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September 3, 2012

Christin’s Morning Spoon: Carpe Diem in Hoboken

After a successful, but parade-less Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day, my brunch buddy and I were lucky enough to enjoy Sunday brunch with a few more people than usual.  Joined by The Drunken Polar Bear, his girl friend Sue, and his friend Enrique, we ventured to one of uptown Hoboken’s hidden gems, Carpe Diem.  Carpe Diem is located right underneath the viaduct on the corner of 14th and Grand.

Carpe Diem is the perfect place for a post movie drink and dinner is pretty good too.  My favorite spot is the two chairs in the dining area right next to the fire.  It is perfect for enjoying a delicious drink on a chilly night.

Challenged to find a place that would give us the greasy and tasty food we were craving after a long day/night of celebrating, we decided Carpe Diem was the place to try.  It also didn’t hurt that Carpe Diem is right up the street – easy to get to with little effort!

Here is my recap.

No Wait.  Since we all had a pretty long Saturday, it took us awhile to get ourselves together and ready for brunch. We met at Carpe Diem at noon and, lucky for us, there was only one other table full. Surprisingly, there were more people seated at the bar than in the dining area of brunch.

Since it was nearly empty, our waitress let us choose where we wanted to sit.  We decided on a table right up against the outside window.  We had plenty of space to spread out and recap our crazy nights.

Warm, Welcoming Environment.  Unlike many of the typical bar/restaurants on the Hoboken scene, Carpe Diem has a unique, neighborhood feel.  Whenever I have been in there, it seems like everyone knows everyone.

On their website, they have the phrase “welcome stranger, farewell friend.”  I think that perfectly sums up the inviting, comfortable atmosphere.  The music is never too loud and you can easily sit at the bar for a casual drink, chat with friends, the bartenders or even strangers.

Breakfast/Lunch Selections.  Carpe Diem has a large, diverse brunch menu, but a majority of it focuses on lunch selections.  On the breakfast side they have frittatas, egg sandwiches and an Irish Breakfast.  The “create your own breakfast” sandwich gives you the choice of breakfast meat:  bacon, ham, sausage or turkey (sadly no Taylor ham) and a pick of a variety of cheeses to add to your egg.  They can be put on a Kaiser roll, seven grain bread, white bread or Texas toast (my favorite).  Sandwich are served with a choice of home fries, French fries, sweet potato fries or yogurt.

My friend Sue decided on the create your own breakfast sandwich with egg whites, bacon and mozzarella.  She thought it was delicious and loved that she had so many options for creating a delicious, customized breakfast sandwich.

For the lunch, there are salads, burgers and sandwiches. There are five different salad choices:  house, harvest (baked brie, walnuts, raisins and tomatoes), Caesar, pear (pears, walnuts, blue cheese) and orange chicken salad.  For the sandwiches, they have a number of choices including chicken and mozzarella, buffalo chicken and katie’s way – open faced turkey sandwich with bacon and gruyere with gravy.  One thing that I love about Carpe Diem’s sandwiches is that you can order them in a peckish (a little hungry) or lee (very hungry) portion.

Frittatas.  Carpe Diem has a number of delicious sounding frittatas, something not typical on brunch menus.  The Brie Frittata immediately jumped out at me.  It is made with brie, bacon and tomatoes.  After initially sounding great, I decided I would prefer to have Swiss instead of brie and no tomatoes, so instead of annoying the waitress with my substitutions, I decided to keep looking for a better option.

I decided on the Western Frittata.  It is made with cheddar cheese, red and green peppers, onions and ham.  I was amazing!  The portion was perfect and packed with a ton of flavor.  For my side, I chose the potato hash.  Potatoes are mixed in with peppers and onions.  There was a little heat to the potatoes adding a great compliment to the frittata.

The Morning After.  Carpe Diem has an array of burgers on their brunch menu.  A few of the delicious choices include the Brie Burger; bacon, melted brie and fresh herbs, the California Burger, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and a cilantro jalapeno sauce and Claire’s Favorite, gorgonzola cheese and thin crisp onions.

All three of the guys picked the perfect burger for their first meal after a long day of drinking, The Morning After. The Morning After Burger is piled high with cheddar cheese, bacon, a friend egg, lettuce and tomato and finished off with a garlic aioli spread.

The burgers come with a choice of French fries, sweet potato fries, soup or salad.  My brunch buddy picked the sweet potato fries – definitely the right choice.  They were served with an aioli dipping sauce that was amazing.  I took a few fries from him while he was not looking.  All three of the guys loved it, which you could easily see since all three of them finished every bite!

Out of five spoons, I give Carpe Diem four.  All five of us really enjoyed our meals.  Everything tasted delicious and the service was great.  My favorite parts were the home fries and of course the sweet potato fries with the aioli dipping sauce.  Amazing!

Carpe Diem is a great, local hangout that really makes you feel at home.  It is definitely worth making the trek uptown for a drink or grabbing a pre beer garden dinner.  And on Thursday nights Carpe Diem offers half off bottles of wine.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

February 23, 2012

Christin’s Morning Spoon: Choc O Pain Hoboken

This week, my brunch buddy and I decided to go out for a casual weekday lunch instead of our typical weekend brunch date.  For the past few weeks, he has been telling me about a new French café, Choc O Pain, that opened in downtown Hoboken.  He had lunch there a few times and told me I’d love it.

Choc O Pain just opened in mid-January, so it is relatively new on the Hoboken scene.  It is located at 157 First Street, between Bloomfield and Garden Streets.  It happens to be right near one of my all-time favorite Hoboken bars, Mulligan’s.  I parked my car at a meter right out front and met my brunch buddy for what I hoped would be a delicious lunch.

Here is my recap.

Choc O Pain Hoboken Interior 1

Big Crowd, Even on a Weekday. 

My brunch buddy and I met up around 12:30, prime lunch hour.  I figured since it was a weekday and a relatively new place, it would not be too crowded.

I walked up to the counter, surveying the menu printed on chalkboards and hung on the walls and delicious treats in the glass cases.  I made my selection (I will get to that in a bit), told my brunch buddy and went off in search of a table.

