Omega Diner Reuben Sandwich

omega diner and cafe

I could do without the fries, to be honest 🙂

The history of the Reuben sandwich isn’t known for sure, but there’s a few stories that seem to host the most klout. If you’re interested, you can read about them here.

Several variations of the Reuben exist, but the traditional Reuben is either cornedbeef or pastrami on grilled rye bread with sauerkraut and either Russian or Thousand Island dressing. I prefer mine with corned beef and thousand island dressing.

What’s the difference between Russian and Thousand Island?

Thousand island dressing is lighter in color and chunky, containing finely chopped ingredients such as pickles, onions, bell peppers and/or green olives, among other things. Russian dressing is a darker, brighter orange color and does not contain any chunks. I prefer the former.

A Reuben sandwich is one of my favorite not-so-healthy foods. If you follow along here you know I prefer gourmet, healthy wraps to greasy sandwiches, but sometimes a Reuben just hits the spot. The good news here is that it is pretty filling, so I normally don’t eat more than half, saving the other half for later or sharing it with my date.

A few weeks ago I had been craving a Reuben, so before leaving for vacation we headed over to my favorite NJ diner: The Omega Diner and Cafe in North Brunswick, NJ. I didn’t even have to look at the menu, knowing that I wanted the Reuben sandwich. I did look, though, because you have to be careful! Like I said above, I enjoy mine with corned beef and thousand island, so it’s important to make sure that this is how they serve or that these are at least options. I’m not a fan of the pastrami and Russian dressing version.

If you’re scared of corned beef, don’t be! It is salty, tender and juicy. Especially on this sandwich with the cheese, sauerkraut and dressing it all comes together in your mouth as a perfect flavor combination.

It is traditionally served as a hot, grilled, open-faced sandwich with cole slaw, a pickle and fries. Let me tell you, Omega hit it out of the park. It was a great sandwich; the meat was tender and juicy, not too much cheese, the rye was perfectly grilled and the thousand island came on the side, just how I like it. It was absolutely delicious! Seriously as honestly.

So much so that a few weeks later we went back and I got it again!

What’s your favorite not-so-healthy indulgence?

Do you like Reuben sandwiches? How do you like yours?

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Brennan’s Lobster Salad

lobster salad
Brennan’s Lobster Salad Sandwich

Whenever I visit two of my best friends in their hometown we head to the beach, but not before stopping at Brennan’s Delicatessen in Rumson, NJ. Famous for their extensive selection of gourmet wraps, not to mention homemade salads, sides and sandwiches, they are the must-try lunch spot if you’re in Central Jersey.

Having been there a few times and having loved their food, I said YES! when I was asked if I wanted to try the one in Oakhurst. It did not disappoint.

It sported the same big board of numbered sandwich options, the same glass counter filled with delicious and obviously homemade salads and sides, and the same cozy beach-town atmosphere.

First I ordered a roasted vegetable wrap, but quickly asked if it would be too much of a pain to change my order. They were offering a Lobster Salad Sandwich special that I simply could not pass up! I didn’t order it at first because “Lobster salad” makes me think of Lobster Rolls which, believe it or not, are not my favorite.

Last summer I tried a lobster roll and a lobster ale at The Lobster Roll on Long Island, supposedly the original and creator of the sandwich. It was a cute, fun place and the lobster ale was great. The roll, however, not my thing. Not bad, just not my preference.

This is why I was nervous to order it at Brennan’s… until I saw the big bowl of it on the counter. I saw that there were HUGE, and I mean HUGE chunks of lobster with shopped veggies and a light layer of dressing. I am always afraid that chicken, tuna or lobster salad will have too much filling or mayonnaise, thus hiding the supposed feature ingredient. Not the case here.

lobster rollBrennan’s lobster salad was chunky with gigantic pieces of lobster that were complimented with a little bit of mayo, and some fresh, crunchy raw veggies – mostly carrots, red onion and celery. It was served on soft, multigrain bread that stood up to the salad, even over night in the fridge! Yes, that means I could only eat half per sitting. It was a delicious and big sandwich, enough for lunch on both Thursday and Friday.

The only thing I have to say, and only because this blog is honest, is that I did not care for the chips. They make homemade potato chips, which I usually love, but this time they were a disappointment. They were soggy and some tasted like BBQ chips – something else I am not a fan of.

BUT the lobster salad sandwich was so good I was willing to over-look the chips and still give Brennan’s my utmost approval.

Not a seafood lover? Not in to Lobster salad? Try any one of their other gourmet sandwiches or wraps – you will not be sorry!

