Euphoric Eat: Catered Affair

For more than a quarter of a century, Catered Affair has been a fixture in Hillsborough. In a town where restaurants often come and go, this family-owned-and-operated sandwich shop has stood the test of time. Since 1989, Catered Affair has been serving great deli fare to the masses, while maintaining a longstanding reputation as one of Hillsborough’s best eateries.

Ever since my family and I moved to Hillsborough way back in 1999, we have made many trips to Catered Affair – probably too many to count, in my case. With a menu that is suitable for any time of the day, there truly is never a bad time to come here.

The inviting, nostalgic atmosphere pays tribute to Hillsborough’s many athletic squads with team photos lining nearly every wall in the restaurant. Speaking of which – who’s that bad man in the top right of that cross-country team picture? Me, circa 2009!

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What I’d do to have that metabolism back…

The restaurant is only open until 6pm daily and 4pm on Sundays, which is probably a good thing, considering my ’round-the-clock hunger. It all works out though – my favorite meal, breakfast, is served all day long!

ometlete

Western Omelette Platter, courtesy of Yelp user David S.

As many of my friends can attest, I am probably the most indecisive person on Earth when it comes to ordering food. My anxiety is only heightened by Catered Affair’s menu, which is intimidatingly large, to say the least. I would bet that many customers feel the same way – see for yourself!

In days of yore, I often found myself ordering from the ‘Cardiac Corner’ section of the menu, which is not for the faint-hearted (no pun intended). A particular favorite of mine was the Grease Trap – bacon, pork roll, sausage, hash browns, salt, pepper & ketchup on a toasted roll. It is exactly what its name implies; my arteries feel clogged just from writing that last sentence.

I do try to eat healthier nowadays, but hey, trying and doing are two different things. Nonetheless, there are still many other sections of Catered Affair’s menu to choose from; perhaps a superfluous amount of sandwich choices, might I add.

Without overwhelming yourself, observe the menu’s legion of components: breakfast sandwiches, omelettes, subs, burgers, paninis, triple deckers, ‘cardiac corner’, ‘healthy choices’ (if you’re into that sort of thing), and finally, my personal favorite – smothered sandwiches.

The “Up in Smoke”, a smothered sandwich rich in both flavor and quality, has become my go-to order as of late. A smothered, smoked turkey sandwich on marble rye with smoked mozzarella melted on top, along with lettuce and sun-dried tomato mayo. For the affordable price of $7, the “Up in Smoke” is indeed perfection on a plate, and also a contender for the [nonexistent] award of Most Photogenic Sandwich. See below!

Perfection

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Though Catered Affair’s offerings are vast, I still find myself ordering the same things time and time again. I am a believer in the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but I really should mix it up once in a while. With that in mind, here are a few other choices which caught my eye:

New York, New YorkHot corned beef and pastrami with swiss cheese, coleslaw & mustard on triple-decker seeded rye. Though it costs $9.50, it looks like a fine option to splurge on. If I can eat it there, I’ll eat it anywhere!

Sopranos Panini: Fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, basil, balsamic, olive oil & seasonings on flatbread. As Tony would say, Salute!

Jumping Jack: Smoked turkey, swiss cheese, black olives, mixed greens & hummus with a dash of balsamic in a soft tortilla. As one of the ‘healthy choice’ menu selections, it is one of many guilt-free indulgences. This is what I should be eating…

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Courtesy of Catered Affair

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the “Letter R” – Catered Affair’s pièce de résistance, if you will. Despite having no numbers to back up my claim, I am 100% confident that it is the most popular item on the menu. Consisting of sliced chicken breast, bacon, melted cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes & herb mayo between an Italian roll, the “Letter R” is about as good as it gets.

There is something special about the sandwich that makes it difficult for me to eat just one. Lucky for me, I was able to get a three-foot version for my high school grad party. Unverified reports estimate that I chomped down at least an entire foot. No regrets.

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Look at that monstrosity!

