A NEW BRUNSWICK STEAKHOUSE CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF RARE SUCCESS IN THE INDUSTRY

BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY

Matthew Terranova is both passionate and particular about food. He says emphatically, for example, that a good piece of beef must be properly prepared: dry aged and rubbed in a simple but luscious combination of sea salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs, then seared on a 1,200°F cast iron grill. After owning and operating a successful steakhouse in New Brunswick for the past 10 years, you might say the seasoned restaurateur has this formula down to a science.

“I owned East Brunswick Fish Market on route 18 in East Brunswick for 34 years. I handpicked all my seafood on a daily basis at the Fulton Street fish market in Manhattan,” he recalled. “After working in this area and providing fresh fish for so many of the restaurants here, I knew what New Brunswick needed was a good chophouse.”

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Terranova scouted out all available possible sites for his new restaurant before finding an ideal location at 85 Church Street. It was in an up and coming area, located in a theater district, near a courthouse, and in close proximity to Johnson & Johnson’s corporate headquarters. It was perfect.

“When I found it, the site had recently housed another restaurant, Gables,” he said. “Going back to its original heyday, the location was home to the Raritan River Club, which was a well-known and very successful operation.”

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Terranova set about restoring that success. “We completely renovated the space, from the ceiling to the ground,” he noted. “We took everything out, floated a new Brazilian cherry wood floor, and added all new finishes. We wanted to make it a real rustic steakhouse, with a lot of wood, mahogany, and brass. We added high ceilings and beautiful fireplaces. Ten years later, and our customers still can’t say enough about the ambience and atmosphere that we have created here.”
Terranova, of course, placed great emphasis on the menu for his new steakhouse, and hired Chef Brian Karluk to help design the food lineup. The pair ate at restaurants throughout New Brunswick to determine what the town was missing.

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“New Brunswick is the corporate headquarters of Johnson & Johnson and home to several other big businesses,” Karluk said. “What stood out to us was the abundance of all of this corporate business…and not one steakhouse in town? Our point was to bring high quality steak and seafood to this area and do it with soul.”

That soul includes appetizers like Black Truffle Burrata, a Jumbo Lump Crab Martini, Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese, and bowls of hearty Lobster Bisque. There are nine different cuts of beef on the menu, including a dry aged Delmonico, a Cowboy Ribeye, and a bone in Tomahawk Chop. Á la carte side dishes include Yukon mashed potatoes, Vidalia onion rings, and Lobster Mac n Cheese. There’s also a raw bar and chilled seafood towers, each ingredient handpicked by Terranova himself.

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“Steakhouse 85 is a 21st century rendition of the classic American steakhouse,” Terranova said. “The menu is comprised of fresh and inspiring modern day interpretations of classic American cuisine, served alongside the traditional steakhouse dishes we all know and love. I have a background in seafood that was my niche for almost 40 years so I take great pride in pairing all of our steaks with the right, traditional seafood additions.”

At the bar there are plenty of craft cocktails and a Wine Spectator award winning wine list. The restaurant’s featured cocktails include a Smoked Manhattan (a combination of Clyde May Alabama whiskey, Ardbeg 10 year old Scotch, sweet vermouth, and angostura bitters served in a cedar smoked glass), Out of the Ashes (Volcan Blanco Tequila, roasted piquillo pepper puree, smoked chile bitters, agave nectar, and fresh lime, served in a glass rimmed with applewood smoked sea salt), and the Pineapple Cosmopolitan a blend of pineapple infused vodka, cranberry, pineapple, and fresh lime juice.

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“We work hard at creating a dining experience for each and every one of our guests,” Terranova said.

That experience includes a Happy Hour Monday through Friday that features $1 Blue Point oysters and deals on beer, wine, and hand crafted cocktails. A “Date Night” prix fixe dinner for two is also available Monday and Friday and includes two starters, two entrees, a side to split, and two desserts. A $25 bottle of wine from the restaurant’s “short list” selection is also part of the special. On Sunday, bottles of wine are half price, and Steakhouse 85 features live jazz performances by local musicians Friday and Saturday nights. Regular performers include trios led by John Bianculli, David Leonhardt, Louis Pettinelli, Dan DeChellis, Dre Barnes, Joe Brown, and Dominic Palombi.

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“There’s always something happening here; we offer a little something for everyone,” Terranova said.

And while many guests are first attracted to the restaurant by the entertainment and specials, what they come back for is the food. “Quality steak and wonderful service are the focus,” Terranova said. “We work with only the finest ingredients to serve a meal our clients will never forget.”

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Steakhouse 85
85 Church Street, New Brunswick 732.247.8585 /
steakhouse85.com