Choc O Pain Hoboken Glass Case

There are three tables and one larger high table in the downstairs area.  All were completely full.  Choc O Pain is definitely the type of place where you can share a table with a stranger and still enjoy your meal, but I decided to venture upstairs to the second floor, figuring I would have more luck up there.  There were a number of tables, also all completely full.

I went back downstairs, ready to tell my brunch buddy the bad news, when a table opened up.  I slid into the seat, pulled out my laptop and connected to Choc O Pain’s free WIFI to catch up on some work.

One of my favorite things about Choc O Pain is the many little notes around the restaurant on black paper with silver marker.  There was one right on our table telling the WIFI name and password.  I was on the internet in seconds and caught up on my emails just as our lunch was served.

Choc O Pain Hoboken Interior 2Feel at Home. 

As soon as I walked in, I felt like I was entering a bistro in Paris.  Baskets of bread line the windows and fresh, delicious looking pastries practically jump out at you when you walk in.

There is nothing standard or typical about Choc O Pain.  While I was upstairs searching for a table, I could not get over how comfortable and at home I felt.  There were a number of unique tables with sofas and chairs.  They are grouped into little sections – almost like four separate living rooms, designed specifically for you to enjoy a carefree lunch.

The upstairs also has a play area with toys for little kids.  There are rubber play mats and a guard to protect the kids in the play area.  It is the perfect spot for a play date – mom’s can sit and chat while kids have plenty of toys to entertain themselves.

As I looked around, I saw a wide range of patrons at Choc O Pain; nurses on their lunch break, moms with babies, friends chatting about their days and tourists enjoying a casual lunch.  It offers the perfect lunch experience for anyone looking for a delicious meal and a new experience unlike anything else in Hoboken.

Sandwiches. 

Choc O Pain has a variety of sandwiches all displayed behind the glass.  They even have French specialties such as Croque Monsieur.

My brunch buddy ordered the Ham and Swiss on a baguette, his favorite on the Choc O Pain menu. Although the ingredients are delicious by themselves, at Choc O Pain, the bread is the star in the sandwiches. Baked fresh on the premises daily, the chewy, crusty baguette is perfect for a great sandwich. He’s tried most of the sandwiches here (tuna and roasted vegetable too), but the ham and Swiss is by far his favorite.


Choc O Pain Hoboken Sandwich

Quiche. 

When I walked up to the counter, my eyes bounced back and forth between all of the many options.  Everything looked delicious and I had no idea what to pick.  Then I saw a little sign for Quiche Lorraine – one of my favorites.  I saw a quiche with leeks and another with red and yellow peppers, but no Quiche Lorraine.  I asked one of the waitresses if they had any left, but they were out.  Ready to wait for them to prepare a new batch, they told me they would not be making any more until tomorrow.

Choc O Pain Hoboken

I decided instead of a sandwich, I would try one of the quiches that they did have.  What other item defines how great a French café really is?  I was torn between the pepper and leek.  I was not really sure how I would like the leek, so I asked a server what he thought was the best.  He told me without a doubt, the leek was amazing and that I would love it.

Wow was he right!   I am now a fan of leeks, absolutely delicious.  It was cooked just right, the center still a little moist and the crust crispy and flakey.  The portion was the perfect size and it was accompanied by a healthy, fresh side salad.  I tried to eat mine as quickly as I could, hoping my brunch buddy would not want a taste (it was so good, I did not want to share!).  He asked before I had a chance to finish and like me, he was absolutely hooked.  I ended up giving him one last bite before I finished it off!

Breads and Pastries. 

Choc O Pain Hoboken Bread

It is absolutely impossible for your mouth to not water as you ogle at the many freshly made pastries and breads behind the counter.  I told my brunch buddy it was an absolute must that we try at least one thing.

We decided on the choc o pain itself, chocolate baked into a pastry.  I referred to it as a chocolate croissant, but my brunch buddy quickly corrected me.

I love to get choc o pain from Au Bon Pain and although they are good there, this one blew me away.  It was very flaky, yet soft.  The chocolate on the inside was soft and still a little melted unlike most places where it is a little hard and dried up.

After eating our lunches and the choc o pain, we were not quite ready to finish up and leave.  We decided on one last treat, a berry tart with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.  My brunch buddy told me he had never had a tart before, so he was looking forward to giving it a try.  I figured since there was some fresh fruit it had to be healthy!!

The fruit was very fresh, they could have added a bit more pastry cream.  Although it did taste very good, it was my least favorite item that I tried.  It also costs a little over $6.00, which seemed a bit steep for a fruit tart.

Choc O Pain Hoboken TartThe Verdict.

Out of five spoons, I give Choc O Pain four and half.  The atmosphere is so warm and inviting, I was actually disappointed when it was time to leave.  It is the perfect place to come for a casual meal when you are in no rush to be anywhere.  The food is amazing and the glass cases of tasty treats beckon you to try more.

If you are looking for something different than the delicious Italian bakeries in town, it is the perfect spot to pick up bread or pastries before a dinner party.  Choc O pain is a great new and different addition to the Hoboken restaurant scene.  Definitely a must try!

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

February 12, 2012

Christin’s Morning Spoon: The Malibu Diner

Saturday morning my brunch buddy and I were catching up on Top Chef Texas reruns, one of our favorite shows.  Their quick fire challenge was to make a whimsical pancake for Pee-wee Herman.  As we watched the chefs prepare delicious ricotta pancakes and crazy sprinkle filled pancakes, we both decided a pancake brunch needed to be in our immediate future.

After scanning the menus of a few brunch places in search of a delicious pancake selection, my brunch buddy suggested that we try the Malibu Diner.

The Malibu Diner is located at 257 14th Street, right on the corner of 14th and Park.  Believe it or not, after living so close to it, I have never actually been there – not even for a late night post-bar snack.  He promised great pancakes, so I was sold!

Here is my recap.

Parking Right out Front.  My brunch buddy called his friend Chris to come join us for brunch.  We hopped in my car and drove over to the Malibu Diner.  At first I was concerned about trying to park, but then remembered the parking lot in the front and side of the diner.  To be able to drive and park (without having to pay) right in front of a restaurant is a huge bonus for a place in Hoboken.  So even though the walk is quick, it was great to be a little lazy and just jump in the car and not have to deal with finding a spot.

