The Universe Took Care of This One

You know it has to be a good story to bring me out of blogging “retirement”. Well, I am back. At least for a little while. During this six month hiatus, I have still been hitting new restaurants and cooking new meals, which have been featured over on my Instagram. I suppose that is enough to get this blog going again. Let’s give it a shot. But first, an almost miraculous story:

It was day three of my birthday celebration (I turned the big 3-0 this year) and mom wanted to take Justin and I out. He and I had spent the previous two days in New Hope, PA and had a wonderful time. On this evening, I chose to go to Portuguese Manor in Perth Amboy. This place was the first restaurant I chose to review on this blog, and have written several posts about it over the years. I’ve been going there since I was probably 10 years old. My parents discovered it in the days of the Entertainment Card. Who remembers that? It is my favorite restaurant (and very special to my late father and our family) and I’ve waited longer than a year to finally go again.

Well, we get there and it’s new owners, a new menu, and new staff (except for just one waiter– one of the originals from Portuguese Manor). We discover food is not even Portuguese anymore. I don’t know what it is. But it’s virtually destroyed. It was unrecognizable and not fitting of what the establishment once was. Fettuccine Alfredo and Mozzarella sticks??? Mofongo???

The charm is gone and I was devastated. Devastated. My night was ruined. Nostalgia and all those memories gone. Both mom and Justin sensed my frustration– it was the kind that took my breath away. They both nudged me and said, “We don’t have to stay here”. And so we did the unthinkable and walked out, another part of my life and childhood gone. I literally wanted to cry. So we head to nearby Costa Verde for similar food and sit in the bar area. No one came over for a half hour, so we get up again and move to the dining room. I was ready to just go home at this point.

Lo and behold our waiter this evening IS OUR OLD WAITER FROM PORTUGUESE MANOR. This man served us every single visit there for 20 years! I cannot tell you how happy seeing this guy made me. I needed a picture. Every special occasion dinner for my life, he was there. After my dad passed, he talked with my mom and I for a half hour about what a great guy he was. Just this moment alone made my birthday complete. This was surreal! It was like the universe handed me a gift. I saw him walking to our table and my brain could not comprehend it.

Obligatory dinner pics, even though food is not even the focal point anymore.: I had chicken in garlic sauce (usually I would get a steak but had one the other night and was not in the mood for red meat), Justin had broiled shrimp, mom had red snapper. Appetizer was garlic shrimp.

Garlic Shrimp
Broiled shrimp.
Red snapper.
Chicken in garlic.
Gin Martini
Espresso Martini

Midway through our dinner, Justin said he was getting up to go to the bathroom. Instead, he secretly went to our waiter to tell him it was my birthday. The waiter said he already knew and had a dessert picked out (Tartufo, which we always ordered at Portuguese Manor). So after an embarrassing “Happy Birthday!” blasting over the loudspeaker, the evening was complete. I could have killed him!

The night went from absolutely ruined to seeing this guy’s face and all of a sudden everything was fine and I was “home”. Words cannot describe this journey the universe took me on. In just the matter of an hour, there was anticipation, excitement, disappointment, sadness, frustration, and finally elation and happiness.

Thank you for indulging in this story if you’ve made it this far.

PS: I advise fans of the old Portuguese Manor to keep your memories in your heart and stay far, far away. Not to tell people to avoid a business, especially in these times, but with a menu like that, they should have changed the name of the restaurant. I feel like there is a bit of deception involved, in keeping a well-established brand and then planting a new very non-Portuguese menu in its place.

According to a note at the bottom of one of the menu pages, it appears the restaurant is being operated by the Don Manuel Restaurant Group. While I actually am a fan of Don Manuel and have eaten there several times, there is a difference between that kind of restaurant and what Portuguese Manor was and should remain. Either change the name or knock off the false advertising. I would have rather pulled up and seen a “Closed” sign hanging from the door.

The bar and lounge area has also totally been redone, with all the original woodwork removed. Upon seeing this, while I was not a fan of the remodel, I had temporary excitement that the owners were trying to usher this legendary establishment into a new era. Instead, they have destroyed it. My last several visits there, I left wondering, “Is this the last time?” Now I know it is. I will be taking my business to Costa Verde from now on, when I have a craving for this kind of food.

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