Big City Flavors with Small Town Charm (Restaurant Review)
One of the things I am most enjoying about my life in New Jersey is experiencing what happens when wonderful talents leave the bigger cities across the country and set shop in the smaller towns transforming communities into celebrated food destinations.
Cranford, NJ is a small town about 40 minutes west of Manhattan and named one of the best places to live in 2010, though I don’t know too much else about it. Andrea Carbine, a chef originally from Seattle, and her husband Jim, found this charming town to be a perfect place to pursue their restaurant business ventures and where they could cultivate their belief of making the most out of the ingredients nature provides you.
They have seen much success in their first restaurant, A Toute Heure, a bistro known for its ever-changing menu due to its seasonal focus. It is a local favorite having won multiple awards celebrating both its kitchen garden and executive chef Kara Decker. Entering its 7th year, it remains a must-have dining experience in the area.
Adding to their list of success, the Carbines have now also opened 100 Steps Supper Club and Raw Bar to meet the demands for such a dining experience in the community they serve, which until now meant having to travel to NYC or the coast for.
My first impression when walking into the restaurant gave me a warm feeling inside. It felt sophisticated, yet comfortable and welcoming. In looking around at the diners, I could see they were fans of whatever the Carbines’ were serving up, possibly from their experience with them at A Toute Heure, or simply from having dined here already. Andrea walked around the room, greeting everyone, exchanging laughs and stories, and at times even personally serving her guests. Her warm, friendly approach to her work is endearing considering that she is a celebrated chef in her own right and somewhat of a local hero.
My first supper club experience was during my time in Wisconsin. It’s concept of bringing friends and community together with food and drink is appealing to me on many levels. And it was exactly what I saw happening here.
Guests can choose to sit by the raw bar and watch the prep of the various selections of East and West coast oysters and clams. If you come with a group of at least 4, make sure to order the Grand Seafood Tower which includes 1 1/2 dozen oysters (3 of each), 1/2 dozen Little Neck clams, crab rémoulade, 4 pieces shrimp cocktail, yellow tail ceviche, and marinated lobster knuckle and claw. I saw it being ordered at another table and it is pretty spectacular.
A seat at the raw bar is where all the action is.
Bringing your own wine is the standard here, and a wonderful option in my opinion. We were seated in a romantic nook next to the raw bar at the back of the restaurant where I could take in the entire scene of this sweet place.
Our sweet little table for two always had the best view of the whole place.
The style is tapas, and with the guidance of our server we chose our dishes so we got to try a bit of everything from their raw bar to their artisan charcuterie and cheeses. Don’t be fooled by size of these small plates, we walked out feeling quite satisfied!
We started with the mixed dozen, with selections of the East Coast and West Coast oysters.The salumi board was something else! It included boccalone nduja (spreadable salami), proscuitto biellese, napolitana salumi and coppa. All boards come with apple mostarda (sooo yummy!) whole grain dijon, pickled cauliflower, market arugula and house-made sourdough.
I ended with a fabulous cup of single shot espresso from a local brewer in Princeton, NJ which went lovely with my caramel budimo (with whipped cream and a brown butter cookie for extra measure).
I am not sure what is more endearing after a dining experience here, whether it’s the attentive service and friendly vibe of the place, the good food and seasonal selections, or the fact that it’s the kind of experience I would’ve had to travel far from home for, but can now enjoy just a few minutes away. Definitely make a reservation. Definitely bring a bottle of wine or two (of course, pick your designated driver ahead of time). And definitely come prepare to relax and enjoy the experience to the fullest. My husband and I were here for 2 hours, and it felt as if no time had passed by at all. It’s really just one of the those kind of places.
This first visit was a date night occasion, but I’m already planning to come back with my girlfriends as well for there’s a grand seafood tower with my name on it…and I can’t wait to taste it!
100 Steps Supper Club and Raw Bar is located at 215 Centennial Avenue, Cranford, NJ 07016 Tel: 908.276.6600
Disclosure: I was the guest of 100 Steps Supper Club and Raw Bar for the purpose of this review. I received no compensation or directives to express any particular point of view. All opinions expressed here are my own.