NEW DINING ESTABLISHMENTS RAISE THE BAR EVEN HIGHER
The area is teeming with great restaurants, but three noteworthy newcomers boast delicious, finger-licking menus, accessible locations and friendly founders.
Red White & Que, BBQ Smokehouse
If you’re craving Southern barbecue, you can satisfy those hankerings with a short drive to the Red White & Que, BBQ Smokehouse on 2581 Route 22 West in Scotch Plains. Owners Dan and Katie Misuraca got the idea for a barbecue restaurant after hosting huge barbecues for all their friends in their first home in Little Ferry, up in Bergen County. Dan would take care of the meats and Katie created the side dishes.
“I grew up in Florida, so barbecue down there is just huge,” says Dan. “It’s something that I’ve always loved doing. When we bought our house in Little Ferry in 2014, Katie bought me a smoker as a house warming gift for ourselves.”
The couple met while working retail at Journey’s shoe shore store in Manhattan. Dan was running the flagship store for 15 years and became friends with Katie who worked there for 10 years.
“We were ready to start our own business and wanted to take a leap. We love barbecue. We love throwing parties at our house and we decided, ‘Let’s just do this. This is our dream,’” said Katie. “We found a small place in Kearny (Hudson County)—only 800 square feet. We bought a smoker for the inside, and then we jumped into owning a restaurant, which we had no experience in before we started. All of our experience was in customer service, retail and sales. Our passion was in barbecue and entertaining.”
So why try to start a barbecue business in the Garden State? “A barbecue is something where your friends, neighbors, family and everyone enjoys a meal together,” said Dan. “Barbecue’s unique because it’s not something you can just whip together. It’s something that takes a lot of planning, a lot of discipline. And that’s part of the fun, creating it 16 hours in advance! [He laughs.] And getting everything prepared and ready. It’s a unique food, that is really its own culture. That’s why we chose to go to barbecue.”
The Kearny restaurant has two big communal tables, but it’s mainly a takeout spot.
Dan and Katie were fortunate to have friendly customers they often chatted with who were also investors, Ed Danberry and Ronnie Delucia from Group One Investments.
“They approached us and asked if we’d want to open up more locations,” said Dan. “We replied, ‘Yes! We would definitely want to do that.’ Our background really is in management, and in stores, and in hiring and training employees, building a brand and we love that stuff. So this was such an exciting opportunity, combine all of that with [our love of barbecue]. Without those guys, we wouldn’t have been able to open up more restaurants for a few years. We opened up more locations within one year.”
“Ed is a disabled Army veteran and Dan is a Marine veteran who served from ’92 to ‘96,” said Katie. “So between the two of them, they always want to take care of all our military, our veterans, and they had this military camaraderie going.”
Danberry lived in Watchung and scouted the Scotch Plains locations after driving down Route 22 every day for work. “We’re still getting to know this part of New Jersey in a lot of ways,” said Katie, who grew up in South Jersey. “We liked the location.”
“The people are just awesome,” said Katie. “The craziest thing about Scotch Plains when we first opened—people were coming up for weeks before we opened and kept asking, ‘When are you guys opening?’ They were really ready for barbecue. Then, when we opened, it was gangbuster crazy. We thought we would be twice as busy as our store in Kearny because Scotch Plains is a bigger location and has a better view from the street. This location is more noticeable and we were four times as busy as the Kearny location.”
“We opened this year on January 20th and had our grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony. We had the mayor, Al Smith, come out and greet a lot of people. The town has been awesome and so supportive. And that’s so great as small business owners. You really need people in the town to support what you’re doing, and to be onboard with you. That makes all the difference in the world,” said Katie.
Inside the Scotch Plains Red White and Cue location, they have a communal table that seats about 18. Outside there’s a picnic grove area that seats another 60 people.
“Our 10-foot long smoker is going all the time and you can see our pitmaster, John Easterday, a Marine Corps. veteran who served two combat tours in Iraq,” says Dan.
“We hire veterans. We want to work with veterans to do what we can. And really, they’re a part of our staff and of our brand,” said Dan.
“You see the Pitmaster taking meat off, putting meat on, taking meat off, putting it on and it’s fun to witness the food being made right in front of you,” said Katie. “Customers order through a cashier who guides them through the menu when you’re ordering by the pound.”