Not So Great Service. After we met Chris, we sat down and read through our menus (obviously turning straight to the pancake section).  We decided on our meals, closed our menus and waited…and waited and waited, but our waitress did not come.  After about ten minutes, she finally arrived and took our order.  Luckily, our food came out pretty quickly, because by then we were starving.

After we were done eating we again waited quite awhile for our plates to be cleared and the check to arrive.  As Chris pointed out, we were at a diner, so we should not expect amazing service.  Although it was slow, our waitress was friendly enough.  We weren’t in a rush to leave breakfast, so it just gave us extra time to sit and relax.

Plenty of Menu Choices.  One of the things that always deters me from going to a diner is their incredibly large selection of meals.  I always think that if a menu has that many items, they can’t possibly make them taste great.  But if you are looking for a quick, cheap breakfast, diners are the way to go.

In addition to a large selection of pancakes (I’ll get to them in a minute), they have eggs any way you could possibly dream; omelets, skillets and benedicts.  They also have Belgian waffles, French toast and even bagels.  Regardless of what you are in the mood for, they most likely have it on their menu.

My brunch buddy was toying with the idea of ordering a side of bacon, but at the last minute decided on a halved cantaloupe.  He loved it.  He thought it was very fresh and a great healthy snack to hold him over until our meal arrived.

Lots of Pancakes.  Just as my brunch buddy said, the Malibu Diner has a ton of pancake varieties.  They have fresh fruit, cinnamon raisin, peach n’ cream, peanut butter and chocolate chip and apple walnut pancakes.

My brunch buddy made a healthy substitution and ordered whole wheat pancakes with blueberries.  Expecting fresh blueberries, he was very disappointed to see the blueberry compote on his pancakes.  He hoped that fresh blueberries would be mixed in with the batter.  He ended up wiping off the syrupy blueberry compote with his fork and eating them semi plain.

Chris ordered banana peanut butter pancakes.  Unlike my brunch buddy, he loved his, commenting that they were definitely a four spoon pancake.  He also ordered a side of bacon, which was placed right on top of his pancakes.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes.  After debating between banana walnut or chocolate chip pancakes, I decided on chocolate chip.  They are usually my all-time favorite and I was definitely in the mood for something chocolate-y.  I was served three large pancakes, with mini chocolate chips mixed right into the batter.

They were a little dry and the chocolate chips on one side of the pancakes were burnt.  The only syrup option was in a small plastic container, which did not taste that great – I am a big fan of real Vermont maple syrup.

Out of five spoons, I give the Malibu Diner three.  With such a large and diverse menu, there is sure to be something to please everyone in your brunch party.  Sadly though, the taste definitely does not compete with the many great brunch spots in Hoboken.

The pancakes were good and since all three of us got them, maybe something else on the menu would have tasted a bit better.  Since it is one of the only true diners in Hoboken, it’s clean, large and a great place to stop for any meal of the day or even a late night snack since the Malibu is open 24/7.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

January 20, 2012

Christin’s Morning Spoon: The Hoboken Gourmet Company

This week, my brunch buddy was a little under the weather, so we decided to mix up our typical weekend brunch outing and order take out instead.  Since it was absolutely freezing out Sunday morning, I wanted to pick a place close by so that I did not have to be out in the bitter cold for too long.

After debating between a few options, we decided on The Hoboken Gourmet Company.  It is located in midtown Hoboken at 423 Washington Street.

It is pretty easy to miss this great little spot if you aren’t paying attention.  I have walked past it many times, without even realizing it was there.  Luckily for me, my brunch buddy lives a few buildings down. He always says it is a great place for breakfast, lunch or even to sit and enjoy a coffee.

Here’s my recap:

Adorable Inside.  Three steps down on Washington lead you into a charming, quaint space, perfect for enjoying a morning meal.  Being that I did not get to eat in, I spent a few minutes taking in the atmosphere while waiting for our food to be ready.

Since it is so easy to miss this great little spot, I was happy to see so many people inside.  There are about eight tables and when I arrived around 10:30, they were all full.  There were a variety of people: families, college kids and groups of friends.  Everyone looked relaxed and excited about enjoying their delicious meals.

A counter is located at the front.  Behind it, there were different pastries and muffins that look absolutely amazing.  At the table closest to the door, two little girls were enjoying large chocolate chip muffins.  They looked great – I was very jealous I did not order one for myself.

Quick for takeout.  Although they had a full restaurant, our meal was still ready in about 15 minutes.  Since the counter is right up front, it was very easy to walk in and pick up our food.  It is set to the left of the tables, so I did not have to dodge chairs, tables and people.  I was able to run in and grab my food, without interrupting anyone’s meals or bothering any of the waitresses.

Lots of Eggs.  Hoboken Gourmet Company’s breakfast menu is dominated by egg dishes.  They offer a variety of omelets:  Garden Omelet with red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes and mozzarella, Italian Omelet with arugula, basil and goat cheese and Western Omelet with peppers, ham, tomatoes, onions and cheddar.

In addition to omelets, they have Huevos Rancheros and Lydia’s Breakfast Tacos.  I have obviously heard of Huevos Rancheros, but was very interested in what breakfast tacos would be like.  Three scrambled eggs are mixed with chrizo, cilantro and jalapenos and the wrapped in two corn tortillas and served with beans and salsa.

My brunch buddy ordered Three Eggs Any Style.  He chose scrambled eggs topped with cheddar cheese.  It was served with home fries, corned beef hash and Italian toast.  Usually a skeptic of take-out breakfast, he thought it tasted just as good as if we were enjoying it at the restaurant.  He really liked the corned beef hash!

If you are not in the mood for eggs, there are only three items on the breakfast menu that are not egg based.  They have yogurt with granola and fresh berries, oatmeal with fruit and a bagel with smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato and onions.

Omelet.  Since I did not want any of the omelets on the menu, I decided to make my own.  I ordered an egg white omelet with cheddar cheese, ham and onions.  This tends to be my go-to omelet of choice and I seem to be trying it out all over Hoboken.  And this was definitely one of my favorites!  Sometimes egg white omelets are a little dry and lack the flavor of a regular omelet, but this one was amazing.  It had great flavor and while eating it, I almost forgot I went for the slightly healthier route.

