Halsey Street in Newark has made way for Elbow Room, a restaurant that got its start in comfort food concoctions right across the Hudson River, thanks to New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and former Giant Michael Strahan. Elbow Room, located at 41 Halsey Street, is close to downtown attractions, such as train stations, NJPAC and the Prudential Center.
The casual corner joint, near Bleeker Street, recreates down-home macaroni and cheese using kicked-up flavors, like fiery buffalo chicken macaroni with Black River blue cheese and Frank's hot sauce, and heart-stopping poutine mac with short rib gravy, Yukon french fries and fresh cheese curds.
Restaurateur Joel Bolden celebrated Tuesday the grand opening of Elbow Room's second location in Newark, after opening the first at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
"I wanted to be at the forefront of the Newark food renaissance," said Bolden of opening a location in Brick City. "I love the history of the city, I love Halsey Street - it reminds me a lot of Brooklyn."
Bolden's partners include Tuck and Strahan, both of whom joked about football Tuesday with Mayor Cory Booker, who played tight end for Stanford University.
"Being from Alabama, comfort food was everything we ate," said Tuck.
Bolden described Elbow Room, with its simple white walls, wooden floors and hanging light-bulb fixtures, as having a townhouse feel. In the front of the restaurant, there's a couch and coffee table reminiscent of what Bolden called a "comfortable dining room where you and your parents always ate."
The restaurant's actual dining area has whimsical schoolhouse touches, with classroom-like stools, stacked books and hanging lights. Then, in the back, is the kitchen, designed to house a bit of delicious mystery, said Bolden.
"You really don't know what your mother is doing in the kitchen," he said of the inspiration behind his restaurant's design, "but it always came out really good."
Bolden hopes to soon open five or six more Elbow Rooms, including in Jersey City.
Among staff favorites is the chicken tinga mac and cheese, with shredded chipotle chicken, monterey jack cheese, avocado and pickled red onion. The menu, which ranges from $4 to $22, also offers fresh salads and, for dessert, a tasty twist on a classic: An oatmeal cookie and cinnamon ice-cream sandwich.
Digging into Elbow Room's old school mac and cheese for the first time, Ada Okoye and her friend seemed pleased with their cheesy choice.
"It's pretty good," said Okoye, a Mount Olive resident.
Elbow Room Newark
41 Halsey Street
Newark, NJ 07102
The Elbow Room menu is here