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Hat City Kitchen


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NY Times regional review on the 16th. It reads badly, and I'm sorry about that. OK is the lowest acceptable rating.

 

It sounds like the chef is having a real problem with the range of suburban tastes, from adventurous to timid. We enjoyed the Andouille on our visit.

 

 

When it works, it turns out, it works nicely. Take the fried chicken, crunchy and salty and drizzled with black-pepper honey.

 

Mr. Pierre-Jerome does not merely bread his birds. He tosses them in a spiced buttermilk batter, dredges them in flour, lets them absorb that overnight, then dredges them again before frying. “God and the chicken took care of the inside,” he said in a phone interview after my visits. “The customer is paying for what I’m doing to the outside.”

 

Patrons are also paying for Mr. Pierre-Jerome’s improvisations. Lacking a smoker for his baby back ribs, he compensates by slathering on a wet rub and marinating them in teriyaki sauce, brown sugar and mustard. His sticky-sweet barbecue sauce — plum sauce, hoisin sauce, ketchup and cocoa — sounds like a mouthful and, happily, is.

 

My favorite entree was the basa, an Asian relative of catfish that is a semi-permanent special. Not so thick, it is still substantial, floured but not breaded, and — notice a pattern? — sweet, thanks to a dose of sugar in the sauce. And it is the sauce that sets it apart: a lobster stock, with peppers, tomatoes, white wine and crawfish tail meat.

 

Yet several dishes misfired. When some customers could not handle the spicy Andouille sausage in his jambalaya, Mr. Pierre-Jerome replaced some with kielbasa, but the pulled punch lacks pop. The blackened salmon, in a tasty mustard and brown sugar (again!) sauce, was overcooked and dry but neither blackened nor spicy. The meatloaf, finely ground from beef and sweet Italian sausage, was topped with a homemade gravy that tasted too much like cream of mushroom soup.

 

Hat City Kitchen

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  • 1 month later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Nice dinner at Hat City in Orange tonight. I went for the burger and the chicken.

 

Excellent fries, very polished 10 oz burger. Light char, perfectly cooked to medium rare, modest amount of grease. A little more densely packed than I prefer, but a very good burger. $13 with blue cheese. I liked it better than the Zinburger.

 

Their chicken was 2/3 of superb. Bronzed, crusty skin over wet, ultra moist meat, dripping with peppery goodness. Soaked in peppered buttermilk, then rolled in a thin batter. Served with a drizzle of pepper honey. Two pieces were sublime, the third was prob 1 minute overdone. Mahogany on the crust instead of bronze, and stringy in the centers. $15. Note that this chicken is cooked to order, so they recommend an app, salad, etc for the 25 minute wait.

 

We got there around 6pm and were the first people in the place. By 6.30, there was a table of 4 who were going to Luna Stage, which is down the street. By 7pm, there were two more duos and another table of 4. When we left about 7.30 or so, there may have been ten people in the main room, and another 5-6 people in the performance space and a few at the bar. They're going to need more volume than this on a Friday night if they are going to pull through, IMHO.

 

Our server was excellent, and very attentive. Gave an accurate five minute warning before the chicken emerged, for example. There are a few areas where the house could tighten up a little, though. Two of the staff discussed their medical test results and some minor surgery in full hearing of the house. The hostess told the couple next to us, who sat down about 6.30, that she'd need the table back at 8pm. The place was empty, and I even looked around. She told the next table the same thing, and the guy said something like "we'll try. if the kitchen delivers on time" I suppose they could put some kind of surcharge on for hearing the music in the next room, but that's pretty silly. IMHO.

 

Bottom Line? Good food, well prepared. I think I'd take the happy hour option next time around. $2 drafts and discount burgers / sliders from 5 to 7 pm. Bar conversations are always more fun than most restaurants.

 

 

I'll cross post on the burgers in NJ thread

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Nice dinner at Hat City in Orange tonight. I went for the burger and the chicken.

 

Excellent fries, very polished 10 oz burger. Light char, perfectly cooked to medium rare, modest amount of grease. A little more densely packed than I prefer, but a very good burger. $13 with blue cheese. I liked it better than the Zinburger.

 

Their chicken was 2/3 of superb. Bronzed, crusty skin over wet, ultra moist meat, dripping with peppery goodness. Soaked in peppered buttermilk, then rolled in a thin batter. Served with a drizzle of pepper honey. Two pieces were sublime, the third was prob 1 minute overdone. Mahogany on the crust instead of bronze, and stringy in the centers. $15. Note that this chicken is cooked to order, so they recommend an app, salad, etc for the 25 minute wait.

 

We got there around 6pm and were the first people in the place. By 6.30, there was a table of 4 who were going to Luna Stage, which is down the street. By 7pm, there were two more duos and another table of 4. When we left about 7.30 or so, there may have been ten people in the main room, and another 5-6 people in the performance space and a few at the bar. They're going to need more volume than this on a Friday night if they are going to pull through, IMHO.

 

Our server was excellent, and very attentive. Gave an accurate five minute warning before the chicken emerged, for example. There are a few areas where the house could tighten up a little, though. Two of the staff discussed their medical test results and some minor surgery in full hearing of the house. The hostess told the couple next to us, who sat down about 6.30, that she'd need the table back at 8pm. The place was empty, and I even looked around. She told the next table the same thing, and the guy said something like "we'll try. if the kitchen delivers on time" I suppose they could put some kind of surcharge on for hearing the music in the next room, but that's pretty silly. IMHO.

 

Bottom Line? Good food, well prepared. I think I'd take the happy hour option next time around. $2 drafts and discount burgers / sliders from 5 to 7 pm. Bar conversations are always more fun than most restaurants.

 

 

I'll cross post on the burgers in NJ thread

 

 

thanks for this! I really feel the need to head here before I move.

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This month's NJ Monthly has a mention of the long gone Hat City Grill chef, Patrick Yves Pierre-Jerome. He's still looking to land a restaurant.

 

http://njmonthly.com/blogs/soup-to-nuts/2013/5/28/one-chefs-declaration-of-independence.html

 

Hat City, however, seems to be doing fine. Full schedule of music in a number of genres, and its neighborhood is gentrifying at modest pace.

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I was in the area this afternoon, and I'm still amazed at the amount of development in the Orange Valley Arts district. Nothing short of amazing. One gallery, Arts Unbound, features work by artists with disabilities. Charcoals, sculpture, pen and ink, oils, many different media.

 

Construction and rehab on every block. Nice mix of people on the streets. Even one jumbo baby stroller. Several galleries are now open, with retail space in new properties pretty well along. Noticed two residential loft buildings, didn't see any doormen.

 

Depending on the time of day, 32-40 minutes to NY Penn station by train. The Highland Avenue train station is at the end of the block. I'll have to do a walking visit and check out the activity in detail.

 

Didn't have the opportunity to stop at Hat City on this visit

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