Tony Boloney’s Boken-Boy
I travel for standup shows a fair amount of the time and I like to scout out places for this foodblog and just in general (I mean, I am not driving hours to eat at McDonald’s. As my Dad used to say on vacation “shut up, we can eat that at home”). When I had a show in Hoboken a little while back at The Shannon Bar, I decided to visit the Hoboken home of my favorite place to eat in Atlantic City: Tony Boloney’s. If you aren’t familiar, Tony Boloney’s is Mike Hauke’s amazing Pizza and Sandwich place, 3 blocks for the ocean in AC (2 blocks from the old Revel, 300 Oriental ave. You can’t miss it. Go there. You’ll thank me.). They make their own everything (and use some amazing bread from AC) and they bill themselves as “Indigienous Atlantic City Grub”. I call it “F-ing Ridiculous”.
I googlemapped the Hoboken outpost and made my way there. They have great fountain area set up with no mass produced beverages, and another little fridge selling homemade mozzarella (Oh yeah, did I mention they also do that? Because they do. 12 kinds. Along with pizza that will knock your socks off.). I have a hard time making decisions in general (I’m a Libra, if you are into those kinds of things) and I was pretty hungry from driving for almost 2 hours so I saw and ordered the first thing that grabbed me…
The Boken-Boy: hand breaded chicken cutlet, garlic aioli, soppressata, baby arugula, sweet smoked mutz, lemon, evoo.
I know what you are thinking. “Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with cheese, big deal.”. But no! It is a big deal! I can safely say this is the best sandwich I have had in a year. Not in a calendar year but IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS.
Let me count the ways.
- Super soft and chewy roll that never fell apart nor ripped my teeth out. It held everything perfectly. In fact, only one piece of chicken fell out and that was my fault for taking a giant bite at one point and twisting my hand in a weird way. If you look at the photos, this thing was stuffed and the roll did the job. There was no after sandwich cleanup on Aisle Plate afterwards.
- The Chicken Cutlet was fried perfectly: not over greasy, not kind of overcooked or god forbid, burned.
- The cutlet was thick. It wasn’t some paper thin wisp of a piece of chicken that was smashed to death. This was juicy piece of nice chicken.
- The Cutlet was sliced into strips. Normally, Cutlet sammys have the whole Cutlet and everything piled on top of it. With this sandwich, the chicken is able to be single and mingle with it’s party guests.
- The Garlic Aioli was subtle and not a punch in the face of garlic. I had a show and was afraid I would smell like an old man with some garlic on his belt (as was the style at the time), and low and behold, I did not. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for stinkin’ up the joint, this just wasn’t it.
- The Wild Card: Soppressata. What’s this piece of meat doing on this Sammy? I’ll tell you what: It’s being awesome and adding some salt and texture. It also cuts right thru all the mild flavors to mix it up. It’s the card trick at the party, you didn’t know it was coming and it’s delighting the guests.
- The Baby Arugula and Mozz. The baby arugula added a little bit of peppery goodness to the Sammy (along with giving me the idea that *something* on this thing would be good for me, my mom would be proud), and the mozz was exactly what it sounded like: a little sweet, a little smokey and all amazing.
- Lemon and EVOO. Talk about a nice thing to pull it all together! The lemon mingles with the whole party and the EVOO is the buttery hug that pulls the whole thing together.
I cannot say enough good things about this sandwich: besides #1-#8, it was fresh, hot and mind blowing. If you are anywhere around this shop, stop in and pick this sandwich up. Ridiculous. Also, I had a Puck’s Black Cherry soda that was pretty on point! Puck’s makes soda with actual sugar and with no artificial colors or preservatives and uses natural extracts and essential oils. Absolutely delightful!
TONY BOLONEY’S HOBOKEN
263 1st St, Hoboken, NJ 07030
(201) 222 – 8669
Su-W 11am – 11pm
Th 11am – 2am
Fri-S 11am – 4am
Tony Boloney Nails It
I first came across Tony Boloney’s in AC when I covered the AC Beer Fest. They blew me away with their Cheesesteak Ole’ and their Reuben Pizza. Unreal. Plus, I loved the fact that they understood marketing (see their blue truck (that will come and cater your event!) with the giant moustaches and their mascot, an old school chef with said handlebar moustache) and had fun with it as well. I swore I would get to their shop on Oriental Ave, 2 blocks up from the Revel, and I finally did!
