There are some places you feel good just walking into, even if you and your pals roar up on V-Twins and dress in biker regalia, and one of those places is Artisan's on Hooper Ave. in Toms River. There's a friendly attitude that permeates the place, from greeters like Courtney and Heidi, to managers like Sam, and to waitstaff like Chris. And when Chef Extraordinaire Steve Farley comes out from the Wizard's Workshop he calls a kitchen, that's just icing on the cake. And the cake hasn't even made its appearance yet. Or the beer.
Steve Farley, who's been titillating taste buds at Artisan's for many moons, especially during those wild and crazy Oktoberfest Beer Dinners he puts on each year, set us up in the Private Cigar Room, with a widescreen TV, plush chairs, a walk-in cigar humidor and all the accoutrements of a fine gentlemen's club. He brought out a gourmet pizza (see the photos at right) that was comprised of Boursin cheese, a host of secret spices and special potatos that were sliced thinner than Big Paulie sliced the garlic in Goodfellas while the fellas were in stir. To say it was delicious doesn't do it justice.
And it just happened to go perfectly with the house Maibock beer, brewed expertly on premises by Die Brewmeister himself, Herr Hoffman. Malty, balanced nicely with a hint of sweetness, maibocks are brewed especially for the spring season, and this one matched up very well with Steve's pizza. It actually rivaled my favorite maibock, Einbecker, and if I hadn't been two-wheeling it, I'd have brought home a growler or ten.
But why is Artisan's such a comfortable place to dine and quaff? Simple. It starts from the top. The owners, two brothers named Pete (long story) insist on making the entire Artisan's experience memorable for anyone who crosses their threshold. If you happen to catch them in house, say hello to them, and tell them the PubScout sent you. When they stop laughing, you can ask them about their names.
For a central Jersey biker like me, it's a fifty-plus mile run down the slab known as the GSP, but for folks in Ocean and Monmouth counties, especially at the Jersey Shore, it's a treasure waiting to be discovered if you haven't already. Let's just hope that when they return to Seaside next season to film, the "supercafoni "from the TV show Jersey Shore doesn't discover it.
Although the Cigar Room would be a good place for Ronnie and Sammi to fight in.
Or the dumpster out back, if Snooki's not in it.