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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Food matters: A $50 lunch in Hackensack; Syrian food + the Great Falls in Paterson

The Sashimi Tuna Salad dressed in a Cilantro Ginger Vinaigrette ($22) at Houston's in The Shops at Riverside, an upscale mall near Route 4 in Hackensack.
A appetizer special of Char-Grilled Artichokes with a Remoulade Sauce ($15).

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Houston's, a fine-dining restaurant in an upscale mall, is crowded, noisy and expensive.

But my lunch there last week was one of the best I've ever had, even though I over-ordered and my bill topped $50, including tax and a 20% tip.

The three char-grilled artichokes in an appetizer special were enormous, and I took home two of them.

And the fork-tender seared ahi tuna chunks in the Sashimi Salad, dressed in a delicious Cilantro Ginger Vinaigrette, were all a fish lover could hope for. 

Portions were generous.

I've worked or lived in Hackensack for decades, yet this was my first visit to Houston's, which says it prepares American classics from scratch.

Servers wear white shirts, striped ties and big aprons, and there is a dress code for customers, too, as a card on the table informed me (collared shirts for men, no tank tops or flip-flops for women).

I met a friend there at 1:30 last Thursday afternoon, and we were seated in 5 minutes, but the noise level at the height of the lunch hour was annoying.

My Sashimi Salad would have been perfect with ripe instead of hard pieces of mango and avocado, and I also didn't like Campari tomato halves that were still cold from being refrigerated.

My friend ordered his favorite dish at Houston's, the Grilled Chicken Salad dressed in a Honey Lime Vinaigrette and peanut sauce.



Houston's Grilled Chicken Salad ($18). Burgers and sandwiches are $18 to $22, and House Specialties range from $23 to $47.
The dining room -- all brick, dark-red leather, booths, armchairs and butcher-block tables-- was dimly lit at lunch.
When I stepped inside the dining room from the mall entrance, I snapped a photo of the open kitchen, and an employee barked, "No photos!"
DETAILS: Houston's Bergen County in The Shops at Riverside is open 7 days for lunch, dinner and wine. The Hackensack restaurant is one of 16 Houston's in California, Texas, Louisiana (New Orleans), Georgia and Florida. You can make a reservation using a link on the website: American Classics Made From Scratch



To Silk City for Syrian food

We dashed out on Saturday to pick up a few things at Fattal's in the South Paterson section of Paterson, but stopped first at the roaring Great Falls, said to be second only to Niagara Falls east of the Mississippi River.

The lower viewing area and statue of Alexander Hamilton is closed during construction of an amphitheater.

So, we parked in the small lot outside Mary Ellen Kramer Park overlooking the falls, which is part of a national historical park.

The large number of silk mills powered by the falls transformed Paterson into America's Silk City.

And many Syrian immigrants owned or worked in the city's silk mills in the early 1900s, according to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich.

At Fattal's -- a Syrian baker, butcher and grocer at 975 Main St. -- we bought a dozen made-to-order falafel, $4.99; grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables, $7.99 a pound; crushed red Aleppo pepper, $6.99 a pound; and pickled turnip slices, $2.99 a pound.

To see a video of the falls, click on this link: 




On Saturday, Paterson's Great Falls were full of water and literally roaring. A plaque in the park noted that 190 million years ago (Mesozoic Era) molten lava formed the basaltic ridge where the falls are today.
Grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables, fried falafel and hummus made from a can, all from Fattal's in Paterson. The Syrian baker, butcher and grocer is open 7 days. Parking is in a lot in front of the store.