This Monmouth County Restaurant Is A Hidden Gem You Need To Try
This past Saturday night, Bruce and I headed for Monmouth County on the recommendation of my friend, Robin Thompson.
She had posted her review on Facebook a few weeks ago and mentioned how incredible the food was.
The name of the place is, Café 28, located at 835 West Park Avenue, Ocean Township in the Cobblestone Village Shopping Center.
What’s really strange, is Bruce took me to Piccola Italia, the restaurant next door on our first date nearly a decade ago.
How is it that I did not notice Café 28 right next door? I lived in Ocean Township for years. What the heck is wrong with me? I think that qualifies Café 28 as a hidden gem.
We walked into the restaurant and were immediately charmed by the décor. It’s a quaint, dimly lit café with homey accents such as a hutch filled with dishes and teacups, along with a small table in front of the hutch topped with Middle Eastern wares.
There were a few tables topped with small Tiffany lamps along with pumpkins and gourds to give it that Fall feel. Overall, the place gave off a very warm welcoming vibe.
We were greeted by young male server who seated us immediately. We were already somewhat familiar with the menu as we had gone over it a few times online.
Café 28 is advertised as a Mediterranean restaurant. It goes beyond Mediterranean and heads into Middle Eastern and Egyptian territory. We love all kinds of ethnic food and finding this place was an answered prayer.
We had traveled to the Middle East a few years ago and fell in love with the food and culture. The first thing we noticed when we ate our first meal there, was how different the hummus was from what we were accustomed to in America.
It’s not impossible to find homemade authentic hummus in America. All you have to do is find a restaurant like Café 28.
According to their website:
Mohamed Elbery first learned how to prepare and cook traditional Mediterranean food from his grandmother back from his hometown in Egypt. (Many of the dishes on the menu are directly from his hometown!) After learning his mother’s secrets, Mohamed went of to Western Europe to learn from some of the best chefs in the world. He honed his craft in kitchens in England, France, and Switzerland before coming to the States in order to fulfill his dreams of opening a restaurant. Café 28 blends classic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine with elements of ingredients you can only find at the Jersey Shore into your one stop shop for great food and service. All of Café 28’s dishes are made right from his home and we only use the freshest ingredients.
Bruce and I started with the hot appetizer, a Roasted Eggplant Casserole. It was roasted eggplant cubes with garlic, in an Egyptian spiced tomato-based sauce, olive oil, topped with roasted slivered almonds, served with a basket of homemade warm pita triangles.
Outstanding! Very comforting and very unique. I need to know about these spices.
I ordered the Grilled Medley, Beef Shish Kabob, Shish Tawook, ( a popular Lebanese marinated chicken on a skewer) Oven Style Kofta (which is normally made with ground beef or lamb), lamb chop, and a side of herbed rice.
Everything on my plate was loaded with the most amazing flavors. You can tell from the first bite that the chicken was marinating in spices for hours. The beef shish kabob and the kofta were very good, but the lamb chop was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. Next time I’m getting the rack of lamb.
Bruce ordered the Falafel & Hummus Platter Over mixed Greens with Pita. It was covered in sesame seeds and definitely the moistest falafel we’ve ever had.
It’s very possible Mohamed makes his falafel the Egyptian way. Egyptians make their Falafel with fava beans as opposed to chickpeas. Fava beans have a more neutral flavor than chickpeas. The hummus was smooth and creamy and incredibly good. Now the greens were terrific. The added flavor of the chopped mint put the greens over the top.
No dessert for us that evening, although we would have ordered the Baklava or the Kanafeh. Maybe next time.