Chowda House Red Bank

We went to an open house for two local artists at Art Alliance on Monmouth St. last night and arrived without reservations for dinner at the Chowda House around 6. Big mistake as the place was packed and even had some names already on a wait list. It was drearily overcast but not even sprinkling, so we asked if we could sit outside and drink while we waited in their huge courtyard that they weren’t using due to the weather.

We weren’t even out there for five minutes when the owner came out and said we could eat out there if we wanted to, and if it started raining they would squeeze us in inside. We were game and as we sat the clouds even cleared a little. By the time we got our shared app special of garlic cheese bread it was almost sunny and another couple had joined us in our private paradise.

We shared a raw platter of oysters, clams, and shrimp and a fried platter of shrimp, scallops, and flounder with cajun fries. Everything was fresh and good and we liked the cajun seasoning on the fries, but next time we will ask for them well done as some were still a bit limp. We were tempted to try their homemade key lime pie, but we were already a bit late for the reception.

We’ve eaten here only a few times since they opened years ago, but each time we’ve liked our food.


I agree on the fries…they should really do a lot better.

I prefer limp fries. There are hundreds of million Americans out there, maybe one or two are crazy like me.

My newly posted review of the Chowda House. Of course, the day I go, they had run out of Chowda!


Lobster Bisque

Mussels Fra Diavolo

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Surprisingly, my friend swears by the chicken sandwich at the Chowda House. Nice review sans chowda.


My friend’s wife actually gets chicken when she goes. She’s not a big seafood person and enjoys their chicken.

Did you happen to see the price of lobster rolls now?

“Market Price”

How do you guys tackle market priced items?

I honestly can’t stand it. I don’t want to ask and then sound like a cheap bastard if they give me some crazy price. I pay for good food but sometimes the prices are totally outrageous. Stuff like bluefin and bigeye, stone crab, dungies, king, shrimp (down south) can vary greatly. …and lobster, both local bugs and when I visit the islands. I just wish I could see a price

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To me, “Market Price” is a cop out. I don’t have a ton of experience in the restaurant industry, but do prices really fluctuate that much? I would rather you put a price on the menu and it be high or borderline ludicrous (to cover the changes in prices of the season) than put MP.

I will never ask for the price. As you said, it really makes one sound cheap. The only time I will take the chance is if its a restaurant I know well and trust to not be ridiculous. That being said, I think I was on vacation the last time I ordered MP. Because one splurges when on vacation.

Hi Greg,

Dry goods pricing may not deviate appreciably from week to week. Produce prices will fluctuate contingent on weather and seasonality. Protein pricing, seafood in particuliar, can/will swing unpredictably.

For example, 2~3 weeks ago, price of Dungeness crab in local markets (San Francisco Bay Area) was at $12+ per lb. Today, same can be found for in the same tanks for around $6/lb. Granted this a retail perspective. From experience, restaurant buying prices will track a similar price curve (albeit with a wholesale discount).

Many restaurants do not have the resources to reprint their menu daily/weekly to track market food costs fluctuations. If an establishment prints set-in-stone menu prices for a definitive time period, then they may (WILL BE) accused of price gouging if/when the market price of the commodity gets halved (as in crab). Or, they will bleed red selling food at a loss when prices escalate.

All said, I rarely order anything listed as market price.


Excellent explanation !

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This raises the similar question of waitstaff reciting specials without giving the price. While I don’t want to speak for RGR (a board regular), she has complained about this practice for years and I agree. If a special with no recited price catches my eye, I always ask. Personally, I don’t care if it makes me seem cheap. As a consumer, I should know how much I’m paying before I place my order.


+1 on this. The richest man I know taught me this and to always check the bill. Sometimes the price of a “special” is ludicrous, and more than once he has caught a mistake in the bill.

And one of my big peeves–listing what beverages they sell (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) with no price indicated.

So, speaking for myself, you are right about my disdain for the practice of reciting specials without providing price info. However, in recent years, we haven’t run across that situation at all. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been mainly dining out in NYC, and the restaurants we go to don’t do long lists of specials. If there are one or two (e.g., soup du jour, today’s fish, etc.), they are announced with prices. Same for our occasional restaurant dining in NJ these days.

There are some restaurants in NYC where prices are not provided on the website menus. Kind of like saying, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” In NJ, the prime local example was Fromagerie. But they must have received a lot of complaints because at some point they changed and began including prices.

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Very good explanation. Thank you!

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2