Old Bay Restaurant
61-63 Church Street
New Brunswick, NJ, 08901
Recently, we took a road trip from Jerseycool headquarters in Montclair down the Garden State Parkway to our old stomping grounds in New Brunswick. The town has changed quite a bit over the last decade. Obviously, there is still a college-town feel, all of the well known haunts along Easton Avenue are there – the Scarlet Pub, Ye Old Queens Tavern and the Knight Club – The Court Tavern is still rocking, but the Melody Bar is long gone, and that, my friends, is more than a little sad.
Among the changes Jerseycool found one constant. There is still good food to be found and we’re not talking about the Grease Trucks. We dined at the Old Bay Restaurant, which has been serving New Orleans style cuisine, in downtown New Brunswick since 1987. The restaurant was gutted and remodeled in 2004 with a greater emphasis put on the bar area. However, the remodel did nothing to the great food, service and atmosphere at the Old Bay.
The standard New Orleans fare is all there including, Shrimp Creole, Crawfish Etouffee and Chicken and Sausage Jumbalaya. There’s also some exotic fare – well exotic for Creole cooking – namely a Duck and Orzo Jumbalaya, as well as Pecan encrusted Catfish. Jerseycool had the fish special, a Pecan encrusted Grouper, which was tasty as all hell.
One of the highlights was an agave flavored Magic Hat pilsner called Odd Notion that our server said had just made its way down from Burlington, Vermont. Unlike a lot of flavored beer, the agave was subtle and didn’t overwhelm the beer. The Old Bay prides itself on its beer selection, especially its selection of Louisiana’s Abita beer on tap. Our recommendation foodies is to skip the vino and treat yourself to one of the specialty beers, which you are unlikely to find on tap anywhere else in the area.
Prices are moderate with Jumbalaya costing about $14 while a whole crispy Snapper will run you $26.
The atmosphere also did not disappoint. We did not stay to hear the band going on after 10 p.m. but a steady stream of blues was played throughout the night, not loud enough to drown out the person sitting across from you but loud enough to let you know The Old Bay was about having a good time. Live music is still played at the Old Bay on weekends and the restaurant hosts a number of festivals including, Octoberfest, Halloween and, of course, Mardi Gras.
Getting to the Old Bay is still not exactly fun. New Brunswick’s hopping restaurant scene, especially on Church Street means parking can be an adventure. The early and lucky can find on-street parking but most will need to make do with the parking deck across the street. We arrived for a 7 O’clock reservation and were at the top of the parking deck.
The Old Bay is walking distance from the train station in New Brunswick and, though not next door to the theater’s on George Street, is close enough to be considered walking distance.
There are fancier locales in New Brunswick but for a fun night out or a casual dinner there is little to quibble with the Old Bay.