Category Archives: New Jersey Restaurants

Lilly’s on the Canal ****

Outsde of Lily's
609.397.62422
2 Canal Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530
 

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Unlike most females, I’m not usually one to make a big fuss over my birthday. Sure, I like a glass of champagne and something sweet to celebrate the start of a new chapter in life, but rarely do I attempt to make formal plans and I NEVER get caught trying to split the bill with my “20 closest girlfriends” at some hoity-toity birthday dinner. Those dinners always turn into a shit-show when the check arrives and the 3 real best friends—usually the roomates—end up having to pay the remainder of the unsettled bar tab while the 17 drunken acquaintances dance away.

This year, I wanted to celebrate my 24th birthday in the normal fashion—doing something quiet and relaxing. My friend, Liz, took me for a pedicure and treated me to lunch. It was a gorgeous day so we drove out Lambertville, NJ and went to Lily’s on the Canal for some Class-A chick food. The menu features incredible gourmet salads, unique sandwiches & wraps, and delicious homemade desserts. It is an ideal restaurant to bring a woman on a date, and it is the perfect spot for a ladies luncheon.

I decided to order a modified version of the Baby Spinach Salad, which came fully-loaded with grilled marinated chicken breast, balsamic glazed Portobello mushroom cap, goat cheese, seasonal tomatoes, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette ($14). 

Chicken and Spinach Salad 

There is not one bad thing I can say about the salad. It was all of my favorite ingredients on one plate in a perfect entrée-sized portion! The chicken was warm and juicy, and the mushrooms were seasoned perfectly. I also am a huge fan of their homemade salad dressings.

Liz ordered the same salad but got it standard issue with Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast, Balsamic Glazed Portobello Mushrooms, Buttermilk Bleu Cheese, Seasonal Tomato, Avocado, and Ranch Dressing.

We also decided to share an order of the Skinny French Fries ($5), which are cut shoestring style and fried to golden delicious crisp!

Lily's French Fries

Some of my other favorite meals at Lily’s include:

The Penne with Vodka Sauce—and I usually add chicken, but you can also choose to add grilled shrimp ($15). Like it says on the menu, “it’s an oldie, but a goodie!”

I am also obsessed with the Caesar Salad with Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Creamy Goat Cheese, Applewood Bacon, Parmesan Croutons, and Caesar Dressing ($13). It is a twist on a classic Caesar, which normally has Parmesan, but the goat cheese and freshly cooked bacon bits put this salad over the top!

The burgers at Lilly’s are also quite good, and can be ordered in several different variations. I like the Three Mini Angus Beef Sliders, which are served open face with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, and skinny fries ($12)!

Sliders and Fries

A lighter way to enjoy their burgers, is by ordering the Burger Salad (made with Certified Angus Beef or Vegetable Patty) served over mixed greens with red onion slices, guacamole, spinach hummus, and black bean salad with a balsamic vinaigrette ($12). Not only is it delicious and filling, but you cannot beat the price for what you get!

The only dish I have tried that I wouldn’t recommend getting would be the New York Strip Steak with Blue Cheese, Mushrooms, and Onions over Skinny Fries ($25). The steak was small and very fatty. It was also very oily and too way heavy with the fries.

Steak and Blue Cheese

If you can manage to save room for dessert, I would suggest ordering a slice of one of their incredible seven layer cakes: Coconut Cake, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Truffle Cake, Chocolate Kahlua Cake—just to name a few!

Dessert Display

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Filed under Bakery, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Cakes, Dessert, New Jersey Restaurants, Take-Out

El Tule *****

Ceviche at El Tule

609.773.0007
49 N. Main Street
Lambertville, NJ 8530

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Located in a town with a fiercely competitive restaurant scene, El Tule distinguishes itself with a unique menu that features both Peruvian & Mexican specialties. They have a casual, no-frills dining room adorned with traditional Incan tapestries and artwork, and the vibrant color scheme combined with the festive images transports you to some other Latin American world from the moment you walk in the door. If your lucky enough to go in the spring/summer, they also have a nice outdoor patio area where you can enjoy your meal al fresco!

IMG_0609

Just don’t let the relaxed nature of the dining atmosphere fool you about their food. El Tule takes their cooking very seriously, and no detail is overlooked in the foods preparation, presentation, or service (which I will admit was a bit slow when they first opened, but I assure you it has gotten much, much better!). It is clear that the presentation of each dish has been well contemplated and then artfully executed. The flavors are well developed, seasoned, and perfectly balanced. And the servers (which seem to be family)  are genuine experts on the cuisine, that can help you navigate the exotic menu, which can be intimidating for first time Peruvian diners!

And although both cuisines are excellent, I highly recommend ordering one of the unique dishes off the Peruvian menu when dining at El Tule. Sure their quesadilla is great, but how often can you find fresh ceviche in Bucks County?!