Summer Salad Series [Review]: Buffalo Shrimp Salad at Kildare’s Newark

Kildare’s Buffalo Shrimp Salad

I have dreams about this salad. And I wish I was kidding. I was out with friends for someone’s birthday and the dinner spot chosen was Kildare’s. Now, Kildare’s isn’t my favorite place for food. I love the atmosphere and all of the amazing beers on tap, and their french onion soup and nachos are good. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the rest of the food, it’s just not my cup of tea, if you will. Not bad, I just don’t prefer it. However, last summer I tried their Chicken Cobb Salad and absolutely LOVED it, so I thought I would get that again.

Looking over the salads on the menu I noticed a different salad, the Buffalo Shrimp Salad and was intrigued. So i ordered it.


It starts with a bed of iceberg lettuce with shredded celery and carrot sticks (very clever, I think) and topped with buffalo shrimp and crumbled blue cheese, I got the dressing on the side (and never even needed it!).

I went back 2 weeks later and got it again. That’s how good it is.

For starters, the shrimp is cooked perfectly. Shrimp can be tricky like chicken and get tough and dry very easily, but not at Kildare’s! It was lightly breaded and fried and the buffalo sauce was delicious without being overpowering or too wimpy. A very good balance of taste and heat, something I always look for when it comes to buffalo sauce.

The iceberg lettuce made me skeptical since I’ve never really been a fan. However, the light, fresh taste and insane crunch were perfect in the salad – all traits that Romaine lacks. The shredded celery and carrots – absolutely genius – added even more crunch and freshness to balance the buffalo. The blue cheese crumbles were fresh and acted like a dressing, eliminating the need altogether. And no dressing means that all of the other flavors have a chance to shine on their own.

This salad is spicy, refreshing and salty all at the same time. An absolute must-try if you go to Kildare’s for a meal!

Heartland Brewery, NYC

One recent Friday afternoon around 2pm I found myself in NYC, and to celebrate the commencement of  summer hours, we decided to take advantage by having a late lunch during happy hour. I had a coupon for a retail establishment, and we noticed that just around the corner was a place called Heartland Brewery. Although I hadn’t been there before, Phil had, and he highly recommended it, suggesting we go there for an appetizer and to try their seasonal Summer Apricot Ale.

He had me at Brewery.

Being that it is a brewery, I thought it would be best to try one of their house beers and one of their seasonale, allowing us to share and sample each. We ordered their house lager, the Cornhusker and the Seasonal Summer Apricot Ale. We also ordered the appetizer sampler. Get this: it’s called the “Heartland Pu Pu Platter” – if I wasn’t in to sampling as many things as possible, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to ask for it out loud.

The Atmosphere

The sign out front says “Brewery and Rotisserie” which has me skeptical, as the vision in my head that of Boston Market with beer on tap. Can’t judge a restaurant on it’s tagline, apparently. I was impressed from the second I walked in. Dark wood on the floors some of the walls, with a design theme that is chic yet sporty and homey. There are stairs everywhere. If you aren’t seated on the first floor you will be led down a curved staircase to the bar area where there is a mix of seating options, great lightening and a very, very comfortable feel.

Drink Something New: The Brews

House Cornhusker Lager

This beer was very, very light and refreshing without lacking in the flavor department. If you’ve read my earlier Drink Something New posts, you know that I have come to enjoy malted beers and Belgians, and that I am not a big fan of hops. This beer had virtually no hoppy taste and was very smooth. A great light lager for anyone who likes that kind of beer.

The Seasonal Summer Apricot Ale

This was absolutely delicious, and up there on my favorite beers list for sure. The second you fill your mouth with a sip of this beer there is a rush of flavor. It isn’t overly sweet or fruity, just a strong classic ale taste with citrus notes. It has a smooth finish, not too hoppy and definitely no “dirt” taste. Although it is a very strong taste, it isn’t too heavy or thick, which is perfect. I STRONGLY suggest that you try this beer if you’re in New York City this summer.

Eat Something New: The Food

Like I said, we ordered the Heartland Brewery Pu Pu Platter appetizer sampler, a sampling of their “5 house dishes.” The presentation was great and extremely unique, unlike any other plating I’ve ever seen, especially for a place this casual. It came in a stacked tower, as you can see here, each level devoted to one of the five dishes.

From the top down:

Pulled pork sliders:

I am not a big fan of pulled pork or BBQ in general because I like to taste all of the ingredients I am eating, including the meat. Often times I have found that BBQ style food is drenched, even sometimes drowning, in BBQ sauce, not allowing for any other flavors to come through. These pork sliders surprised me and I liked them more than I had thought I would. Cooked very well, tasty sauce, soft, fresh bun. I only ate half because I wanted to save room and it was the first thing I ate, but if you like pulled pork or even just BBQ, these would be a good choice.

