Everyone needs a favorite restaurant.
A nice, relaxing restaurant where you can reliably dine on a Saturday night or during the week after a hectic day at work.
A restaurant that takes reservations and never keeps you waiting.
A restaurant that has a varied menu and delicious food, served hot by excellent servers who are friendly and professional.
A restaurant that has a good bar, good cocktails and a good wine selection.
A restaurant that you always look forward to.
For me, 618 in Freehold is that restaurant.
A little over two years old, 618 (the address of the restaurant and the name) has become a staple on the western Monmouth dining scene.
And with good reason.
Step 1: Appetizers
Let’s start with the appetizers.
On a recent visit, my husband and I shared the short rib ravioli starter ($11), served with shiitake mushrooms, peas, overnight tomatoes, cream and Reggiano. It was perfect for sharing (though I could have eaten the whole thing), and a good start to the meal.
Friends shared the stuffed mushrooms ($10) with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, Pecorino and a San Marzano sauce. The mushrooms were huge, and our friends finished every bit.
On past visits, we’ve had the mac and cheese appetizer ($10), which I still think about. With chorizo, three cheeses, and buttered crumbs, it is best shared. It is very rich, very hot, and very good. I could eat it every time we dine there.
This time, I was tempted to order either Granny’s meatballs or the crab cakes, but those will have to wait for another visit.
The Salad Scene
Salads here are good, too. The beyond organic’s Bibb ($10) with thyme roasted apples, goat cheese, pickled shallots, and maple pecans, and the little gem lettuce salad with grapes, radish, feta, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and green goddess dressing ($10) are favorites.
But tempting as it is, don’t fill up on appetizers, you must save room for the main course.
The Main Event
On this visit, I opted for the Cajun BBQ shrimp and grits ($26). This dish also comes in an appetizer-size version ($13), which was my starter choice on a previous visit. I liked it so much I ordered the full-size version this time around and was not disappointed. With aged cheddar, green chili grits, and shrimp with just enough spice to it, this is the perfect creamy comfort food for a cold night.
My husband opted for the grilled bronzino ($28) with roasted cauliflower, pine nuts and golden raisins, gold potatoes, and salsa verde. This is a good dish for those watching what they eat, as it’s healthy and delicious.
One of our friends ordered the Cabernet braised beef short ribs ($29) with butter-whipped potatoes and horseradish gremolata. He knew he was ordering the short ribs before he even walked into 618. He loves short ribs, and these did not disappoint.
Another friend ordered the butternut squash ravioli ($22) with brown butter, sage, pine nuts and ricotta. The nice-size serving was filling and delicious.
It’s so hard to choose at 618. All the entrees are tempting, and there are nightly specials. The skirt steak sounds good, as does the roasted chicken, pappardelle Bolognese, and cider glazed pork chop.
But I always save room for dessert.
Dessert: The Final Frontier
My favorite, which I order every time I dine there, is the warm sticky toffee cake with buttered pecans, Maldon sea salt and whipped mascarpone ($11). This delicious dessert is reminiscent of the sticky pudding I ate all through Scotland. It is big enough and rich enough to share, and we usually do, but this time around I had it all to myself (OK, I did give my husband a couple of bites).
My husband ordered the pistachio gelato ($7), which is always a good ending to a meal. You also could choose Nutella or vanilla bean gelato.
Our friends chose the crème brulee and the cheesecake—both great choices: creamy and satisfying. I might just have to try them next time.
Because there definitely will be a next time, and a time after that. 618 is the restaurant I always return to.
618 Park Avenue
Freehold, NJ 07728
Prices and menu items are subject to change.