Where I Was
Red Rock Tap & Grill, Red Bank, NJ
Monday, April 29, 1:04 p.m.
Where I Sat
I arrived with full intentions to sit outside. Red Rock has ample and amazing outdoor space and I was excited to enjoy it. I hadn’t been there for lunch on a weekday, yet I felt confident the lower bar might be popping. WRONG! It was definitely too chilly and the space completely vacant. Everyone seems to be wondering, where the heck is spring? So I walked through the enclosed area covered with clear tent-style walls and into the bar/restaurant proper. Indeed, it was packed. The only seats were located straight ahead beyond the hostess station. The tables and the bar stools were well-filled for a Monday, confirming my instincts weren’t totally off after all.
Who Served Me
Kirsten. A vivacious young woman and front of house manager at Red Rock. Kirsten serves her customers with enthusiasm, exuberance and self-assuredness. No doubt, she’s in the right profession: as we settle into our seats she asks, “What do you like to drink?” as she places menus down in front of us. As I blurt out “tequila and gin,” my eye catches the cocktail I’m sure I will L-O-V-E. Kirsten is multi-talented and crafts all the specialty cocktails while gushing about her new creation being unveiled in another two weeks—she wouldn’t reveal it to me in time for the release date of this piece.
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
“The pork belly tacos are incredible,” Kirsten said. “The pork has a nice, sweet sauce and comes with spicy jalapeño chips; I love the mix of the sweet and spice. The duck tater tots are also really really good.” I immediately ordered both.
The Vibe and My Vantage Point
Super chill with understated polish. As a fan of design and architecture, I noticed the nuances of the space. Besides my peeve of feeling blinded by the overwhelming number of large screen televisions in such a narrow space, I could tune them out completely in deference to the beautiful detail behind the bar. Let’s be honest, brick and wood always looks good together. Yes, the sexiness of the mix is what I love—wood, brick, mixed metals—eclecticism feels so good. The front face of the bar, where your legs hang and bag hook sits, wasn’t forgotten in the construction. Copper inlay added dimension to the staggered wood rectangles upping the cool-factor. Behind the bar, the bottles are the the star and sit on glass shelves against diamond-shaped wood slats distress painted in neutrals, creams, butters, browns, and blues. My eyes, thankfully, had plenty to take in beyond the glare of the screens above my sight line.
What Quenched My Thirst
Gin & Jam, $12
Tanqueray, muddled lemon, agave, fig jam, and topped champagne
While it was love at first sight, I had a mild concern about the mix being overwhelmingly sweet. However, Kirsten assured me I would find it more refreshing than sweet, so I took the creator’s word for it. I loved the brilliance of the fig jam presented on an espresso spoon, which could only have been better on a vintage spoon to help save the planet. The small snifter glass was clever and the sparkle of the champagne was a great touch. I loved tasting each ingredient and how they played together so well. When asked how Kirsten recommended I deal with the fig jam, she said “Up to you.”
What Fed My Soul
Duck Confit Tater Tots, $14
Marinated duck, red wine demi-glace, scallions, Gorgonzola
I cannot even begin to describe the warmth that flooded over me as the dish approached in its amazing glory—a steaming cast-iron skillet with a deep, brown overtone spotted with a melty, blue-and-white mix of gorgonzola and bright pops of green onion. I could already tell the chef used insane amounts of restraint with the cheese and amount of demi-glaced drizzled across the top of the crisped tater tots. My mouth was going wild watering as I compiled the ideal bite, the tot making that crunch sound as I stuck my fork deeply to grab the tot, gorgeous bit of duck and the melty square of cheese and whiff of scallion. HEAVEN. Seriously I could hardly contain the joy. It was pure magic. The creativity and pure genius of the chef was already confirmed. It was opulent and simple. Complex yet accessible.
I had no clue what I had in mind when I arrived but this was so far from it I was almost giddy. I couldn’t stop myself. It’s rare that I eat more than two or three tastes during a review as it gets too hard to be discerning by the third or fourth plate, but I had ZERO restraint with this one, I literally had to move the dish away from my reach to stop myself from eating another bite. It was THAT good. Do not miss this dish when you get to Red Rock. I mean it.
Asian Pork Belly Tacos, $14
Cajun pork belly, teriyaki glaze, pineapple coleslaw, sriracha sauce, crispy jalapeño
They arrived open-faced and glistening. The pork looked delectable, uniform chunks generously topped the grilled white corn soft taco shell. The first bite presented spicier than anticipated and I have a high-tolerance for heat. Then I realized it was the tiny and piquant jalapeño chips. Again the brilliance and creativity of the chef’s vision came through: he took fresh peppers and fried them just right—almost tempura style, it seemed. They packed a really nice punch to the dish with some cajun heat and sauces to add to the fire. The coleslaw did its job to cool things down and I loved every single bite. I had to stop at one as I saw the burger approaching and knew immediately I’d be packing up leftovers of pork and lamb burger. Those duck tater tots didn’t stand a chance!
Lamb Burger, $14
Braised red wine onions, tzatziki, and crumbled feta, served on a pita roll and served rare to medium rare
I may have fallen in love. Not sure if this too was the chef’s doing or if the person writing the menu took liberties but I flipping love that RIGHT THERE in the description they tell you how the burger shall arrive: “cooked properly to the temperature the chef intended.” Ballsy and bravo! The burger arrived boldly—HUGE—like bigger than my hand (and I have really large hands!).The fries were divine—shoestring style and super yummy with a side of ketchup in its little metal ramekin.
The pita was lightly browned at the edge and was the perfect accompaniment to the lamb burger. The feta and melted onions atop the burger added great flavor with the tzatziki. (I should have asked if the tzatziki was homemade as it tasted so.) The whole experience was beyond my expectation. The cook on the burger was as promised and I delighted once again at the boldness of description and insistence on presenting the burger as envisioned in its inception. This could top my fave burger list—it’s just that good.
What’s on Tap
Asbury Park Blonde Lager
Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy (rotating tap)
Belford Brewery Lobster Pot Ale (rotating tap)
Gooseland Island (seasonal)
Kane Head High IPA
New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale
Sam Adams (seasonal)
Schofferhoffer Hefeweizen Grapefruit Bier
Sweet Water (seasonal)
Ask about rotating taps as they change every two weeks. Prices vary, so please ask bartender for details.
Zonin Pinot Grigio
Guy Saget Sauvignon Blanc
Los Vascos Chardonnay
Wentemorning Fog Chardonnay
Notorious Pink Rosé
Sachelichinesingle Blend Rosé
De Loach Pinot Noir
Greystone Cabernet Sauvignon
Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon
Ask about prices and wine selections as they vary.
What Else to Know
Happy Hour, Monday through Friday 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Visit Red Rock’s website for more information.
When to Show
Monday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
Know Before You Go!
Hours, prices, and menus are subject to change. Please check their website for more information.
Red Rock Tap & Grill
14 Wharf Avenue
Red Bank, NJ 07701
A Lady Walks into a Bar™ is owned and trademarked by Gabrielle Garofalo.