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Fat Guy

Baumgart's Cafe, Englewood

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"Welcome to Baumgart's Cafe . . . where International cooking satisfies your dining needs . . . Come enjoy the variety of delicacy from our multi-national menu, from sesame chicken, pastrami, and homemade ice cream in our friendly, '50s soda fountain ambiance."

I did a search for Baumgart's Cafe and found 24 threads referencing it, including Tommy's writeup of the branch in Ridgewood and several threads on health-code violations, but I was unable to find a bona fide Baumgart's Cafe, Englewood, thread. So here it is.

As all New Jerseyans know, Baumgart's is an Art Deco soda fountain and luncheonette that is now a Chinese/American restaurant. The soda fountain still operates, and many luncheonette-type dishes are still available especially at breakfast and lunch. My friend and I were driving towards Manhattan's Chinatown when he said, "You know, you've got to see this place in Englewood . . .," so we turned around and headed up to the GWB and out to Englewood.

The food was mixed. The three dishes that were excellent were: 1) Jumbo prawns -- really jumbo, like the size of friggin's lobsters; superb specimens; four in the order, deep fried, served standing up in a pool of reddish Cantonese-restaurant sauce from back in the day; 2) Spare ribs -- the best I've had in recent memory, very high quality and meaty, cooked with patience; 3) Small prawns and scallops with a ton of basil. There were also some poor dishes, like the crispy sesame beef which was cloying as well as fatty to the point of being inedible, and some dumplings that tasted like nothing.

The best part of the meal, though, was dessert. Why doesn't every Chinese restaurant have an old-style soda fountain? A strawberry shake and a chocolate sundae were the best Chinese-restaurant desserts I've ever had. They complemented the food so well it was hard to believe.

It's BYO, but there's a store right across the street that sells Tsing Tao.

Baumgart's Cafe

45 E. Palisade Avenue

Englewood, NJ 07631

tel: 201.569.6267

fax: 201.569.1709

BaumgartsCafe.com


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Interesting. I've lived in the area for 2 plus years and yet I've never been to Baumgarts. We just keep eating at all the serious Chinese places, like China 46.

And you went to Jersey and DIDN'T invite us? Bad boy.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I think if you search a little more extensively you'll find Tommy, Nick Gatti, and myself taking various jabs at Baumgart's in all sorts of diverse threads. Personally, I don't think their ice cream or desserts are anything special in and of themselves, but then again, the whole 50's retro style is largely wasted on me (no nostalgia) and I can certainly concede that the desserts are likely better than what most Chinese restaurants offer.

I've never had an actual meal there, so maybe the expectation of Baumgart's as being a good destination for dessert was a bit too high on the few occassions I've been there (meaning both locations combined... I think two times at each). Maybe I'll give it a shot for dinner some day, but it's hard to do with Saigon Republic and Benny's both on the same street there.

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IMO, this place is WAY over-rated as a chinese restaurant. I used to get their chicken salad sandwiches quite often when i worked in the area and they were good, but the chinese food is 'blah' at best.

With my glaring review, i will admit that they do have a following.

If you're in the area, you'd do better at the Jackson Hole down the road on Grand Ave. (although the Preslow's would sooner recommend Benny's across the street)

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Of course we would (I'll assume that you meant us, even with the "typo"). Bennies is a great place. Jackson Hole is OK, but we've grown tired of the huge messy steam grilled burgers. They do have good onion rings though.

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IMHO, Baumgart's does not succeed either as a Chinese restaurant, nor as an Ice Cream/Breakfast luncheonette. Also, at $4.25 for 2 plain eggs, no meat, they are WAAYY overpriced!! Chinese selections are also overpriced and very ordinary. With Cosi next door now, they might have a serious challenge to their "dessert crowd". The only positive about Baumgart's is the Art Deco/old Ice Cream parlor ambience.

P.S. My favorite place for breakfast and burgers in Bergen is Louies Charcoal Pit, on Cedar Lane in Teaneck. Great eggs and home fries, very good char-broil burgers. Basically a GOOD storefront Greek diner.

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Every time I pass by this place, it is packed to the gills. Folks have told me that its MO as an Ice Cream Parlor/luncheonette/chinese resto does not succeed on any of those counts. Mediocre ice cream, way overpriced sandwiches/eggs, and ordinary (and overpriced) chinese selections. Why is it so crowded?

And what about their expanded branches in Ridgewood and Edgewater? Same scoop?

