Barts, Matawan, NJ

Has anyone been to this place? It is in an old church (think a less beautiful, much smaller version of Marsha Brown’s in New Hope). We went on Saturday night because we didn’t want to go far and after so many years of living in the area thought we should give it a shot. And good reviews on Google.

I want to like this place. I really do (did?). We got stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer. Very nice, obviously homemade. The entrees come with a salad which I was thrilled about (remember when you ALWAYS got a salad). This salad was tiny, wilted and depressing. There was a long wait between everything and our server just disappeared. She seemed to have trouble keeping track of what was going on. Multiple requests for wine, etc.

Entrees: my husband got Bolognese which for the first time ever had so much sauce and not enough pasta. He ended up basically making sloppy joes with the bread. I had lasagna which was good but nothing special. Both had enormous pieces of bay leaves left in the sauce which is annoying. I had to walk around the restaurant to find our server for a check and then to pay.

Prices were fair and they have a bar. We may try it again but not anytime soon.

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Yes, we’ve been to Bart’s. But that was more than 30 years ago! According to their website, they opened in 1982. We had two, maybe three dinners there at that time. (It’s 10 minutes from our house.) Eating in a converted church was certainly a novel experience. I guess we gave it a few tries before deciding that the food was at best mediocre.

We might be neighbors! We are quite close too. I had high hopes of a nice, easy restaurant close by to add to our rotation. Oh well!

Marsha Brown’s is a good example of what Bart’s would like to be. Unfortunately the food doesn’t cut it at Bart’s, especially for the price.

The truth is that their current menu was written by a chef who worked for them 3-4 chefs ago. The kitchen often has trouble under pressure.

Some things they do right, albeit inconsistently, like their chicken parm or their sweet potato ravioli. The bar has a homey Cheers feeling some nights, and is good for a drink and an appetizer, bar pie, or a burger, but the dining room is a bit dated.

The restaurant has been coasting for years by its catering/banquet service and has been for sale a long time.

When Bart’s originally opened in that church it was called Bartholomew’s and was pretty good. After a few years it changed owners, chef and the name became Bart’s. It hasn’t been worth going to since then.

You are so right about the kitchen having trouble under pressure. We were there early but noticed a long period of time where no food was coming out of the kitchen.

I really wanted to like it. It could be a sweet space and the hostest was really nice. The dining room is totally dated but they could play this to their advantage if done right.

Do you have any more info on restaurant for sale? I’m surprised it has been on the market for long with a liquor license but they are probably asking too much?

Ah, I totally forgot that when we went it was actually Bartholomew’s. I’m not sure if we ever ate there when it became Bart’s.

It may be off market now, but I recall years ago they had a fairly high asking price (~1mil). Most offers they received were more likely to knock the building down for train parking rather than renovate the church.

Wow. Yeah $1M for that space…

Even more surprising if it’s going to be used just for parking…

(Could be, though. Our godson wanted a parking permit for the Exton ¶ lot and discovered that there is a five-year wait!)

That wouldn’t even be a big lot!

WOW! My husband was told the same thing about parking in the ShopRite parking lot for commuter bus parking but noticed empty spots there every day. He went back to the town and complained (nicely but firmly in person) and he now has a spot. I do remember the train parking to be a problem when I would ride the train, pre-Sandy.

South on Main about 1/4 mile on the opposite side of the street is a restaurant bar, now I think it’s mostly a Latin night club more than a restaurant. (name escapes me) Back in the day, probably 15-20 years ago it was a long established restaurant in town, Tiffany’s? ( it was known for it’s stained glass front and Tiffany lamps inside) Anyway the floor plan was unique, the structure was an old house and they had multiple small dining rooms throughout the place.

The owner(s) lived upstairs in an attached attic apartment and apparently he/they adopted several children, like 8-10 of them. All of which lived and worked in the restaurant, but in the apartment he had constructed individual bedrooms for the children which were nothing more than a store changing room with a bed. It was the most bizarre set up I had ever seen in a residential space.

No real point to my story…lol Just reminiscing when thinking about Bart’s. Sorry.

ETA, another local spot, I further north on Main St. closer to 34 is an beautiful old blue Victorian Home that has been bought and sold a few times over recent years. Now it’s in disrepair. I looked at that building 15 years ago and I was very interested in converting it to offices. Yeah, that place is haunted as hell. I spent a lot of time in there doing some preliminary plans and I had way too uncomfortable experience(s) in there that I dropped the pursuit.

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La Riveria? I feel like we ate there once and it was Italian (I think??) and the room was very red. Like red lighting and red walls? We only went once.

I know which place you are talking about. It could be such a beautifully redone space with enough funds. There are some cool houses in that stretch. I would love to see main street Matawan revived. Tons of empty store fronts and nothing all too enticing for us.

I could swear that when La Riviera first opened the food was not Italian. My very vague memory is that it started out as a fairly upscale restaurant (for this area) serving contemporary American cuisine. I think we considered trying it but didn’t.

That Victorian house was always an eye-catcher. Sad to hear it’s in disrepair. I hadn’t driven past it for several years and didn’t look at it when we recently passed it on our way to Drew’s. I was driving, it was raining, so my concentration was on the road ahead.

Yes, La Riveria!! I stopped in one night to check it out and the bar atmosphere was of a disco, flashing lights, loud piped in music, the only thing missing were the people. I was the only person in the place, it was early like 7-ish and the bartender explained they were gearing up for a Latin night. I’ve never eaten there. Do you remember the name of the place that was there prior to La Riveria? It was a local restaurant and bar for a long time.

Yes downtown Matawan is a beautiful area but it’s just lost in time. Somewhere around the mid-80’s I would say people just left the charm of the hometown USA and the downtown has been struggling ever since. It’s a shame and it would be great if they could pull off a mini Freehold or Red Bank type of rejuvenation. Even near by Keyport which is another sort of lost in time down town has had a revival of sorts.

One thing I will never understand is the Buttonwood Manor / MJ’s. How in the hell did that marriage ever happen? Did the Buttonwood maintain the catering or does MJ’s actually do weddings now? I still scratch my head in disbelief when I pass that. Obviously I’m not a big fan of the MJ’s brand, not to knock them, they certainly have figured something out, what that is I’m not sure but the rest of the public seems to appreciate it. {{shrugs}}

I don’t know the name before La Riveria. We have lived in the area for about 7-8 years. 2 of which in Cliffwood until we got robbed and then decided moving would be smart.

I am also baffled by Buttonwood/MJ’s. It is constantly packed. We ate at the bar once and it was horrible. I don’t know the relationship either. I am always just nervous driving by that spot. Drunk people crossing that road… It is a bit of a blind curve and 4 lanes in that spot. It always gives me a weird feeling in my stomach. Sorry to drag the thread into bummerville.

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I think it was Jerry Beyer’s

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Yes, you sir are correct. I guess the stained glass in front had me thinking it tied into the name somehow. Thank you!

Wow, @BossaNova! Your memory is fantastic! It was Jerry Beyer I was thinking of re: the kind of food served, not Riviera.