In addition to running a kick-ass deli, Catered Affair is also well-known throughout the community for their catering services. If you have ever been to a summer BBQ or grad party in Hillsborough, it is a foregone conclusion that Catered Affair was there too. Come to think of it, I might need them for my wedding someday 🙂

For now, all I can do is pay tribute to a restaurant which has been the site of much satisfaction for me throughout my formative years. With my time as a full-time Hillsborough resident soon coming to a close, there are many people, places, and things I will come to miss dearly.

Without a doubt, Catered Affair is at the top of that list.

boromir

 

Euphoric Eat: Divine Curry

There are few things I enjoy more in life than unlimited food, and as a wannabe bon vivant, the buffet is the closest place I can get to being in a state of nirvana.

Although Divine Curry has a wide variety of delicious courses to choose from during dinner hours, surprisingly I have only visited during the all-you-can-eat lunch special. At only $11 a person, the buffet may just be the best deal in all of Hillsborough. Check out their hours here.

Throughout the years, this family-owned Indian restaurant has been the site of much indulgence for me. When I was brought here for the first time, it had truly been love at first bite. Before I discuss the food, though, I have included several simple guidelines to abide by – Divine Decrees, if you will.

Divine Decree #1: Eat a light breakfast and/or exercise before coming here for lunch, as to maximize your appetite. Cost-effective gluttony for the win!

Divine Decree #2: Make sure your schedule is free for the rest of the day if you choose to eat here. Speaking from personal experience, the only activity you will be doing afterwards is napping.

Divine Decree #3: When organizing a plate for yourself, layer the bottom of it with fresh jasmine rice. Saturated by all of the different sauces, the rice then takes on a medley of wonderful flavors.

Divine Decree #4: When the host asks if you would like another serving of naan, say yes, whether you’re full or not. There is always room for more naan, food comas be damned.

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Naturally, I have kept a running ledger on my phone describing all the foods I have eaten at Divine Curry. The restaurant changes their buffet offerings on the regular, so my list is constantly expanding.

In addition to my own notes, I have consulted my good friend and Mumbai native Yash Porecha, who has accompanied me on many trips to this luscious locale. Though he grew up in Dubai, his parents were raised in India and have done a great job exposing him to their cuisine through years of home-cooked Indian meals.

That sense of nostalgia always has Yash eager for a return trip to Divine Curry. “It’s very reminiscent of home-cooked food, and even the food that tastes like its made in a restaurant reminds me of dining experiences at home,” he said. Though he may enter the restaurant feeling homesick, he constantly leaves satiated.

I was a bit flummoxed when trying to pinpoint a favorite, considering the restaurant’s mouthwatering lineup of both vegetarian and meat options, as well as a series of other confections. This lovely platter below provides a most salivating preview of what you can expect at Divine Curry.

Divinations

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Tandoori chicken is one of India’s dearest delicacies, and as a mainstay of Divine Curry’s buffet, is also a favorite of mine. Marinated in yogurt and seasoned with a variety of spices, tandoori chicken smells heavenly, and has a mild, yet tender taste to it.

Another popular item at the buffet is the paneer masala, a vegetarian dish consisting of fresh cottage cheese chunks, coated with a gravy-like puree mixed in with onions, peas, and other assorted vegetables. According to my epicurean expert Yash, “the sweet and savory, creamy consistency pleases the taste buds.”

Fried fixings are another speciality; samosas, pakora, and onion bhajia are some of the little bites which I can never get enough of. Samosas – fried turnovers stuffed with spicy potatoes, are a very common side dish, while the pakora is an exquisite combination of various vegetables, herbs, and spices. As for the onion bhajia, consider it as an Indian variation of the onion ring; Divine Curry makes theirs by thinly slicing their onions, and then lightly frying them in batter. Mmmmm!

Goat korma, lamb saag, and chicken makhni are also just some of the many dishes which I frequently indulge in. Korma, a spicy curried dish made with fried onion paste, has an unmistakable kick to it, while saag is a spinach-based dish cooked with a range of spices. The chicken makhni is also a favorite of mine, due to its elegantly simple and mild buttery taste.

I could probably write a whole book on the many different choices Divine Curry has throughout its diverse menu, but I will spare that effort in the interest of time. Take a look at the rest of the menu here.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention naan bread – the chef d’oeuvre of carbohydrates. With a rich history, this traditional Delhi bread is a staple of many South Asian cuisines. Baked to perfection in a tandoor oven, this first-rate flatbread has a bubbly texture and crisp, smoky flavor.