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Every time I pass by this place, it is packed to the gills.  Folks have told me that its MO as an Ice Cream Parlor/luncheonette/chinese resto does not succeed on any of those counts.  Mediocre ice cream, way overpriced sandwiches/eggs, and ordinary (and overpriced) chinese selections.  Why is it so crowded? 

And what about their expanded branches in Ridgewood and Edgewater?  Same scoop?

it's baffling that mediocre restaurants do great business. :blink:

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P.S. My favorite place for breakfast and burgers in Bergen is Louies Charcoal Pit, on Cedar Lane in Teaneck.  Great eggs and home fries, very good char-broil burgers.  Basically a GOOD storefront Greek diner.

Ditto for breakfast food.

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I am a big fan of this place - I live very close to the Englewood location & eat there at least once weekly & also get delivery often.

The food is consistantly good - the service super speedy & they are great with kids.

The addition of sushi in the last year is a big plus & the quality is great.

You cant beat the varied selections

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it's baffling that mediocre restaurants do great business. :blink:

Yes, for whatever reasons this place has it's diehards, it is mystifying! The ambience certainly is between a zero and a one; the breakfast-sandwich selections are expensive and mediocre. Certainly, with the plethora of diners and greasy spoon places in Bergen, the prices and quality of that type of food is far better. The chinese food isn't much better. At close to $20 for an entree, the food is neither memorable nor distinctive. I've had better at some of the takeouts, believe it or not. And don't forget, China 46 is only 10 minutes away.

But the crowds still pour in... :huh:

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It isn't that bad a restaurant, Menton. Actually for American-style Chinese its pretty decent, just dated and not to my personal taste. For that style of americanized-fancy-upper middle class-Jewish audience Chinese I prefer a place like Mr. Chu or Bill and Harry's on RT 10 in East Hanover. Kuma in Englewood used to be decent but I haven't been there in a long time. There's much worse restaurants in Englewood than Baumgarts you could end up in. The ice cream is also made inhouse and is pretty good.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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It isn't that bad a restaurant, Menton. Actually for American-style Chinese its pretty decent, just dated and not to my personal taste. For that style of americanized-fancy-upper middle class-Jewish audience Chinese I prefer a place like Mr. Chu or Bill and Harry's on RT 10 in East Hanover. Kuma in Englewood used to be decent but I haven't been there in a long time. There's much worse restaurants in Englewood than Baumgarts you could end up in. The ice cream is also made inhouse and is pretty good.

Disagree. Firstly, most of the people I know that frequent the place are Christians. I don't recall anything on the menu as Jewish. "Decent" is about the kindest thing you can say about the place. It's ugly, noisy, ordinary food, and expensive. And there are much, much better choices right in the immediate area.

P.S. Ben & Jerry's is FAR superior Ice Cream, IMHO, right across the street!

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Well, I didnt mean Jewish in terms of them having actual food items that we perceive as Jewish. I mean a form of American Chinese that people who are Jewish are most familiar with.

Ben and Jerrys has become totally commercialized in the last 10 years. Its good, but then again, you have Cold Stone Creamery down the block as well. If you're going to eat at Baumgarts, you might as well have the ice cream for the full experience.

Baumgarts hardly deserves scorn, they are a landmark business that has been in Englewood forever. Theres plenty of other businesses in that town that flat out shouldn't be in the business of serving food to people. I'm willing to cut Baumgarts a lot of slack.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Well, I didnt mean Jewish in terms of them having actual food items that we perceive as Jewish. I mean a form of American Chinese that people who are Jewish are most familiar with.

Could you please elaborate on this statement? I do not understand it at all.

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I can't elaborate on it because if you don't understand it, you're not going to. I grew up in New York, specifically Queens. There are a lot of American Chinese-type restaurants very similar to Baumgarts, particularly in the Flushing and Fresh Meadows / Union Turnpike strip which pretty much entirely cater to Jewish clientele. This is not a racist or anti semetic statement on my part, this simply just is what it is because of the demographics of those towns, or at least it was in the 1970s. I believe Brooklyn once also had a number of these, as did the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Baumgarts strikes me exactly as this kind of place, but your mileage may very.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Well, I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, and there were certainly Chinese restaurants, and possibly a good portion of the clientele was Jewish. But there were also the SAME types of Chinese restaurants in Corona, Middle Village, Jackson Heights, and Jamaica and their clientele was probably not Jewish.

Baumgart's is certainly a unique animal, with its combination of coffee shop/Chinese and sushi. They bill themselves as "modern chinese" to get away from the Americanized "egg-roll fried rice, egg foo young" appearance associated with the Chinese restos of the 60s and 70s, I suppose. I never noticed anything about Baumgart's, as far as menu or clientele, that gives the feeling of appealing to Jews in any way over any other ethnicities. (Englewood itself is about 15% Jewish)

Jews may like Chinese food, but so does everyone else.

