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 Saturdayâ€™s with one promise:Â Free takeout from Biggieâ€™s. And it worked. Work would come to a screeching halt when our takeout orders arrived in a cardboard box packed with Biggieâ€™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.
Biggieâ€™s has been a Hoboken tradition since 1946 when Joseph â€œBiggieâ€ Yaccarino sold clams from a pushcart to the longshoremen who imbibed in the bars along the waterfront. He eventually opened Biggieâ€™s on Madison Street and the business has been family-owned and operated ever since. In 2010, Biggieâ€™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 Biggieâ€™s in Tennessee.
Biggieâ€™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. Biggieâ€™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 Biggieâ€™s are Joe Biggieâ€™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,â€ Steve says. â€œFrom construction guys to business executives, we give them a place to watch the game and enjoy really good food.â€
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 Biggieâ€™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 Biggieâ€™s Signature Cheese Steak, Garlic Mozzarella Cheese Steak, Pulled Pork, Shrimp Po Boy, Crab Cake, Spicy Tuna Wrap and Lobster Roll.
Biggieâ€™s also has a dining room downstairs for private parties and has 3 big-screen TVs and seats about 40. Thereâ€™s also an extensive wine and beer list.
Hoboken residents seem to have only raves for Biggieâ€™s and you can check out reviews on the Internet, like this one from Evan M. of Jersey City posted on Yelp.com:
â€œBiggie’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.â€
Biggieâ€™s is an All-American success story that began with one manâ€™s idea to sell clams from a pushcart. At Biggieâ€™s, Joe Bigggieâ€™s entrepreneurial spirit lives on three generations later as does his passion for fresh food and happy customers.
â€œWeâ€™re very customer-focused,â€ Steve says. â€œThatâ€™s important to us.â€
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
Biggieâ€™s other New Jersey locations:
318 Madison Street
430 State Rt. 17