Fried Pickle Spears:

These were, hands down, the best fried pickles I have had to date. And yes, I’ve had fried pickles a number of times. It was a pickle spear cut the way they are usually served with a burger or sandwich in a restaurant. It was fully intact, breaded and fried. The pickle was still perfectly crispy and juicy and tasted like a pickle. Sometimes, when left in the fryer too long I assume, the pickle part of a fried pickle loses its pickle tastes because the breading is too thick or it is too greasy. Not the case at Heartland. The breading, and this goes for all of the breaded items, was perfect. The food obviously is not frozen and the breading is added by hand. It is crunchy and crispy, not at all soggy. The best fried pickles I have ever had.

Mozzarella Sticks:

Like the pickle spears, the mozzarella sticks were perfectly breaded and came in long strips that almost looked like they could have been string cheese in a former lifetime. Very tasty!

Skewers:

The skewers were my least favorite of the five, to the point where, if I was to return and order this sample again, I would ask to substitute a second helping of one of the other 4 to replace this one. The meat was cooked perfectly, not tough or dry and slid right off of the skewer. However, there was almost no seasoning, they were cold, and they alternated with what I think were pieces of tomatoes. It just didn’t go. Very bland and the fact that it was cold didn’t make it any better.

Buffalo Chicken Wings:

Pretty standard appetizer, but Heartland did them very well. I don’t like Buffalo Wild Wings’ wings because of all of the thick breading. I like to still taste some of the chicken. Heartland’s wings are tender and juicy, and the sauce has a great taste and has just the right amount of heat.

 

Overall I highly suggest this place, hope to return, and think you should try to make it there this summer. Being a brewery, they brew their own beer and it is really very good. The food was good and the atmosphere was classy and relaxed all in one. A great place for happy hour, a dinner date, or even a casual night out.

 

Have you ever been to one of the Heartland locations?

Do you prefer Breweries to other types of restaurants?

What’s your favorite Brewery in NYC?

Santa Fe Sangritas

Yes, that’s right a Sangrita. No, I am not confused. This is a Sangria Margarita from Santa Fe Mexican Grill in Newark, DE. This place is famous for its Happy Hours where they featured discounted beers and single as well as pitches of their delicious margaritas. They have great good; very traditional and absolutely delicious. My favorite thing to eat there is their shrimp quesadillas, but their homemade salsa and guacamole are both amazing, too.

Ok, enough about food – this is a drink something new post. One of my good friends from grad school, who also went to undergrad here in Newark with me, was shocked and borderline appalled when I told her that I didn’t know what a Sangrita was. She could not believe it. She explained that this sangria-meets-margarita is to die for, absolutely delicious, the best combination, and an absolute must-try. So of course I had to take her up on this!

I’ve been trying to eat at all of my favorite places during my last two weeks here in Newark, and last Friday Santa Fe, with a coupon in tow!, was the pick of the night. I ordered the shrimp fajitas (delicious! They are very good with their shrimp! Shrimp is another tricky thing to cook but they’ve mastered it, I think) and we ordered a round of Sangritas. I ordered mine frozen with salt.

What a beautiful drink. A super pale green lime margarita literally swirled with a fuchsia sangria, the rim laced with chunky salt along and a ripe lime wedge on the side. I couldn’t wait to take a sip! I dove right in and the taste was amazing – a great mix of sweet and tangy between the berries and the lime. But.. holy alcohol! I like cocktails made with tequila because I like the taste of tequila, so it wasn’t bad – plus the strong citrus cuts the alcohol’s edge – but boy, could I taste it! By the end of just one Sangrita, I was feeling it. And no, I am not generally a light weight. As my friend would say, “They will knock you on your butt!” and I wholeheartedly agree.

What’s your favorite summer cocktail or summer seasonal beer?

Have you tried the Skinny Girl Margaritas? LOVE Bethenny and can’t believe I haven’t yet.. Thoughts?

WaWa Hoagie Fest 2011, Wheat Style

Woke up too late to make lunch (again) and so when my stomach started rumbling around 1pm, I opted for WaWa. To my surprise, and absolute pleasure, I walked in and was greeted by a giant, groovy sign that read, “Hoagie Fest 2011.”

Yes, this wonderful time of the year has finally arrived, which means not only cheaper shorti’s, but it means that summer is quickly approaching. The feature right now is Turkey and Roast Beef (apparently you can have them together or separately) and turkey is my favorite so this was more good news.