And that brings me to my next praise for El Tule; their ceviche is among the best that I have ever had, in Bucks County and beyond! Here are a look at my 3 favorites, which can be conveniently sampled in their tasting platter called the Trilogy Ceviche.

El Tule Trilogy Sampler

Ceviche Limeno, which is fresh Corvina marinated in lime juice with red onions, cilantro, and hot rocoto pepper garnished with sweet potato, yellow corn, and potato. 

El Tule Ceviche Limeno

Ceviche Mixto, which is fresh Corvina, shrimp, octopus, and calamari marinated in lime juice with red onions, cilantro and spicy rocoto pepper with sweet potato, yellow corn, and potato. Tigre de leche.

El Tule Ceviche Mixto

Ceviche Chifa which is fresh corvina fish, pickled vegetables, micro-herbs, and crispy wontons in a black-sesame leche de tigre dressing. This one might just be my favorite because the Asian flavor makes it so unique!

El Tule Ceviche Chifa

Some of my other favorite Peruvian specialties served at El Tule include:

Peruvian Chicken & Rice Soup with Cilantro Pesto. This is my go-t0 lunch in the winter because it warms you from the inside and keeps you feeling satisfied all day long. The cilantro pesto brings a very fresh flavor to dish which helps lighten the otherwise heavy chicken stew.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Taboule Quinoa Salad, which is traditional Inca style taboule garnished with avocado, boiled potatoes, and cilantro dressing. This very light and fragrant quinoa salad with a distinct lime flavor makes a nice lunch pairing with a soup!

Quinoa Tabouli Salad

Red Snapper & Crab Meat Tacu Tacu, which is a pan roasted fillet of red snapper on top of a black bean tacu tacu bathed in a light creamy Rocoto pepper and crab meat sauce. The rocoto pepper is a spicy pepper native to the Peruvian region, and it works beautifully to help balance the light cream sauce that bathes this dish. As you can see, they certainly aren’t stingy with the crab meat either!

Red Snapper & Crab Tacu Tacu

If you aren’t ready to explore the flavors offered by the Peruvian menu, you can play it safe by ordering one of the more familiar entrees on the Mexican menu. My favorite menu item from the Mexican menu would have to be the Quesadilla El Tule, which is a massive grilled flour tortilla filled with shredded beef (or chicken), roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, sauteed onions, and cheese served with sour cream and guacamole! I recommend the shredded beef, which is outrageously tender and abundant!

Beef Quesadilla

Overall, nothing but 5 stars for El Tule!

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Filed under Buck's County, BYOB, International Restaurants, Lunch Spots, New Jersey Restaurants

{ Best Lunch Spots in Buck’s County }

Finding good food on-the-go is tough when you don’t live in a city studded with Pret a Manager, Chipotle, and five-star food trucks. In Buck’s County, the options are pretty limited to full-service, sit-down restaurants or drive-thru, fast-food establishments. If you don’t brown paper bag it to work, you’re looking at either an overpriced gourmet salad, a 40-minute sushi luncheon, or a greasy quarter-pounder in the McDonald’s parking lot. But thankfully, local restaurant owners are finally starting to fill this market gap by opening quick-service lunch spots with high-quality food.

Here is a list of my favorite lunch spots in Buck’s County:

1. { Sariano’s Country Cafe }

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Located right in the heart of Lahaska, is this adorable French cafe with homemade croissants, fresh soups, and delicious Croque Monsieur sandwiches. You can eat al fresco at any of the outdoor cafe tables, or take your order to-go (just be warned that there is only one indoor table, so might not be the best option for a cold/rainy day!). The menu is posted on a black board behind the counter, and although isn’t terribly long, neither is the wait for your food!

I highly recommend the Grilled Vegetable & Mozzarella Sandwich, which is served warm on a Fresh Butter Croissant ($7.00). The vegetables are chopped up nice and small, and the croissant provides delicious and sturdy base for the sandwich, keeping it together as you eat.

Of course, this being a French cafe, I also recommend the Croque Monsieur sandwiches, which are served on homemade French bread. They have the classic Ham & Cheese ($5.50), but I suggest trying the Goat Cheese & Proscuitto ($6.50) combination, which isn’t something you see every day! Keep in mind that these sandwiches are served hot, so the cheese is warm and bubbly when they come out of the oven. Delicious.

And lastly, I really enjoy Sariano’s Shrimp & Corn Chowder Soup ($7.00), which is creamy and slightly spicy but not too heavy. The soup prices seems a little high, when compared those of the sandwiches, but the portions are really generous and it comes accompanied with your choice of crackers or homemade French bread.

If you’re really in a hurry, Sariano’s also offers an assortment of pre-made meals that you can choose from.