I tried to have a few things from the menu, starting with the Reuben Frio! Where to begin? Let’s start with the bread. When making fantastic, mind-blowing sandwiches, you need a good base to keep things from falling apart 3/4’s of the way in. Tony’s hits it out of the park with rolls from A. Rando’s Bakery, the oldest bakery in AC and the 3rd oldest Italian bakery in the country! And wow, what a roll! Chewy, crusty, lovely goodness! It’s had to find a roll that doesn’t feel like it is taking over the whole show, and Tony’s did.
Ok, so the sandwich. Whew! Beautifully thick-cut Pastrami, not skimpy on the kraut, thousand island dressing to keep it moist and just enough Muenster cheese to keep this puppy on track and I fell in love. A theme you’ll find in this article is “not skimpy”. In the times we live in here, which are recession times, food places try and cut corners by inching the prices up and lowering the amount of ingredients. This sandwich was brimming with meat and kraut! I feel like this thing was created in the 80’s when everything was overstuffed and then time traveled right to my table. And man, I am way ok with that!
Next up, was my absolute favorite: The Sh#tfaced!
This thing is a straight up knock out. I would eat this everyday for the rest of my life and not bat an eye, that’s how good it is! Beer battered chicken with a Stout Honey BBQ sauce. That’s so many flavors and textures working together, it actually short circuits your taste buds for a second. The beer batter (which is not very heavy at all) plus the sauce, which is just a little bit sweet and a little bit buttery and a whole lot heavenly. Oh, and it’s got melted Mozzarella and Cheddar on it too, just in case you needed some more awesome to go with it! You owe it to yourself to try this thing, it is absolutely mind-blowing. And if that’s not enough! You can also get it on a pizza!
Moving on to another work of art, meet The Po’ Doc Carver! Deliciously fried chicken with a house made Chipotle sauce and covered in a smoked Mozzarella that’ll spoil you on regular mozz for life! Toss in some lettuce and tomato and you got yourself a rainbow of texture, aromas and deliciousness.
Now, Tony Boloney’s isn’t just sandwiches, they also make some unreal pizzas as well! When I popped in, I picked up a slice of the Carnival Freak. The pizza at Tony’s is unlike most, it’s a crispier crust and is nice and light but still have the cojones to carry whatever sick and twisted ideas that owner Mike Hauke has up his sleeve.
The Carnival Freak has breadcrumbs on the crust, herbs to keep that flavor palate hoppin’, Mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and a marinara that bent my brain, it was that good! I know it sounds odd that there are breadcrumbs on the crust, but it adds to the impressive texture of the pizza as a whole.
What really impresses me about the pizzas at Tony’s is that they understand that not all of the toppings need to fill the entire slice. Don’t get me wrong, I completely enjoy an everything pie once in a while, where you get a bite of all the toppings in each bite, but that doesn’t work with a lot of different combos of pies. In this one, you get some marinara and some ricotta in one bite, then some mozz and herbage in another, and so on. It’s really a delight.
Finally, I also ordered The Crab Fries! Chickie and Pete’s serves frozen crinkle cut fries with some Old Bay and melty American cheese in the side. Tony’s serves Crab fries with CRAB on them, along with some butter, Old Bay and Mozzarella cheese! They were pretty kick ass, and again, NOT skimpy with the Crab!
The cheese went all he way thru and the butter gave it a delicious smoothness that combined with the Old Bay to dance around the fries and hug it with awesome. Seriously. Awesome.
So, you might be wondering, after reading this review of Tony Boloney’s, if there was anything I didn’t like about this place. The answer, honestly, is no. they even offer awesome sugar cane sodas like Boylan’s along with the usual suspect sodas. The tables were clean, and at the right heights so you don’t feel like you are sitting on the floor when you are eating. Don’t feel like sitting inside? Sit outside on the picnic tables and get some fresh air while ya eat.
Even the staff was awesome. I am a bad order-er in places. It takes me more time then it should to order (I think my brain shorts out when there is too much choice and my friends all make fun of me for it) and this guy, who was working himself behind the counter and juggling like 9 things at once, was super nice and didn’t at all try to hurry me along. In fact, he answered all my stupid questions with ease and didn’t bat an eye when I ordered enough food to feed 9 people “for here”. I was thinking he was the twin of that one guy from the show House, but he is not. What I am saying, is that this place has it covered: great food, great customer service, and a cool place to eat!
