Woody’s, Tinton Falls, NJ
Friday, June 15, 2:06 p.m.
Where I Sat
The bar, which begins just behind the hostess station, was already somewhat occupied this late-lunch hour. A laughing threesome sat at the center part of this length of the bar space so I walked left and sat just right of space, settling in just off the corner of the bar. I faced the rest of the bar, with a few tables behind me.
Kerrie, although this isn’t her regular shift. (Dawn was away, so Kerrie was covering.) Kerrie’s been there about two years and when I asked if she also works at the Sea Bright location, she replied with a swift, “No, he doesn’t like to do that.”
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
Kerrie is a a fan of many things on the menu. “The orange [crush] shrimp is incredible! There is something with the sauce. It’s sweet, but tangy and with the shrimp? It’s flash-fried, not fried-fried, so it’s light. Also, the poke, which you ordered, is really really good, and the…” She trails off, mentioning other favorites as she disappears into the kitchen with a bus bucket loaded with dishes.
The Vibe & My Vantage Point
I have to say, this was not my favorite bar vibe. Maybe it was the time of day, as it was pretty bright. Maybe it was because I had never really spent time at the bar at this Woody’s, let alone mid afternoon, alone, on a Friday. I was facing a TV screen (so not my favorite!) and could sort of see through to the other side to the dining room. To the right was the other length of the bar where the threesome sat. My guess is that if the place were packed on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, the people-watching would likely be fun.
What Quenched My Thirst
Hendrik’s Cucumber Cooler, $12
Hendrick’s Gin, muddled cucumber and lime, simple syrup, splash of club
Here’s the drink-order backstory. First, I asked Kerrie to add mint to the muddle and was shocked when she walked over with a cocktail served straight up in a martini glass. I was convinced she had the drink wrong. Never have I had a drink served straight up with the word “muddled” in the description. Kerrie apologized that the mint couldn’t be strained out of this cocktail but I quickly dismissed her concern since I was the one who asked for the mint, as I was initially misguided by my interpretation of the description. I moved on quickly as I was both pressed for time and desperate to taste what I expected to be a fantastic, refreshing, and fragrant delight. Instead: Holy hellfire! It was all gin, all day, as I could hardly get the first sip down. It reminded me of the first time I thought it a good idea to take a swig of the Popov vodka bottle in my parents’ liquor cabinet, on a dare from my older brother. Thank God no one had an open flame nearby! In fact, it was too off balance for me to suffer through so I ask Kerrie to drop the whole thing over ice with extra mint and add a touch more simple syrup and soda. Voila! Drink #2 was born: the Hellfire Fix.
What Fed My Soul
Chips & Salsa, complimentary
Homemade chips and salsa
Served up as soon as you settle into your seat, the delicious chips and salsa do not disappoint. I loved the chunkiness of the salsa and the perfect amount of cilantro that I get in almost every scoop. The chips were hearty but not at all greasy. They bring a nice saltiness to balance against the acidity in the salsa—tasty indeed and a welcome respite for someone arriving on an empty stomach.
Cubed yellowfin tuna, ponzu soy ginger sauce, cilantro
I was excited to start with a fresh, light dish, as I was unsure of what else I would be ordering. (And I had at least a third of the basket of chips and salsa so needed to take a breath!) The bowl arrived looking magnificent albeit it totally different than the description. It arrived on a rectangular platter—bowl in the center—with mounds of more homemade nacho chips on either side. I was a little confused. If anything was to be added to the dish, I would have loved hollowed-out cucumber halves, rice crackers, or even crispy wontons. And while I did indeed eat a full chip piled high with the tuna, I was disappointed in myself for falling for it. I knew it wouldn’t be what I wanted, yet was surprised to find that it sort of worked. Also absent from the description, which irked me, were the the mounds of red onion throughout the dish. The cilantro was scarce but there was the addition of scallion and purple cabbage, which, while unexpected, added a nice crunch against the suppleness of the cubed tuna. The ponzu sauce was good—sweet at first, then salty with a heat on the back end that left me quite happy.
Orange Crush Shrimp (small $10, large $16)
Fried gulf white shrimp, orange chili aioli
Something about Kerrie’s description had me intrigued, plus Woody’s is well known for its Orange and Ruby Crush cocktails. So, really, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. When the dish arrived I was a bit worried as I examined the orange, creamy sauce. Immediately I said to myself, Please do not let this taste like fried shrimp creamsicle! To my absolute wonder, I was in L O V E. At first I wasn’t sure what it was remiscent of, but then like the bang-pow flavor of this dish, it came to me. It was like a high-end orange shrimp only found at higher-end Chinese restaurants like The China Grill in NYC or Chengdu 46 in Clifton.
Sweet, crispy, and a little spicy all at once, with gorgeous green ribbons of fresh basil making for a brilliant addition. The black-peppery fragrance adding zest to the mellow essence of the orange followed by the seductress of heat…which must’ve been the chili. It really was fantastic with the black and white sesame seeds adding a nuttiness that, while subtle, cut the orange honey flavor the dish imbued.
Hudson Canyon, $18
Seared sesame seed yellowfin tuna, mixed greens, sugar snap peas, Japanese cucumbers, radishes, carrots, jicama, wasabi dressing
By this point I was completely full but I promised you all that I would always review at least three bites. I didn’t feel legit about the chips and salsa so I found myself once again in the salad category. I didn’t realize I had now done a full fish meal (sorry, meat lovers!). The salad arrived and was a gorgeous compilation of color. The light green of the wasabi dressing glistened atop the greens and other perfectly julienned veggies. I gathered a hefty bite onto my fork and poked a gorgeous corner piece of the tuna. As I not-so-gracefully shoveled the bite into my mouth, I immediately delighted in the amalgam of texture and flavor so explosive against my palate. The spicy back-burner heat of the wasabi was ever-present as the mouth delighted with the sweetness of the peas and jicama. The crunch of the sesame seeds and softness of the mixed greens were pure delight. The flavors blended beautifully and yet allowed the adventurous eater to dissect each flavor as the mix moved around the plate and my mouth. This was a salad sure to be star performer as a main dish. It was plentiful and delicious enough to stand on its own. This, I will come back for.
Beyond the Bar
Woody’s original location, on East Church Street in Sea Bright just has a different vibe. Both boast the same simple, clean, if not forgettable, decor. Both boast the same menu but offer completely different dining experiences. The chef currently at Woody’s works hard to do a great job and for the most part, does just that. This location has a nice dining room, outdoor area complete with palm trees, and a lovely private table that seats eight or 10 in the front window.
When to Show
Hours below are for Tinton Falls only. Sea Bright hours may vary.
Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Know Before You Go!
Prices, hours, and menus are subject to change. Please check the restaurant’s website for the latest information available.
1202 Sycamore Avenue
Tinton Falls, NJ 07724
This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.