Cheap Eats: American Classics

Got a hankering for some quality dishes we red-blooded Americans can't help but enjoy? Check out these stops.

Bread Board Plus
Photo by David Michael Howarth.

Biggie’s Clam Bar
(Hoboken, Carlstadt) In 1941, Joe Yaccarino, a one-time comedian (stage name, Biggie) started selling clams from a cart. The business is still in the family, and the food is even better than the back-story. The clams are big, fresh and briny. “I know when and where they were picked,” says Joe’s son, Michael, 81. Start with a dozen—raw, roasted, steamed in beer or oreganata ($11-$13.50). Follow with Manhattan chowder (12 oz., $4.50) and the delicate fried calamari (a full pound for $8.50 ). 318 Madison St, 201-656-2161, 36-42 Newark St, 201-710-5520, Hoboken; 430 Rt 17 S, Carlstadt, 201-933-4000;—ASJ

(Bayonne, Hoboken) Dave Pierro bends the chain’s rules at his two Blimpies. He buys Thumann’s cold cuts and slices them to order. He scoops out his bread (from Newark’s Paramount Bakery) to “increase the meat-to-bread ratio.” Half a roast beef and provolone ($7) or Blimpie Best Italian ($6.40) make a nice meal. 538 Broadway, Bayonne, 201-823-1111; 110 Washington Ave, Hoboken, 201-659-3610;—ASJ

Bread Board Plus
(Haddonfield) If none of the 32 sandwiches and subs rings your bell—a turkey club is $8.40, half a Mexican cheesesteak sub $9.95, half a roasted veggie sub $7.50—create your own. Any sandwich can be made as a “mini” for $4.20. There are half a dozen daily soups ($4.95) and always the temptation of tater tots ($2.95). 605 Haddon Ave, 856-354-0333,—RS

Church’s Kitchen
(Vauxhall) At Church’s (no relation to the chain), Leroy and Judy Church fry every piece of chicken to order ($3.50-$6.49). It’s worth waiting a few minutes for. The couple’s soulful sides include collards, black-eyed peas, string beans and mac and cheese. Good ribs, too. 2117 Springfield Ave, 908-810-1686—ASJ

Donkey’s Place
(Camden, Medford) Named for the owner’s father, Leon Lucas, an Olympic light heavyweight boxer said to have a “punch like a mule’s kick,” this corner bar has been in the same family since 1943. Its menu couldn’t be simpler: hefty cheesesteaks ($6.75) on round poppyseed rolls and cooked-to-order crinkly fries ($2-$3). 1223 Haddon Ave, Camden, 856-966-2616; 11 Tomlinson Mill Rd, Medford, 856-810-0445—TN

Elbow Room
(Newark) Brooklyn-based Elbow Room chose Newark as its flagship location, says owner Joel Bolden, “because it’s an up-and-coming city.” Like steakhouse chefs, Elbow Room morphs basic mac and cheese (made with cheddar and béchamel, $4-$9) into festive fusions like Brats and Beer Mac (with caramelized onions), Mushroom Mac (creminis, spinach, Vermont gruyere, crispy shallots) and Jamaican Jerk Chicken Mac with grilled pineapple and toasted coconut. Nouveau macs are $5-$13, depending on type and size. Mac’ed out? There are four green salads ($7) and an oatmeal ice cream sandwich with cinnamon ice cream ($4). 41 Halsey St, 973-642-2300,—EL

Little Food Café
(Bayonne, Pompton Plains) The neighborly vibe here is such that—true story!—a Bayonne cop grabbing coffee recently told a guy waiting for a table not to worry about his questionably parked car outside. Co-owners Cynthia VanDecker and daughter Lisa Kushnir serve hearty turkey taco wraps ($6.75) and dinner combos with soup or salad, including massive meatloaf ($14) and roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies and cranberry sauce ($13). But Little Food’s biggest draw is Sunday brunch, featuring $7.50 caramelized banana French toast and skillet dishes like the $7.95 Benedict Arnold, piling country ham, poached eggs and hollandaise on a potato pancake, with a side of sweet potato hash. 330 Kennedy Blvd, Bayonne, 201-436-6800; 585 Newark Pompton Tpke, Pompton Plains, 973-616-8600;—CB

PJ Whelihan’s
(Haddon Township) Tuesday is Wing Night, and the place is packed. The same wings PJ’s provides for Sports Radio 94’s Wing Bowl—the gluttonous extravaganza that fills Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center every February—are half price. Choose from eight sauces, gaze at 16 flat screens, and keep an eye out for one of the dozen or so Flyers or Phillies who live in dry Haddonfield next door. 700 Haddon Ave, 856-427-7888,—RS

The Pop Shop
(Collingswood) It’s known for its ice cream creations, but the cognoscenti love the all-day breakfast—never mind that kids wearing pajamas Saturdays 7:30-10:30 am get breakfast free. Pancakes range from the $5.99 Vegan Betty’s to the $8.59 Hawaii Five-Oh (gooey pineapple, caramelized bananas and shredded coconut). Or go with Pop’s Groovy Granola, with peanut butter and pumpkin seeds ($5.99), Hot Momma Oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins ($3.29) or sliders—three buns with scrambled eggs, American cheese, sundried tomato aioli and turkey bacon or veggie sausage ($8.59). 729 Haddon Ave, 856-869-0111,—RS

Red Sky Café
(Seaville) Inside and out, the vibrant colors reflect the cheerful vibe and lively Southwestern fare. At lunch, select fillings for your burrito, taco or quesadilla ($7.97) from four proteins, nine grains, beans, veggies and various toppings. At dinner, feast on fat enchiladas and chimichangas with rice, black beans, chili sauce, cheese, guacamole and sour cream for $14.95. 3054 Rt 9, 609-624-2550,—TN

West Side Gravy
(Collingswood) Alex Capasso, who has cooked at James Beard House in New York, charges $7 for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But what a sandwich. He makes his own peanut-and-cashew butter, spreads it on warm brioche with mixed-berry jam and serves it with a side of dried cranberry, gorgonzola and walnut salad. West Side Gravy is about rescuing familiar food from familiar ruts. For $8 you can’t beat Capasso’s grilled cheddar, Fontina, Swiss and American cheese on brioche with a bowl of tomato soup made just from tomatoes and butter. 714 Haddon Ave, 856-854-3444,—TN

Click here to read about more Cheap Eats.

Click here to leave a comment
There are no photos with those IDs or post 59806 does not have any attached images!
Read more Eat & Drink articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.