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Posts from the ‘Bridgewater’ Category

McCormick & Schmick’s

Mccormick & schmick's exterior 

Did I love it? Not so much. There was an overall feeling of stinginess despite attempts to project sophistication.

Despite springing from the verdant fir-y loins of Portland just like me, I've never eaten at a McCormick & Schmick's before (I thought I had but that was the lovely Washington Square Newport Bay with the panoramic view of a cemetery). If you're northwestern, patronizing such chains just isn't done. However, if you're northwestern and find yourself at a mall in Bridgewater, New Jersey looking at Crate & Barrel beds, there's much less shame.

Mccormick & schmick's interior

More upscale, i.e. expensive, than a Red Lobster and stodgier than a Bonefish Grill, stained glass depicting a Revolutionary War cannon, banker’s visor green drapes framing the coveted booths flanking two dark wood walls, an endless Alto sax soundtrack and a tray of shellacked desserts to entice tableside, evoke another era, perhaps the cusp of 1990. The naming of each fish's place of origin is very 2000's, however. The napkins are cloth though the wooden tables are bare, a distressing cost-saving trend we noticed on our last Bonefish visit. I'm paying for class! Another nod to new frugality was the absence of bread and butter unless asked.

Mccormick & schmick's clams

I try to avoid filling up on empty carbs but briny, white wine-spiked broth shouldn't go to waste even if it was almost too salty. They also come with a little  container of popcorn butter. Don’t feel bad about summoning bread to accompany the steamed clams. The portion was a little skimpy for sharing and two mollusks didn't open, acting as accidental server kryptonite. No one would touch or remove the bowl thinking we hadn't finished yet. I suppose I prefer the just in case leave over the overzealous grab.

Judging from most of our fellow diners, largely 40+ twosomes and a big group celebrating a birthday, 90% who cleared out by 9pm, soda in glass tumblers is the beverage of choice. I'm a weirdo who drinks wine at chains (fast food restaurants adding alcohol is a growing trend so clearly I'm not that weird). A 5-ounce Pour of a Chilean (Haras Di Pirque) Sauvignon Blanc with the clams and 8 ounces of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, which seems to be standard chain Riesling, with my entrée. No, I'm not an oenophile. I don't even have a problem with Charles Shaw.

Mccormick & schmick's lobster tail

I've been wanting to buy live lobsters from the Red Hook Lobster Pound but they were already sold out by the weekend and I hate to admit I'm a little squeamish about killing a creature (cleaning live soft shell crabs nearly a decade ago traumatized me slightly) so I was drawn to the summer lobster section offering three choices. I should've just gone with the traditional whole lobster but wasn't up for lots of messy cracking. Instead, I tried the Caribbean grilled lobster tail with tropical rice pilaf. The bits of meat I managed to extract were sweet but had a not wholly pleasant bitter dirt-like spicing perhaps allspice in the jerk-y blend. At least I managed to eat chain seafood and avoid the breaded, fried and heavily sauced, August's self-imposed mandate is light and low in starch, though I can let the occasional slice of bread and scoop of rice slide.

I wouldn't call M&S particularly good value (appetizers could stand to have a dollar shaved off and I would be more comfortable with entrees losing about $4) and it didn't provide the breezy level of fun I crave from a chain restaurant. This is a case, where an independent seafood restaurant may have been the better choice, though I don't know that any exist in the vicinity. We played with the Urbanspoon app in the Apple store and all the shaking provided no deeper insights.

In short: Portland, Oregon-based seafood restaurant founded in 1979 with 85 locations in 26 states.

Pacing: This is an important chain benchmark for me. We are slow eaters and I like to see if a restaurant will go with the flow or stick to a prescribed regimen. At M&S our entrees were brought out while the appetizer was still on table.

Hard sells: No reciting of specials. Loyalty card applications are on table.

Signature dish: None that I’m aware of, but they do emphasize the fresh and seasonal.

Oddball item: Nothing too glaring, perhaps the spicy tuna "pizza" using wasabi mayo and avocado. There is also a section of five dishes called New Jersey Seafood Classics, that includes not super-regional things like fish and chips, crab cakes and fettuccine alfredo.

