Archive for the ‘New Brunswick’ category

Destination Dogs in New Brunswick: You’ve Never Had a Hot Dog Like This

January 3, 2015

The hot dog is one of the most humble foods imaginable – take the animal scraps and organ meat that no one else will touch, throw them in a blender with nitrates and pink food coloring, put the resulting slop in a plastic casing, and serve it on a bland roll that falls apart as soon as you touch it. But at Destination Dogs in New Brunswick, the simple hot dog is elevated to entirely new levels.

Though I heard about this establishment a couple of years ago, I didn’t make it over there until recently – a very poor mistake on my part. Like most people when they think of a “hot dog place,” I had imagined just a dumpy little shack where you go to a counter, they pull a hot dog off one of those rotating warmer things and slop on some sauerkraut as you stand there. Instead, Destination Dogs is a full on, sit-down, fill-up dining experience. Residing at the what used to be Doll’s Place, which despite sounding like a strip club was actually one of the nicer bars in the midst of the numerous hole-in-the-wall drinking spots surrounding Rutgers University, Destination Dogs offers a menu full of gourmet offerings that go far beyond a simple hot dog, including a wide variety of meats and almost unlimited number of toppings.

Hot dog, or work of art?

Hot dog, or work of art?

Putting the “destination” in destination dogs, each item is inspired by a different part of the world. For instance, you’ve got the “Howlamo” from Texas, consisting of a wild boar sausage topped with pork belly, chicharonnes, and baconaisse; the “Swede-Dreams” from Sweden – a Swedish meatball sausage covered with mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry jam; and the “Slumdog Meal-ionaire” from India, a vegetarian hot dog with samosa filling and curry sauce. (more…)

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Top 5: Reasons Belmar is Better Than New Brunswick

November 26, 2010

I suggest you turn around. Photo by city-data.com.

About three months ago, I moved out of my apartment in New Brunswick and into a new apartment in Belmar. And it was quite a drastic change. I essentially moved out of the armpit of the Armpit of America and into a more pleasant body part (I’ll let you pick which one). I’ve spent five years of my life living in New Brunswick, and, although I have fond memories of the city, there is plenty to hate about it.

With that, here are theTop 5 reasons why Belmar is better than New Brunswick:

1) Hippies – Both New Brunswick and Belmar are home to quite a few hippies. Still, they couldn’t be more different. The hippies in New Brunswick are mainly students of Rutgers University. Though they typically come from upper-middle class families, they like to pretend they’re poor and just getting by on their own. But don’t let those tattered tie-dye shirts, unkempt facial hair (on guys), and unshaven legs (on girls) fool you. They’re just miserable spoiled brats with Grateful Dead posters in their dorms who wake up every morning wishing they went to college 40 years ago.

Belmar’s hippies, on the other hand, are more grown up. Rather than playing their guitars and singing about imagined social injustices, these hippies have embraced capitalism. Instead of going out of their way to be part of some nonexistent, idyllic counter culture, these hippies actually contribute something to the real culture. They’ve opened establishments all over the town, like vegan restaurants, vintage clothing stores, and yoga studios. Still embracing their hippie roots, but earning a dollar at the same time. Who wouldn’t respect that? (more…)

An Evening with Michael Pollan

October 9, 2010

Hahahah never heard that one before....

Back in September of 2001, I was a nerdy, overweight freshman at Rutgers.  During that first semester, I took Expository Writing 101 (AKA Ex-Pos), the dreaded freshman writing course.  The first assignment for that class was to read an essay about genetically engineered potatoes and write a paper about it.  The author of that essay was a certain Michael Pollan, a fact I only remember because I thought how funny it was that a guy named Pollan wrote about plants.

Before the teacher handed back those first assignments, she said most of the class did pretty poorly.  She explained how that can be expected on our first papers and that we shouldn’t get too discouraged; we can only get better.  When she handed my paper back, I was shocked by my grade.  It was a B+.  That’s when it happened.  It was at this point, dear reader, that your humble narrator realized he could write.  Since then, I’ve pursued writing educationally, personally, professionally, and blogally.

So where am I going with all this?

Nine years (holy shit) after that fateful day, I heard that Michael Pollan was giving a talk at Rutgers.  I couldn’t pass up the chance to hear the guy who indirectly launched my writing career at the place where it started.  So, this past Wednesday, I headed up to the College Ave gym, where the talk was being held.  On the way, I passed the Rutgers Student Center.  There was a big sign in front of the building saying there was going to be a memorial for Tyler Clementi that night.  The sign also said that both New Jersey senators, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez, were going to be there.  I thought about ditching Pollan and going to this event for no other reason than the remote chance that I could convince one of the senators to sit down for an in-depth interview for this little old blog.  But they clearly had something more important to do that night. (more…)

New Jersey’s Ghetto Barber Shops

August 23, 2010

And now for a post that isn’t about “Jersey Shore”!

Let’s rewind back to Fourth of July weekend.  My hair (total Jew-fro) was getting a little too curly and unmanageable to be seen in public.  I had a friend who had been cutting my hair for free for the last couple of years, but she wasn’t available.  And, since I had plans to go out for the night, I needed a haircut that day.

Little known fact: Dustin Diamond and I are first cousins.

