Organic is an easy word to throw around these days. Attach it to some food items, charge a few dollars more and there’s a sense that everyone is getting something good for them. The reality is more complicated than that, and in the restaurant space it can be difficult to ascertain actual origins or even taste the difference.
That’s why the cozy space that is Kitch Organic in Red Bank, which opened about four years ago, is such a delight for those who want to feel a little healthier while indulging during a meal out. Just about everything is made in house or sourced from verified vendors. This is something owner Joe Durso wants to drive home in just about every conversation he has. Truth and transparency is his stock and trade for this restaurant.
The idea to open an organic restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch came to Durso and a then-business partner a few years ago and the original plan was for a juice bar. They had planned to franchise a business from the west coast, but when that went slower than hoped, they shifted gears and added a full kitchen element.
It was around the time that the gluten-free movement was gaining traction and Durso went all in. The café is 100 percent gluten-free, and the breads that are made in house by baker Dana Arner are rich, fluffy, and have all the hallmarks of a traditional loaf. The bakery business thrives here.
The kitchen, helmed by Guadencio Morales, offers up all manners of toasts, hashes, eggs, and even vegan sausage in the morning before switching over to a modest-sized lunch menu that includes naan tacos, veggie noodles, hearty salads and satisfying sandwiches.
There are house-made juices and fresh twists on lemonade, like a blueberry mint, and iced teas. There are regular specials from the kitchen, but over the last few months Durso says the kitchen has really dialed in a menu that works to express the organic vision, allows the bakery to shine, and offers up familiar dishes with healthful twists to appeal to a wide swath of customers.
The presentations are made for Instagram, with the salads well segmented, ready to be mixed after that well-framed shot. The bison burger is piled high just-so with the fixings with the russet wedge fries, drizzled with tzatziki and hot sauce in a crisscrossed pattern and a sprinkle of parsley.
Those social media photos get a boost from the natural sunlight that pours in from the pyramid glass ceiling that sits above the dining room. The inside dining space itself is small, just 20 seats around the edge and a communal table in the middle. Order at the entrance to the open kitchen and then take a seat—if you can get one.
On a recent visit, it became clear that regulars in the know had called in orders in advance to go. There’s even a special door around back so as to not clog up the dining space. In the warmer months there’s a backyard garden that seats about 20.
The menu feels like it would be at home at a high-end spa, and the prices match that concept. Durso doesn’t shy away from noting that since his ingredients cost a little more than other restaurants, the menu prices reflect that.
“I pay a little more for my stuff, so you pay a little more for your stuff,” he says.
At the moment, he’s thinking about franchising out the concept but wants to find the right partners to carry out his vision.
“We are just so happy to talk with people and to educate people about what we’re doing with healthy eating and gluten-free,” he says. “It’s why we have what we have, why we went with an open kitchen, because transparency is important.”
Kitch Organic, 75 Leighton Ave, Red Bank; 732-741-2001. Open Monday—Saturday.Click here to leave a comment