Shrimp Diavlo Panini with Pasta Salad

My first time at John’s I tried the Buffalo Chicken Salad and wrote about it here. On my most recent visit, I had the good fortune to order the Shrimp Diavlo Panini off the daily specials menu for $6.95 plus tax. It also came with pasta salad.

The panini was absolutely delicious. The warm and crispy bread contained a gushy combination of shrimp smothered in a garlicky diavlo sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. The shrimp were plump and succulent and were a pleasant deviation from my standard meat lunches. This sandwich delivered a real flavor burst and reminded me of my favorite food, pizza, only better.

The pasta salad was a decent summertime pasta salad, not much different from the kind served at family reunions and church lawn fetes in upstate New York. It had giant shells covered in a mild, mayonnaise sauce. The carrots and celery gave it crunch and the red beads provided a little protein. It was a nice accompaniment to the star of the show, the panini.

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Stuffed Bread & Zeppoles

My fellow clerks and I ventured pretty far down Newark Ave. to get to the Second Street Bakery. Our original destination was Rue Viet but upon arrival we were chagrined to discover that it is in fact closed Mondays. We quickly followed Plan B and steered ourselves toward 402 Second Street to hit up the Second Street Bakery to try their famous stuffed bread.

It turns out that the Second Street Bakery is a hole in the wall, to-go only joint, located on a predominately residential block near Grove Street. Sometimes Jersey City makes me feel like I went back in time, in a good way.

The stuffed bread is exactly what it sounds like. A huge chunk of bread stuffed with an assortment of fillings. I chose one of the Italian sausage and potato stuffed breads that were pre-wrapped and all ready to go for a mere $2.50. It was about the size of a six inch Subway sub but with way more girth and mass.
Upon biting into the bread, I was immediately reminded of a Spanish tortilla because of what I believe is an odd combination: potatoes and bread. Once I made it to the sausages, I was able to fully delight in the beautifully spiced meat juices that were baked into the bread and potatoes. The interior of the bread was my favorite part, it was a mushy semi-solid that was very gratifying to eat. The bread itself was a freshly baked, pristine loaf with a crusty exterior perfect for containing the morsels inside. I ate my stuffed bread at room temperature and thoroughly enjoyed it, how could I not? It’s a carb lovers dream.
Thought zeppoles were just for carnivals and county fairs? Well, they aren’t and the Second Street Bakery has them available for whenever your fried dough craving strikes. My friends and I decided to share a half dozen for $3. These hand crafted fried Italian treats were fluffy and sweet. The light dusting of powered sugar on top was just the right amount and did not overwhelm the dough’s own subtle taste. These zeppoles blew their carnival counterparts out of the water, especially since they had all the flavor without being completely drenched with grease.
The Second Street Bakery was a huge hit both food and price wise. Check out the rave reviews it got on Yelp.
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Carne Salteada y Tostones con Guacamole

Little Columbia a.k.a. Añoranzas Columbianas is one of Newark Ave’s treasures. Añoranzas Columbianas translates roughly to yearnings or nostalgia for Columbia.  The bright blue, yellow and red façade stands out on this otherwise drab stretch of Newark Ave. and makes you feel like you are visiting a warmer, more tropical land.

Inside, the interior is equally bright. The staff is busy but friendly and the atmosphere is jovial. Telenovelas play on the large, flat screen TV for diners to enjoy. The menu boasts homemade Columbian dishes with no shortage of well-flavored, hearty meat dishes on the cheap. Each weekday there is a different lunch special ranging from $5-7. The meals generally come with a choice of beans and salad or rice.

On my recent visit I was lucky to be joined by the great musician Andrew Mancilla and my Dad. I ordered the Carne Salteada (pepper steak) as my entrée for $6.95 and shared the Tostones con Guacamole appetizer for $5.25 with my Dad. We ended up with wayyy more food than anyone should ever eat for lunch, but finished most of it nonetheless. So much for self-restraint.

The Carne Salteada came accompanied with yellow rice, a few platanos, and a bowl of soupy frijoles. The steak was sliced thinly and was fried so the strips curled ever so slightly. The marinade was salty and delicious and provided more flavor than sauce. Fried onions and peppers were tossed with the meat. Together the rice, beans, meat and vegetables produced some incredible flavors.

As for the guacamole tostones, these morsels of ecstasy cannot be outdone. This gorgeous dish consists of four tostones (green plantains mashed and fried together into little panqueques) topped with a dollop of guacamole surrounding a light salad. The guacamole here is legit and has all the qualities of a refreshing guac- chunky creamy avocado, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and just the right amount of onion and jalapeno. Aye, que rrrrrico.

To wash everything down, I ordered a café con leche for $1.50. Not only does this place have really awesome tropical juices such as Guanabana, Lulo, Guayaba, and Maracuya, but they have a real espresso maker and milk frother. It doesn’t get much better than this ladies and gentlemen. Añoranzas Columbianas would give any froufrou Manhattan espresso bar a run for its money.

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Chicken Fajita + Meat Dumplings

Chinese and Mexican cuisines offer some of the tastiest food on the planet. Years ago, an enterprising individual dreamt up the genius idea of opening a restaurant that offers these favorites under one roof. And the Chinese-Mexican restaurant was born. Jersey City is lucky to have Lucky Star, located at 644 Newark Ave. featuring two separate menus- Yummy Tortillas and Lucky Star.