2. { Jule’s Thin Crust }

Photo taken from TheMainLineVine

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With new locations popping up all over Buck’s County, it is clear that Jule’s Thin Crust has found a recipe for success. This gourmet pizza shop, which relies heavily on locally and organically grown produce, offer 22+ varieties of pizza, innovative salads, and gluten-free, as well as whole-wheat, products. If you stop by for just a few slices, you can choose from anything available on the line and get back to work within 10 minutes. And if you’d rather place a full pie or custom order, you’re looking at a total wait time of about 15 minutes, but you’re more than welcome to bring a bottle of wine to help pass the time while you wait! Just keep in mind that you’re still at a pizza place, so to all my wine-snobs: NO, there will not be glassware!

I suggest trying the new Buffalo Chicken Pizza with hormone free chicken, chopped celery, blue cheese, mozzarella, arugala, and buffalo sauce ($2.90 per slice). Or the Kim’s Pie with hormone free chicken, portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, balsamic BBQ glaze, mozzarella, and chives ($2.90 per slice).

Another classic, loved by all, is the Brushetta Pizza with Chopped Organic Tomatoes, Fresh Cubed Mozzarella, Garlic, Oregano, and Arugala, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! It will revolutionize your idea of pizza.

3. { Marhaba }

Photo Taken from The New York Times

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Tucked away on a side street in Lambertville, is one of the best Middle Eastern Restaurants that I have ever been to! The interior is cozy, the prices are reasonable, and the food is authentic and a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The Gyro Sandwich, which is slow roasted lamb, topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and tahini drizzle on a warm homemade pita ($5.95) is a deal that can’t be beat and so it has become a regular weekly lunch for me and my mother.

Photo Taken from Jersey Foodies

I also recommend the Babaganough, which is a grilled eggplant spread mixed with tahini, garlic, and fresh lemon juice ($5.95) served alongside warm homemade pita bread. The spread has a zesty flavor and a creamy texture, that is beautiful when paired with the zatter spices on the pita bread.

Photo Taken from ThePalatePrincess

4. { Genivieves Panini & Salads To-Go }

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I found this place on Groupon a couple of weeks ago, and I have been hooked ever since! Located in the center of Doylestown, Genivieves serves up seasonally inspired food made with locally produced ingredients. The sandwiches are crafted like a work of art and the flavor combinations are a food-enthusiasts dream. My personal favorites are: the Vegetale with grilled asparagus, plum tomato, gooey taleggio cheese, and fresh pesto on multigrain bread ($7.50);  and the Tuscany with grilled chicken breast, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on rustic ciabatta bread ($7.50). 

In addition to their fabulous warm panini’s, Genivieves also offers gourmet salads, homemade soups, and assorted baked goods. And if you find yourself addicted, as I have, then you can also order their food for catered dinners with 24 hours advance notice. Unfortunately, Genivieves is take-out only, so you cannot dine-in.

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Filed under Baking, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, French Restaurants, Italian Restaurants, Lunch Spots, New Jersey Restaurants, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

Trattoria Toscana *****

 
553 State Route #1
Whippany, NJ 07981
973.386.0303

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Everyone knows that New York is host to wealth of fantastic Italian restaurants–Marea, Babbo, Del Posto, Scalini Fedeli, Patsy’s, Carmine’s (just to name a few)–but outside of the city, off of route 1, lies a “hidden gem” by the name of Tratattoria Toscana. I use quotes because although it has a very inconspicuous location, it is well known among foodies, locals, and Italian’s looking for a proper pasta with gravy. This place is always jam packed and the delicious food being served is worthy of such loyal patronage.

Rodolfo Monti and his son, Giacomo (with names as authentic as their food), are the owner and chef of Trattoria Toscana, and although their menu offers a variety of well-loved Italian classics, their culinary speciality is certainly from the Tuscan region.

To start, I suggest the Sliced Pears, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan Cheese ($13) or my personal favorite, Mussels cooked in Spicy Tomato Broth with White Wine and Garlic ($11). Another great way to sample the menu is to split a pasta dish or two between the table as an appetizer. The Amatriciana cooked with pancetta, onion, tomato, and pecorino cheese is very flavorful red sauce with a delicious hearty bacon flavor.

For my main dish I ordered the Braised Short Ribs in a Chianti Wine Reduction, served with Parmesan Risotto and Garlicky Broccoli Rabe. As if all of these plate components aren’t already my favorite things to eat, they were also cooked to PERFECTION! The meat just seemed to fall apart each time I poked it with the fork, and the risotto was a perfect creamy compliment to the flavors of the Chianti wine reduction. The pair was like an upscale, Italian version of mashed potatoes and gravy. And the broccoli rabe, which can be a hit or a miss for many restaurants, was out of this world good. The garlic seasoning was just right and it was cooked without being too mushy. This dish certainly makes my list of Top 10 Food-gasm experiences.

