This review was originally in the Ramapo News–and was our first review ever! Enjoy the nostalgia.
Jess: Rumor is, a guy left Kinchely’s Tavern in the ‘80s due to his girlfriend, a waitress there, cheating on him with the guy who cuts the veggies. Found ‘em in the back bent over a container of ricotta. Disgruntled he took the secret bar pie recipe to Nellie’s Place, a similar restaurant in Waldwick, NJ. The pizza there is pretty much the same, so it’s a good place to check out when the long lines and dodgy atmosphere of Kinchley’s isn’t what you’re into.
James: That’s probably just a fabrication of an overactive imagination, but the pizza’s pretty similar. We ordered 2 bar pies—a standard cheese and the Nellie’s special. The cheese had nice, bright tomato sauce with rich cheese. I’d say it was every bit as good as Kinchley’s’ except that it wasn’t as crisp. I want my thin crust pizza one step below a Wheat Thin, and the only real nit-pick on the pizza was that it wasn’t quite there.
Jess: The Nellie’s special is special, for sure. It’s onion, green pepper, pepperoni, bacon, meatball, black olive, mushrooms and optional anchovies, with a rather thick layer of broccoli. This weighed down the thin crust. I think of bar pies as something for happy drunks to eat that won’t slow them down with things like digestion and excess chewing. The two pies, along with appetizers, would be plenty of food for a party of four (or enjoyed properly, two drunks).
James: The Special was amazingly balanced. Somehow all the flavors intermixed perfectly, even the anchovies, to taste like an entire gourmet meal on a pie. I washed mine down with a Guinness. Nellie’s pulls an exceptional one, with the proper nitrogen mix that creates small bubbles and a foamy head thick enough to float a bottle cap on. The beer and wine selection otherwise was standard for this area in prices and selection.
Jess: They have a salad bar, but it’s overpriced. The dressed salads such as pasta and potato are made in house, which is made obvious by their blandness. Another issue is that their dressings aren’t labeled, which could cause confusion. On the bright side, all the vegetables are crisp and fresh and the dinner rolls are soft and fluffy, plus their butter is kept at the perfect temperature for maximum spreadability.
Along with the salad, our first course included an above average appetizer sampler and the wonderfully strange, confusing Elkin-style wings.
James: The wings were oddly amazing. I don’t really know how to put into words what they tasted like, and we were all thrown off as to what spices were actually on them. They were the best non-hot red sauce type wings I’ve ever had; they were perfectly crisp, had a strong chicken flavor, and a rich dusting of tangy spice. They came with a side of lemon to squeeze on which added an extra punch. It was sort of like the Nellie’s Special pie in the flavor department, in that it has a rich and slightly unexpected taste to them that leaves you surprised and happy when it blends together perfectly on the taste buds.
Jess: The wings were happiness. They’re perfect for ordering when you’re with one of your jerk friends whose heart will explode if they get within five- hundred feet of a jalapeño. They were devoured before we even got to the entirely serviceable appetizer sampler, which contained fried ravioli, stuffed clams, mozzarella sticks, and potato skins. The only problem with it was that the potato skins were a little bit too greasy and the bacon distribution wasn’t exactly even.
James: Nothing makes my blood boil more than uneven bacon distribution. I’d start a fight over less. Not that my blood would boil at Nellie’s—the staff was very friendly, even entertaining to chat with. It seems like the kind of place that gets a lot of easy going regulars.
Jess: Our waiter was awesome. He even did a quick check for allergies when I ordered the brownie sundae as a dessert. It was the normal brownie sundae and was averagely delicious.
James: Tucked away on the menu’s side bar was an adventure I couldn’t pass up: “Eric’s Special Coffee: Limit Two Per Customer.” To me, that sounded like a dare. The after dinner drink was the best spiked coffee I have ever had, more of a boozy caffeinated dessert really. Served in a stemmed glass, the drink was creamy, sharp, and had an aftertaste of almonds and light whiskey. Heed the two per customer warning:
I was in no state to drive after one.
Bottom Line: The pizza isn’t quite as good as Kinchley’s, but the atmosphere and other menu options evens it out. If you want an atmosphere that is a little less “smoky,” or the Kinchley’s line is too long, drive the extra 15 minutes to Waldwick for Nellie’s Place.
9 Franklin Turnpike
Waldwick, NJ 07463
College Student Friendly: B+
By Jess Dutchmann and James Houde, Staff Writers for the Ramapo News