They also have a cool fish tank inside.

In order to get a taste of both comidas I selected the Chicken Fajita with Guacamole from the Yummy Tortilla menu for $2.29 and the Steamed Meat Dumplings from Lucky Star for $4.95. For the record, it would have been cheaper to order a full meal with soda included from their lunch specials for about $5.

The Fajita

I will save the best for last, folks. The fajita was not bad. The thick flour tortilla was filled with onions, a couple of pepper slices, salty chicken, and “guacamole.” I put guacamole in quotations because it didn’t really taste like guacamole. Yes, it was a shade of green and resembled guac but it did not live up to what I consider gua·ca·mo·le.

**Disclaimer** I have high standards when it comes to Mexican food, not just high, but very high, exceedingly high. I know exactly what real Mexican food can do for taste-buds.

Moving right along to the dumplings…these steamed treats were plump as can be and contained a delectable meat of some sort (I forgot to ask but I assume it was pork).  Even without the special brown sauce – hot sauce mixture, these dumplings were extremely palatable. After eating the fajita and just three dumplings I was already full but I pressed on. These wrinkly packages were fun to eat and I couldn’t get enough of their divine combination of plush dough and savory meat.



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Diner Roti

As you can see, Jersey City boasts a huge variety of ethnic foods within the few block radius of the Newark Ave. courthouses. However, I haven’t found much caribbean food in the area so far besides the Golden Crust chain near Journal Square. Because of this, I was pretty excited to see that Court Grill at 626 Newark Ave. has a new Caribbean menu in addition to its very extensive and affordable diner fare.

The Court Grill has a great, old-school Jersey diner feel to it. I ordered the chicken roti with a free soda for $6.95 and settled into one of the cozy booths.  After a few minutes of watching the world go by on busy Newark Ave., my meal arrived in a perfectly bundled, sumptuous pod.

I unwrapped my lunch and found the roti was folded in order to carefully contain the saucy chicken parts, bone, skin and all.

I’m no roti connoisseur but I’m quite sure this thin, bread-crepe would give the best rotis a run for their money. The dough seemed to straddle the line between cooked and uncooked and was way too delicious to be healthy; it was either deep fried or contained a boatload of butter. Inside the lovely pod was stewed chicken, flavored with a mild yellow curry sauce that had just a hint of spice.

I was full after eating just half of the chicken roti. But that didn’t stop me! I went on to finish the entire thing. Needless to say, I was stuffed afterwards and felt full for the rest of the day.

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Corned Beef & Soda Bread

Welcome to Jersey City Eats St. Patrick’s Day edition. Today we bring you two traditional Irish delacacies, corned beef and soda bread. For the corned beef, I went to family owned Maloney’s Meat Market located steps away from the courthouse at 627 Newak Ave. Maloney’s is a full fledged butcher that offers different types of homemade soups and sandwiches for lunch each day. I’ve tried their soups before but never their sandwiches. For St. Patty’s, Maloney’s gets all decked out with green and offers a special, fresh corned beef sandwich for $6.00. I had no choice but to try it.

Described aptly by another clerk as “Bombdizzly,” Maloney’s corned beef was spot on. Complete with soft soft rye bread and a touch of moustard, the sandwich itself had the perfect amount of meat on it. It was perfectly succulent and was neither too salty nor too dry. This was the type of meal that warms the blood on a cold winter’s night in Ireland and makes vegetarians cringe. After devouring this beefy treat, I was left with only one question, what happened to the cabbage?!

After my maincourse, I indulged in some of the delightful Irish soda bread, homemade and generously given to the courtstaff by the Judge’s wife. Since I only eat this type of bread one to two times per year, I am clearly no expert in what makes a good soda bread and will judge this in the same way I judge everything else: tasty or not? Well it turned out to be delicious. The bread is dense, has two types of plump and juicy rasins, caraway seeds, and is not overly sweet. To top it off, it maintains the ideal moistness. I can’t stop eating slice after slice of this annual treat.

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Pizza $1.75 a slice

What is my heritage you ask? Well, that’s easy. I’m pizza blooded. If there’s one thing that runs through my veins it’s my love for pizza. I inhereted my refined tastes from my father, who is originally from Queens, NY.  Growing up in Buffalo consisted of weekly pizza dinners, changing pizzeras over the years in hopes of finding a better slice. I’m not saying there is no good pizza in Buffalo, there is. The truth is that I love trying different pizzeras as there are always subtle and not so subtle differences in their slices. Pizza is like snowflakes, no two pies are the same.

It is with this pizza prowess in mind that I present to you, Larry and Joe’s Pizzeria at 533 Newark Ave. I ordered just one slice today because I brought my own spinach salad to eat beforehand. Normally, one slice would NEVER fill me up. Two slices are my norm. Today’s cheese slice cost me just $1.75 and was pretty decent (I really should have ordered two to fully satisfy my pizza needs).

The crust was crispy but not burned and was had the perfect balance of doughiness at the top and thinness for the body. There was a good amount of cheese but not so much that it was dripping off. It had just a tiny amount of grease on it. I almost wished for more of the drippy fattyness. The sauce was not sweet and tasted like a straight up tomato paste. Overall, this is a solid slice of pizza.

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