Review: Roots Steakhouse in Ridgewood, NJ – A Celebration of Classic American Dining

Bar at Roots Steakhouse
The Bar at Roots Steakhouse

Open for 12 months, Roots Steakhouse in Ridgewood, NJ is Harvest Restaurant Group’s third Roots opening, with others located in Summit and Morristown. A classic old-fashioned New York style-steakhouse, Roots is a stand-out for multiple reasons, ranging from a luxe swanky club-like interior to excellent food and super polished wait staff under the watchful eye of GM Scott Hooyman, a young, capable gent who cut his teeth at Ruth’s Chris before joining the Harvest team, and the skilled kitchen leadership of Chef Jason Morey, a man who clearly enjoys running the show with precision and creativity. Chef Morey handpicks the menu each day and changes his specials weekly to offer peak season freshness in locally sourced produce. Everything made at Roots is prepared from scratch, including tartar, cocktail and steak sauces. This attention to detail and fussiness over ingredients shows. But the biggest surprise, and one of the most delightful aspects of the restaurant, is its tremendous value for the dollar. Menu prices are designed to keep patrons coming back and not view the restaurant as a special-occasion-only destination. With a menu that spans seafood, lighter fare and entree-sized salads, it’s easy to view Roots as a fine choice for leisurely lunches, weeknight dinners of grilled protein-topped salads and a modestly priced 10 ounce burger ($11.95) for weekday business lunches.

The Roots name came from the Summit clothing store of the same name, which was where its restaurant was first located. The restaurant offers a spirited yet classic selection of steakhouse standards updated slightly with Chef Morey’s whimsy and an enveloping upscale, yet not stuffy, ambience. At full capacity, the restaurant can be noisy. Impeccable detail in floor to ceiling decor and a formidable array of military-inspired artwork that reflects the owner’s veteran status adds to an ambience that is masculine without alienating women. A smartly outfitted bar area is elegantly old school with the welcome absence of flat screens that dominate most bars today. That lack of technology lends a sedate, grown-up feel free of the clutter of busy screens and more noise.

Inside Roots Steakhouse
Inside Roots Steakhouse

Roots’ 16 cooks are visible in an open glass-walled kitchen and 10 wait staff tend tables, all neatly clad in jackets. All butchering is done on premises and vegetables are sourced locally.Popovers and whipped butter are served upon arrival to whet the appetite. Appetizers on the lunch menu range from $6.95 to $22.95. From an excellent colossal lump crab cocktail and huge, nicely crisped crabcake to half-dozen salads that are abundantly portioned, crisp and dressed with well-seasoned dressings, lunch at Roots delivers on all fronts. On a recent lunch visit, about 80% of the customers were women, which speaks to the menu’s success in appealing to women. The lunch menu sports a larger salad selection with prices $9.95 at its lowest and $13.95 at its highest. All salads, from sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to a colossal iceberg wedge, comprised of two wedges topped with a lip-smacking Ranch dressing and smoky bacon nuggets, are enough for two to split or one to take home leftovers.

The Wedge Salad with tomato and crispy red onions.
The Wedge Salad with blue cheese dressing, tomato and crispy red onions and bacon.
Porterhouse for twoPrime NY Strip SteakPrime NY Strip Steak

Fish is a big seller at Roots, I am told. Large portions, deft cooking and excellent quality make seafood options attractive, even if you visit hankering for beef, veal or lamb. Roots’ lunch menu has 19 different entrees ranging from $10.95 to $30.95 including spicy barbeque baby back pork ribs, lobster roll and swordfish steak. The dinner menu is more streamlined and steak and chops centric.

Roots is known for its slow roasted prime rib which comes in 12 ounce ($29.95) and 24 ounce ($39.95) cuts. Unfortunately, the kitchen had sold out before I arrived, but I am determined to enjoy this on my next visit and have been told to call ahead to reserve a cut of the roasted prime rib on the afternoon of my planned visit. However, I couldn’t have been happier with the prime strip steak (10 ounces wet aged) at $42.95, perfectly cooked and full of wonderful beefy flavor. All beef, available in wet and dry aged varieties, comes from cornfed cattle in the Midwest. Roots’ dry aged Kansas City styled steak was juicy with intense flavor. The three-pound porterhouse steak for two at $79.95 was well cooked with a delicious crust and quite tender. A variety of different sauce selections supplement steaks including its horseradish cream and Hollandaise sauces, all house made. Steaks can be prepared Oscar Style, topped with asparagus, crabmeat and Béarnaise sauce for an up charge of $15.

