Chef Michael Merida Opens Rockin’ Roots in Hillsdale

Plus: Other openings and restaurants in the works in Haddonfield, Jersey City, Sea Bright and beyond.

Acai bowl at Rockin' Roots in Hillsdale. Photo courtesy of Rockin' Roots


—In a move slightly parallel to Jamie Knott, who balances out his fine dining repertoire at the Saddle River Inn with the more casually creative Saddle River Café, chef Michael Merida of the year-old Montclair Social Club has opened Rockin’ Roots on Hillsdale Avenue in Hillsdale. Not only is the chef having easier fun with the grab-and-go menu, he’s using it to put his own spin on vegan and vegetarian cooking and have a serious culinary go at juice bar culture in general. Not that the well-traveled chef is forcing any of his Michelin-level kitchen experience into your morning treat; options are simple, just emphatically fresh and well done. The menu will read familiar to juice fans, featuring smoothies and cold pressed juices as well as a variety of “Bowls” (“Oatmeal,” “Acai,” “Chef”—that last one is likely to be the most interesting category). They’ve been open for breakfast and lunch for just over a week, so you might even get a chance to see the chef there himself if you stop in soon. Rockin’ Roots, 434 Hillsdale Avenue, Hillsdale; 201-497-6137

—In early August we reported that David Murray was moving his Denim American Bistro just down the road (about one mile) to The Shops at 116 on Kings Highway in Haddonfield. As of dinner service on Tuesday, the relocation is complete and Murray and his team are serving once again. The new, slightly larger space seats 80, with one Instagram shot showing high ceilings, natural woods and light tones (cream, blue, brown, soft gray). The restaurant, rechristened Denim BYOB, is currently taking reservations. Denim BYOB, 116 Kings Highway, Haddonfield; 856-520-8114

—For those of us on the simpler side of lattes, it might come as news that Australian coffee shops are not only “a thing,” but they’re a really good thing to know about if you love good coffee. And while Bluestone Lane coffee empire might have originated in New York—and its output might extend well beyond lattes (think “lifestyle brand”)—the menus are both approachably familiar and intriguingly Australian (meaning quality-obsessed but casually communal and sometimes a touch playful). The Jersey City coffee shop is Bluestone’s second in New Jersey (the first is a larger café format in Hoboken). The interior seats roughly 50, although the grab-and-go vibe is in full effect, too. Newbies to Aussie coffee don’t need to try anything outright exotic; go the purist route with a perfectly made Flat White and some toast from their Toast Bar with Vegemite and butter. Bluestone Lane, 30 Hudson Street, Jersey City; 718-374-6858

—There are (at least) two good reasons to know that Nauti Bar by David Burke is opening to the general public on October 6: the first, it marks the seasonal transition from private to public watering hole, a heated retreat directly on the beach where you can hole up with a drink and apps from October through May while the weather does its thing; second, they’re throwing a big opening bash to celebrate, with discount drinks and free tidbits for the snacking (plus music, plus raffles, etc.) The party itself is on October 6 from 2–5pm, but the space will be open afternoons and nights every day of the week but Tuesday. Chef Robert Burke (David’s brother) will remain at the helm of the menu. Nauti Bar, 1485 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright; 732-530-2047

In the Works:

—The long empty space at 373 Route 54 in Buena is getting new life in the form of a South Philly-style steakhouse-style restaurant, Steakouts Saloon and Grill. Chef and owner Nick Amorates—who also operates Steakhouse Home Plate in Pittsfield—will populate the menu with some broad-shouldered Philly Italian staples (meatballs, sausage and peppers) as well as steakhouse requisites like prime rib, regular seafood entrees, and, of course, drink specials. A neighborhood weekend spot in the making. As of late September, the restaurant was still hiring staff, but they’re also already advertising a “Boos & Booze” Halloween party on Friday, November 1, so chances are they open in the next week or two. Steakouts Saloon and Grill, 373 Route 54, Buena; no phone yet.

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