Dinner in a Pinch in Cranford

Crab cakesThere are definitely too many nights when I ask my husband what he’d like for dinner and I’m met with a shrug. I usually make it home by 7, but he doesn’t get to town until nearly 8, which doesn’t leave much time for dinner at a reasonable hour. Our default takeout dinners usually involve a call to the local Chinese food restaurant. However, with the October opening of Dinner in a Pinch in downtown Cranford, our dining options have definitely expanded.

Dinner in a Pinch is owned by Sara Shaunnessey, who came up with the concept on one of her many train rides to and from her job in New York City. She recognized that many people don’t have the time or energy after putting in a full day of work to fix dinner. In a change from the normal takeout food options in most towns, Dinner in a Pinch offers home-style comfort food.

Though Sara has a background in finance and no formal cooking training, her enthusiasm and passion for food is evident in the meals she serves. The restaurant allows customers to choose one main dish with a serving size of 2, 4, or 6, as well as two side dishes to accompany it. The menu offers a number of comfort food favorites, including crab cakes, meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, pork chops, and pot roast. Sides run the gamut, from steamed vegetables, to macaroni and cheese, to mashed potatoes. The menu is always evolving as Sara is already looking ahead to summer, where she believes lighter choices will be more in demand. Sara also introduced the concept of Menu Crashers, a new main dish that will make an appearance on the menu for about two weeks. The first Menu Crasher was the result of a collaboration with Westfield’s Savory Spice Shop – a healthy, juicy chicken breast cooked with Hidden Cove Lemon Garlic blend. Sara followed that up a few weeks later with another Menu Crasher, 9 Layer Lasagna.

Mac and cheese
Like every restaurant, Dinner in a Pinch depends on repeat business. On my first visit there I met with a customer who reeled off the dishes he’s tried in the short time the business has been open (New Orleans fettuccini, meatloaf, crab cakes, risotto, chicken pot pie). His comments about their food ranged from “very good” to “out of this world.” He’s not the only one singing their praises, as Sara mentioned the one customer who let her in on the secret that she’s been passing off Dinner in a Pinch’s meals as her own home cooking. Is there any higher praise than that?

Dinner in a Pinch
1 South Ave. East, Cranford, NJ 07016

Michelle Stavrou, the Union County regional editor, has hop-scotched across the Garden State, growing up in Bergen County, then moving to Hoboken (after a stop over in Queens) before finally settling in Cranford. After too many years stuck in tiny kitchens Michelle finally has a kitchen that can accommodate multiple batches of cookies. Her husband and her co-workers are probably even more thankful than she is. Michelle’s baking adventures are documented here: jerseygirleats.blogspot.com.