How Metropolitan Café has remained a posh Freehold hotspot for 15 years
By Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By Amessé Photography
After owning and operating two successful New Jersey restaurants for close to a decade, Rob Kash wanted to expand and bring a new, innovative dining experience to a then-developing section of Freehold. So, together with his business partners, he formulated the blueprints for a lounge-like eatery with a modern menu and edgy decor.
“We owned other establishments locally in the area and watched this location begin to thrive,” Kash said, describing the historic downtown locale where his Metropolitan Café has enjoyed a boon for the past 15 years. “We just knew it was time to open up something exciting and trendy in this part of town, so we did.”
That was 1999. And for Kash and his partner, who both have a long family history in the restaurant business, launching the trendy hotspot was an easy transition.
“My grandparents owned six restaurants at one point, so I basically grew up in the family kitchen,” he said.
Kash initially deviated from that business tradition, going to law school instead. While he was studying to pass the bar exam, there was somehow time enough to open Café Colore in Monmouth County with Joseph Mosco, a buddy he’d been friends with since the second grade.
“Joe came from a restaurant family too,” Kash explained. “His family owned a tavern in New Brunswick for many years.”
Their combined experience made Colore a success, so a few years later they opened another eatery—75 South. Experience at the two locations helped the pair come to the conclusion that a posh, loungey, martini-bar type of eatery would thrive in Freehold.
“[The intent was] to create a diverse menu that was different from the regular fare that’s offered all over Monmouth County,” Kash said.
So, the duo conceived a culinary lineup inspired by the Pacific Rim, including a complete sushi and happy hour bar menu with both Asian and Caribbean influences, and entrees inspired by other far-flung cuisines. The idea was a hit, so much so that in 2004, the pair sold Colore and 75 South and pumped more money into Metro, renovating the space to add another dining room and lounge area.
“Metro was always smaller than our other restaurants, so to me, it was also much more personal,” Kash said. “It’s a very cool, hip, and comfortable atmosphere, a place where we experimented with new foods and interesting specials. It’s where we tried new varietals of wine, too, and launched some of our very best dishes.”
Those dishes include favorites like Sweet and Spicy Calamari and Shrimp, Stuffed Pinwheel Scallops, and Cuban Steak.
The menu is heavy on appetizers, a simple consequence of “how people are eating now,” Kash explained. Items are changed seasonally, about two to three times a year.
The vibe bends towards edgy, but remains quaint.
“I wanted our clientele to be attracted to the space’s look, not distracted by it,” Kash noted. “So the design is fairly organic—lots of natural stone, slate, and mahogany.”
There is a party space on the premises (an upstairs dining room seats up to 50), and every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night there is DJ entertainment. Lounge seating, late night bar snacks, and an elaborate drink menu help set the scene.
“We also feature an extensive martini and specialty drink list,” Kash said “Our staff is trained and educated regularly on wine pairing in order to offer our guests the best service possible. We currently feature more than 20 wines by the glass.”
Metropolitan Café is part of the Great Restaurants Family, which also includes Nonna’s Citi Cucina and Rosalita’s Roadside Cantina, both in Marlboro. Kash and partners also own the catering business On Location, and are in the midst of opening a brick oven Trattoria called Tre in Freehold.
But Metro remains one of the area’s trendiest hotspots.
“This restaurant is and will remain very special to all of us,” Kash concluded.
8 East Main Street, Freehold
Cuisine: Inspired by the Pacific Rim
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday Brunch 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Sunday Dinner 3 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Price: Appetizers $8 – $14
Entrees $21 – $34
All major credit cards accepted
Service: Friendly, professional
Bar: Full bar with a focus on California
wines and a variety of martinis
Parking: Municipal lot nearby,
street parking available
and free valet service on the weekends
Private Parties: Yes