I googled around for barber shops in New Brunswick.  All the results I found fell into two categories: unisex hair salons or places bragging about their “street” and “Brooklyn” cuts.  I have too much pride to go someplace with the words unisex and salon in its title, but I’m not man enough to go to one of the ghetto places.  All I wanted was a barber shop catering to nerdy white guys.  Since there weren’t any such places in New Brunswick, I decided to look around in the nerdiest town in New Jersey:  Princeton. (more…)

A Beautiful Day in My Neighborhood

July 21, 2010

Yesterday I was driving around New Brunswick (AKA “The Brunz” to some, “No Funswick” to others) and took the following picture:

Notice anything funny about it? No, it’s not the drug deal going on in the alleyway or the prostitute on the corner. Those are daily fixtures of life in this fine city. It’s not the asshole taking pictures from his phone while driving through a busy intersection either.

Still don’t see it? Let’s zoom in:

It’s hard to make out, so you’ll have to take my word on this. It is a Budget moving truck full of watermelons. These people were actually selling fruit out of a rental truck!

Seeing shady people sell stuff out of a truck is not an uncommon thing in New Brunswick. There are countless ice cream trucks that annoyingly drive around playing their stupid songs all night. Then there are the ice cream trucks, offering more than just frozen desserts. There are even guys trying to sell stereo systems out of unmarked vans. But selling watermelon out of a rental truck? That’s a new one for me.  Then again, it’s just another day in the Armpit of America.

I Ate A Jersey Burger!

March 21, 2010

Mmmm......New Jersey....

This should come as no surprise to any reader of this blog, but I’m a little obsessed with New Jersey. So, when I saw something called a “Jersey Burger” on a menu last night, I had to get it.

The item was on the menu at the legendary Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick. I call it legendary because, aside from being a staple of that city’s nightlife, celebrity chef Mario Batali actually got his start in the restaurant business at this place.

Stuff Yer Face is most famous for its wide selection of “bolis,” their version of the stromboli. They have at least 50 different varieties, all filled with some combination of meats, cheeses, and vegetables. You could also create your own, with over a billion permutations. Although I was originally going to pick a boli to eat, I turned the page to the less frequented sandwich page of the menu. Imagine by surprise when I saw the Jersey Burger there.

I’ve never seen or heard of a Jersey burger before, so I assume it’s a unique creation of Stuff Yer Face. Just as a California burger contains avocado and a Mexican burger has jalapeños, a Jersey burger is topped with used condoms and hairspray. Just kidding.

The Jersey burger includes a couple slices of pork roll and mozzarella. For whatever reason, pork roll (also known as Taylor ham or poor man’s sausage) is perhaps New Jersey’s most famous contribution to the culinary world. Though usually eaten in the Armpit of America as one-third of a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich, it is a welcome addition to a hamburger. As for why mozzarella was put on the Jersey burger, my only guess is that it pays tribute to the too many Italians in the state.

So now that I’ve described what the hell a Jersey burger is, let me tell you what it tastes like. It tasted like a hamburger with pork roll and mozzarella. It wasn’t the best burger I ever had, but it got the job done. The name definitely made it taste better. So, if you ever get the urge to take a bite out of New Jersey, go to Stuff Yer Face and order the Jersey burger. God knows, the state chews all of us up, so why not return the favor?

Top 5 Pretentious Restaurants in New Brunswick

December 22, 2009

Mmmm...pretentious...

Here’s yet another new feature for all of you – my Top 5 lists!

As you can tell, my first subject is pretentious restaurants in New Brunswick (New Brunswick the city in New Jersey, not that Canadian state province).

For those who have never been to New Brunswick, my former and current place of residence, the city has quite an interesting culinary scene. As New Brunswick is home to Rutgers, the State University of the Armpit of America, there is no shortage of cheap, unhealthy food geared towards college students – like the Grease Trucks and a countless number of pizza places.

On the other hand, New Brunswick offers plenty of more exotic options, like a couple Middle Eastern places and no less than two Jamaican restaurants. Oddly enough, there aren’t any of those casual chains, like Chilis, Applebees, and Fridays within the city limits (though there is a Qdobas and a Chipotle right across from each other). But what New Brunswick lacks in name brand restaurants, it more than makes up for with plenty of overpriced, snobby, and pretentious dining options:

5. Old Man Rafferty’s – I’m sure putting this on the list won’t make me any additional friends. Though Old Man Rafferty’s is a staple in New Brunswick, this place is more hype than substance. While I admit the food is good, it’s about the same quality and selection you can find at an Applebees or Houlihans (though a lot more expensive). Whatever your thoughts on it may be, people just love this place. But is the standard 45 minute wait you’ll almost always encounter worth it? I don’t think so. So let those parents visiting their children at college go to Old Man Rafferty’s, and everyone else can and should go somewhere else.

4. Daryl Wine Bar and Restaurant – Admittedly, I’ve never been to this place. But it just oozes pretentiousness. First of all, who the hell opens a wine bar in a gritty college town? Secondly, on their logo, the “y” in Daryl is shaped like a wine glass. Uh, sorry to burst your bubble, Daryl, but New Brunswick’s beloved CLYDZ already had that idea and executed it a lot better than you! Anyway, a look at Daryl’s website just confirms its pretentiousness. Rather than showing a room full of people happily drinking and eating away, the main image is of an unwelcoming, stark, and empty dining room full of stiff, high-backed white chairs.

As for the food, it seems just as unappealing. The menu appears to be typical of many expensive, fancy restaurants – small selection, even smaller servings, and exuberant prices. The menu tries to go out of the way to talk up the food, with offerings like Bershire Pork Loin (the fuck does that mean?), Wild Caught Cod (putting “wild caught” in front of “cod” doesn’t make it any more appetizing), and Australian Sea Bass (I guess Daryl is too good for the more standard Chilean variety). (more…)