You would be cheating yourself if you didn’t check this place out on your next trip to AC! 300 Oriental Avenue, right on the corner! Look for the blue and the big moustache!
AC Food & Wine Fest: Redefine Cheesesteak
In the parking lot of the Showboat Casino, the AC Food and Wine Fest trucked on with “Redefine Cheesesteak”. And redefine they did.
Massive tents were set up in the parking lot and cheesesteaks were aplenty. Being from Philly, I am really picky as to how my steaks are, specifically that they resemble a cheesesteak or change the name. By definition, a cheesesteak is thinly sliced ribeye fried up with or without onions and served on a long roll with cheese of the american, provolone or whiz variety. Is it something I need to get over? Indeed. But I was able to bend enough to enjoy some of the offerings.
First up was Mike Scoats of The Grey Lodge and his merry band of steak slingers. The Grey Lodge is located on Frankford Ave in the Mayfair section of Philly and has a ridiculous amount of oddball beers and even hosts a Friday The Firkinteenth event on every Friday The Thirteenth that has just won Best Beer Event in Philly Magazine’s Best of Philly 2012! Mike has a great calendar full of fun things they do and an interesting menu full of outstandingly delicious food! He brought along his Lodge Steak for the masses to try: Rib-eye, Genoa salami, roasted pepper mayo & house cheese sauce. They cut their own steak, use quality imported salami and you can taste the handcraftedness. I guarantee you will not find a more unique steak in town. They could barely keep up with the demand of the people who came by and then returned, time and time again!
Next up is my friends at Tony Boloney’s! They won the Guy Fieri’s Cheesesteak Battle at The AC Food & Wine Fest in 2010 with their ridiculous Cheesesteak Ole’ and haven’t looked back since! If they sent Californian Fieri back home with the picture of the Ole’ in his head as to what a cheesesteak should be, then everyone is a winner! Their Cheesesteak Ole’ is actually a little more like a cheesesteak hoagie, but it’s still fantastic. It involves 10 spiced sirloin steak, pepperjack cheese & chipotle house sauce on top of lettuce and tomato. It all melds together to form what I like to call the Cheesesteak of Greatness. In all honesty, Tony Boloney’s, at 300 Oriental Ave and a stone’s throw fromt he Revel, is one solid reason to drive to AC. Keep an eye out for more of thier menu on this blog.
The Community Food Bank Of New Jersey had a stand and they weren’t messing around! A soft, buttery roll center stuffed with steak and perfectly cooked onions with a nice crumble of cheese of top made it one of my favorite steaks of the fest. I also love what they stand for: helping anyone who needs a hand in the area. They run a food service training academy, they run a whole kids division with a kids cafe (to feed kids who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to eat), a kids closet (clothing and coats), a backpack program and even a tools for schools program. They also distribute food, do catering and lots of other stuff. If you want to donate some money, sending them some cash would be a great move, or buy their new book “Cooking For Change: Tales from a Food Service Training Academy“. All proceeds benefit the Community Foodbank Of New Jersey! This is truly an organization that knows how to help people and help them move forward!
Percy Street BBQ come to the fight with their unreal take on the cheesesteak, which is not a cheesesteak at all. Frankly, I could care less because it blew my mind. Bercy Street BBQ sits on South Street in Philly between 9th and 10th streets, cranking out BBQ that, until recently, was only really available closer to the South. They understand what the ring is and they are dead serious about this fantastic meat.
The meat was carved in front of you and packed with delicious strips of it, and smothered with a creamy cheese sauce. Easily my favorite non-cheesesteak cheesesteak. Well, it’s actually a tie with..
This sandwich was unlike everything else at the fest! Definitely not a cheesesteak but definitely on my meat list! It was like juicy shredded potroast on a roll and I could not get enough of it. Unfortunately, I lost their business card and only remember that they were next to Tony Boloney.
I have to also mention that it was about 900 degrees that night. Eating cheesesteaks in that kind of heat does a number on your body. What helped was that there was plenty of beer, provided by Amstel Light, and plenty of booze, provided by Jameson, Jim Beam and Red Stag. Red Stag is a flavored whiskey that Beam is putting out. At first I found it to be a party foul of massive degrees to do such a thing, but after tasting it (the Black Cherry flavor), it’s actually kind of interesting.