There are 18 different sides at $6.95 each. The grilled local asparagus is a top seller followed by lushly flavored creamed spinach. Creamy Brussels sprouts are toothsome thanks to chunks of smoked bacon and pearl onions.

Various sides (don't know what they are if you want to fill that in)
Creamed spinach, mashed potato and macaroni and cheese.

The desserts, courtesy of Chef Denise Scanlon, all priced at $8.95, are presented in enormous portions and well-executed. Fabulous cheesecake made with ricotta was very creamy and light. Warm butter cake with a blueberry compote and fresh whipped cream is a cross between pound cake and tea loaf, at once delicate yet deeply rich. The desserts are offered alongside over forty different wines. Connecticut artisanal maker of gelato and non-dairy (sorbet) gelato, Gelato Giuliana, cover a wide assortment of flavors and are the perfect way to cleanse and freshen the palate. Roots offers loose teas at $3.50 that are freshly brewed at table side.

Warm butter cake with blueberry compote and fresh whipped cream
Warm Butter Cake with blueberry compote and fresh whipped cream
decadent cakes made on premises
decadent cakes made on premises

Roots offers an extensive wine list of over 100 different wines by the glass and bottle organized by region and type. Servers and the menu suggest pairings to suite palate and wallet. Staffers are knowledgeable working under wine and beverage director Vincent Comunale. This is a steakhouse in the classic tradition that is hitting many marks. Go hungry and go often.

Roots Steakhouse

17 Chestnut Street

Ridgewood, NJ 07450

201-444-1922 Phone


Monday-Thursday  11:30 AM – 11 PM

Friday-Saturday  11:30 AM – 11 PM

Sunday  12:00 PM-9 PM

Photos courtesy of Harvest Restaurant Group.  Ralph Shweky contributed to this post.

Review: Brasserie Brandman in Park Ridge, NJ

Bar at Brasserie Brandman
Bar at Brasserie Brandman

Brasserie is defined as “an unpretentious restaurant that serves drinks and hearty meals.” Brasserie Brandman located in Park Ridge, New Jersey lives up to its name. The restaurant serves an American menu, many of the items informed by hotelier owner Steve Brandman’s personal favorites. Housed in a 100 year old home (formerly Valentino’s restaurant), the space has been restored and has a minimalist vibe spiked with Brandman’s collection of large Man Ray photos. Why would a successful hotelier open a brasserie when he’s got so much on his plate already, plus a wife and growing family in Saddle River to tend to? Turns out he’s a steak lover. His wife and kids are vegetarians. He needed a place to go for steak. He built one. That’s Brasserie Brandman. Brandman brought in Julie Farias, who held stints at several notable NYC restaurants, to serve as executive chef.

The polished, handsome bar has flat screens which show loops of Godfather parts 1 and 2 on mute. The dining room’s ambience is straightforward and understated. Yet the beauty of Brasserie Brandman is in the details. Like exquisite, delicate glasses for water and wine. Elegant Bernardaud candle hurricanes on each dining room table with sweet peas etched into them, flames dancing within. Half-inch discs of danish butter accompanying house-made Southern biscuits, which, while oddly cool in the center, were redeemed by a slathering of that creamy, super fatty butter and a generously sprinkling of the flake salt served alongside. Drizzled with local honey, which came in a small syrup dispenser, helped me forgive the cool interior. Brandman’s excessive attention to the small things, which makes a big statement about all that Brasserie Brandman is and has the potential to become, that’s compelling. Brandman is also a wonderful host and it’s clear he loves owning a restaurant as he circles the dining room and bar frequently, asking questions and making small talk with guests.

