Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jersey burger bliss at the Red Barn

Tromping up and around a mountain is bound to build up an appetite, and, well, we'd started the day with oatmeal and a snack of donuts and orange juice. You can guess what that meant. Plainly put, we needed food.

Our first two late lunch options were total strikeouts: the first one doesn't open until 5 on Sundays, and the second was hosting a private event. With hunger growing, we trekked to the next one, and I suspected that if it wasn't open, we'd find a way to get it to open, and it wouldn't be pretty. Ivan and I are a lot alike, and I know I tend to get very cranky when my blood sugar drops, so....

Lucky us, our third stop was open, but just by the hair of our chinny-chins-chins. It was already after 3 p.m., and the Red Barn Restaurant in Towaco was set to close at four. Just enough time for us to order and eat an unhurried meal.

Essentially, the Red Barn is a luncheonette-type place in a strip mall, taking the 'barn' part of the name to heart. The decor is rustic, with picnic tables taking the place of booths. And the service is exceptionally friendly and welcoming. While the menu has most of the usual diner breakfast and lunch staples, there are also some more creative options among them. I'd venture to guess that they come up with some really nice brunch creations.

At that point, though, I really didn't care about the other options. I needed food, and now. Translated: where are the burgers?

I think Ivan found the choice before I did. Remembering my paean to John Taylor's glorious invention, he pointed out the Jersey Burger: an 8-ounce cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and pork roll.  How could I pass that up? Right. I couldn't. Honestly, as much as I love burgers, I'm not thrilled with the restaurant trend toward half-pounders, but at that point I could have eaten a horse, anyway, so what the heck. Oh, and I promised Ivan a taste of the Taylor ham because somehow he'd lived his entire life without ever having tasted it. (And here I thought it was a requirement for New Jersey residency.)

The burger didn't disappoint. Everything about it was tasty: the bun, the beef, the tomato, the lettuce (green leaf, not iceberg!), the melty cheese. And, of course, the Taylor ham, cooked just long enough to add a little crispness to the edges. Only thing that might have made it better was sauteed onions, but then I'd ordered rings as my side option instead of crinkle-cut fries. Though they were a little well cooked for my personal taste, the batter was smooth and flavorful and the onion inside yielded nicely to the bite.

So as usual, insert good burgers into mouths of ravenously hungry exploring nuts and happiness ensues. After that meal, I was set for whatever the rest of the day would bring us.

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