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Well, I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, and there were certainly Chinese restaurants, and possibly a good portion of the clientele was Jewish.  But there were also the SAME types of Chinese restaurants in Corona, Middle Village, Jackson Heights, and Jamaica and their clientele was probably not Jewish. 

Baumgart's is certainly a unique animal, with its combination of coffee shop/Chinese and sushi.  They bill themselves as "modern chinese" to get away from the Americanized "egg-roll  fried rice, egg foo young" appearance associated with the Chinese restos of the 60s and 70s, I suppose.  I never noticed anything about Baumgart's, as far as menu or clientele, that gives the feeling of appealing to Jews in any way over any other ethnicities.  (Englewood itself is about 15% Jewish)

Jews may like Chinese food, but so does everyone else.

Jason, Over time I have often disagreed with your assessments of restaurants and I must fully agree with Menton1 about Baumgart's. IMHO it caters to no one that knows anything about Chinese food (Think China 46) or for that matter to any of the other items on their menu besides possibly a hamburger or grilled cheese sandwich. Even their ice cream is a far cry from what it was years ago. As far as your statement about Chinese, Jewish I count that as totally idiotic and refuse even to debate that with you. You say that Menton1 could not understand what you were trying to say. Neither, I believe, can anyone else and many people will find it insulting.


Edited by Hank (log)

Hank

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IMHO it caters to no one that knows anything about Chinese food (Think China 46)

This may sound like a foreign concept to you, but sometimes, people don't want to eat "authentic" regional-style Chinese food, myself included. My choice for American-style Chinese probably wouldn't be Baumgarts, but I have no real beef with the restaurant per se.

As far as your statement about Chinese, Jewish I count that as totally idiotic and refuse even to debate that with you.

I think you're misinterpreting what I said.

You say that Menton1 could not understand what you were trying to say

I know damn well he understands what I am trying to say, only because I know Menton grew up in New York and approximately how old he is because I've met him in person. I'm also being facetious because I have no desire to play this sort of "Why, I don't know what you mean" game. If you're ascribing some sort of anti-semetic undertone to my message, it just ain't there. There are entire communities in Queens and Brooklyn which were, at one point not too long ago, 90 percent Jewish, and their restaurants catered to those people. That may not be the case in those communities today, but Baumgarts serves Chinese food that is very much like that, although they have expanded into Thai-like stuff as well.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The whole concept of Jewish people having an affinity for Chinese food isn't really anything new. I think at least some of it has to do with the fact that we have nowhere else to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve.

Article from CNN talking about Christmas Eve dinner.

Another article "Safe Treyf": New York Jews and Chinese Food

We examine the way that Jews who immigrated from Eastern Europe to New York City, and especially their children and grandchildren, have incorporated Chinese restaurant food into their new Jewish-American culture. Indeed, New York Jews love Chinese restaurant food so much that they have made it a second cuisine.

From Mimi Sheraton in the above article:

"the longstanding love affair Jews have had with Chinese food (particularly the slightly over cooked, mild-flavored Cantonese specialties) was a well-known fact of the restaurant business in Flatbush fifty years ago."

Again, this is not a revolutionary or obscure concept.


Edited by jesteinf (log)

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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I know damn well he understands what I am trying to say

Well, aside from being a mind reader, I don't know how you can say that. And it seems that I and several others still don't understand.

All I am gathering from your statements is that the patrons of restaurants in Jewish neighborhoods may happen to have similar ethnic breakdowns as the neighborhood itself. Not a revelation. The exact same type of Chinese restaurant existed in non-Jewish neighborhoods in Queens also, though.

Baumgart's is actually nothing like those Chinese places, anyway. It actually eschews being compared to them with its "modern chinese" moniker.

Everyone, Jews, Christians, Arabs, etc., likes Chinese food. I know some South Americans who are bonkers over it. But I still haven't a clue what you mean about "Jewish audience". Have you surveyed Baumgart's customers?

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Not recently. But the fact its a Chinese restaurant named "Baumgarts" may provide some insight.

None at all. The original name was Baumgart's, a German fellow, and it had NO chinese food. It was a luncheonette-type place. When the place changed owners, they kept the name.

You aren't saying that luncheonettes have a "Jewish audience" also, are you?

P.S. Does anyone really care about the religion or ethnicity of the patrons? I certainly don't. The food is still mediocre!

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