The menu’s selections speak to comfort and familiarity. Prices are on par with other Bergen upscale restaurants. Tempura Rock Shrimp, crispy fritters in a pleasantly hot sauce, was among the better choices and Chocolate Spare Ribs, a riff on BBQ ribs cooked low and slow and served with a glaze of Mole, were tasty, sticky and satisfying. Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice was our favorite, a smart melding of yielding, delicately flavorful flesh with salty, crispy rice crackers. Steakhouse Slab Bacon (pork belly) had intense flavor and a maple sweetened soy sauce to add further depth.

Marrow Bones
Roasted Marrow Bone
Tempura Rock Shrimp
Tempura Rock Shrimp

Selections in the mains section of the menu include a buckwheat crepe with vegetable stuffing, a variety of seafood options including bouillabaisse, pastas, local poultry, steak and chops. Veal Milanese with arugula, tomatoes atop made a beautiful presentation. A breading of something that resembled matzoh meal didn’t produce the crispy exterior I would have hoped for, but the meat (sourced from Pat La Frieda) had good flavor and tenderness.  Skirt steak was nicely cooked with delicious beefy flavor. Spaghetti and meatballs scored with well-seasoned meatballs in spite of the pasta being cooked too long. Portions are good size. Hand-cut fries were meaty and toothsome and served with mayo for dipping.

Veal Milanese
Veal Milanese

Most desserts were unavailable due to our late arrival, but looked as thoughtfully chosen as the rest of the menu items. The chocolate cake we ordered, several layers of dry, inedible cake cemented by a nearly flavorless icing, was beautiful to look, defying gravity.

This is a new venue and my prediction is that the kitchen will work out its kinks in the coming months. I’d recommend the brasserie for quiet evenings out or dining with couples. It’s low-key enough for conversation and service is polished enough to keep a comfortable pace. The bar is ideal for dining solo and challenging your Godfather I.Q.

103 Spring Valley Road

Park Ridge, NJ  07656

201-746-9990 P (Reservations are recommended)


5 PM – 11 PM


(The restaurant will soon be open for brunch and weekday lunch.)

Management of the restaurant invited me in as a guest.

D’Vine Bar, Sparkill, NY – Equal Parts Whimsy and Wine

Joe Printz Talks About D’Vine Bar

Open since September 16th, D’Vine Bar, the brainchild of Grape D’Vine wine boutique owner and four-time restaurateur Joe Printz, offers a playful menu and smart curation of wine and beer in a polished, urbane ambience. Printz relocated his Tappan, NY boutique to Sparkill and constructed a jewel box-sized atelier where diners could commune over wine, conversation and a menu that irreverently brings together eclectic ingredients in playful compositions. With 46 seats, including bar and communal table, in a handsome interior and an outdoor area that can seat another 30 guests in warm weather, D’Vine Bar has been welcomed with open arms by Rockland, Westchester and Bergen patrons. These folks have long-awaited Printz’s vision realized through the skill of Chef Christopher Holland, a self-taught cook who, since leaving Session Bistro, a storefront in Maywood, NJ and AXIA Taverna in Tenafly, has developed a menu that balances sophistication with playful renderings of classics with largely successful results. Front of the house is managed by 29-year old Monika Riley, GM, who was sommelier/beverage director at ’76 House in Tappan, NY and also had stints with Mario Batali’s Tarry Lodge in Portchester, NY.

Joe Printz, D’Vine Bar and Grape D’Vine owner
Monika Riley, GM

D’Vine Bar’s whimsical menu is divided into seven sections:  Ruffage (salads), Pizzaaas, Six (apps), Cheese, Please!, Twelve (small plates), Eighteen (entrees) and Escorts (sides).

The fedora-clad kitchen team led by Chef Christopher Holland, left.

Expect seasonal changes to the menu. Four types of pizza are offered, starting with the Scattiatta with grape, black pepper, fennel seed crust and a parm/regg and arugula topping ($12), the Heirloom Pie with white bean crust underneath heirloom tomato blend and house made ricotta ($14), the Greek Pie cleverly incorporating rosemary into a chewy crust and topped with house made lamb sausage, feta, olives and mint tzatziki ($15), and the mushrooms and goat cheese version with an arborio rice crust, blend of mushrooms, goat cheese and drizzle of 50 year Balsamic ($15).  Each Neaopolitan style pizza is cooked in a custom 1,000 degree oven and presented on a round wooden slab. These are well-executed pies and generously sized making them ideal for nibbling at the bar over a flight of wine. While this is Holland’s first experience making pizza, it’s clearly something he’s skilled at. Look for more developments in this area, as crusts showcase delightfully unexpected textures and flavors, all working harmoniously.

