There’s a moment when you arrive to the hostess desk at a restaurant and just know in some ethereal way that the meal you are about to have is going to be a deeply satisfying one. Little Town NJ gives such a feeling from the moment you glance at the brightly lit New York City skyline to the time you give your name to the hostess. With an inviting environment that happily screams Asbury Park and is reminiscent of the best parts of small town New Jersey, Little Town NJ is a place worth visiting.
A friend and I were seated in a cozy booth next the bar where we were able to admire old school candy jars filled with Bit-O-Honey candies and a skeet-ball nook that any arcade aficionado would appreciate. On a Wednesday night, every table around us was filled with smiling patrons and by the bar, groups of friends shared tid-bits from their day. We were pleasantly experiencing what felt like a Saturday evening with the vibrant crowd.
Our server, John, soon joined us and shared with us the vision of Little Town NJ – to bring the “small guys” as in local farmers to the table. Each item on the Little Town NJ menu is inspired by treasured NJ food joints and there’s an emphasis on local…even down to the beer and the honey. Acclaimed Executive Chef Jordan Andino prides himself on this fact.
Taking suggestions from John, we ordered Little Town NJ’s fullest Indian Pale Ale and signature cocktail. I’m not typically an IPA girl but the Exit 16 IPA, brewed in Somerdale, NJ, was so irresistibly smooth with a kick of pepper that I was stealing sips from my friend’s glass most of the night. Then, the Green Market Tippler arrived to the table with a refreshing amount of cucumber and muddled basil with a delicate honey after taste – I was wishing the whole time that I could bottle it up to sip on the shores of Long Beach Island for the remainder of the summer.
Our meal was just as memorable. Each dish was well-presented, some swoon worthy, and deeply flavorful. Chef Andino’s Classic Baked Clams, made with little neck clams from Cape May, were perfectly seasoned with garlic and herb butter and topped with just the right amount of breadcrumbs. The Belleville Beeps paid a fine homage to the classic New Jersey dish. The shrimp were succulent and well matched with the obviously fresh and tantalizingly spicy marinara sauce.
Finally what we had been waiting all evening for came to the table – Little Town NJ’s specialty Little Town Rice Balls. Our fingers were fighting to grab at each one, dipping them in a rich hollandaise sauce. Each bite was reminiscent of a deli made Taylor ham, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich and left our taste buds begging for more. We agreed that these rice balls were the sort of thing that one should have on hand in their kitchen for a rainy Saturday morning where there is no other option but to eat breakfast in bed. They were that delicious.
Dessert came and all bets were off. Chef Andino’s Carnival Cake is a funnel cake like no other. Boardwalk joints should look to this cake and praise it for the amazing thing that it is. Taking from the best funnel cakes that he has ever had, Chef Andino’s Carnival Cake is monstrous and is guaranteed to delight any sweet tooth. Slightly crunchy on the outside and heavenly fluffed on the inside, the funnel cake was curled on to the plate and covered with heaps of vanilla ice cream and fresh compote made from New Jersey blueberries and strawberries. Although our stomachs were at the point of bursting with fullness at its arrival, we couldn’t help but to keeping shoveling the Carnival Cake in to our mouths. (A Tip: You won’t find this item on the menu, it is a well-kept secret that you must ask for so speak up!)
It was clear throughout the meal that Chef Andino knows what he is doing back in the Little Town NJ kitchen. That, however, is not surprising since he has been in the kitchen since a mere ten years old and before 21 years old had trained with both Wolfgang Puck in his flagship restaurant Spago and world renowned Thomas Keller of The French Laundry – and also attended the world’s leading hospitality school, Cornell University’s Hotel School of Administration. His unpretentious style would not indicate his culinary innovations have received attention from the Food Network, CBS, Fox and The Wall Street Journal – he is much too modest to mention all of those who have sung his praises.
The charm of Little Town NJ, along with its quality food and service, make ir worth a visit.
Little Town NJ
310 Sinatra Drive
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Open Monday through Sunday 11:00AM to 12:AM
The PR folks at Little Town NJ coordinated this dinner and we dined as their guests. The opinions in this piece are solely that of the author.
http://www.jerseybites.com/tag/heidi-raker-goldstein/ is our Bergen county regional editor. A locavore, cooking enthusiast, publicist and mother of three junior gourmands. Heidi is equally comfy in greasy spoons and high-end restaurants. When not visiting local farmers markets and farm stands in Bergen and Rockland counties, this New England native, former Manhattanite and Bergen county resident is busy running her PR and green marketing agency, Raker Goldstein & Co., buying food, planning menus, cooking food, writing about food or simply eating. Heidi also writes at Redhead With A Fork, a life|style blog. To reach Heidi, email her at [email protected]