Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From the Home Office in Teaneck, NJ (UPDATED)

I have no idea what made me think of this - maybe I am just hungry today - but it dawned on me that Teaneck (the town in NJ where we all grew up, er, lived when we were younger chronologically than we are now) has a pretty decent array of good places to eat. And I don't mean nice fancy restaurants where you pay $42 for a piece of steak the size of a deck of cards, I mean actually good food that is not very expensive. To prove it, I have compiled a list of the top foods that Teaneck offers (or offered, in a handful of cases). A couple of caveats:

  • If you did not grow up in or spend a decent amount of time in Teaneck, stop reading. Right now. Go check your email or play Tetris. As far as you are concerned, this will be the single most boring post I have ever submitted to this blog. And yes, that includes this one and this one.

  • Let's consider this a first draft, or a nominating committee. Among other things, this list is very Cedar Lane-focused. That is due, of course, to how close I lived to Cedar Lane. I think half of the places on this list are or were within walking distance of my house. That makes a difference, of course, and I will entertain nominations to the final list that have yet to receive proper consideration. I've even left a blank below as a placeholder.

  • I also did not go to THS, which puts all food served from a truck, as well as nearby Teaneck Road establishments at a disadvantage. See item 2, above, and we'll take it under advisement. I am sure that I can revise this list with the help of the three other contributors to this blog, not to mention the comments from others.

  • Given the number of Teaneck residents who are orthodox Jewish, certain strict dietary restrictions are an integral part of the town dining experience. So noted where applicable.
And so, without further adieu, the top 10 list:

10. Sammy's Bagels. I know some people liked the old Hot Bagels up on Cedar Lane, and there were some big fans of the bagel place on Teaneck Rd., but Sammy's was an institution, and you could never go wrong there. It's still there, and yes, it's still Kosher for Passover.

Updated - 4.1.09: A lot of people are suggesting that Hot Bagels on Teaneck Rd. should have taken the prize here. And, while I will check with my dad, I seem to remember that for a while he would drive all the way over there to get our bagels, passing a few other bagel stores on the way. If that's the case, I will have to make that change.

9. Pioneer Pizza. A relic of bygone Saturday afternoons, not to mention intimate lunches for 35 (to OB's credit, after 18 years . . . success!). Some may have preferred Victor's (see below), and there might even be a Coliseum fan out there, but two slices of pepperoni and a fountain coke at Pioneer was incredible. Long gone, but hardly forgotten.

8. Wing Out (Vinny O's Buffalo Wings). The time: 2:12 a.m. The place: Vinny O's. The price: 10 cents. LJT and I were recalling the other day that back in 2000-01 we used to go to the bar every Thursday night, stay until 1 or 2 in the morning eating 10 cent wings, and get up to go to work on Friday totally unscathed. Those days are gone. But the memories of those wings linger. It's still there, but if you saw the calendar/place mats from December, then you already know that the only Elijah they are saving a seat for is the one who plays QB for the Giants.

7. Cheese Danish at the Butterflake. Best bakery around, bar none. The cheese danish was my favorite of their many caloric delights, but it was all good. It's still there, and yes, it's still Kosher for Passover.

6. Cheese fries at Cedar Lane Grille. This one has an important qualifier: it has to be after 2:00 a.m. and you have to be drunk. If it is, and you are, melted mozzarella cheese mixed with ketchup and piping hot french fries is as close to nirvana as I need to get. It's still there, but the mix of meat and dairy makes this a no-no for our kosher friends.

5. (intentionally omitted) - this is a placeholder for what I assume will be some nominations for other candidates that I've missed.

Updated - 4.1.09: General Tso's Chicken, Empire Hunan. Glaring oversight on my part. This was a Saturday night special in our family. 5:00 mass, followed by a call to the chinese place next door to the old Blimpie (holla!). We went with the egg rolls, fried dumplings, peanut noodles, and a double order of the General. Always ready in 15 minutes, always hungry 16 minutes later. Kosher for passover: are you kidding, I don't even think this is kosher for Christmas.

4. Italian Hero from Victor's. They lost out on best pizza to Pioneer, but they made an Italian cold cut combo that was dripping with oil, mayo and all sorts of deli goodness. I have not had one of these in at least ten years. I have also not had a heart attack in the last ten years. I cannot see how that could be a coincidence. It's still there, but do your shabbos shopping elsewhere, ok?

3. TBO Fries. If you are questioning the inclusion of fries on this list twice, then you never had TBO fries. Mrs. Brown made some bad ass fries, but I always thought Mrs. Sumler took them to the next level. "Talk to me, TV, talk to me." God that shit almost makes me cry. They are long gone, but never forgotten.

2. Hobo con Queso. This was a serious contender for first place. Hungover on a Saturday morning? Marino, proprietor of the Five Star diner, would fry you up some eggs, melt some cheese on them, and serve the resulting artery buster on a bulkie roll. He'd throw some bacon or sausage on there, too, if you asked. Marino was the kind of guy would would bring trays of iced tea to the bank next door every few hours whenever the the air conditioner broke. No wonder I used to let him in early to do his deposits and get his cash for the weekend. Kosher for passover: you gotta be hobo con kidding me.