The omelet was served with a side of delicious home fries.  Instead of typical toast, I really liked that Hoboken Gourmet Company served it with smaller slices of Italian bread.

Lunch Options.  The Hoboken Gourmet Company has a large lunch menu.  They have six delicious sounding salads.  There is the Hoboken Gourmet Mango Salad, baby green, tomatoes, red onion, pecans and mangoes tossed in a citrus dressing.  They also have a Warm Grilled Chicken Salad with blue cheese, avocado, roasted red peppers, cranberries and sunflower seeds tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette.

There are also a number of wraps and sandwiches.  They have all of the basic types of sandwiches, tuna salad, chicken salad, fresh mozzarella and ham and swiss.  The turkey, brie and honey Dijon sandwich sounds delicious.  They also serve one of my favorite cold weather lunches, soup and grilled cheese with tomato.  In addition to these sandwiches they also have a few types of pasta and a chicken entrée.

Even if you are not in the mood for a meal, The Hoboken Gourmet Company has a great variety of coffees and teas.  At the front of the restaurant, in one of the window areas, they have a coffee and tea station for customers to prepare their drinks.  It is the perfect place to warm up on a cold day and enjoy a coffee or pastry with a friend!

Out of five spoons, I give The Hoboken Gourmet Company three and a half.  Although I did not get to enjoy the experience of dining in, I loved the welcoming atmosphere on the place.  My brunch buddy and I both loved our breakfasts (I am even thinking about going back tomorrow!).  If eggs are not your favorite and you are looking for more diversity in a breakfast place, this may not be the best place for you.  But definitely give them a try for lunch!

 

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

January 14, 2012

Christin’s Morning Spoon: Marty O’Brien’s Hoboken

This Sunday, my brunch buddy and I took a walk downtown for brunch at Marty O’Brien’s.  It was my second time at this relatively new bar since it opened in early fall.  Although I was a fan of Busker’s, I was very excited to try out their brunch and see how the space had changed.

Marty O’Brien’s is located on the corner of 1st and Bloomfield Streets.  Upon walking into Marty O’Brien’s, you immediately enter the bar area.  They have a decent size bar and numerous tables up against the windows.  There were a bunch of televisions and even a projector screen set and ready for the big game.

As you continue to walk through, there are two other rooms perfect for enjoying a meal.  New black and white printed wallpaper and maroon accent walls have been added, creating an old fashioned, welcoming dining experience.

Here is my recap.

Free Mimosas and Blood Mary’s.  As our waiter sat us down, he told us that they offer complimentary Mimosas and Blood Mary’s with brunch.  What could be better?  I was very excited.

I ordered a Mimosa and my brunch buddy chose a Bloody Mary.  Both drinks were a great size for being free – they did not skimp at all!  The Mimosa was very tasty and a great way to cap off a weekend.  My brunch buddy also enjoyed his Blood Mary.  He said it was on the spicy side, which he enjoyed.

Great Variety.  Marty O’Brien’s brunch menu has a great variety of both breakfast items and lunch items.  At first, I was quite torn between lunch and breakfast.  On the lunch menu, the BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich and the Turkey Club immediately jumped out at me.  I figured my brunch buddy was going to choose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich.  It has marinated chicken with mozzarella roasted red peppers, arugula, tomato and pesto on a roll.  But he surprised me and went with breakfast.

If you are looking for the perfect combination of breakfast and lunch, try the Hangover Burger.  It is an 8 ounce burger topped with taylor ham, egg and cheese on a brioche roll.  The best of both worlds!

The breakfast menu includes Crab Cake Benedict, Breakfast Burrito, Belgian Waffles and Housemade Pancakes.  Two items that sounded amazing were the Bananas Foster and the Stuffed Pancakes.  For the Bananas Foster, homemade pancakes are topped with fresh bananas, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon (sounds super sweet!) and a side of bacon or sausage.  The Stuffed Pancakes are filled with cheese and seasonal fruit, also served with a side of bacon or sausage.

French Toast.  In the end, I decided on breakfast.  Two slices of brioche toast are topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries, sprinkled with powdered sugar and a few drops of whipped cream made up Marty O’Brien’s French Toast.  I chose sausage as my side.

The French Toast was delicious and tasty.  I loved the side of maple syrup that was included, which tasted more like pure maple syrup rather than Aunt Jemima.

No Irish Breakfast.   When my brunch buddy saw the menu, he was very excited to try the Irish Breakfast.  It consists of two eggs any style, Irish bacon, sausage, baked beans, black and white pudding, Irish soda bread and tomatoes.  Although it seemed like an odd breakfast to me, I was looking forward to a piece of Irish soda bread.

After placing our order, our waiter came back over to tell us they were out of some components for the Irish Breakfast.  He made a panicked and hasty decision to have the Eggs Benedict instead.

Luckily, he wasn’t disappointed.  The eggs were poached perfectly, and the hollandaise sauce was superb.  As a big Eggs Benedict fan who has tried them at many places, these were the best “straightforward” version that he’s had.

Great Service.  Midway through our meal, Giants fans started rolling in for the big game.  Even as the place started to fill up and the wait staff became busier, we never felt neglected or rushed to leave our table to make room for another party.  Our waiter came over numerous times to make sure everything was great  and that we didn’t need anything else.  You can tell that Marty O’Brien’s focuses on making everyone feel welcome, and makes sure your experience is enjoyable.

Out of five spoons, I give Marty O’Brien’s four (remember, tough 2012 grading!).  This is the kind of place I can imagine becoming someone’s go-to brunch place.  Not too many frills, but the food, atmosphere and price are just right.  And a free morning cocktail makes it even better!

Marty O’Brien’s is located at 94 Bloofield Street, Hoboken NJ.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (5 votes cast)

January 7, 2012

Christin’s Morning Spoon: The Clinton Social in Hoboken

After a great holiday season, I started 2012 off right with a New Year’s Day brunch at The Clinton Social.  It is located at 700 Clinton Street, on the corner of Clinton and 7th Streets, right across the street from A&P.  They are open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays starting at noon.