“Ruffage,” the first section of the menu, has five items to choose from: the House Salad ($9), Seizure Salad ($11), Compressed Watermelon & Tomato ($11), Heirloom Tomato ($12), and Greek Quinoa Salad ($12). The watermelon salad was intensely flavored and left me wanting a portion three times the size. Sadly, the item is moving off the menu for more fall-inspired ruffage creations, hopefully returning in the summer. It’s a winner.

In the Six category, selections include the Elote’, which combines Mexican street corn, pecorino, romano, cilantro, smoked paprika, house chili powder, and lime, and the Cornflake Chicken, which is marinated with sriracha, covered with a crisp cornflake crust, and served with bleu mousse.  There are six choices to choose from, $6 each. Chef Holland continues to use the fryolater with abandon, producing tasty, crispy and caloric delights ranging from Cornflake Chicken, a play on Buffalo Wings with simply tenders coated with cornflakes and deep fried and served with traditional accompaniments with a twist.

Cornflake Chicken
D’Vine Fries with Aioli

The Cheese, Please! category offers an assorted cheese plate for market price. The “Twelve” category has seven selections to choose from. There are some delicious offerings in this section, among them Catalan Shrimp and the Bacon & Eggs.

Catalan Shrimp flavored with jalapeno, garlic, lemon and parsley
Bacon & Eggs, pork belly topped with poached egg and paired with crouton atop slaw

The Eighteen section has at least three fish items and two red meat items.  Some notable items include the Cast Iron Fish (changes daily) and the Campfire Steak.

Cast Iron Octopus – tender and tasty
Campfire Steak, four ounces of sliced strip with bacon BBQ sauce, gorgonzola stuffed fingerlings

Escorts/sides section includes Mashed Potato Casserole, Sauteed Spinach and Mushrooms, Cauliflower Croquettes, and Hot Slaw, each $6. Desserts are made on premise and on my visit, two of three offerings were deep fried. Reservations are strongly recommended. The restaurant plans to add another day of service; they are open only Tuesday-Saturday now. Watch for Sunday wine dinners.

D’Vine Bar

4 Depot Square

Sparkill, NY 10976


Upcoming Events @Bibi’z Westwood, NJ



OCT 8:  Wine’down Wednesday at 6:30 pm featuring delicious peach and raspberry infused prosecco courtesy of Fabellini Wines. The event is free of cover charge and ALL wine is 25% off without dinner.

OCT 22:  The Opera is coming to Bibi’z on Wednesday at 6:30 pm. The event will feature a night of fab food and operatic pleasure to benefit Peace4Paws. Tickets are $55 per person including tax and gratuity. Peace4paws is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit public charity based in Northern New Jersey. Since 2007, it has been dedicated to supporting sanctuary and forever homes for the animals retired from work in research and related fields through our foster & adoption program, fundraising events involving music, yoga, animal friendly events & more plus student outreach to kids from kindergarten through college.


Hash (Deconstructed) – Fall’s Hearty Breakfast of Champions

Deconstructed Hash - Crispy Rosti Potato Wedge with Sautee of Sausage and Veggies
Deconstructed Hash – Crispy Rosti Potato Wedge with Saute of Sausage and Veggies

My son was telling me the other day that his friend’s dad makes him hash to help him “bulk up.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, hash is a dish consisting of diced meat, potatoes and spices that are mixed together and then cooked either alone or with other ingredients such as onions. I thought this would be the perfect breakfast to make for my son, who does indeed need to bulk up for soccer season. It’s a hearty fall breakfast with the perfect combination of protein and carbohydrates for both athletes and breakfast lovers. But I didn’t want to create a traditional hash with a soft texture, so I grated the potatoes finely to approach the dish as a deconstructed hash, with potatoes in the guise of a Rosti (a large pancake sans eggs and added starch) which would provide a crispy exterior to balance the softer ingredients like sausage and sauteed veggies.


