Where I Was
Wednesday, February 7, 12:14 p.m.
Where I Sat
At the corner of the bar (frankly the best seat in the house) facing the glass cascading waterfall wall looking deep through the restaurant and out to the lake…
Who Served Me
Kelly, employed since about August 2017
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
“The Short Rib Pappardelle*. It’s by far [she looks away, momentarily drifting off]…like your grandmother’s cooking, and it’s amazing. Just like the perfect comfort food.”
When I mumbled “Wish I ordered that,” she replied, “Oh it’s on the dinner menu.” So, I pressed on about a fave appetizer or lunch item (since I’m sitting here for lunch after all) and she said, “The burger—it’s a classic cheeseburger on a perfect bun that comes with thin-cut French fries. Those are really good!”
The Vibe & My Vantage Point
Rustic chic. Brick walls, white marbled bar with gray accents and blonde wood floors bring in warmth as a balance to the elegance. The waterfall wall and leather club seating area by the fire adds a New York style flair to this delightful beach-town dining experience. The open kitchen and bay views throughout the back dining room create a tale-of-two-worlds sensibility. The front feels not-quite-snooty-NYC-refined and the back is completely laid back, beachy comfort. Bathrooms are pristine and modern with lovely architectural touches like a gorgeous burst of color from succulents atop the sink. My only point of contention, which I fear I may be hard pressed to avoid as I explore the bars and restaurants of our regions, I am not a lover of the TV screens atop every gorgeous bar. There they were—three or four with one right above the fireplace. Ugh. The good news? They do turn off. The bad? They were on the whole lunch. Thank goodness there aren’t any screens in the sanctity of the back dining room.
What Quenched My Thirst
Bitter Truth, $12
Bulliet bourbon, vanilla maple syrup, bitters, Luxardo cherry, orange
Wow is how I describe the cold and powerful first impression of this bourbon-heavy cocktail. With the second, more thoughtful sip, the drink composition revealed flavors melded and mellow. The perfect rainy day option as it presents a warmth and gorgeous richness balanced by a depth of cherry and subtle hint of orange—more peel than juice. A sophisticated, complexly flavored drink with the lovely Luxardo cherries muddled at the bottom of the glass turning the bourbon a pinkish hue. “One and Done” maybe should have been this cocktail’s name given its potency, but I loved it just the same!
What Fed My Soul
Tuna poke wonton, $18
The wonton shell is a work of art on a rectangular white plate, filled with what looks to be perfectly cubed punches of orange, russet, green and red, accented by the delicately sprinkled, jet black sesame seeds. Raw tuna cubes are complemented by accents of cucumber, mango, finely julienned radish, and a touch of microgreens, making this mouthful perfectly complete. The smooth texture of the tuna and mango, gently offset by a hint of lime, then juxtaposed with the crispy seeds create a delightful sensation. The crispy, and not at all oily wonton is just the right container and travel companion for this tasty, refreshing choice. I almost couldn’t stop eating bite after bite of this awesome combo.
The supporting role was held by a nearly-neon-colored seaweed salad perched atop the intersection of a wasabi mayo and carmely soy drizzle, which added a nice pop of flavor to an often-expected tuna accompaniment. This one, however, offers a surprisingly wonderful and curiously sweet top note making me come back for just one more taste of the sweet and savory seaweed mass.
Wood-fired salad pizza, $13
Usually, I don’t get the salad pizza. I mean, why would you do such a thing to the amazing base concept of tomatoes and mozzarella on bread? I really didn’t get it—until now. This one, made with arugula, crispy eggplant, caramelized onion, roasted tomatoes, shaved parmesan and balsamic glaze was so far from a typical salad pizza that I’d like to find another name for it. As I was delighting in my tuna poke, along came this gloriously sized pizza with a fragrance and aroma of the wooded Italian countryside.
Something about the mix of cooked and raw, fresh ingredients traveled up and out of the dish. The special way the flatbread was holey and pocketed, wood-fired to perfect crispness. And how the thinly sliced eggplant** lay among the about-to-burst roasted cherry tomatoes. And this was interspersed with the sweet and crispy sauteed onions spread on top of deep green, peppery arugula which was subtly dressed in quality olive oil and balsamic glaze. The first bite was rustic—for a second I thought I tasted mushrooms but it was the earthiness of the eggplant with the balsamic that distracted me from the fact I was eating a salad pizza to begin with. It was tasty, rich and for sure will be great leftover! Can’t wait for dinner.
Lobster rolls, $30
Not sure what I was thinking when, at the last second, I added this to my experience but the golden brown buttered or tarragon mayo split top lobster rolls felt like a must. Maybe it’s because I own a food festival in Maine. Or maybe it’s because I’m on a constant quest for the perfect twist or traditional lobster roll. So, I took Kelly’s advice and asked for one of each roll—one with poached butter topped with a touch of lemon zest and chives, adding some needed color and the other, which I preferred, was dressed in tarragon mayo. Tart and herby, this one was a nice differentiator to the typical lobster roll experience. The buttery rolls were total yumminess. The two generously sized rolls came out with the housemade chips. It won’t take long for you to realize that I haven’t met a fried potato I didn’t like, and that remained true here. A tad on the crispy side, the chips were deep brown and freshly salted—as evidenced by the different-sized crystals resting on the chips. A plentiful plate for lunchtime enjoyment.
*on the dinner menu only. **not breaded, which was so refreshing!
Beyond the Bar
Enjoy great views overlooking Twilight Lake. Charlie’s features an extensive wine list and is available for private events.
Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thursday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Charlie’s of Bay Head
72 Bridge Avenue
This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.