Located on the corner of Montgomery and Warren streets, Oddfellows restaurant is a terrific spot for authentic New Orleans flare with an upbeat, fun crowd.
After noticing her restaurant's success in downtown Hoboken, Liz Sterling decided to expand and open another Oddfellows location in September in Jersey City's financial district. Since then, the daytime business community has devoured entrée after entrée and city residents have enjoyed the authentic Mardi Gras atmosphere.
"We offer excellent food to our patrons," Sterling said during an interview last week.
The restaurant is big and consists of a dining area large enough for 55 people. The bar is located in the room next to the dining area and is decorated with anecdotal artifacts like authentic Southern gas lamps. There is a room on the second floor for catered private parties for about 40 to 50 people.
The wait staff is attentive and knowledgeable of the menu.
Oddfellows' top entrees include chicken po' boys, char-grilled, blackened or barbecued with garlic mayonnaise ($8.95); the "Big Easy" burger, a three-quarter pound and char-grilled or blackened on a giant English muffin with jazz fries and homemade slaw ($7.95); pan crisped chicken, a semi boneless half chicken with country cream corn maque choux and lyonnaise red bliss potatoes ($13.95); char-grilled catfish served with pico salsa and a choice of two Louisiana samplers ($14.95); Louisiana crab cakes ($15.95); and blaze stuffed chicken served with young spinach, plump sundried tomatoes and mushrooms, with aged jalapeno-balsamic glaze, garlic mashed potatoes and soul vegetables ($13.95).
"It's Southern hospitality," said Sterling, a native of New Orleans. "A very relaxed atmosphere with great food."
The restaurant's name comes from a New Orleans cemetery. In 1847, the Independent Order of Oddfellows founded a famous cemetery called Oddfellows Rest. In later years, the cemetery would include a busy bus stop that Sterling would pass routinely.
Nevertheless, there's more to the restaurant than a one of a kind Southern charm. There's the delightful, tasty cuisine.
Asparagus and crawfish
I began my meal with a bowl of asparagus soup ($5.95). Recommended by Sterling, the delicious soup was creamy, the asparagus cooked to perfection, and it left me wanting more. The soup selection varies, but the shrimp or crawfish bisque ($5.95) is available all the time. After the soup, I enjoyed a sample of the Oddfellows Rest chicken Caesar ($10.95) with side orders of chicken fingers ($6.95) rolled in crunchy Japanese breadcrumbs. They were lightly fried and came with homemade honey mustard. I strongly suggest the stuffed artichoke peacemaker ($7.95), a must in any New Orleans kitchen, according to Sterling. The artichoke is served with breadcrumbs, garlic and lemon with romano- parmigiano cheese.
I also tried the Louisiana border grilled chicken quesadillas ($7.95). With a whole lot of garlic, a touch of onions and olive oil, these quesadillas are not the usual Mexican standbys; they're completely re-invented to fit the same flavor of the New Orleans tradition. Other appetizers include buffalo shrimp ($8.95); southern fried calamari ($7.95); Cajun popcorn ($8.95); and crab puppies ($7.95).
For the main course I had the hanger steak ($19.95) cooked rare with a side of garlic mashed potatoes. This delicious piece of meat was served in thin slices and drowned in a rich, creamy, and not-too-spicy sauce. I recommend this New Orleans style classic to true steak lovers. I also tried a New Orleans favorite, Andouille cornbread crusted catfish ($15.95). The fish was prepared with brown butter, and came with French cut shoestring potatoes and soul vegetables. Extremely tasty and crisp, the catfish was magnificent. And I tried the large Paneed king cut pork chop and stuffing ($14.95). The pork was pan-fried and came with shrimp-jalapeno cornbread stuffing, caramelized onions, and sweet potato pecan gravy. It also came with a choice of side dish and the portion was big enough for two people.
I was impressed with the selection of entrees ranging from conservative meats to traditional Southern meals. The kitchen staff is not afraid to serve large portions.
For dessert I tried the tasty bananas foster ($4.95) and had a good cup of regular coffee with lots of cream and sugar.
Oddfellows is located on 111 Montgomery St. It is open Sunday through Thursday until 12 a.m., and Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m. Brunch is served on Sundays and all major credit cards are accepted. Their telephone number is (201) 433-6999. q