I made my way over to the digital information kiosk (I love these things when it comes to sandwiches – I feel less guilty telling a computer my complicated order than I do a real person). Oven roasted turkey, provolone, a little bit of vinegar, salt, pepper oregano, lettuce, tomato, sweet peppers.

But, the surprises continue! I see on the screen,”Shorti” and “New! Shorti Wheat!” As a loyal wheat-eater I opted for the wheat without even thinking. I get it back to the office, unwrap it, and skepticism creeps out – the bread is “dusty” (you know what I mean?) and looks almost burnt on the bottom. I am now remembering my two-time-only bad wheat experience…

My absolute favorite local pizza place offers a whole wheat crust and it literally tastes like cardboard, and might be even more difficult to chew. I’ve mentioned before that I’m willing to try anything at least twice – so another time, months later when I figured they had time to improve their recipe – I tried their whole wheat bread sticks – just as bad, if not worse, than I had remembered. Anywho- as I  lean in to take my first bite I am thinking about how I hope this doesn’t happen again.

I take the first bite, the bread tastes a little dusty and dry on my tongue, but as the ingredients come together that taste is masked. So, then, it’s all good. I don’t love their wheat bread, but it is possible I just got a less-than-stellar piece. But it is nothing like that horrific pizza crust and it is more than tolerable. Will I get it again? Of course – it’s Wawa! They more than deserve a chance at redemption, and of course I have to follow my rule of trying it at least twice.

If you’re not a wheat fan – this is definitely not the place to try to become one. If you’re strict with wheat- then know that you’ll be okay. If you’re loyal but not super strict, like me, then I would definitely suggest giving it a try and deciding for yourself.

Not sure what all this whole grain hype is all about? Skeptical that they aren’t really better for you? They are – and here’s why, according to KidsHealth.org:

Bread is made out of flour that comes from grain kernels — usually wheat. A grain kernel has three parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ (so called because it’s the part of the kernel that germinates into a new plant).

Whole grains contain all parts of the grain kernel. But refined grains, like the flour used to make white bread, have had the fiber-dense bran and the nutrient-rich germ processed out, leaving only the starchy endosperm. This means that refined grain is not as rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc.

Some flour and bread manufacturers “enrich” their bread by adding extra vitamins back in. But it’s still better to eat whole grains. The fiber and protein from the bran and germ provide a more constant source of energy, which will keep you going long after the energy from refined grains is gone. The fiber in the bran can also mean whole-grain breads help people feel full longer, preventing overeating.

If you’re buying packaged bread in the supermarket, be sure the label says “whole grain” or “whole wheat.”

DRINK something new! Iron Hill Beer Sampler

A good friend of mine suggested that I add a Drink Something New component to this blog, and so I am! Sometimes you just feel like eating your favorites so why not mix it up when it comes to your beverage order? As far as I can tell this section will mostly consist of drinks of the alcoholic and caffeinated persuasions. I’m really excited about this and hope you enjoy it!

To borrow a phrase from a friend: here is my inaugural post for Drink Something New: The Iron Hill Beer Sampler

Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant has nine locations in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and describes its self like this:

“you’ll find fine handcrafted beers, creative yet informal cuisine, and friendly, attentive service in a casual, upscale atmosphere.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Their new-american cuisine is amazing, and is a must-visit any time anyone comes back to UD for a visit. It is a little “nicer” in terms of formality, but casual enough that it is fun and beers an burgers are a common pairing.

They are a brewery so of course they brew their own beers. They offer a beer sampler, which I’ve ordered a few different times, but the most recent time was the best, by far – due in large part to our server, Rick at the Newark, DE location.

The sampler starts with a paper place mat with eight circles on it, one for each of the samples. Then the server places each sample down one at a time and describes each one. Rick was awesome and way more thorough than any other server I’ve had explain it to me. He told us the name, the type of beer and the different ingredients. And any question I asked he had the answer to. It made it really fun and informative – an experience more than just a drink order.

The number one reason why I think this beer sampler is so awesome is because it teaches you what kind of beer you’re in to. What I came away from it with was the difference between hoppy beers and more malted beers. From sampling these beers it reinforced the idea that Belgian white beers or ‘witbiers’ are my favorite – with citrus tones – think Blue Moon, Hoegaarden and Shock Top. My second favorite genre is malted beers – think Yuengling. So now, when I go out to eat and am in the mood to try a new beer (and let’s be honest, that’s 99% of the time) now I know what to ask in order to pick something I think that I’ll like.

If you don’t consider yourself a risk taker, experimenting with drinks is a little less risky and usually less of an expensive risk – so I challenge you to drink something new next time you make a beverage order – whether it be at your local coffee shop or brewery. And let me know hows it goes 🙂