When you are in a new-to-you town and have a couple of hours to spare, and it’s dinner time, you just might ask your trusty friends Yelp and Waze what’s nearby in these parts. iHOP, Applebees, Chipotle first came up in the Stafford Square Mall. Then, we see Ott’s Good Earth Garden, a farm-to-fork establishment. And ooh-la-la. We knew which place was calling our name. We didn't even bother looking at the menu. It’s just what we were going to have. Little did we know what kind of gem we stumbled on.
Upon entering the restaurant, we see that Ott’s is upscale, which typically means ‘reservations required.’ Ruh-roh. Since you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, we decide to give it a go. Plus, since it’s the dead of winter, on a cold, cold, cold Saturday night, near a south Jersey beach town, maybe we'll be in luck.
“No. Nothing,” the hostess says hesitantly. She's kind. She looks and clicks, and tries to see what can be done.
Then the manager has a look. “No, sorry. It doesn’t look possible,” he says.
A quick trip to use the facilities and an even quicker chat with someone there who shared that she’s celebrating a birthday at Ott's — and booked a reservation weeks ago.
When asked, “How’s the food?” She smiles first, then says “Excellent.”
Silent prayers begin... "Please let there be seating! Please let there be seating! Please let there be seating!"
Back at the hostess stand, we get the news. “Yes!” A table is available!
And so we sit… having no idea what we’re in store for. “Farm to fork” is our only tip.
Then the menu comes. Seafood, some steak, vegan and vegetarian options. German dishes too! Well, look at that. Guten tag!
Since we aren’t in the mood for Wiener schnitzel or surf, the turf sounds good. NY strip steak or filet mignon? Decision, decisions. We opt for the strip steak and a soup for starters.
First comes the bread and butter. Asked for, not just served. Grateful for that option. If you're trying to reduce your carb or calorie intake, it's less tempting when a warmed, delicious wedge of bread is presented to you with a seasoned, whipped butter. We opt to try everything, so "Yes, please," for us. Crispy on the outside, uber fresh and soft on the inside. The softened butter just melts as it it’s spread.
Then comes the butternut squash soup with a hidden cheese crostini, some herbs, and truffle oil, perhaps? Delish!
The steak takes time, as all good things do, and when it arrives it’s perfect! Medium-rare. Ott pairs the dish with steak fries and broccolini, also seasoned with truffle oil, perhaps?
Whatever it is, it’s all delicious — all 16 oz of steak to be pleasantly brought home for lunch the next day.
Since no meal is complete without a sweet, we decide to splurge once more for dessert — and we’re especially curious as to what was in store.
What’s for dessert?
Homemade desserts are cheesecake or rice pudding, and bakery-delivered lava cake. We opt for the cheesecake, drizzled with raspberry glaze. It’s nice to enjoy the dessert knowing that the drizzle is a reduction from the actual fruit versus a corn syrup with red dye.
Ott’s is healthy-food through and through, with a taste that makes you want to go back for more.
Farm to fork
Ott's partners with local farms, seafood markets, butchers, and bakeries to serve the freshest local fare. We're happy to see on their website that their dishes are made from fresh, farm-raised, locally sustainable, and responsible ingredients.
The restaurant also offers a Chef’s Table with a view of its two talented chefs, Chef Geoff and Chef Rodolfo.
Ott's is also a Surfrider Ocean-Friendly restaurant member. This is the kind of restaurant you want to patronize for what they do, don't do, or use:
No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
Proper recycling practices are followed.
Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining, and disposable utensils for takeout food are provided only upon request.
No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders.
Straws are provided only upon request.
No beverages sold in plastic bottles.
Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis.
All seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable.
Water conservation efforts, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, are implemented.
Energy efficiency efforts such as LED lighting and Energy Star appliances are in place.
Four stars to Ott’s. It was a pleasant surprise to stumble on this gem of a restaurant.
Until next time, peace!