Et Al Fine Food (Highlands, NJ)

(Greg Caggiano) #1

The phrase “et al” when used in writing means “and others”. I must say, it is a rather odd name for a restaurant. But as you read the eclectic spread that their menu offers, it begins to make sense. You can order anything from a Tuscan Ciabatta with prosciutto, salami, capicola, and sopresatta, to a quinoa bowl with grilled chicken or salmon. While the menu leans healthy with smoothies, juices, “tonic shots”, and a plethora of salads and grain bowls, you can still manage an artery-clogging grilled cheese or double thick-cut bacon BLT. Whichever road you choose, however, one item will be apparent: the people behind Et Al believe in freshness. The subtitle of the menu reads “by hand…from scratch…with love”, and after one one visit here, I can say that such a line is not just a gimmick.

It was a nasty, cold, rainy day. Justin and I had gone to the gym earlier and had taken care of some errands. We found ourselves heading toward Sandy Hook, wanting to see how strong the waves were on this windy day. We had not eaten yet, and I had checked out Et Al’s menu a week or so earlier. I remembered seeing grain bowls with quinoa and couscous and thought that it might be a good option for us since we were trying to eat healthier. Well, sit us two starving guys down with a selection of sandwiches and see how healthy we eat.

The building Et Al occupies is a large one, but there is only a tiny seating area: two stools, one table of four, and then a large communal table. They have a big catering business and probably do mainly takeout orders. I grabbed a coffee and Justin had a bottled lemonade. A quick glance at the menu again led me to abandon greens and grains and go for the ham and brie sandwich. Meanwhile, with it being grilled cheese weather, Justin ordered the “All American” grilled cheese and added bacon. We took a seat and had a look around. There was a glass display case with all kinds of enticing prepared foods. Another shelving unit contained loaves and rolls of freshly baked bread. Vintage jazz music played over the speakers (it was Louis Armstrong when we walked in). The walls contained a punched tin decor. Et Al was a mixture of vintage and hip—rustic, but not out of style.

|723x701

It took about fifteen minutes, and our food hit the table. I was immediately impressed. Most restaurants giving off such gourmet vibes serve the tiniest of sandwiches, but mine was the contrary. It was a large sub roll, made in-house. There was an ample amount of ham, two thick slices of brie on each half, field greens, and a small lathering of honey mustard which had a mild kick to it. While I knew this was a cold sandwich when I ordered it, I could not help but think how much better this already mouth-watering meal would have been if served hot or pressed. I did finish the whole sandwich, but I was stuffed. On the side was homemade potato chips. These were the thinnest I have ever eaten—you could practically see through them. They were crispy, fresh, and perfectly seasoned. They are what bagged potato chips wish they could be.

|723x697

As for Justin, the man of sometimes few words and stricter standards than me when it comes to food criticism, proclaimed this to be the best grilled cheese he had ever eaten. I took a bite or two or three and concurred with him. Everything about it was top-notch: from the checkered, lattice-like grill marks turning this into a mini work of art, to the stringy gushing of hot aged cheddar and Monterrey jack that oozed out of the toasted brioche with every bite. The bacon was cooked just right, and everything melded together. He too thought the chips were killer. This was the textbook definition of comfort food.

|723x724

On the way out, we chatted with Marie who was behind the counter. She was overly pleasant and friendly, and explained how everything was homemade. I also ran into a friend of mine who was buying copious amounts of prepared food and is a regular there. She too confirmed the high standards which Et Al sets for itself. “As you can see”, she said, pointing at her large order which would be dinner for her family later on, “we love this place”. I thanked Marie for a wonderful lunch and she gave me a sample of some of their coconut ginger cookies. These were delicious (and not too sweet) and contained bits of fresh ginger.

Usually, I do not go so high for a first-time score based on a couple of sandwiches, but given the fact that literally everything was made in-house, it was actually a larger sample than normal. For that reason, Et Al gets a 4 out of 5 stars . I cannot wait to come back, and though I want to work my way through the menu, it would be hard to not get that grilled cheese. There are a lot of restaurants in the crowded Jersey Shore area that proclaim fresh and organic ingredients, and clean eating, but Et Al not only talks the talk, they walk the walk. They offer a fun, inventive menu, and a cool environment to enjoy it in. Great job!

Originally posted here on my food blog.

7 Likes

(Junior) #2

Uh-oh…see you had me until “overly pleasant and friendly” see I have a pleasant and friendly threshold and if you cross it you are no longer “pleasant and friendly” but annoying. Hey, what can I say I’m a cynical bastard, ok? I said it for you!

All kidding and cynicism aside, those sandwiches do look good with such purdy grill marks on the grilled cheese. I didn’t notice you mention the chips but they do look homemade, where they?

Nice review are they new?

5 Likes

(Greg Caggiano) #3

I actually did mention the chips! :yum:

They were outstanding, and yes, homemade. Hard to believe how thin they were. They do sell them by the bag and I almost bought some.

I don’t believe the place is new. I’ve worked in the area since 2011 and have remembered passing by it for quite some time.

This Highlands review follows my “hit piece” on Katz’s. Guess I can walk around town now without fear of assassination?

1 Like

(Junior) #4

My bad I see it now sandwiched (pun intended) between the two pictures. Good for them and continued success I really don’t get over that way for lunch so I doubt I’ll ever have the opportunity to enjoy them, but as I said continued good luck to them.

I’'ll loan you my mustache glasses and nose when you decide to go back “Justin case”. lol

2 Likes

(Greg Caggiano) #5

Wow! You’re on a roll today! :roll_eyes:

0 Likes

(David) #6

This is the punniest conversation we’ve had on the NJ board in a long time.

1 Like

#7

DON’T YOU START!!! :rofl::joy::smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

1 Like

#8

Did any Highlanders comment on your post yet? I wonder how a positive review will go over.

Did you happen to see any of their pretzels?

0 Likes

(Greg Caggiano) #9

Funny you ask. I post a glorifying review and there’s a lot of likes but two or three comments. Say something negative and everyone and their mother comes out of the woodwork.

Did not see pretzels but we were there later in the day (3:30 PM).

0 Likes

#10

Yeah that is how it usually works. You say something controversial and next thing you know people are all over it. Did anyone from the deli post recognize you?

1 Like

(Dan) #11

Never had a bad meal here and have attended several dozen venues catered by Et Al, well known along the shore scene for providing classy casual food gigs.

Great job, Greg.

3 Likes

#12

WHAT PRETZELS?!?

More words

0 Likes

(Greg Caggiano) #13

They may have. I post frequently in that group (all food/blog related).

0 Likes

(Greg Caggiano) #14

I’m not sure. Saw pics online. Maybe a house specialty?

0 Likes

(Junior) #15

I’ll admit the pretzels at Asbury Beer Garden were very good, as were their grapefruit and cream soda beers. Unfortunately we had to schlep everything down stairs by ourselves due to their completely inept manager so I will never be returning to enjoy them again, but please do on my behalf!!

1 Like

#16

SO confused. Is Et Al making the pretzels served at the Biergarten??

0 Likes

(Junior) #17

No completely unrelated to my knowledge, just giving you a heads up since you seem “into” pretzels and I know you are fond of the APB.

0 Likes

#18

Got it. I was thinking I’d read this entire thread and never saw mention of it… :upside_down_face:

0 Likes