I think there was either a fire or a car crashed into it. Anyway, this place has been around, and the MO then is still the same now. Pies are floppy, soggy, and underdone, but the by-the-slice slices, with their second trip through the oven, are REALLY good. Probably the best on bloomfield avenue. Certainly better than the Famous Original Ray's on the Verona/Montclair border. Speaking of which
Famous/Original Rays--horrible! The pie was so loaded down with cheese that you could barely lift a slice without everything sliding off. I don't know why I remembered this place being good.
Cloverleaf Tavern--ahh, the original towny joint. I have to say, despite what I was expecting, this is still entirely decent pub grub, and the burgers are better than average. They still have good french onion soup too. I do wish, though, that the service wasn't so painfully slow, as it was both times we went. Still THE place to go on the Eastern Seaboard for waffle fries...though maybe that's just because they were the first waffle fries I ever ate. haha, I'm sure they probably come from a sysco truck, but I love 'em!
Rainbow Restaurant--another oldie, but goodie. Again, my observations about this place are not any different than they would have been ten years ago. Still twice as good and half as busy as the Caldwell Diner, for some unknown reason.
As I've developed a taste for real regional chinese food while living in Boston, I did not sample or resamlpe any of the ten zillion interchangeable chinese places on the ave (Golden Temple, Spring Garden, Asian Delite, etc. etc.). However, I saw there is a new Shanghai something place that opened in the old Linda's Chicken space (RIP Linda's! The original Boston Market. I stopped going after they went from delicious homemade corn bread to horrible preservative laden sweety sticky bricks of crap). Is it possible this could have some authentic Shanghaiese cuisine? I didn't get a chance to find out.
There are also a few other places I wanted to try but didn't get a chance to: Anyone with info out there please chime in!
Otto's, a hot dog and burger joint that looked neat.
Bangkok Kitchen--I went once when it first opened when I was a teen. I think it was the first pad thai I'd ever eaten. I'd be curious to know if it's still decent.
Wazwan--apparently, this is authentic regional Kashmiri. I was really disappointed that I didn't get to try it. Almost all the Indian in Boston is Punjabi (as is most of the Indian in Jersey). My old standby place was Taj Palace in Montclair.
La Stella--an upsace looking Italian place; looks like a reiteration of any number of restaurants on Bloomfield Ave. (Stepahnie's, Positano, that other place in Verona, etc.). do they go beyon the Red Sauce?
Caldwell still needs a good Mexican restaurant. The laughing burrito is decent, but no seating. And going dowt to Jose Tejas in Fairfield wasn't that cool when I was 17 and sure isn't any more fun now.
Also, who is making the best pies in caldwell/west caldwell/verona these days? Way back when I would have given the nod to Franco's down by the King's shopping center. Didn't get back to try it, though.