I have been to The Clinton Social a few times for dinner, but never tried their brunch.  For New Year’s Day, they had a brunch special:  an entrée and two brunch cocktails, bloody Mary, mimosa, draft beer or house wine, for $20.  Unfortunately, my brunch buddy and I were never told about the deal and only saw it advertised as we paid the check.

Here’s my recap.

Two rooms, two different feels.  As you walk into The Clinton Social, the first room is the bar.  There is a large bar with TVs perfect for watching the game, and there are high tables up against the windows.  The bar area was partially filled with quite the noisy crowd.  Since we had a late New Year’s Eve and were looking for a quieter meal, we decided to sit in the back room.

The back room has a completely different feel from the bar section.  The exposed brick and brightly painted walls bring light into the area, creating a warm and inviting space.  This gives it more an upscale feel in contrast with the front bar. The back area has about fifteen tables.  The hostess offered to seat us at a table next to two families with little children or at a table in the middle of the walkway.  When we asked if we could sit in the back corner by the windows, we were told that all of the tables had reservations, so there were only a limited number of tables to chose from.  We chose the table in the walkway, and by the end of our meal, only one table was seated!

Small Breakfast Menu.  The Clinton Social’s brunch menu only has a limited selection of brunch items.  Although there are only eight items, the menu is very diverse.  They have steak & eggs, a smoked salmon platter, French toast and short rib hash.  The most interesting item on the menu was the Eggs David.  It is The Clinton Social’s unique spin on Eggs Benedict.  English muffins are topped with meatloaf, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce.  It is definitely not something I would try, but my brunch buddy said that was his second choice.

The Clinton Social does have a larger menu with lunch items.  There are numerous appetizers, my favorite of which is the artichoke and goat cheese pierogies.  My girlfriends and I shared them the last time we were there and absolutely loved them.  There are a few choices of sliders, salads, pizzas, sandwiches and even pasta.  If you are looking for a more of a lunch spot, this is your place.  They also have a number of lunch cocktails if a liquid lunch is more your speed!

Huevos Rancheros.  Instead of the Eggs David, my brunch buddy ordered the Huevos Rancheros.  Black beans, jalapenos, avocado and sour cream are served with eggs made your way and placed atop a corn tortilla.  He chose two sunny side up eggs.  He liked that Clinton Social did something a little different with the meal, but felt like they sacrificed practicality for presentation when they fanned out the three tortillas around the eggs in the middle. Overall, he said they were among his favorite huevos in town, after he got through the ordeal of rearranging his plate.

I have actually never tried Huevos Ranceros.  I always thought eggs combined with the fixings for an amazing burrito are a bit too odd for a morning meal.  Boy was I wrong!  I skeptically tried his brunch and I was instantly overcome with food envy.  It was amazing.  I loved the mix of flavors that were in every bite, absolutely amazing.

The Social Breakfast.  I was truthfully stumped over what to order for brunch.  I did not really feel like pancakes and I had French toast the day before.  So after I bit of deliberating, I decided on The Social Breakfast.  Although I thought it was a bit too much food, I went for it anyway.   It consists of two eggs any style, bacon or sausage, home fries, toast and two pancakes. I chose scrambled eggs with a bit of cheddar cheese and asked if I could have it without the pancakes. My brunch buddy scoffed at me giving up food, and gladly offered to eat a few bites of them for me.

When my meal arrived, it turned out not to be as big as I was expecting.  There were only two slices of bacon and the pancakes were actually very tiny.  Even though I initially wanted to eliminate the pancakes, they were actually my favorite part – just the right amount of vanilla; sweet and powerful, without being overbearing.

A Bit Expensive.   Almost all of the items on the brunch menu are around $12-$14.  The most expensive, the short rib hash is $18.  My brunch buddy’s Huevos Rancheros were $12 and my social breakfast was $14 ($15 after they tacked on a dollar for cheese).  Although it may not seem like that much, for the portion size, I thought that it was a little pricey.  They also did not give a bread basket which is a huge letdown to me!

I was recently told that I was a bit too generous with my spoons last year, so for 2012, I will be a bit tougher.  Out of five spoons, I give The Clinton Social three.  As a whole it was a good brunch, but lacked the variety of breakfast choices that I was really hoping for.  Although my brunch buddy and I both enjoyed our meals, for the price, we felt that the food could have been a bit tastier.

Next week, I will be brunching at Marty O’Briens Social Club.  It is a newly redone bar/restaurant on the corner of 1st and Bloomfield, where Buskers used to be.

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Rating: 9.5/10 (4 votes cast)

November 19, 2011

Christin’s Morning Spoon: Backyards Bistro

A few years ago, my old roommate and I were in search of a cheap BYOB to enjoy a delicious meal and have a bottle of wine. I had passed by Backyards Bistro many times during my 30+ minute post-work search for parking. Each time I passed, I thought “I will never, ever eat there.”

Backyards Bistro Hoboken Exterior

One night after looking through the menu, we decided to give it a try. I was a little reluctant and nervous that the food would not be good, but after trying their mac and cheese and pretzel bread, I was completely hooked. They have a variety of delicious sandwiches (my favorite is the San Francisco). I have introduced it to many of my friends and since then, it has become one of our favorites.

I have never been there for brunch, so this past Sunday, my brunch buddy and I gave it a try. Backyards Bistro is tucked away at 732 Jefferson Street. It is a small unassuming white building on the corner of Jefferson and 8th Streets. Unfortunately their website is down, so you’ll have to pass by to check out their menu.

Here is my recap…

Looks may be deceiving: From the outside, Backyards Bistro does not look like the most appealing place. But don’t be fooled by the exterior, because great food is waiting for you inside. Backyards is under new management and the interior has been fixed up and freshly painted. Luckily the menu has stayed the same.

Empty: Every time I have ever been to Backyards, the restaurant is empty. A few people usually stroll in to pick up take out orders, but for the most part, there have never been more than two or three other tables filled with people. There are about ten small tables and a counter.

Backyards Bistro Hoboken Interior

The one great thing about Backyards is that you never have to worry about dealing with a wait. For most of our meal, we were the only other people in the restaurant. Even though we were the only ones there, we did feel a bit neglected. My brunch buddy had to wait quite awhile for a refill on his water, which he was not too thrilled about.

