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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

We are fortunate to have so many kosher restaurants in the area, but if you are looking for an exceptional dining experience you must visit The Bridge Turkish and Mediterranean Grill in Highland Park.

The only kosher Turkish restaurant in New Jersey, the Bridge provides an upscale-casual venue for Mediterranean fare, including kebabs, vegetarian entrees, appetizers and delightful desserts.

An elegant yet relaxed ambiance highlighted with traditional décor greets you when you enter the restaurant. A picture of the famous bridge from the restaurant owner’s home town in Turkey (the source of the restaurant name) hangs on a prominent wall location. Tasteful music enhances the dining experience without overpowering it.

The only problem we encountered is deciding which of the many delicious signature dishes to order. There are main dish combination plates that help make the choices a bit easier. Dining in a party of four? Highly recommended is the family special which begins with a sampler platter of hot and cold appetizers, continues with a salad followed by an assortment of main dishes and finishes with delicious baklava.

Your server will arrive to take your order, bearing freshly baked Turkish breads with a roasted sweet red pepper dipping sauce. The house special lentil soup is divine and well worth a try.

The very popular appetizer sampler plate included falafel made from scratch, zucchini pancakes, meat rolls and my personal favorite, avocado rolls, accompanied by homemade tahini sauce. None of the fried foods were oily and the flavors were all spot on. The Bridge’s cold salads of homemade babaganoush, Russian salad (a potato salad with mixed vegetables), incredibly creamy hummus, eggplant and Turkish salads (also homemade) were amazingly good and came with crispy pita chips for dipping. Asking how the hummus came to be so delicious, we were told that it is not as heavy because they use less tahini and that all the salads are made at the restaurant at least four times per week. We also enjoyed a Mediterranean salad with stuffed grape leaves, olives, peppers and tomatoes on a bed of lettuce.
Dressing is served on the side so you can add as much as you would like.

Our main dish arrived on a bed of freshly-baked pita bread and included izgara kofte (grilled lamb patties), doner kebab (gyro/shawarma), tavuk sis (chicken shish) and adana kebab (skewered ground lamb) and shish ribeye. Accompanied by grilled vegetables, bulgur wheat in tomato sauce and the Bridge’s signature rice pilaf side dishes, we amazed ourselves by managing to eat as much as we did without bursting. Each dish was more delicious than the next. The meats were spiced to perfection and were full of flavor.

The servings are plentiful and beautifully plated to add to your enjoyment. Although we lingered over dinner, the Bridge also offers lunch specials of their most popular dishes. There are many vegetarian and vegan offerings and a kid’s menu as well.

We thought there would be no room for dessert, but one look at the freshly-made baklava had us rethink our position. The light and airy pastry surrounding just the right amount of nuts and honey was the perfect ending to an extremely memorable meal. We are looking forward to our next visit to the Bridge.

Owner Sam Eriske has been in the restaurant business for over 20 years. He moved his business to Highland Park in 2015 and converted the restaurant to kosher earlier this year. Having had many friends from the Jewish community in Deal from his time as a restaurateur in Long Branch, the decision to switch was not difficult. Many of the recipes were able to be used “as is” and dishes containing shellfish and/or dairy were removed from the menu. All his staff remained during the transition to kosher and you will note how helpful and pleasant they are. They will patiently describe the menu offerings and help you make the perfect dining selection.

The restaurant is available for private parties such as sheva brachot for up to 100 people. Many synagogues in the area have held Friday night dinners and scholar in residence programs at the Bridge, combining food for the soul with gastronomic delights. They also cater and can deliver their delicious home-made specialties to your office, home or synagogue. Contact them about the special offer where the Bridge will donate 15% to your shul when they cater your kiddush. Eriske cautions that there are many restaurant websites with similar names that are not kosher and may cause confusion. To access their menu, be sure to use the web address below.

The restaurant will provide appropriate glassware and a bottle opener if you bring your own bottle to enhance your meal or make a celebration.

The Bridge Turkish and Mediterranean Grill is located at 315 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park. They are open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Motzei Shabbat (roughly 30 minutes after havdalah to midnight). There is ample free parking on the street and at the rear of the building. Easily accessible from Rutgers New Brunswick, the New Jersey Turnpike and Routes 287, 18 and 27. Call them at 732-418-9000 or e-mail [email protected] See their menu at http://bridgerestauranthp.com/menu.

Strictly kosher certified by the Vaad Harabanim of Raritan Valley.

By Deborah Melman