You want some Lipitor with that?

1. Bischoff's Ice Cream. An institution for 75 years. Hands down the best ice cream around. This is one of those old-fashioned places that has withstood the test of time, and remains a town-wide favorite. Great ice cream, decent food, and a staff with a disposition worse than Open Bar during prohibition all combine to make this place synonymous with Teaneck. Still there, and there may be some kosher options in the pre-wrapped foods, but nothing off the menu, ok? Someone correct me if I'm wrong and I will revise.

That's it . . . what did I miss?


J said...

Nice list. I do like Victors Pizza better though.

You've touched upon all of the food things I miss when I think about "home," now that I live "away," and right now I would like some Grille cheese fries and an extra thick chocolate shake.

If I had to add one, I would say Great Wall Chinese on Queen Anne. Perfectly greasy and delicious.

ChuckJerry said...

"to OB's credit, after 18 years . . . success!"
Is this true? Why wasn't I told about this?

Hot bagels on Teaneck Road was way better. Better bagels, infinitely better service.

Wing Out was only from 7-11. After that no more wings.

Holy fuck, I just had a flashback of Victor's Italian Heros. Shit, those were amazing.

Lipitor with that? Wow, that's up there with Chan Ho Park. Ku-dos.

Diners exist all over the place, but for some reason the Cheeseburger Deluxe is better at the Grille than anywhere else. Crinkle fries and perfectly sized burger.

In the vein of Butterflake, I'd go with anything from Patisserie St. Michelle on Queen Anne. Those were some good pastries.

If you want to go to a real restaurant for dinner but don't want to spend a fortune, then go to Louie's. If you want to go to a diner, then go elsewhere, you'll be disappointed.

JG said...

Victor's Chicken Parm sub is a must have for me every time I am home. Partial to their Pizza as well.

Teaneck Road Hot Bagels, I still bring back a dozen every time I head south.

Chinese - Great Wall on Queen Anne is the way to go (and although I never at there, Bobo Kitchen has a stupendous name).

You failed to mention kosher everything and anything - Dunkin Donuts, Chinese, BLTs...

Expanding the search slightly to include neighboring spots, I'd throw in B&W bakery and Jackson Hole.

Walt Clyde Frazier said...

Louie's sucks balls. Period. I stand by that.

Good list. The only comment to make, especially to an admittedly Cedar-Lane-centric list, is that Three-Star Bagels, right down the street from Five Star, has (in my humble opinion) the best bagels these days. In the past few months, I've had the Teaneck Road Bagels, Sammy's and Three Star, and I prefer Three-Star by far.

However, your list is more 1990s centric than Cedar-Lane-centric, so I don't know if current food quality is important...?

Open Bar said...

Ask me when you see me, Chuck.

One significant omission would have to be Empire Hunan. Yes, another Cedar Lane entry, but I still prefer their Chinese over almost any other I've had.

And SB, I know you remember Chicken Galore nights -- Best. Fried chicken. Ever. In Teaneck.

Side Bar said...

Empire Hunan is almost certainly going to be added as number 5; a startling omission on my part, and it has been raised repeatedly by people who have commented on the post (several posted here, others mentioned to me in person).

I thought about throwing Chicken Galore night on there. You could see through the bag by the time your dad got that shit to the swim club. Love it.

The bagel debate might have provided enough "fooder" (roar) for its own post.

Amanda said...

The Happy Waitress at the Grille was the best.

Also, what about the Mediteranean Deli? It's long gone now but they had good pizza.

Open Bar said...

I was never much a fan of the Mediterranean Deli. Only went there occasionally, though I know it certainly had its fans.

And I can't believe I forgot to include the magnificent Side of Spaghetti at The Grill.

(Btw, is it Cedar Lane Grill or Cedar Lane Grille? I'm kind of embarrassed to say I'm not sure.)

ChuckJerry said...

It's a fucking upscale establishment, for goodness sake. It's clearly the Grille.

I've heard that sushi restaurant around Teaneck Rd. and State St. was pretty good, but I've never been there.

Any fans of Vitale's out there. Personally, I think the Bogota Italian Restuarant was better.

Open Bar said...

Hey SB, I just glanced through the comments, and no one mentioned Empire Hunan. You claim others mentioned it to you in person, which sounds reasonable, I guess, but who knows? And you went with the General Tso's Chicken? Hm, maybe that was the popular pick at your dinner table, but at mine it was always the Pork Lo Mein or the Chicken and Broccoli.

Also, it's a somewhat more recent establishment, but across the street from Empire Hunan is Coliseum Pizza. I think they started up about 10 years ago or something, but dammit, since Pioneer, I haven't had a better slice.

And finally, the Dairy Queen should at least merit a mention. And it spreads our list geographically a bit.

Man, this whole topic deserves a follow-up. Well played, SB. Don't ever say I never said anything nice about you.