Cons: Being called ma'am maybe ten times. No female in their 30s should be called ma'am. (I just reached a restaurant scenario on my Spanish language mp3 that involved a husband correcting a waiter calling his wife senorita instead of senora, miss rather than ma’am. “This is my wife and the mother of my children!”) Take note. This is what a ma'am looks like to a 12-year-old playing an orphan half his age. The actress playing Ma'am a.k.a. Katherine Calder-Young Papadapolis was 43 when the show aired.

McCormick & Schmick's * Bridgewater, NJ


Even though I have an irrational fascination with chains (yesterday on my way to see Cloverfield in Astoria I noticed a brand new Panera Bread and Applebee's set to grand open tomorrow. Along with the pre-existing Pizzeria Uno across the street, this micro-suburbia off Northern Blvd. is simultaneously soothing and baffling), Fuddruckers has never been part of my repertoire.

To my recollection, I'd only dined at one once in my life, at least twenty-five years ago. I know I was wowed by all the diy condiments, and I believe that I begged for a repeat performance whenever driving past the 82nd Street location on route to Clackamas Town Center. But I could just be imagining the longing and letdown because this was a common routine; my family rarely ate out, which was more a standard of the times than a commitment to thriftiness. I really don't think that children raised pre-'90s went out to eat, fast food included, frequently as they do now.

So, Saturday night Fuddruckers in Bridgewater was an accident (that we would drive 45 miles and spend $15 in tolls to return a defective mail-ordered Best Buy Dust Devil is a testament to how much NYC box stores suck). Red Lobster was our intended target, but even I can't justify a 75-minute wait for Cheddar Bay biscuits. Just on the other side of the Red Bull Motel (do you think they petitioned for another Red business in their parking lot?) was Fuddruckers, a total mystery to me.


I didn't know the menu and I completely didn't understand the ordering process. I felt feeble-minded standing just shy of the line-up maze, gaping at the wall. The clatter, balloons and children (don't be fooled by the false calmness in the above photo) didn't help my decision making but I figured out that there are lots of things other than burgers but it would be ridiculous to try them on a maiden visit and that burgers come in combo meals with the specialty variations  listed on another panel.

Ok, I chose The Inferno, a 1/3-pounder with jalapenos, fried onions and pepper jack. And a Heineken because even though Fuddruckers is fast food-like, they do serve beer. I guess that makes it more fast-casual, in industry parlance. I was not allowed my requested medium-rare, medium is the needlessly strict minimum, though not as harsh as Five Guys well-done only rule.

You then get a beeper and are left to hunt down an open table. After settling for about ten minutes later you'll be summoned to the side counter, handed your food and set loose on the condiments.  I took a few pumps of nacho cheese, chipotle mayonnaise for my fries and added a smear of spicy bbq sauces to my burger. I'm fairly sparing with add ons.

Yet condiment-abusers abounded. I was disproportionately grossed out by a college aged girl with her family at a nearby table who overfilled two giant plastic containers (larger than the little ones everyone else had) with ketchup. Actually, I more grossed out by her scrunchy-tamed pontytail, sweats and sporty rubber slip on sandals. I have a violent inexplicable aversion to that half-athletic/half-schlubby look. These are the same girls who wear flannel pajama bottoms with cartoon characters on them in public and think fleece is dressy. I had to avert my eyes every time she went for a ketchup dip.


After I got over the perceived sloppiness and topping spillage, I was faced with a pretty good burger that held its shape and retained enough juiciness despite the longer cooking time. The peppers were surprisingly hot, hence The Inferno moniker. The fries fell into the mealy steak fry camp, which I'll certainly eat even though I prefer thin, crispy strips (but not shoestring) over hefty wedges.

It was satisfying without crossing over into monstrous territory (though they do offer a one-pound burger). I do fear the Baconators of the world. On that note, Portfolio just published a substantial article and interesting sidebars on the unabashed gluttony trend touted in particular by Carl Jr's and Hardee's. Knowing that the Double Six Dollar Burger contains around 95% of my recommended daily calories almost makes me want to try it, so clearly their backwards marketing works.

Fuddruckers * 1271 Route 22 W., Bridgewater, New Jersey