Breakfast Items: Backyards Bistro serves brunch Saturday and Sundays from 10am-3pm. In addition to the sandwiches and salads on the dinner menu, they have a number of breakfast items. They have egg sandwiches, a breakfast burrito, pancakes and Backyard’s take of Eggs Benedict, Eggs Jefferson.

My brunch buddy order the Three Egg Scramble. Three scrambled eggs are served over hash browns with a side of toast. To jazz up the scramble, he added cheese, tomatoes and onions and ordered a side of bacon. Overall, he thought the meal was OK, but very greasy. The cheese was laid on top of the scramble to melt rather than mixed in, which may sound good but it looked congealed and greasy. He thought the potatoes were good, but the bacon was overdone.

Backyards Bistro Hoboken Food 1

The “Vermonster”: Initially I wanted to try the crème brule French toast, but in the end I ordered the “Vermonster” breakfast sandwich. Pretzel bread is top with eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and cheddar cheese. I decided to make a substitution and asked for Taylor ham instead of the bacon and sausage. Unfortunately, the kitchen did not make the change and my sandwich was made with bacon and sausage.

I removed the sausage, but kept the bacon on. I really liked that the sandwich was made on pretzel bread instead of the typical breakfast sandwich made on a bagel or roll. I also enjoyed that the home fries were added into the sandwich instead of just on the side. I also wish the eggs were scrambled instead of just cooked similar to an omelet. Overall it was a good sandwich, but a bit too greasy.

Backyards Bistro Hoboken Food 2

Affordable: This was one of the least expensive brunches we have had so far. The total for two breakfasts and a coffee was only $20.00. The portions were large and I was completely full after finishing my sandwich.

Rating: Out of five spoons, I give Backyards Bistro three. Our meals were good, although a bit too greasy. The service was mediocre, but the bill was affordable. Although it was not the best for brunch, I would definitely recommend going for an affordable, delicious dinner.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

November 11, 2011

Christin’s Morning Spoon: Good of NYC Brunch Review

My brunch buddy and I enjoyed Saturday’s beautiful, crisp weather by going into NYC to try a new brunch spot. This week’s brunch spot was Good, located at 89 Greenwich Avenue, on the corner of Greenwich and Bank in the village. Since we had a late Friday night and a slow start in the morning, our Saturday trip into the city was running a little behind.

We left Hoboken around noon and took the PATH to 14th Street. From there it was a quick walk to Greenwich Avenue. We put our names on the list and were told the wait would be about 20 minutes. Since it was such a nice day outside, I was hoping we could bypass the wait and sit in the front, outdoor seating area. I figured it would be the last day to enjoy the beautiful weather before the cold weather rolls in. My brunch buddy shot me down right away saying it was a bit too cold to eat outside and a 20 minute wait was not that bad.

Good NYC Brunch Christin's Morning Spoon Exterior  #5

We took a stroll down Greenwich and right next door to Good was a NYC location of one of my favorite Hoboken shops, Jesse James. I browsed through quickly, and then checked out an adorable home store next door and the browsed the menus of a few other restaurants on Greenwich.

Before we knew it our 20 minutes were up and we went back to Good very hungry and excited for our brunch. Here’s my recap.

Amazing Staff. Once we returned to Good, we were hoping to be seated right away. Unfortunately a few tables were taking longer than expected to finish up their meals and the wait would be a bit more. We waited in the bar area and then as that started to fill up, moved back outside. The host came outside to let us know how sorry he was that the wait was taking longer than they anticipated. He even offered to get us a drink or coffee while we waited.

Within a few minutes he came back out to let us know that our table was ready. We were escorted in to a table towards the front of the restaurant.

Adorable Atmosphere. The adorable décor of Good was very welcoming. The cool blue walls brought light and energy to the restaurant. There are also large paintings of knives and forks on the walls that create a homey, comfortable place to enjoy a morning meal.

My favorite part of Good was the chalkboard paint they used around the bar area. White chalk was used to list Good’s cocktails and wines creatively on the walls.

Get it All Special. Good offers a get-it-all special for weekend brunch. For $24 you receive a house-made bread or side, egg, pancake or French toast dish and a morning cocktail. Each menu item is between $12-$14 and the drinks are about $10 so it is an amazing deal! My brunch buddy and I both decided that the get-it-all was the way to go.

Their side dish offerings include home fries, cheddar jalapeno grits, bacon, sausage, pancakes, eggs and yogurt. If I didn’t just have amazing grits at dinner the night before, that would have been my pick!

Good NYC Brunch Christin's Morning Spoon Drinks #2Breakfast Cocktails. Good’s morning drink menu has a collection of cocktails, beer and cider. Four of their drinks are included in the brunch special; the chipotle mary, passion mimosa, brunch punch and the goodMorning cocktail.

My brunch buddy ordered the goodBrunch punch. It is made with peach vodka, fresh strawberry and orange juices, peach schnapps and mint. As hungover as he was, he thought it tasted great and drank every drop. For me, it was a little too aggressive that early on a Saturday after a rough Friday night.

I ordered the PassionFruit Mimosa, a typical mimosa jazzed up with a passionfruit puree. Although it was great, I was hoping that the passionfruit would be more noticeable and impact the overall flavor of the drink more than it did. The orange juice was also a bit too pulpy, but nonetheless, a great morning drink.

House-made Breads and Sides. Good offers a mouth-watering selection of unique home-made breads. They have savory cheddar cornbread, hand-rolled orange sour cream donuts, warm buttermilk biscuits, pumpkin chocolate cherry bread, pear pecan crumbcake and biscuits with ham and jam. Each bread is $4.00 with the exception of the biscuits with ham and jam, which are $6.00. If the decision to just choose one is too tough, there is also a bread basket for $10.00, where you pick your top three favorites.

By the time we ordered our food, it was after 1:00, so we were very excited to have a little brunch appetizer. I chose the savory cheddar cornbread. I was served two warm and delicious pieces of cornbread. I absolutely love cornbread and with hints of cheddar cheese in every bite, it was amazing. I did add a little spread of butter for some extra taste.

My brunch buddy selected the buttermilk biscuits. They were amazing – browned and flakey with a buttery taste. He was given two large biscuits and, luckily, I was given a large piece of one.