Andrew Zimmern, of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, was the host of this shindig, and he is really the nicest guy ever. After talking onstage for a little bit, he hung out at his booth, making sandwiches for people, answering questions, taking pictures and overall being a very personable and cool dude.
It was super crazy hot and humid, like I said above and he very easily could have disappeared into his tent/trailer/hotelroom and retired for the night. He didn’t and that was very cool of him.
His offering at his table was a cheesesteak made, of course, of tongue. I found that funny, because, well, us Philadelphians are known for having big mouths. As you can see, it looks like a typical cheesesteak, with nice carmelized onions and green pepper strips. I have not had tongue before but I figured if Andrew can stand in that heat and cook it, I can stand there and chew it. It was a little chewy but the flavors were nice and subtle. The tongue itself has a really weird aftertaste that I didn’t particularly like, but I applaud the effort!
Here are some more cheesesteaks that were pretty awesome!
This steak from Carmine’s, the “Italian Cheesesteak” was pretty great, the meat was very juicy and the roll was deliciously chewy after it soaked up all the juices. two thumbs up!
Union Trust Steakhouse, at 7th and Chestnut in Center City Philly, was there too with thier very traditional but also awesome cheesesteak.
Square 1682 is a fancy pants restaurant in the also fancy Rittenhouse Square area of Center City. Thier little cheesesteak on a square bun (get it?) was amazing. It was like the big pot roast sandwich above but on a tiny little bun and covered with a delicious cheese sauce that was thick enough to stay on the meat but thin enough to roll around a little bit.
Lastly, but not leastly, was the Sammy D’s cheesesteak dumpling. As someone who used to make a cheesesteak pierogies, I have to say that these guys got it right. The meat was wrapped tight, with the cheese mixed in with the right proportions (too much and it’s cheese with a hint of meat, too little and it’s drier then a desert). Huzzah to Sammy D!
The event in general was pretty awesome: not too crowded but the chefs were all putting out top notch food for the crowds. My hat is off to Showboat and the organizers for putting together a fun event that clogged my arteries!
That brings the first half of Day 2 to rest. Stay tuned for the second half soon!
Atlantic City Food & Wine Fest: Pool Party!
For the past few years, the Food Network, along with Caesar’s Casino (and their other casinos: Showboat, Harrah’s & Bally’s) and a ton of sponsors, have thrown a huge Food and Wine Fest in Atlantic City. It’s a bunch of events over a few days revolving around food, booze and some music along with a bunch of Food Network personalities. It’s really a great excuse to meet some famous people, try some new foods and have a great time in AC. This year, DidjaEat? was invited to come and enjoy the festivities!
They started the weekend off with a Thursday night party at Harrah’s, at their cool indoor pool area. They try to advertise it as a pool club, which makes sense since the pool doesn’t seem to go over 4 feet in depth. No one actually went into the pool, except one chef who accidentally lit his pants on fire. The quick thinking DJ, DJ Vito G, played “Disco Inferno” just as the guy emerged out of the pool (would I have played “The Roof Is On Fire”? Probably. But then again, I am pretty lowbrow.). It was all I could do to not dive in because it was about 900 percent humidity and I drove down from Philly in my car with no AC.
The whole point of the kick off party is to give everyone a taste, literally and figuratively, of what the fest is offering this year. So, the Blues and Brews BBQ guys were serving up some pork tacos, the Re-Define Cheesesteak guys were serving up cheesesteaks and, well, you get the point.
Speaking of the BBQ, the Blues, Brews and BBQ guys had a big ol’ roast pig out on the table for all to see, along with some grilled corn (I took a skip on that because I cannot stand it when it gets all jammed up in my teeth, but it looked pretty awesome.) and delicious pork tacos. I had many, many of those. Unbelievably good! I can’t wait to go to that event and stuff my face full of BBQ!!
The DJ, who I mentioned above, really did a great job. I normally cannot stand loud dance music, but he mixed in some great old stuff and got people dancing in front of the DJ booth. The last hour, when people had really started feeling all the free drinks, busted out all the old stuff, starting with Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison and slid right thru all that late 80’s, early 90’s stuff. He knew his demographic and ran with it.
