A Variety of Intriguing Openings

Farmly in Wall, Little Bear Poke in Upper Montclair, Mad Crab Crabhouse in Haddon Heights and more.

The high-ceilinged, white-and-wood space that is Farmly tilts modern country—that’s the setting chef-owner James Avery wants to create for the restaurant he sees as the “neighborhood kitchen” for southern Monmouth County.

Inside Farmly


“It’s wholesome dinner-on-the-table food, modern comfort food,” Avery says as he points to containers of foods in the prepping stages, bins of chopped onions, sliced Brussels sprouts, roasted whole carrots. There are rotisserie spits ready for chickens as well as cutting-edge ovens primed for pork and beef and whatever else might come down the pike in its season.

Prepped vegetables for scratch cooking.



A pair of cooks are in the culinary equivalent of a dress rehearsal, as Avery and his team practice for an invitation-only, family-and-friends soft opening the weekend leading up to Memorial Day, with the real-deal, ready-for-the-public opening set for Wednesday, May 30 at Farmly, 2100 Route 35 at the back of Sea Girt Square in Wall.

If you’re thinking Boston Market meets Chipotle and its trendy followers, you’re not quite right.

James Avery

Avery, the owner of the seafood-centric Bonney Read in Asbury Park, a former chef at Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten as well as a slew of pro kitchens in Atlantic City, got his start in his hometown, working as a teen at Spring Lake Pizzeria. It was known to its loyal diners as “Chet’s,” for the fellow behind the scenes who cooked up homey-fresh pastas, salads and protein-packed entrees. It’s “Chet’s” that seems to have most influenced Avery, who aims to get the hard part done ahead of time (sourcing, buying, prepping) so that diners—eat-in or take-out—can experience home-cooking seven days a week, from 11:30 am to 8:30 pm.

Avery’s roast beef will be slow-cooked overnight and kept at 140 degrees till carved for service. His pork, which he describes as “porchetta-like, with fennel, garlic, chili fakes, all rubbed and then pulled,” will be set under a layer of its own fat “just like confit,” to keep it moist and flavorful.

Farmly’s chickens, which come from a farm in the Shenandoah Valley, will be  done “Zuni Cafe, Judy-Rodgers’ style,” Avery says with pride: They’re salted, just as the legendary Rodgers did at her iconic, award-winning restaurant in San Francisco, for 24 hours, a kind of cure as opposed to a brine; Avery then will serve his chicken, in homage to Rodgers’s peerless chicken-bread salad, with a side of farro and currants in red vinegar, plus a smattering of seasonal greens—maybe kale, maybe mustards.

Avery talks of visiting Zuni Cafe and being inspired by those chickens; he talks, as well, of visiting farms in New Jersey and elsewhere to select the right producers and purveyors for Farmly.

If it sounds as though Avery is gearing up to serve many more than the 200 people he envisions will come daily to this inaugural Farmly, you’re sensing the future: The chef sees his “neighborhood kitchen” concept as perfect for many communities and plans to customize each Farmly to suit its community.

“We’re a thoughtful ‘fast-casual,’ with chefs as our team coordinators,” Avery says. “I’m thinking there’ll be beef stew in the winter, ratatouille in the summer. I want to see what people’s tastes are.”

If Avery sees that folks take to a sprinkling of harissa or sumac, he won’t hesitate to incorporate the more exotic Eastern Mediterranean and North African spices into Farmly’s foods. But, as the father of four and dutifully health-conscious, “We’re not using high-fructose corn syrup or anything like that. No GMOs. I’m looking to be wholesome and farm-to-family.”

It’s a new model, in other words, for classic American fare.

Farmly, 2100 Route 35 in Sea Girt Square, Wall. Starting Wednesday, May 30, it will be open daily from 11:30 am to 8:30 pm. Farmly will be closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. 732-359-6936; eatfarmly.com.


Meanwhile, not far from the coast:

There’s a lot going on in the Shore environs, as you might expect at this time of year. In two peeks at big doings, two different chefs are taking charge of two different, well-established enterprises and putting their own stamp on them.

First, the archetypal country crossroads eatery known at The Red Store, located at the four-way-stop intersection of Navesink Avenue and Monmouth Road in the Navesink section of Middletown, closed late last month after almost 60 years in business.

The old sign at Red Store

It will reopen as the kind of sandwich shop only a chef-restaurateur with the experience of Nicholas Harary can imagine.

Indeed, Harary and his wife, Melissa, who own Restaurant Nicholas in another part of Middletown, bought The Red Store from its longtime owner Pat Verange.

Early this week, a team was finishing demolition of the interior of The Red Store, which has been cleared of its deli counter, tables and chairs, blackboard signs advertising sandwiches and soups, and lottery paraphernalia.

The Hararys, who are putting the final touches on Nicholas Creamery, an ice cream shop on First Avenue in Atlantic Highlands, and working on a sister Nicholas Creamery on River Road in nearby Fair Haven, are busy culinary entrepreneurs, wouldn’t you say?

Locally, there’s a lot of talk about what’s going to become of The Red Store. We hear it’s going to be sandwich-centric, with words such as “gourmet” and “New York” used to describe the anticipated offerings.

We’ll keep watch on 101 Navesink Avenue and keep you posted.


Next, Dish, the 15-year-old New American restaurant at 13 White Street in Red Bank, has been sold by its chef-owner Anthony Ferrando to Chuck Lesbirel, late of Ama in Sea Bright and recently the force behind Semolina, a catering enterprise.

Lesbirel says he’s changing the name to Semolina Restaurant.

“Everything,” he adds, will be new:  “menu, décor, etc.”

Think fresh pastas in farm-to-table fashion. Lesbirel is putting out word in search of staff and talking about an opening in June for Semolina. It will be BYO.

Back in business:
On the opposite side of the state, The Platform Cookhouse has reopened for the season at The Bridge Cafe, located at 8 Bridge Street in Frenchtown. The self-described “pop-up”  serves dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the popular cafe set astride the Delaware River. Graham, the chef-son of owners Lisa and Ken Miller, is in charge of The Platform, which offers small plates and snacks. 908-996-6040.


Recently opened:

Willow & Olivia Cafe, 255 Main Street in West Orange. Pastries. 866-646-9966.


Coming soon:

Little Bear Poke, 254 Bellevue Avenue in Upper Montclair. Opening Thursday, May 24, this spot continues the trend of bringing poke to every major hub, and several minor hubs, as well, in New Jersey. Menu developed with Hawaiian chef John Adams; many fishes sourced by Local 130, Asbury Park. 973-337-5151; littlebearpoke.com.

Dolce & Salata, 1101 Grand Street in Hoboken. Italian. BYO,

Madd Hatter, 221 Washington Street in Hoboken. American, with full bar. 201-850-1281; maddhatterhoboken.com.

Two Pitas, 8 East Jerome Street in Moonachie. Mediterranean. 201-870-6181.

Mad Crab Crabhouse, 507 Black Horse Pike in Haddon Heights. Seafood. In ex-Bayou seafood locale. 856-547-0876.

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