First, wash and grate 8 Yukon gold potatoes. I have several graters I like, but the one in the picture is a combination mandoline and grater which produces matchstick and heftier shreds. What I like about Yukon gold potatoes is that they’re very versatile, keep their shape when cooked and have a slightly sweet taste. But any potato can be used depending on your taste preferences. (I’m even thinking about using a sweet potato or yam to create a sweeter Rosti…stay tuned.)


After seasoning the potatoes with salt and pepper, I heated up a 12-inch non-stick pan, poured in some olive oil, and then added in the potatoes, patting them down to create an even surface.


Here is a picture of a happy jumble of onions, red peppers, chicken apple sausage from Aidell’s, and sweet Italian sausage I was cooking in my trusty cast iron skillet. We like lots of flavor, so I seasoned liberally with salt, pepper and Frank’s hot sauce. Damn, I love that sauce!

If you have the right non-stick pan, with a rim at this angle, tossing the pancake over is pretty easy.


After flipping the potato pancake, it should have turned a nice, golden brown color like this.  When the other side has turned brown, it is ready to serve.  Slice a portion size of your choice, serve it up with hash alongside and enjoy. Or, in my case, watch your son smile while he bulks up.

Bibi’z Restaurant and Deliciously Alicia Team Up for Gluten-Free Menu Options

bibiz LOGO 11 copy2

Bibi’z Restaurant | Lounge, a Bergen county pioneer in offering gluten-free and vegan menu options, is now sourcing quiche, muffins, scones, focaccia and pizza dough from Englewood, NJ gluten-free baker Deliciously Alicia.

Deliciously Alicia

“I am thrilled to support a local small businesswoman while giving my patrons delicious, healthy gluten-free options that are a great alternative to wheat-based baked goods,” said Ida Martin, Bibi’z founder and co-owner. “The demand for gluten-free baked goods and menu offerings has exploded in recent years and we’ve tirelessly worked to create tasty options for our customers who cannot eat wheat. Deliciously Alicia Focaccia is the perfect foundation for a crispy GF flatbread appetizer and the pizza dough will be a canvas for more culinary creations. Texture, mouth feel, taste and quality ingredients are essential components of delicious gluten-free baked goods and dough.”

The new gluten-free pizza option, made with dough from Deliciously Alicia.
The new gluten-free pizza option
Deliciously Alicia/Bibi'z Gluten-Free
Bibi’z flatbread appetizer

Bibi’z uses Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour with corn meal to make the restaurant’s acclaimed mini corn dogs’ tender, golden crust. Also, their Chicken Florentine is dredged in all purpose flour before cooking to create the perfect exterior. Bibi’z also carries gluten-free beer and vodka. The menu displays a “V” or “GF” next to items which are vegan or gluten-free. The restaurant also welcomes requests for GF alternative preparations to entrees on its menu.

About Bibi’z Lounge

Founded by Ida Martin in 2011, Bibi’z offers Global American cuisine with a Mediterranean twist.  Located at 284 Center Avenue in Westwood, NJ, Bibi’z is open Tuesday-Thursday from 12:00-10:00PM, Friday and Saturday from 12:00PM – 11:00PM and Sunday 11:00AM – 9:00PM.  Bibi’z bar is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.  Happy hour is offered six days a week from 3:00-6:00PM.  Catering and private dining facilities are available.   Bibi’z offers thoughtfully- sourced, eclectic cuisine in healthy renditions, much of it coming from local sources. The restaurant provides top shelf organic and conventional spirits, wine, and beer.

Bibi’z also offers “Girls Night Out” every Thursday with happy hour drinks all night long in the dining room and lounge.

(201) 722-8600

Branzino Made Easy

Plated branzino
Plated branzino


I love Branzino. It’s a sweet, delicately flavored fish from Greece that can be grilled, sauteed or roasted with minimal fuss., the online seafood delivery company, recently sent a sampler package of Branzino and king salmon my way. It arrived smelling fresh and the Branzino was gutted and cleaned. All I needed to do was decide how I was going to prepare the beauties they sent me. The first night, I got out my large copper paella pan and heated it up, adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil and butter to the pan, tossing in a few smashed cloves of garlic and adding the patted dry fish which I had sprinkled with salt and pepper. I turned the fish only when it was nicely browned (about 7 minutes) and let it go another 7 minutes, deglazing the pan with 1/3 cup of a dry white wine, the juice of a lemon, a fistful of roughly chopped parsley and a tablespoon of capers. I removed the fish, let the sauce bubble away for another minute, and then poured that over the top. Perfection.

