Monday, July 20, 2009

When Fancy-Restaurant Fatigue Strikes


By Pat Tanner

As a restaurant reviewer I am often asked which I prefer: high-end or down-home restaurants. I reply that I value and happily patronize both and would hate to be relegated to just one category. But there are times when my body and soul say basta! to elegant, multicourse chef’s meals. At those times I search out holes-in-the wall with authentic homestyle vittles. Here are three from recent ramblings. 

Smoke’n Dudes Barbecue. I don’t need to tell you that topnotch barbecue is hard to find ‘round these-here parts. The low-and-slow hickory-smoked ribs, pork, and brisket that are the handiwork of father-son team Tom and Bill Christine is worth the drive to Bensalem, PA (not far from Neshaminy Mall) or to Bellmawr in South Jersey (not far from the Walt Whitman bridge). Heck, I’d drive twice that far. Tom is a veteran bbq competition winner and former president of the Mid-Atlantic BBQ association. smokendudesbbq.com

El Jose Mexican-American.  Instead of a 7-11, the Getty gas station at 980 East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin features this minuscule Mexican takeout and grocery spot. Affable owner Jorge Salazar makes everything from scratch – even the cooked salsa for the tamales, which are wrapped in banana leaves. Everything is delectable and more than reasonably priced. Standouts include soft tacos with shredded beef and chicken enchiladas. I normally turn my nose up at refried beans, but not here. Phone: 609.597.5099

Tete Peruvian. The cuisine of Peru is a delicious convergence of many cultures - Incan, Spanish, African, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian among them. Johnny Villaviciencio named his tiny, mostly takeout spot not far from the courthouse in New Brunswick after his mother, Teresa, the nickname for which is Tete (pronounced Tet-TAY). Among the most popular dishes are ceviche, lomito saltado (sliced smoked beef, red onions, and tomatoes mixed with French fries and served with rice), Latin beef stew, and la butifarra (Peruvian ham on a Portuguese roll). 7 Spring Street. Phone: 732.246.1502