Naan Factor

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Whether you get it with or without butter is up to you; naan makes for a great accompaniment either way. Make sure to mop up your leftover sauce with it!

If you somehow saved enough room for dessert, the gulab jamun can provide your meal with the proverbial cherry on top. Made with milk solids and dipped in a sweet syrup, they have a spongy texture and a decadent taste.

Kheer is another pleasant treat. It is a flavorful rice pudding with nuts, rose water, and cardamom. This dish always has me coming back for seconds (and sometimes thirds!).

Despite my many trips to the lunch buffet, the menu remains, by and large, unconquered. I only have so much money to spend on food; as I like to tell myself, “when my wallet expands, so too can my culinary horizons.” Nonetheless, the value is often too good to pass up.

For years, Divine Curry has undoubtedly proven itself worthy of its moniker. If you have not eaten here yet, make it a point to do so – it is well worth the hype!

 

Euphoric Eat: Sanctuary

The word ‘sanctuary’ is traditionally defined as a place of safety or sacredness. This Easton Avenue eatery has validated its namesake, and then some.

According to the restaurant’s website, their mission statement is “to be a cut above the rest, and to be a safe haven from fast food.” While there are certainly plenty of artery-clogging choices to indulge in, make no mistake – among their culinary counterparts, they certainly are a cut above the rest.

I’ve been frequenting this magnificent eatery since my days of off-campus living, and besides the blight it has brought to my bank account, I have enjoyed every meal there. From breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to the late-night cravings, Sanctuary’s ever-expanding menu selection has brought me joy with each and every visit.

After recently going through a change in management, as well as some renovations to the restaurant’s interior, Sanctuary feels like a brand new place. Though I do not want to disparage the prior management team, let’s just say that the service is miles ahead of where it used to be. Nonetheless, it is still just as lovable as when it was somewhat of a hole in the wall. Thankfully (or regrettably), it is still open until 2 in the morning on most nights – score one for the munchies!

One thing that has not changed is the quality of the food, which has always been outstanding. Though Sanctuary is known for signature items like its burgers and cheesesteaks, healthy eaters should have no reason to fear. There are plenty of great vegetarian options, chicken entrees, and salads, all of which are reasonably priced. You can download a PDF menu here. All of those choices are available in panini, wrap, or quesadilla form, further adding to the diversity of the menu.

They have also added a new dimension to their menu – ethnic cuisine. Of course, there are plenty of authentic Middle Eastern and Asian places to eat in the Hub City, but given the chance, I would certainly try these international dishes. The chicken tikka dish, a tandoori chicken breast with sautéed onions and peppers, looks particularly appetizing. I hope they make it nice and spicy!

Despite the myriad of healthier options, I always seem to gravitate towards the choices which induce food comas; my favorite items include hearty, if not indigestible meal items. When it comes to unhealthy eating, Sanctuary is rivaled only by the legendary Rutgers grease trucks.

In my opinion, the most illustrious item on Sanctuary’s menu is the buffadilla, which consists of a quesadilla stuffed with fried (or grilled) chicken, french fries, cheddar jack, and spicy buffalo sauce. For only $8, this quintessential quesadilla has long served as one of my go-to meals in all of New Brunswick. See it, in all of its gooey glory, below!

The Almighty Buffadilla

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If your plans include going to the electric chair, perhaps “The Monster” is right for you. The aptly-named cheeseburger is essentially diabetes between buns: THREE beef patties, topped with onion rings, fries, and three different types of cheeses. And of course, bacon. No gastronomic gluttony is complete without such porky perfection.

Personally, I have never eaten it, for the simple fact that I would like to live past the age of 50. It also costs $18, which is actually pretty reasonable – but only if you are trying to feed a family.