The next day, I had a bit less time when dinner hour rolled around. I needed to consolidate steps for my hungry crew and got my veggie sides going while I turned on my oven to 400 degrees and laid my cast iron grill over two stove top burners to heat. Once hot, I brushed the surface with olive oil and placed on the Branzino, patted dry and seasoned, along with two single portions of seasoned salmon. I let each side brown nicely enough to leave grill marks, then placed the entire cast iron grill into the 400 degree oven for  final cooking of five or six minutes.

Branzino and salmon on cast iron skillet
Branzino and salmon on cast iron grill

Cooking fish, like beef, lamb, poultry or pork, with the skin and bones intact produces more flavor and juiciness. Some people don’t like seeing a fish head or tail. I think it’s part of the natural beauty of the dish. It’s easy enough to remove the skin and bones of Branzino. (I enjoy the flavor and crispiness of the skin.) To remove the bones, start by plating the fish. It’s ok if the head and tail hang over the edges of the plate. Cut them off and tuck those pieces away for nibbling.

Next, I run my knife right down the center of the fish, feeling my way along the bone and gently pushing off the flesh to either side. The flesh on one side will be free of bones. On the other side, there will still be some bones to navigate.

Fileting Branzino, first side

The flesh separates easily from the bone.

The flesh near my knife is nearly boneless.

Once I am done filleting that side of the fish, I simply pick up the center bone/spine and remove it. (There is still good nibbling on this, too.)

Pulling out spine.

I didn’t take off the tail before removing the spine. It was filled with plenty of flesh to enjoy. And what’s left underneath the bone are two lovely filets.





I have had this fish stuffed with herbs and garlic and roasted as well. To me, it tastes best when it is simply grilled and then finished in the oven. So easy and flavorful. A spritz of fresh lemon juice brightens the delicate flavor of the fish. delivers fresh seafood directly to consumers. The website offers a range of seafood from North American and Canadian waters in addition to the Branzino from Greece. Customizable packages are available. The business is located in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, NY and ships nationally.

Greenfield Ice Cream Company: Tuxedo, NY Hand Crafted Ice Cream and Sorbet


Greenfield Ice Cream pints stocked in Fairway Market freezers.

Tuxedo, NY- based Greenfield Ice Cream Company is a small batch maker of delicate yet intensely flavored ice cream and sorbets. The line is made using local dairy, eggs, herbs and flavorings from Ghirardelli, Mountain Rose Herbs, Hudson Valley Fresh, Country Life Natural Foods, Abma’s Farm, Crown Maple, Blooming Hill Farm and Harney and Sons Fine Tea. The line is free of gums and stabilizers.

Each pint lists the ingredients used to make flavors ranging from Salted Caramel, PB ‘n Chip, Mint Chip, Cinnamon to Cookie Dough, which are part of the Greenfield Ice Cream Signature Collection. The signature line is available year round, although seasonal flavors like Vanilla Honey Crumble, Toasted Coconut, Green Tea, Pumpkin and Boozy Eggnog, are only available for a short time while ingredients are in season. The entire line spans roughly 20 flavors with eight comprising the signature line and the rest making up the seasonal line. Our favorite flavor in the signature line is the Mint Chip, which relies on freshly steeped mint leaves to create a subtle minty flavor and Ghirardelli chips to provide a sophisticated chocolaty crunch.

After experimenting in their own home and receiving positive feedback from their friends, co-founders Tinka Shaw, Courtney Vasseghi and Denise Tavani certified their company as a New York State Certified Dairy Plant and began selling their pint-sized ice cream in select supermarkets. The line is available at Fairway Market for about $7 a pint and select Whole Foods. The Ice cream can also be bought online at

Co-Owner of Greenfield Ice Cream Company Tinka Shaw speaks with Redhead With A Fork

Greenfield Ice Cream Company

198 Route 17N, Tuxedo, NY