“Our hosts are well-trained on how to really help you to create the perfect amount of food and exactly the kind of meal you’re looking for, whether you’re ordering for yourself or for your whole family,” said Katie. “Then, you watch them prep your meal right in front of you—the meat cutter slices the brisket to order, the pulled pork is hand pulled, the chicken is hand pulled. A final person makes sure your order is 100% correct before you take a tray to sit down at a table or take your order to go.”
The Scotch Plains location has a staff of 45 people working there to handle the volume of customers.
“We start with top-quality beef. And we just cook it on low and slow on a dry smoking heat,” says Dan. Popular items include the brisket sandwich and ribs and all come with a side. Katie and Dan created six homemade sauces and said, “nothing comes out of a can.”
If you’re looking to try something new, the Scotch Plains location has gator sausage (yes, alligator!) and wild boar ribs.
You’ve probably already heard that Charles Addams, creator of The Addams Family, was one Westfield’s most famous former residents. Whether you’re an Addams Family fan or not, you’ll appreciate the new Harvest Restaurant Group’s Addams Tavern, which features some artistic tributes to Addams’ creator, like a portrait of Charles Addams by artist John Delade. The restaurant opened in Westfield last November after taking over an existing restaurant and doing an extensive renovation.
“We created a dramatic, inviting space for people to come dine on what is really a very farm-to-table focused restaurant. We’re sourcing a lot of product, as much product as we can, locally,” said Grant Halliday, Director of Operations, Harvest Restaurants. He said it took about two years from concept to completion in November 2016.
Addams Tavern is Harvest Restaurants’ 11th restaurant, said Halliday. “We look for communities that are vibrant and are approachable from multiple towns surrounding the community, so it’s easy to get to. We have two restaurants in Summit and we were seeing a lot of people coming up from Westfield, Cranford, Scotch Plains and the surrounding community. We targeted this area for quite some time, but it took us a while to find the right property. Downtown Westfield is very vibrant. It’s a walk-around town with a great movie theater, great shopping, and a lot of national retailers. It was a town we really wanted to become part of,” said Halliday. The Saturday and Sunday brunch and lunch crowd features a lot of walk-in business, he said.
“We wanted the menu to be approachable to a large audience. You can dine in this restaurant a lot of different ways so it’s a beautiful space, really built on being able to dine casual or a little more extensive if you want. We’re casting a big net.”
“We took our time opening the restaurant because we wanted to do it right, and we love the community of Westfield. In fact, Chef Nick DeRosa grew up in Westfield. So now, he’s a hometown hero,” said Halliday.
Chef DeRosa started working with Harvest at Roots Steakhouse in Summit about six years ago and was there for three years before working at Huntley Taverne in Summit. “There, I just absolutely fell in love with the farm-to-table movement, buying responsibly, and just creating a menu every day. And it’s a natural progression for me to go to Addams, I think, and to just continue what we were doing at Huntley,” Chef DeRosa said.
“We get three farm deliveries a day and we get fresh fish every single day coming out of Asbury Park. So there’s a lot of small things that have to change on the menu, whether it be what type of lettuce we’re using, or a different type of tomato or onion. Or, if we have fresh zucchini, we want to feature that as a center-of-the-plate item. We change the menu a little bit every day and print it daily. I add anywhere from three to four different items each day. That keeps it fresh all the time,” Chef DeRosa said.
Addams Tavern still has its staples you can enjoy daily: avocado toast, tuna tartare, chicken wings, Romaine Caesar salad, halibut, fried chicken, filet mignon. Chef DeRosa says they have 20 small plates on the menu and 10 of them rotate on a weekly basis. Proteins rotate in and out of the menu, such as different pork dishes or various local fish, be it snapper, bass, or scallops, he said.
“The coolest part about our kitchen is that we have open fire, Argentinian grills that are operating a pulley system,” said Chef DeRosa. You can watch the chefs work in the kitchen through a window while they grill your meal. “Our goal as a team is to touch at least one ingredient from every dish onto that grill, whether it be slow-smoking a fruit to make a vinaigrette for a salad, or grilling lettuce, or the fish is going on the grill, or a pork chop is being grilled. That is really the engine of our menu, from the brunch/lunch to the dinner menu. It’s nice to have that focus but we still make classics,” said Chef DeRosa.
“This summer I had a lot of success with vegetables being the center of the plate items for appetizers. We do a whole grilled eggplant, slowly smoke it over the coals for three hours until it gets super tender. And it’s just a play on a fresh eggplant Parmesan with a fresh tomato salad and melted mozzarella and fresh basil,” said Chef DeRosa.
