You will notice only a couple of poor, half-assed photos for this review. The reason is because I originally wasn’t going to take any at all on my visit to Yesterday’s a few days ago since I thought I had reviewed the place already! I was once a semi-regular, predating my food blogging days. Yet somehow, I thought I had previously written about the long-time Hazlet staple on this blog. Upon checking today, it appears that I have not, and so I scrambled to find the two pictures you will see below. When my dad was alive, our family dined here at least once a month for years. He loved it. I always enjoyed it too, but at one point (before he passed away, even) Young Greg got so sick of it and said he would never go back again! After my dad died, that sentiment was sealed because 1) I had enough and 2) it would bring back too many memories. Well, fast-forward to last week. Lo and behold, I found myself having dinner with Justin, my mom, and grandma at…Yesterday’s.
I don’t know how it happened, but it did. Yesterday’s is a place that had not changed much in their many decades of operation with the exception of a fire about 10 years ago that gutted the establishment and caused them to do a complete renovation. I actually liked the original interior better—it was darker, cozier, and more “old timey”. While today’s incarnation is more modern and clean, it is also more sterile. But that is neither here nor there. The Italian-leaning menu is exactly the same, the salad bar remains, drink prices are cheap (especially for the area), and I struggled to find that their food prices had gone up. In the four or so years since my last visit, it was like no time had lapsed at all.
With portions of a decent size and the salad bar included with every entree, there never was or will be reason to order an appetizer. That would just be too much food. The salad bar itself includes all the usuals, but some really good potato and macaroni salads as well, fresh rolls, two different kinds of soup (it was cream of broccoli and chicken rice on our visit), and mussels marinara. To be honest, one could make a meal just out of constant trips to this feature which is nearly extinct from all restaurants in New Jersey. It was a nice trip down memory lane.
For my entree, I got the Pork Chop Murphy, Justin had Chicken Cordon Bleu in mushroom gravy, mom went with chicken scampi, and my grandma had one of the specials which included chicken, artichokes, and other veggies in a sauce (Tuscan Chicken I think it was called). All entrees came with a choice of a side of pasta or potato (mine was cooked with potato already). As the plates were sat down, I chuckled to myself— mom always used to get the scampi, and it looked exactly the same. Justin’s chicken, which I never ordered, I had seen pass the table several times over the years, and it looked the same. My meal, however, was completely new to me. I must say it was well-executed: there were two large, grilled pork chops, a ton of hot peppers, onions, and crispy potatoes. The sauce was flavorful, and there was just enough heat from those peppers. I sat there pleasantly surprised, but I could not finish it since I was already halfway full from the salad bar.
My mom and grandma had no complaints about their meals, but Justin thought his was merely edible and not something he would order again—he said the gravy was pointless and appeared to be out of a jar. I tried it, and while I appreciated the amount of mushrooms they gave him, the meal itself fell flat as very cheaply assembled and boring (the antithesis to my excellent pork chops). It knocked the final score down just a notch. As for drinks, I had a gin martini which was $6 (and managed to be cheaper than Justin’s can of White Claw), my grandma had a Budweiser which was $3.25, and my mom’s glass of wine was only $5.50. Hell, with those prices, I may just come back for a few drinks and hit that salad bar all night.
If there is one thing that has changed with Yesterday’s, it is the “feel” when you first walk in (you enter through the bar area). There was an almost Ader’s-like vibe that we were “outsiders” coming in to a private club. I counted no less than four people actually turning around on their bar stools to look at us, and pretty much the same thing on the way out. This was not the same case in the dining room, so I guess the bar has their regulars who feel inclined to eye up any newbies entering their kingdom. How ironic that we used to be regular ourselves, eating there once or twice a month for the nearly 25 years we lived in Hazlet.
Last paragraph aside, this was very much a positive experience and I would definitely return. Maybe the hiatus was needed so that I could come in with a fresh outlook. Be sure, there were plenty of memories which came back during our time here, but for the most part, it was a chance to review Yesterday’s with a clean slate. I will give them a 3.5 out of 5 stars for now, with a chance to climb higher. With so many dining changes constantly churning in our area, it is nice to see one place trudging on through like it always has.
Yesterday’s Restaurant is located at 3153 Route 35 in Hazlet, NJ.