HOBOKEN CHEESE STEAK KING IN NEW DIGS AT OLD CLAMBROTH HOUSE
By Sally Deering
Back in the day when I was a cub reporter at a local Hoboken weekly, the publisher would woo the crew to work on Saturday’s with one promise: Free takeout from Biggie’s. And it worked. Work would come to a screeching halt when our takeout orders arrived in a cardboard box packed with Biggie’s Cheese Steak subs, tender strips of beef under a thick slab of gooey melted provolone cheese smothered in smoky, fried onions encased in a long sub roll.
Biggie’s has been a Hoboken tradition since 1946 when Joseph “Biggie” Yaccarino sold clams from a pushcart to the longshoremen who imbibed in the bars along the waterfront. He eventually opened Biggie’s on Madison Street and the business has been family-owned and operated ever since. In 2010, Biggie’s opened another location in Carlstadt on Rt. 17 and in 2011, just a few months before taking over the Clam Broth House; the family opened a Biggie’s in Tennessee.
Biggie’s on Newark Avenue had its grand opening in April. The place is now less formal than the previous Clam Broth House, which had a makeover by the previous owners. Biggie’s gave the dining room a more contemporary look by taking away the linen tablecloths and adding high-top tables and stools near the bar. And then there are the 19 big screen TVs on the walls showing sports that add a very animated backdrop. Near the entrance, amid all the TVs is an oil painting of Biggie standing behind his pushcart.
Managing the new Biggie’s are Joe Biggie’s great-grandsons Mike and Steve Ranuro and I stopped in on a recent Friday afternoon where Steve was running operations for all three Jersey locations. Steve suggested I try the Chicken Portobello Formaggio sandwich, a juicy breast of chicken served on a crusty sub roll with Portobello mushrooms in Marsala wine with melted provolone cheese and a side of light, crispy waffle fries. It was absolutely delicious.
“Our concept here is to have a much less formal, more relaxed atmosphere where people can come in during lunch and after work,” Steve says. “From construction guys to business executives, we give them a place to watch the game and enjoy really good food.”
And there are lots of choices on the menu. For Starters, a sampling of choices includes Thai Chili Calamari, Thai Coconut Shrimp, Crab Cake and Tuna Tacos; the Raw Bar offers Clams on the Half Shell, Oysters on the Half Shell, Scallops, and Steamed Mussels; Soups & Salads include Turkey Chili salad, Seafood Salad and Biggie’s Manhattan Clam Chowder; Entrees are plenty and feature Parmesan Crusted Flounder and a 14 oz. Rib Eye; Burgers come with a choice of toppings and there are Pizzas, too. The Sandwich menu tantalizes with Biggie’s Signature Cheese Steak, Garlic Mozzarella Cheese Steak, Pulled Pork, Shrimp Po Boy, Crab Cake, Spicy Tuna Wrap and Lobster Roll.
Biggie’s also has a dining room downstairs for private parties and has 3 big-screen TVs and seats about 40. There’s also an extensive wine and beer list.
Hoboken residents seem to have only raves for Biggie’s and you can check out reviews on the Internet, like this one from Evan M. of Jersey City posted on Yelp.com:
“Biggie’s keeps getting closer to five stars every day. I had a delivery recently, which arrived in about twenty minutes. Clams Oreganato? Delivered to your door? Piping hot and delicious? That is awesome. Delicious pasta too. In a town that has way too many mediocre restaurants, I highly recommend every resident get a Biggie’s menu and keep it near their phone. Next to try will be pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe.”
Biggie’s is an All-American success story that began with one man’s idea to sell clams from a pushcart. At Biggie’s, Joe Bigggie’s entrepreneurial spirit lives on three generations later as does his passion for fresh food and happy customers.
“We’re very customer-focused,” Steve says. “That’s important to us.”
42 Newark Street
Restaurant & Raw Bar Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11 am-12am; Fri-Sat, 11 am-1 am
Bar: Sun-Thurs, 11 am-2 am; Fri-Sat, 11 am-3 am
Happy Hour: 3-6 pm
Biggie’s other New Jersey locations:
318 Madison Street
430 State Rt. 17