ShopRite – Village Food Garden
483 S Livingston Ave
Livingston, NJ 07039
You could hit a casual dining restaurant, the drive-thru, a sandwich shop, a cafe, the diner, brown-bag it or any other number of options for your lunch but if one grocery store has it their way, you could hit the supermarket. With the popularity of the fresh prepared Foods at Whole Foods Market and the raging success of Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York City, grocery dining could grow to be a relevant dining option. Eating at a grocery store is nothing new but we aren’t talking about the installed Subway or Little Caesars that you might find at a Wal-Mart or the Hot Dogs warmed on an electronic carousel found just past the registers at Costco. This is fresh-made, gourmet, Chef inspired eats that can be eaten on the spot or taken home or work.
At the ShopRite Grocery Store in Livingston, NJ you’ll find just such an experience. In the past you’ve probably come to expect pre-cooked Rotisserie Chickens, pre-packaged Sandwiches and maybe even a Salad Bar but these are more meant as convenience options, not gourmet restaurant style meals. The Livingston ShopRite has these but they also have fresh-made Sushi, Pizza’s, Frozen Yogurt, a Coffee Bar, Hot Wings and more. It’s all located in a part of the store known as the “Village Food Garden,” where you can grab and go, or sit and eat in their dining room. You can even attempt to eat while wheeling around your cart on multi-tasking grocery shopping trip. Maybe this doesn’t seem all that far fetched to you. I also have yet to mention the gourmet Burgers, Shakes and Fries stand they also have.
The friendly folks from Wakefern (ShopRite’s parent company) extended an invite to me to come give the Burgers a try and see for myself. Once I arrived I met up with Thomas Santacroce, Caitlin Broscius and Chef Joseph Zezza who gave me a tour of the Village Food Garden and explained how it all came about. For the sake of this blog however, we are only going to talk about the Burgers, Shakes & Fries stand.
When they were planning the build out the team, as Thomas puts it, “traveled to the certified Angus ranch in Ohio, to experiment with several different blends of Beef, ultimately after a day of cutting and blending product and lots of tasting with a panel of 20, we unanimously selected our blend of 50% Brisket, 25% Short Rib, and 25% Chuck.” However, the Patties don’t come pre-formed and furthermore, the Meat isn’t pre-mixed before it arrives at the Livingston ShopRite. The 8 ounce Burger Patties are made in house, butchered from whole cuts of Meat and then ground right there in the kitchen. The on-premises grinding happens daily and should they happen to not sell through the product, it’s discarded, guaranteeing you a seriously fresh Hamburger.
All Burgers can be ordered to temperature and are then cooked on a flat top griddle. While searing on the griddle, the Patty is domed in an attempt to contain the juices. Once cooked, most Burgers are served on a Brioche roll with your choice of toppings. The most popular Burger on the menu is the standard Cheeseburger. I tried once with Lettuce and Onions and it was pretty good. The Bun was hearty but still soft, the Lettuce was fresh and crispy, the cooked Onions had great sweet flavor and the Cheese was creamy. The patty itself tasted really natural and despite it being over-cooked tasted like a gourmet restaurant Burger.
I also had the popular “Vermont Burger” with “Peter Luger style” thick-cut Apple-Smoked Bacon, Cabot White Cheddar Cheese and Horseradish Sauce. This is a Burger that I would go out of my way to eat again. The Bacon was not only excellent on it’s own but definitely the perfect selection for this Burger. The Cheese was a little sharp (in a good way) and added a nice mouth feel to the Sandwich. ShopRite doesn’t use bottled Horseradish Sauce for the Burgers, it’s all made in house and although they don’t sell it on it’s own, I’d suggest they consider the idea because it was the item that tied all the flavors together.
These are some seriously good Hamburgers. As I said to Thomas, Caitlin & Jeff “I don’t know how you can be around this every day and not eat it!” They agreed it’s tough but then demanded I try some of the Shakes. The Blueberry-Pomegranate is really good if you are into more fruit and sweet flavors but the thick, savory / sweet Nutella Shake is a game ender. I’m not much of a Sweets person but if you are, you will want this … now.
I’m guessing my praise and adoration wasn’t enough to match the excitement the Shoprite team has for the VIllage Food Garden because they sent me home with 2 more Burgers to eat later; “The Old Time Patty Melt” served on Buttery grilled White Toast with Cabot White Cheddar and Gruyere Cheese and the “Blues Burger” served wit Iowa Maytag Blue Cheese and Caramelized Vidalia Onion Marmalade. I ate both of them several hours later, re-heating in my toaster over and I have to say, they were darn tasty.
The Burgers at the Village Food Garden inside the Livingston, NJ ShopRite are worth going out of your way to eat or at least choosing where you should be doing your grocery shopping.
THE BURGER COUNTQUEST
October 1, 2013