My mom ordered the Tilapia Livornese topped with capers, black olives, caramelized onion, and tomatoes and served with oven-roasted potatoes. Stealing a small forkful from her was a challenge, thats how much she enjoyed it. The fish was light and buttery and the sauce was incredible.

My dad, on the other hand, opted for something a little bit richer–the Lollipop Lamb Chops in an aged balsamic reduction, served with risotto and roasted potatoes (see photograph at top). As you can see in the photograph, the lamb is cooked to perfection with a bright pink hue in the center of the meat. The balsamic reduction had a nice flavor but thankfully was used sparingly, so as not to take away from the quality taste of the meat. And the potatoes–although just a side component on the plate–were also very nicely done with a crispy outer shell and piping hot center.

After finishing with our main courses, we ordered a round of cappuccinos and a large piece of Homemade Ricotta Cheesecake to share as a table. The coffee was nothing special but the cheesecake was very delicious. It was not too dense or too sweet, and the fresh berries and whipped cream around the edges of the plate were great addition to each bite. A perfect way to end a fabulous meal!

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Lovin’ Oven ***

Saag Paneer – Creamy Pureed Spinach with Cheese and Indian Spices

908.996.7714
62 Trenton Ave
Frenchtown, NJ 08825

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I don’t know how many of you got into the whole “Eat, Pray, Love” craze, but I swear for the two weeks after I read that book I really thought I was Elizabeth Gilbert. Of course I’m not a recently divorced 40-something year old writer traveling the world in hopes of finding myself, but I so readily identified with her emotions, frustrations, and passions that I felt as if her book could have been my own personal memoir. We both love to eat, travel, write, and stare at beautiful Italian men who speak the beautiful Italian language—and, I too wouldn’t think twice about packing my bags and going to an unfamiliar country such as Bali to meet with some elderly medicine man! But I am not Elizabeth Gilbert. This reality sank in abruptly after my first yoga class and was then confirmed after my attempt at guided meditation (yes, I really signed up for yoga and meditation after reading the book—a sparkler moment—just humor me).

Although I am back to my non-yoga doing life as Kendall Bajek, I was none-the-less excited to hear that Elizabeth Gilbert had opened a store near my house In Philadelphia called Two Buttons. I was less excited when I actually went and saw just how much these rare items cost, but thankfully, there was a restaurant in front of her store to help lift my spirits! The restaurant is called the Lovin’ Oven and the menu is just about as eclectic as Gilbert’s store.

They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have inspired flavors coming from all over the world. I went for lunch with my mom and ordered the Quinoa and Tempeh Burger Wrap with avocado, kales, and roasted red pepper aioli. The server told me that this was one of the best items on the menu and it was in fact delicious, but not the greatest lunch I’ve ever had. I expected cut up strips of the quinoa and tempeh burger within the wrap, and it was more ground in with the kale so its texture was indistinct. I like the uniformity that it gave every bite, but I would have preferred to distinguish the burger from the burger from the rest of the wrap. Also, the kale was very oily and rather tough in texture, which made the wrap a bit challenging and sloppy to eat (glad I wasn’t on a date!). The overall flavor was nice, with the bitterness of the kale contrasting the sweetness of the roasted red pepper aioli, and the portion was huge. But my favorite aspect of the dish was actually the small quinoa salad that was served on the side of the wrap. It had a strong balsamic flavor with red onions and halved grapes. It was light and delicious…I wish I could have ordered that only!

My mom ordered the Saag Paneer, which is creamy pureed spinach and fresh cheese with Indian spices served with warm pita over organic brown rice. We were both very unimpressed by this dish because we are familiar with the flavors of good Indian food, but the average person would probably have been pleased. I thought it was lacking in spice and heat, and so it tasted very one-dimensional after just a few bites. The pita bread on the other hand, was incredible! It crispy on the outside but soft and warm on the inside…it was a perfect pita!

On other occasions, my mom has also had the Ginger Teriyaki Tofu Bowl with sautéed fresh vegetables, organic brown rice, sliced avocado, and grilled pita. She said that this dish was so good that it will keep her going back despite our recent disappointing lunch. I want more of that pita bread, so I would probably order this the next time I go as well. I would also save room for the Almond Croissant Bread Pudding next time because it sounds outrageously delicious! In fact, all of their baked goods sound great and I might go just for dessert later this week!

I would recommend the Lovin’ Oven for dessert or breakfast, which is what majority of diners were eating while I was there…now I know why! Just make sure that you bring cash when you go, because it is cash only!

Quinoa Tempeh Burger Wrap with Avocado, Kale, and Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

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