Banana Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast. For my brunch dish, I ordered the banana cream cheese stuffed French toast. French toast pockets are stuffed with a cream cheese banana mix. They are then topped with brown sugar and served with a side of flavorful maple syrup. I was slightly worried that it would be a little too banana-y so I added some sliced strawberries.

The French toast was delicious! It was stuffed with the perfect amount of filling, not too rich and overpowering, sweet without being too sweet. The four slices were way too much to eat, but I did my best!

Good NYC Brunch Christin's Morning Spoon #1

Basil & Goat Cheese Egg Scramble. My brunch buddy ordered the basil and goat cheese egg scramble. Eggs are scrambled together with ample goat cheese, then placed on sourdough bread. They Roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus and pesto are served on the side. Again, he’s such a sucker for pesto!

He absolutely loved his breakfast, saying it may be his favorite yet. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the goat cheese/pesto/roasted tomatoes combination put the meal over the top.

To top off the amazing food and experience at Good, a fantastic nineties music station was on throughout our meal. We were able to catch up on some of our favorite jams from the past while enjoying a delicious brunch.

Good NYC Brunch Christin's Morning Spoon Omlette #3

 

Brunch Rating. Out of five spoons, I give Good five! Everything about Good was amazing – friendly staff, welcoming atmosphere, great drinks and amazing food. The get-it-all special allows you to try their delicious food and drinks at a great price. It is absolutely worth the trip into NYC for this amazing brunch gem!

Next weekend I will be staying in Hoboken to try brunch at Backyard Bistro, one of my favorite BYOB dinner spots in town. I can’t wait to try their brunch!

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Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)

October 25, 2011

Christin’s Morning Spoon: Ultramarinos

Filed under: brunch,Columnist,Hoboken,Restaurants — Tags: , , , , , — Christin DeMassi @ 12:00 PM

Christin is out and about again in Hoboken and this time she gives her take on Hoboken’s Ultramarinos…

Similar to my past few brunch spots, this week’s restaurant was another one of Hoboken’s hidden gems. My brunch buddy and I decided on an afternoon lunch at Ultramarinos. Dubbed the marketplace for Latin Kitchen Magic, Ultramarinos is a small café specializing in Spanish and Latin American cuisine. It is located at 260 3rd Street, between Willow and Park Streets.

Hoboken-Ultramarinos Exterior

My brunch buddy was dog-sitting his mom’s Havanese, Sadie, who tends to get separation anxiety when left behind. We needed a spot with outside tables so we could enjoy a meal in the sunshine with Sadie. Here’s my recap.

Zafra and Cucharamama: Ultramarinos, Spanish for “from beyond the sea,” were specialty stores in Spain that sold goods from Spanish colonies between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. Reflecting on these stores in the past, this Hoboken spot transports you to a store café in Spain.

The owners of Zafra and Cucharamama, two of Hoboken’s Latin American restaurants, opened Ultramarino’s as a small store selling Spanish and Latin American products and prepared specialties. It is a great spot not just to enjoy a sit down meal but also to pick up special ingredients to prepare your own Latin American specialties at home.

Although I have never tried Zafra or Cucharamama, every time my brunch buddy and I pass them, he always says how unique and amazing everything on both menus are.

Order at the Counter: Similar to The Little Grocery, patrons go up to the counter to order their meal. There was only one woman behind the counter taking the orders, preparing some of the meals and delivering to customers seated at the tables.

Although I was there exactly at lunchtime, I only waited in line about five minutes before I ordered. After placing our order, I returned to our table outside. In about fifteen minutes our meals were delivered on adorable mix-matched plates.

Latin American and Spanish Foods: The menu at Ultramarinos is centered upon Latin American and Spanish specialties. The menu offers small plates, savory pies, tamales, salads and sandwiches. Some of the ones that immediately jumped out at me were the Poblano Peppers, stuffed with Chicken in a tomato sauce with Manchego cheese, and the Cuban “Masa Real” Chicken Pie, with chicken braised in a sofrito with olives baked in a buttery crumbly dough.

Note: Although we didn’t save room for it, the next time I go to Ultramarinos I will absolutely try the Chocolate Bread with Nutella. Being that Nutella is one of my favorite things, the idea of thick slice of rustic bread smeared with Nutella sounds incredible.

Gave a Few Things a Try. Although many of the items on the menu were completely foreign to me, I was excited to try something new. After deciphering what each of the meals could be, my brunch buddy and I were torn over what to order. Everything on the menu sounded amazing! We decided to order three items and share them.

We ordered the Tortilla de Patatas Espanola, a Spanish Potato omelet. Similar to a frittata, eggs, potatoes and onions are cooked into an omelete. Whenever my girlfriends and I go out for tapas, I always insist that we order this dish. When visiting Spain my sophomore year of high school, this was one of my favorite meals to eat. Once I saw it on Ultramarino’s menu, I knew we had to order it. For $3.00 they offer a slice or $18.00 for the entire omelet.

Hoboken-Ultramarinos omlette

We also ordered the Oaxacan Chicken Mole Tamale. I have never had a tamale before and I was very excited to try it after my brunch buddy told me how good they are. Tamales are made mostly of corn, mixed with other ingredients and steamed in a corn husk. My brunch buddy thought the tamale was great, even comparing it to ones found in Los Angeles.

Hoboken - Ultramarinos tamale

Finally, we ordered a turkey sandwich. The turkey was cut thick, not thin like deli slices. It had the taste and consistency of roast turkey you’d have at thanksgiving, and the pressed bread complimented it well.

Hoboken-Ultramarinos 3

Prepared Foods: Being that the inside seating area of Ultramarinos is not too large, it is the perfect place to grab take out on your way home from work or to enjoy a casual weekend brunch in your apartment. Not only do they have amazing food to eat in, they also serve prepared foods to take out and enjoy at home

White paying for our bill, my brunch buddy was offered a sample of their hot chocolate. The waitress told him that the main component was bars and bars of chocolate, with a little milk. It’s thick and creamy, but very rich. As good as it was, he couldn’t imagine drinking an entire cup.

