Sunday we finished up our usual food shopping, and other mundane tasks, early and decided to have lunch somewhere. We were near Manasquan so I suggested that we visit Kathy and Lou’s Kitchen. I had read so much positive feedback about great food served with upbeat congeniality that I included them in my post about the best restaurants in Manasquan without actually having eaten there. I had to trust an overwhelming majority on that decision. Now was my chance to see for myself.
A Friendly Greeting at Kathy and Lou’s
When we arrived at Kathy and Lou’s around one o’clock, the place was very quiet and Kathy was just finishing an interview with a potential server. Please note that this is a place that is known for home cooked dinners more than lunch in the off season. She immediately greeted us and suggested we sit where we want. She showed us our menus, one printed and one written by hand. Lou, her husband and chef, decides what he is making every day based on what he buys locally and the menu is created from. She explained that the dinner menu could also be the lunch menu if there was anything that we would like it could be made from what was available. Something like that. She also mentioned that the flounder sandwiches were prepared from fish right from the dock that Lou filleted himself. That made our choice easy. My wife asked about the fried calamari and Kathy’s description sold us on splitting an order of that also. After all we could always take something home, she suggested.
By now we were all talking like we had known each other for years. I was beginning to understand what the people were saying. She soon left for the kitchen returned with our fried calamari. I have to say it was the best I have had at the shore. Kathy and Lou’s calamari even topped Patricia’s in Holmdel which I recently raved about. It was light and crunchy and melt in our mouth tender on the inside. There was not a tough piece on the plate. I was able to take a picture before it was all devoured. We were also given two dipping dishes of red sauce, one hot and one not, without asking. One of my biggest complaints is the sliced garden hose that is sold in most (not all) Jersey Shore eateries. People still order it because they apparently don’t know any better. They should all eat this and then they would know that their jaw muscles should not be required to work that hard on anything.
After we had finished the last ring we were presented with a picture perfect, golden brown double flounder filet that was hiding a long section of bread which Lou himself bakes in house. There was some finely shaved lettuce, tomato and a side of house made tartar sauce. The flounder tasted as fresh as the fluke that I bring home from the river on occasion and cooked to golden perfection. The tartar sauce was so tangy and tasty that I was dipping my fries into it. I wound up bringing half of the sandwich home. Pressing on would have been possible, but a big Sunday dinner waited only a few hours away. The homemade bread was crisp on the outside but easily gave way to a soft yeasty interior and through to the sweet, fresh fish, which I piled double-high. The cool shreds of lettuce worked perfectly with the hot from the fryer coating on the filet.
Avoid Wrong First Impressions
The impression of Kathy and Lou’s from the outside is that of a shore pizza and sub shop. There is actually a neon sign in the window that says “Pizza.” It is, however, so much more than that. Lou is a chef in the true sense of the word and turns out eclectic cuisine with an emphasis on Italian home cooking. His Marsala sauce, for example, draws raves and has a following. They are also well known for their Manasquan Clam Chowder and for breakfast including Lou’s Famous Steak and Eggs. The ambiance is Hoboken meets the Jersey Shore with pictures of Sinatra everywhere among the surf rods and other beachy décor. The room is a lot bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside.
After we were done eating Lou came out and talked with us a while and he was as cordial as his wife. I felt an immediate connection there as well. We will be returning here for dinner soon and will post an update when we do. It will be before Labor Day I am sure, because the place is packed on weekends already — especially when the notable duo Jersey Corn performs live.
If I could have three wishes for Kathy and Lou’s, the first would be that their Facebook page or website focused more on their strong-point which is the food. I would like to see the daily menu posted. Maybe a blackboard outside that said that there was a lot of great cooking going on in there. I passed by the place a dozen times and thought it was a pizza place. Second, I would like to hear music that was not Bobby Dee or the Drifters. Something more contemporary like Sunday brunch from Pandora along with Sinatra (of course) would polish the vibe a little. Thirdly, and I am sorry to say this – white winter tomatoes are a pet peeve of mine. You can buy better any time of year. There is no reason for those especially when so much concern is put into the quality of all the other ingredients. Not a big deal though.
We are looking forward to our next visit where we can sample some of the creative dinner choices that Kathy and Lou’s offers, that have been filling the house, right through the off season for the past few years. See you soon.
Kathy and Lou’s Kitchen is located on First Avenue in Manasquan in between Leggett’s and the Osprey. It is a BYOB with a small liquor store located just around the corner. They serve Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Parking is on the street and can be challenging at certain times during the summer.