I was never old enough to fully appreciate the Eurasian Eatery, which was located on Monmouth Street in Red Bank. I feel like I ate there a lot as a child with my parents. They closed when I was in my late teens. It was a small, cozy restaurant which was ahead of its time in terms of the food they offered. An odd mix containing items on the menu ranging from Hungarian goulash and Polish pierogies to Middle Eastern-style Hummus, French crudite, and Asian stir-fry. There were only one or two things young me would order off the menu before I started to become more adventurous. I remember this dish with chicken and grilled onions tossed in a thick brown gravy and served over a massive rice patty, which was unlike anything I had ever eaten at that time, or even now for that matter.
There was a health consciousness here. The food was flavorful and healthy in an unwavering natural sense without sacrificing taste. Well, not everything. Those pierogies were pan-fried to a crisp in butter and served with sour cream on the side. But plenty of options were vegan or vegetarian, and if they weren’t, they would find some substitute for you. In speaking of this vegan food, these were not dishes containing mock meats or some disgusting blending of God-knows-what just for the sake of being vegan, but actual, well-crafted cuisine. It was not medicinal. Even myself, an avowed carnivore could not help but be in awe with what this place could do with natural, organic, plant-based ingredients. For desserts, they had an extensive selection of fresh-baked cakes and brownies, and a large assortment of coffees and teas. You would get your own mini pot when you ordered one.
In a way, I want to say the Eurasian Eatery was hipster before hipsters even existed. They were ahead of their time. The customer base was generally young, but all ages could be seen eating there. The proprietor of the business, however, was not some young, up-and-coming rock-star in the culinary world, but a cute, little old Asian lady who was probably knocking on 80. She must have been something back in the day. By the time we were customers, she was relegated to standing by the window into the kitchen, assembling orders and supervising the chef in the back. It was adorable. She would greet everyone with a smile and a bow her head gently as they entered.
But as all things, it came to an end. I cannot even give you the exact year, maybe around 2007. At some point, she sold the business to a young couple. They kept most of the menu, but the portions got smaller, the prices went up. They had a run for a few more years, but after only one or two visits under the new ownership, we never went back. But it is not to be forgotten after more than two decades in business. I am sure there is still a cult following out there who remember the Eurasian Eatery. Many a nights we waited at length for a table, and being in such close proximity to the Count Basie Theater, they had a gold mine there. It’s just unfortunate that nothing can last forever. I liked it back then, but would have loved it now.