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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
17 Chestnut Street
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
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.