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If you managed to make it this far through the review, at this point you have either (A) felt a series of overpowering growling sensations in your stomach, or (B) been thoroughly repulsed by the sheer obscenity of some of the menu options. Fear not, friends. Their frozen treats are the cream of the crop! (pun very much intended)

The uncertainty that comes with deciding whether to order ice cream in a cup or cone is generally a good problem to have. Having to choose from 30+ flavors, however, can be a stressful situation, especially in my case. Brownie Batter? Cookie Dough? Death by Chocolate? Peanut Butter Panic? I could go on and on, but the point is that Sanctuary has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to ice cream.

Cookie Surprise x Brownie Batter

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One of my favorite combos is the Cookie Surprise and Brownie Batter; indeed, a divine pairing of palatable perfection. After doing some mathematical calculations (with the help of Google, of course), I determined that there are nearly 600 different combinations of ice cream you can make. To try them all would be an insurmountable task.

Last but not least, we have the milkshakes. I am definitely not the foremost authority on savoring them; I usually gulp them down like glasses of water, but I’ve had more than my fair share over time. The ice cream to milk ratio in Sanctuary’s shakes is unparalleled, and its smooth taste is the stuff of legend.

With both quantity and quality on its menu, Sanctuary is without a doubt one of my favorite restaurants in the ever-expanding culinary scene of New Brunswick. This eatery has been a staple throughout my eating odyssey at Rutgers and beyond.

Sanctuary may not seem like anything special from the outside, but it is exactly what its name implies – a haven for foodies!

Euphoric Eat: Sahara Restaurant

Lamb is wonderful.

Lamb is wonderful.

I wasn’t planning on writing a review for this place, as I already wrote about a Mediterranean restaurant in a previous post. However, this was some of the best food I’ve eaten in a while, so sharing this experience was necessary.

I booked a reservation for Valentine’s Day, and kept it a secret all week until Kelly and I finally made it to the restaurant on Saturday night. When we got there at around 8:30, it was more packed than a Rutgers bus on a Friday night. Thankfully I planned ahead (what a novel concept!) and we didn’t have to wait too long before being seated.

After reading the scriptures of succulence also known as a menu, the feasting began as we munched on a myriad of delicious appetizers.

And what a feast it was. From the crispy falafel doused in tahini sauce, to the sigara boregi, which are fried rolls of feta and dill, and lastly, the freshly made pita, I was in heaven. OHHHHH THE PITA!

I swear, I might be addicted to this stuff. Kelly had to forcibly remove it from my possession, otherwise I would’ve wolfed it all down.

I was already on cloud nine enjoying my appetizers, when the wait staff made a mistake that turned out to be quite fortuitous for us. The couple next to us ordered a pair of soups, and the server gave them to us by accident. It would be the last time she ever saw those soups again.

I’m the type of guy that likes to eat first and ask questions later, so when she placed them on our table, I went right in–but not before dipping some leftover pita in the soup! It must have been some of sort of creamy lentil broth, but whatever it was, it was terrific!

After our stockpile of savory snacks was finished, out came the main course. Kelly, knowing I am an absolute hog when it comes to finishing other people’s food, decided to order a tilapia dish. I’m not the biggest fan of fish out there, but boy, I had one bite and was humming in delight!

Kelly played it safe and brought the rest home in a takeout box. It appears as if she has developed a resistance to my food-fiending ways. You win this time…

There’s an old adage that states don’t mess with success. This rang true especially for me, because I ordered the same entree I did at Efe’s, the adana kebab. If you’ve seen my Facebook or Instagram lately, that Mediterranean marvel of a picture was indeed my dinner.

I had a difficult time eating it, because like a great movie, you just don’t want it to end. It might have been the best lamb I’ve ever had. There was juiciness in every bite, and the seasoning added a perfect amount of flare to the meat. The sides of rice and couscous were just as tasty!

Sahara wouldn’t go down without a fight though. After paying the bill, we headed straight back to my house, as we were suffering from the worst of ailments: a food coma.

This restaurant is a great venue for special occasions, but it’s not the type of place I’d frequent. The only reason why is because of its price range. Being a college student, you just can’t have 50 dollar dinners all the time.

Other than that, I can’t find a thing wrong with this place. The service is prompt, the staff is friendly, and the atmosphere is great. You gotta treat yourself every now and then, so make Sahara your next stop. Your bank account may be thinner as a result, but you certainly won’t!