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Side Dish

by Edited by Erica Bauwens

Quick Bite:Thai Lettuce Wraps
Cheesecake Factory: Cherry Hill
Lettuce wraps are always a crowd pleaser, but Cheesecake Factory’s Thai variety (pictured) is big enough to feed a small army. Load up Bibb lettuce with grilled chicken and then pile on the toppings, like rice noodles, carrots, bean sprouts, peanuts and both soy and a bright mint sauce. Each bite is an intense burst of flavor that’s hard to forget.

Key Ingredient: Lamb
You may typically associate lamb with a traditional Easter roast, but this gamey protein is really packed with potential. Skip the mint jelly and try a few of these unique takes offered across South Jersey.

Osso Bucco
Robin’s Nest, Mount Holly

Lamb and goat cheese salad
Black Olive Greek Cuisine, Voorhees

New Zealand lamb chops with fennel-cucumber salad
Terra Nova, Sewell

Lunch Under $15: Broad Street in Palmyra and Riverton
The towns of Palmyra and Riverton may be tiny, but they bring more than enough flavor, especially when it comes to quick and tasty lunches, all of which are just a short walk down the main drag of both neighborhoods.

Power Wrap
This grilled chicken, chipotle hummus, pesto aioli, chick peas, quinoa, spinach and tomato wrap is full of protein so you’ve got energy to make it to the end of the day. $11 at District Riverton Bistro

? Cheeseburger Club
Get the best of both worlds in one bite. The cheeseburger is topped with crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and pickles served between toasted bread. $8.25 at Curran’s Irish Inn

? Crab Cake Salad
A bed of spring mixed greens is tossed with avocado salsa and Mediterranean dressing then topped with a pan seared crab cake featuring plenty of lump crab meat. $8.99 at Orange Blossom Café

? Suzie Q
You might need a nap after diving into this local favorite, which slathers a roll with honey mustard before loading it with breaded chicken breasts, bacon and melted Swiss. $7.20 at Manny’s Sicilia Pizza

? Pollo Rellano
Dive into some truly authentic Mexican on your break. A chicken breast is filleted and filled with spinach, mushrooms and green peppers, served with rice, guacamole and seasoned with cream sauce. $14 at Juanita’s Mexican—Kaytlyn Mroz

Fast Food

The second Pop Shop location has opened its doors in Medford. The restaurant’s flagship location is on Collingswood’s Haddon Avenue.

The Moorestown Mall has a new dining spot in Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar. The farm to table restaurant—located next to Distrito—is owned by restaurateur Dave Macgrogan, who owns four other Harvest locations in Pennsylvania.

Audubon native Josh Trovato was selected to appear in the newest season of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. Trovato is currently a chef in New York City.

Collingswood’s That’s Amore has opened a second location in Cape May at the Washington Street Mall.

Stefano’s Ristorante Italiano in Mount Laurel has come under new management.

Extra Plate: Val’s Seafood Trattoria

With a mix of stellar seafood plates and Italian specialties, Val’s Seafood Trattoria is the kind of inviting place you’ll want to bring your family to and tell all your friends about. Once located in Washington Township and known for a robust takeout business, Val’s relocated to nearby Sewell and a larger space in April 2012. It’s a rather unassuming building from the outside that draws little attention to itself. But it doesn’t seem to hurt business, as the restaurant is often buzzing no matter if it’s the middle of the week or a Saturday evening.

Diners complete with wine totes in hand often pack in the small waiting area where smells of steamed shrimp and fried clam strips waft through the air while their eyes remain fixated on the dessert case housing some of the most delectable pies and cheesecakes you’ll find in South Jersey.

There’s plenty to like about the menu here, from the mussels bathed in a sweet and spicy fra diavolo sauce and chunks of jumbo lump crab tossed with linguine to unexpected hits like the fried meatball stuffed with mozzarella. The vibe is casual which means no stuffy presentations or exotic offerings. Think more flounder than fluke, but everything is fresh and well prepared. What the dishes may lack in Food Network flash they more than make up for in flavor. These people know their seafood.

They also know their pizza, and it’s some of the best we’ve tasted. We’re partial to the white pie with garlic, spinach and chopped tomatoes, but their signature pie should be on every pizza lover’s bucket list. A red pie topped with rock shrimp, baby scallops and jumbo lump crab meat; it may not be for everybody, but for those willing to take the leap, it is immensely satisfying.

Back to that dessert case. It’s hard not to notice it when you walk in, beckoning you to save room for their array of homemade encores that are well worth the extra time on the treadmill. Whether the chocolate peanut butter pie or the sinful cannoli with oh-so-sweet creamy ricotta, it’s the perfect way to end any night.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April, 2015).
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