Even Anne Burrell was having a blast. While they kept her sort of behind a rope (to keep from people totally swallowing her up), she was dancing, having a great time and did not say no to one person who wanted a picture with her (and you had to use a flash because of the lighting, I can’t believe she wasn’t blind by the time she left). When the DJ played a special request of hers, she almost lost her mind. It was cool to see someone famous actually enjoying themselves with the fans, alcohol or no alcohol. I think Andrew Zimmern was supposed to be there too, but I didn’t see him.
Speaking of having a blast, the SteakHouse guys were not messing around. They had Dirty Grilled Flank Steak Bruschette with Jersey Tomatoes (note: if you have never had Jersey tomatoes, seriously, go get some.), a Goat Cheese spread and microgreens. I loved it so much but I would have liked it better without the Goat Cheese. I don’t know what it is with that, but I get a very weird after taste that makes me gag. I wonder if that’s what it’s like for people who can’t eat cilantro? I don’t know, but the rest of it was mouth-watering.
There was a stand that was all about the desserts. Oh yeah. Mini strawberry shortcakes, mini chocolate awesomeness, raspberry & berry with a gel in the middle and even a cool green gelee’ that looked like a votive candle but tasted like clouds.
The chocolate thing in the corner was almost mind bending. It was layers of chocolate with a hard chocolate base. So good.
My favorite thing is one I actually didn’t get to take a picture of, I ate it too fast. It was a tiny brownie type cupcake with caramel in the middle. It was topped with some sort of whipped cream and dusted with caramel dust. Unreal.
One of the more delicious of the savory things was something we don’t eat too much of on the east coast down below New England: The Lobster Roll. Usually the Lobster Roll is chopped lobster mixed with some mayo and maybe some relish and served on a bun that’s not unlike a hot dog roll. Well, they made an appearance at the Pool Party in Parker House rolls! They were absolutely amazing. Buttery, fresh and packed full of lobster meat. I had many, many of these (“Lady, she’s puttin’ my kids thru college!”).
Another thing I had that is a favorite of mine that I was expecting to appear somewhere close to this fest is the Cheesesteak. I am from Philly, I live in Philly and I think I swallowed a bit of Philly one day when I was sleeping with my mouth open. It was either that or a fly, I can’t tell. Either way, I know a cheesesteak. I can point you to not only good cheesesteak places (and no, not Pat’s or Geno’s. Those places are tourist traps. If you are from Philly, the only time you go there is if it’s after 2 am and you are shitfaced. Seriously.), but specific ones in a certain area of the city (ie: going to the Northeast? Hit up Chink’s on Torresdale Ave. Going to Roxborough area? Hit up Dellasandro’s, etc. etc. etc.).
Cheesesteaks are on the upswing these days, called “Philly Cheesesteaks”. When I see that, I get suspicious. It usually means that the people making them aren’t from Philly and might not know what they are doing. It’s easy to screw up something so simple to make. There was a stand making cheesesteaks on Parker House rolls and Cheesesteak eggrolls.
The bun was nice and fresh and I get that they are doing a new spin on the cheesesteak (“Redefining Cheesesteak”) but the meat was a little too chopped up for me. It sort of reminded me of the cheesesteaks from high school. I applaud the effort tho, and the servers and the guys working behind the table were super nice, very efficient in the plating and overall looked like they were having a good time.
The cheesesteak eggroll was a little different. The cheese was not inside the roll, as they were appetizer sized eggrolls, not what you think of when you think eggroll. But, considering how many had to be made, it makes sense. It would have cost them a bazillion bucks to make full size ones for all those people. They were tasty tho, and served with the cheese at the bottom of the cup for dipping (later on they used paper boats, but the little cups I thought were cool.).
They fried them to order and were blazing hot but still pretty good. I could give them some tips on putting cheesesteak in things, as I used to make some kick ass cheesesteak pierogies. Gimmie a call, guys!
So, after sitting down and relaxing for a while, I made one more trip around the pool and decided my time at the Pool Party had come to an end. I think it was when the DJ played “Ice, Ice, Baby” but I could be wrong. I had to rest up for the rest of the weekend and digest all the awesomeness I had consumed over the course of the night. On the way out I spotted a really cool sand sculpture, smiled…and burped. Whoo, time for a nap. See you on friday, Food and Wine Fest!