Out of five spoons, I give Ultramarinos three and a half spoons. Very few places in Hoboken offer Latin American or Spanish food, and it is a great alternative to the typical Hoboken brunch spot. It is an unassuming, quaint café unlike any other place. It’s great for take out or to sit in and enjoy.

- Christin

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Rating: 8.2/10 (5 votes cast)

October 14, 2011

Christin’s Morning Spoon: Balthazar

This week TheBoken’s own brunch maven Christin gives New York City’s Balthazar a review on their brunch offerings…

Intro: Last Sunday my brunch buddy and I ventured into NYC for a special weekend brunch.  Since the forecasters were predicting a beautiful weekend, we thought it was the perfect day to spend sightseeing around the city. I have heard great things about Balthazar, and I thought this was the perfect time to give it a try.  Balthazar is located at 80 Spring Street in NYC’s Soho neighborhood.  From Hoboken, take the PATH to the World Trade Center and then the N or R subway to Prince Street.  From there, it is a short walk to Balthazar.

Balthazar NYC Brunch interior

Our plan was to take the bus to Port Authority and then take the C or E subway to Spring Street.  With a 10:30 am brunch reservation, we were at the bus stop ready and waiting for the 9:40 am bus.  Unfortunately, a bus delay and an unexpected Sunday morning traffic jam at the Lincoln Tunnel negatively impacted our plan.  With 15 minutes to spare, we hopped in a cab at Port Authority and paid $12.00 to make it to Balthazar just in time. We were greeted by the friendly staff that immediately showed us to our table.  With such high demand to eat at Balthazar, tables are positioned very close together in order to fill the restaurant to maximum capacity.  We were lead to a seat towards the back of the restaurant; a corner portion of the booth seating with a tiny round table for two. Here’s my recap.

Ornate, Old World French Feel:  Immediately upon entering Balthazar you are transported to an old world Parisian brasserie.  There is a handsome wooden bar in the corner along a wall lined with bottles and bottles of wine and alcohol.  In order to meet the demand of diners, the large, red booths and tables fill every empty spot in the restaurant.   While walking to our seat, my purse bounced off at least five chairs.  We had to squeeze past the neighboring table to reach our seats. Antiqued mirrors line the earth-tone colored walls.  The excitement and energy of the Balthazar crowd reverberates against the walls.  It is a lively, fun atmosphere for a Sunday morning.

Balthazar NYC Brunch interior

Amazing Pastries:   Balthazar is known for their amazing pastries and even some spots in Hoboken (like last week’s brunch spot, The Little Grocery) sell them.  Balthazar offers a basket of their pastries for $19.00.  The table to our right ordered the basket and it was filled with slices of bread, muffins and pastries along with jams and butter. Since we had a large brunch ahead of us, we passed on the basket and ordered two of our waitress’s favorites:  the chocolate croissant and sticky bun.  They were amazing!  The croissant was very flakey and buttery, filled with decadent, rich chocolate.  The sticky bun was very sweet topped with walnuts and covered with a drizzled brown sugary coated.

No Drinks?:  I was very, very excited to try the Champagne Pick-Me-Up, Balthazar’s version of a mimosa.  It is made with champagne, Cognac, orange juice and grenadine and costs a whopping $14.00.  Unfortunately, in NYC, alcohol is not served before noon on Sundays.  I was shocked (it’s not like that in Hoboken).  If you want a drink with brunch, wait until after 12 pm! Instead of enjoying a morning cocktail, I ordered orange juice and my brunch buddy ordered a coffee.  The orange juice was freshly squeezed and very refreshing.  My brunch buddy thought the coffee was great.

French Feel.  Balthazar has a variety of menus based on the time of day.  They offer a breakfast, lunch, afternoon, dinner, late night and Sunday brunch menu. The brunch menu features a large section of “egg-stravagant” dishes.  There is the Eggs Bella Donna- poached eggs with polenta and tomato, Eggs Florentine with spinach and artichoke, Ratatoille Omelette and Scrambled Eggs in a Puff Pastry- stuffed with wild mushrooms and asparagus. If you are in the mood for something besides eggs, they also serve Apple Cinnamon Pancakes and Sour Cream Hazelnut Waffles.  For the lunch portion, Balthazar offers Linguine with Clams, Beef Stroganoff and Steak Frites.  I have heard the fries are amazing, but we were too full to try!

French Toast and Eggs Benedict:  I ordered the Brioche French toast topped with five slices of delicious bacon.  It was served with a small pitcher of maple syrup (which my brunch buddy accidentally mistook for milk and almost poured in his coffee).  The French toast was sweet and moist.  There were two large slices- I was only able to eat one!

My brunch buddy ordered one of his favorites, Eggs Benedict.  It was served with a side of home fries.  He thought the eggs were poached perfectly, but the home fries were just OK.  I strongly disagreed and finished them for him!

Reservations:  Since my brunch buddy and I had been planning a fun weekend in NYC for awhile, we decided to make reservations ahead of time.  Good thing we did! Reservations are ABSOLUTELY necessary for any meal at Balthazar.  Although it is sometimes possible to get a table without one, the wait will take quite awhile. The restaurant was packed when we arrived and a large crowd was waiting outside when we left. Since we were running late while stuck in traffic, we called to try and change our reservation to 11:00 am.  Unfortunately they do not reschedule, but they do give you 15 minutes past your reservation time, so we lucked out!

Expensive:  Balthazar should not be your brunch destination if you are looking for a quick, inexpensive breakfast.  It is the perfect place for relaxing and soaking in the atmosphere.  Even though there is such a high demand to eat there, we never felt rushed throughout our brunch. Balthazar’s entrees are all around $20.00.  Our total bill for two breakfasts, juice, coffee and two pastries was $56.00.  You are definitely paying not just for an amazing meal, but also for the entire experience of dining at Balthazar.

Conclusion: Out of five spoons, I give Balthazar four.  The beautiful décor and overall ambience of Balthazar transport you to Paris for a morning breakfast.  Although your bill will be expensive, the food and atmosphere help justify spending a little extra for brunch.  Reservations are a must in order to enjoy this hot spot.  Perfect place to go for a special day out in the city! Next week’s brunch spot is Ultramarinos, a Latin American spot owned by the same people as Hoboken’s Zafra and Cucharamama.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)
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