SUMMIT, NJ – Good restaurant service supposes fresh food, a clean atmosphere and pleasant staff. But hospitality, an often-elusive quality in today’s fast food world, separates a superb eatery from the rest. As defined by Hoboken Farms owner Brad Finkel, hospitality means walking into an establishment where everyone knows your name and anticipates your needs. “It’s about showing clients love,” he says.
After 20 years selling his famous Hoboken mozzarella at 30 farmer’s markets in New York and New Jersey, Finkel set down roots on Springfield Avenue in Summit this summer. At the first-ever Hoboken Farms sandwich shop, customers enjoy freshly baked bread, handmade mozzarella, quirky sandwiches and music from bygone eras, played on the shop’s user-friendly record player.
Finkel’s love for food and his love for customers go hand-in-hand. A Hoboken native who garnered a passion for cooking from his grandma Martha, Finkel approaches food preparation meticulously and customer relations gently.
Finkel greets patrons by name and offers his two cents about the delicious menu items. “I have gotten to know so many people in the community through the farmer’s markets. They love the fresh bread, Mutz and Big Red marinara sauce,” he says.
Locals are not the only fans of Hoboken Farms’ marinara sauce, which is sold exclusively by Whole Foods. This May, The Wall Street Journal named Big Red a top pick tomato sauce for its brightness and balance of acidity and sweetness.
“I am a perfectionist,” Finkel admits, reflecting on his creative culinary process. “I will go to any length to find the best ingredients.”
His six-month quest to find the “perfect prosciutto” is another example. “Bellisima proscuitto is handmade and the marbling absolutely rivals anything you will get from Italty. And it is made right here in New Jersey,” Finkel says. “Our prosciutto is sweet and earthy and not overwhelmed by salt. And the way we slice it is in art. I would not settle for anything less.”
Patrons will get the highest quality ingredients, regardless of social standing, Finkel quips: “Whether you are Joe off the street or the Queen of England, you will get the highest quality prosciutto and other ingredients in your sandwich. We just don’t sacrifice on quality.”
With quality in mind, Finkel and his team perfected a new take on easy in-and-out dining, which he calls “Slow Food, Fast.”
“You will be in and out in ten minutes, but the food is best money can buy,” Finkel promises. The take-out lunch spot features cool sandwiches, warm sandwiches, super foods and crispy greens.
Finkel describes the process of creating the menu as “going to sandwich school.” Together with Manager and Head Chef Greg Cuocco, Finkel says he went through 200 versions and many different combinations until he created a clever gastronomic lineup.
To sample just a few, the Supreme Sloppy Joe is a mounted triple-decker delight of roast beef, fresh roast turkey, ham, cole slaw, Russian dressing and swiss cheese. Finkel and Cuocco took a twist on the northern NJ staple by using red and green cabbage in the coleslaw. “It’s all about the coleslaw and the bread. The coleslaw should snap and the bread should be the freshest you can get. And the red and green add some color to the sandwich” Cuocco says.
Best-selling sandwich Jimmy’s Guitar Bar features a brick oven baguette with fresh roasted turkey, World Famous Fresh Mutz, pesto aioli and red wine vinegar with romaine leaf lettuce and shaved red onion. “The shaved fennel counteracts the onions and the romaine gives the sandwich the perfect crunch,” Finkel explains.
The health-conscious patron will enjoy The Yoga Jillian, which is offered as a wrap or a salad, and is filled with generous portions slow-roasted caramelized sweet potato, avocado, sprouts, arugula, tomato and a light balsamic reduction.
Finkel’s menu also includes culinary nods to his hometown with creative names like “La Zafra Brisket Cuban,” “Church Square Chicken Parm,” “Maxwell’s on 11th,” The Elysian” and “Little Pink Brownstones for You and Me.”
Prompted by his son’s gluten allergy, Finkel decided to make his menu gluten-friendly. He assures no cross-contamination and offers Gloriously Gluten-Free Bread,” which can be substituted with any menu item. “My goal is for my son to be able to eat what I eat. It can be a decadent, gluten-free sandwich,” he says. “If I can feed my family, I can feed yours.”
His journey from his grandmother’s Hoboken kitchen to the garden state’s many farmer’s markets and finally to his brick-and-mortar location has provided Finkel with many opportunities to get to know his clientele.
“Our business is based on giving people phenomenal products and the best hospitality around. That’s our constitution,” Finkel says. “For me, it’s about making local connections, about getting to know all of my clients so that they feel like they’re home when they walk in the door.”
Hoboken Farms Sandwich Shop is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and also offers catering. For more information, visit the website, call 908-598-7204, or visit the shop at 789 Springfield Avenue.
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