But the newest entry to the restaurant scene stands out for dishing out fare that's fast, fresh and also unique to the area.
Red’s, which opened at 800 Bloomfield Ave. on Monday, introduces Chicago-style, dipped Italian beef sandwiches to our North Jersey palates.
Owner Barbi Ellen Newman, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, started out working at the Ritz Carlton and Le Perroquet Restaurant in the Windy City.
When Newman returned to her native Jersey, she had much success with her Verona-based catering business, Mardi Gras. After selling Mardi Gras and spending time recently as a personal chef, she envisioned the concept of comfort food made healthier and reentered the retail world with Red's.
The Italian beef sandwich was new to me when I ordered it this week on my first visit. I chose a half-portion, which was enough to hit the spot and appreciate the combination of slow roasted, thinly sliced top round partnered with sweet roasted peppers and a spicy relish served on a French roll.
I asked for the sandwich “dipped” (in au jus) and enjoyed it while sitting at a counter facing the window. I also ordered a cup of one of the day’s soup specials, a thick and flavorful curry cauliflower.
My lunch companion chose their twist on pulled pork, the chopped BBQ sandwich—slow roasted chicken, slaw and barbecue sauce on a brioche bun—and gave an audible “yum” when he bit into it. He munched on a bag of salt and vinegar chips for his side.
For a sweet ending, we shared an “ultimate” brownie (with walnuts). Although very, very good and not too sweet, we're not sure the brownie lived up to its name.
Also on the menu at Red’s are turkey burgers, an Italian grilled cheese sandwich, turkey and vegetarian chili, a three-cheese macaroni and cheese and daily special salads.
The restaurant design seems ready for replication. With large pictures of their food specialties on the wall, it’s more of a franchise-feel than a homey eatery. Freezer cases held packaged soup, burgers and desserts to grab-and-go.
The staff was friendly and eager to please. And please Red's will when looking for a healthy meal on the run.
Red’s Dips, Flips, Chips
800 Bloomfield Ave., West Caldwell
Hours: Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Sundays.