Make sure you leave room for dessert at Addams Tavern. Their dessert menu is created by classically trained pastry chef Lauren Christiana. The Chocolate Midnight Cake is a must-try three-layer cake soaked with a little bit of rum, sea salt and caramel and served with the grass-fed milk.
If you’re making a reservation for a Friday or Saturday night dinner at Addams, Halliday recommends you do it at least a week in advance. The bar is also a fun place to grab a bite and drink before embarking on your evening plans. It seats about 26 patrons.
Addams has about 165 seats between the two floors. They can host events or private parties in two rooms that can seat either 35 or about 50 people.
“It’s the largest bar in Westfield and it’s a big focal point as you walk in the room. It’s really been a meeting place for the people in Westfield, which is nice to help get us anchored in the community,” Halliday said.
Mr. Bin Sushi & GrillYong Bin Liu opened his first restaurant in Ohio in 2005 with then-girlfriend, now wife, Lin. Mr. Bin, who is Chinese, was working in a sushi restaurant at the time and Lin was working in a Chinese restaurant. The Ohio restaurant is Hibachi Master and Mr. Bin’s brother is still running it. The sushi chef later came to work in Mr. Bin’s New Jersey restaurant. Although he loved the Ohio community, Mr. Bin and his wife returned back to the New Jersey/New York area to be closer to his parents and sister. His friends lived in Cranford and showed Mr. Bin and his family around New Jersey to help them get an idea of a place to open a new restaurant.
“I did a lot of research while looking for space to rent. I liked that this location was close to my friends’ home, it has a lot of parking spaces and the people in Cranford are very nice!” said Mr. Bin.
When he chose Downtown, Mr. Bin decided he would sell the best quality foods he could get his hands on and offer exemplary service.
Business was slow when Mr. Bin Sushi & Grill opened in April 2016. But the owner wasn’t concerned. “Everything takes time to build up. People don’t know about your quality or how your restaurant is until they eat there and try your food. You need to build relationships with customers and have people trust you,” said Mr. Bin. Once they did, Mr. Bin’s popularity grew tremendously.
His secret to success: his chefs. One of the sushi chefs is his friend from Ohio, David. Mr. Q is the other sushi chef you’ll see working behind the sushi bar. “Hiring someone I knew well was so important. I know my chefs’ personalities and that they make good quality food for my customers and me,” said Mr. Bin.
It is not just important to Mr. Bin to ensure he is using the highest quality fish and everything is fresh; he also aims to satisfy his customers’ requests by adding new foods to the menu. He’s jumped on the trend of poke bowls, creates inventive items like salmon sushi pizza (using sushi ingredients and rice paper)… and added a sushi burrito to the menu.
“If someone asks, ‘Can you make me lobster sashimi?’ call ahead and give me a few days, I’ll go shop that lobster for you and prepare it so you have what you want,” said Mr. Bin. “We have a lot of great customers and I want to make them happy,” said Mr. Bin. The menu has plenty of traditional sushi favorites, like spicy tuna rolls and a ton of special rolls.
“I’m from China; I like noodles and I know how to make good noodles now,” said Mr. Bin. Now he makes Pad Thai Noodles. They have teriyaki, tempura, and plenty of hibachi grill meals with filet mignon, chicken and scallops. The steak dishes are some of Mr. Bin’s personal favorites.
Sea urchins from California have become so popular that the item is often sold out.
The sushi bar seats about 10 to 15 people and the main restaurant area seats about 30 people. Mr. Bin will take reservations if you have a party you’d like to host outside for about 10 to 13 people. Inside, there’s faster rotation of the tables. You can also order for delivery if you live within about 10 minutes of the restaurant, or, place an order for pickup.
While “sushi” and “family friendly” might not be phrases that belong in the same sentence in many households, Mr. Bin aims to make sure your entire family has a great experience and the menu is individualized to suit little ones’ needs. He has two girls and knows how important it is for parents to be able to customize foods so they aren’t too spicy for children or to ensure they’ll want to eat what’s in front of them. Did we mention there’s hibachi? Banzai!
Red White & Que Smokehouse
2581 Route 22
Scotch Plains (and other locations)
115 Elm Street
Mr. Bin Sushi & Grill
123 N. Union Avenue
About the Contribuor
Diana Kelly grew up in the Garden State and is a writer who has been featured in ESPN, Bloomberg Businessweek, Reader’s Digest, Men’s Health, Prevention, SELF, Latina and Rutgers Alumni magazines.