Sophisticated fun in downtown Toms River
With a name like The Cookie Cab, you would expect to see a cute little bakery that caters to the little one in all of us. Yes, there are cookies, and yes – the kiddies are very much welcome. But that impression would be selling The Cookie Cab short. Behind the name is an establishment that is doing nothing less than helping to raise the level of sophisticated dining in Toms River. And they’re doing so in a fun way, like a clever animated cartoon that entertians the adults as well as the kids.
We recently took the family for lunch at The Cookie Cab. Whenever we’re on a family outing, the biggest concern is what to feed the kids. They can, on occasion, be adventurous; more often, though, it’s the kid staples of burgers, mini pizzas, chicken nuggets/fingers/tenders and mac ‘n cheese that they end up going for. You can find items like these on the menu at The Cookie Cab, and what you will get varies some in quality; the chicken fingers the kids ordered were typical fare, but the boardwalk fries were the kind you wish you could actually get on the boardwalk. Just enough crunch on the outside that yielded to soft and salty goodness inside. And then you had the boneless chicken bites, which were succulent nibbles that had not spent a moment in a microwave.
I went for a burger, and was pleasantly rewarded with my decision. Their simple Cab Burger sits your 1/2 pound of patty on a nest of smoked onions and is topped off with steak sauce. The good news was that the sauce does did not get in the way of the flavor of the meat. Sure, you could ask to skip the sauce, but I wanted to have their burger as it was intended. And, for full disclosure, I ordered my burger medium rare…and it was brought to me medium rare.
Bite-sized chicken, burgers and fries are all well and good, and I enjoy those things as much as the next guy. But there are plenty of other options on the menu that are intriguing. Lisa went for the artichoke flatbeard, and tasting that was to give us a glimpse into what this cozy battle station can produce. There was a brightness along with the garlic and parmesean twang that took it past the flatbread equivalents you can find at any bistro chain. In fact, the menu may at first glance remind you of bistro chain fare, but as you peer further into the choices, there’s much more going on here.
Recently, The Cookie Cab even introduced a Tasting Tapas menu for groups of 10 to 20 people. For $25 a person, they will prepare an eight-course small plate feast that promises brings the level of sophistiocation up another notch.
So…how about the cookies? It would be a fine thing for me to write about The Cookie Cab and not mention the cookies. Their baked goods have yet to disappoint us; be it their scones, cupcakes and, yes, cookies.
But one cannot live on clever sammiches and tasty baked nibbles alone, as good as that might sound. The mind needs a bit of sustanence as well, and here’s where The Cookie Cab makes itself unique. Attached to the eatery is TRACO, a small independent movie house that provides a destination for fils that won’t see the lights of the multiplex anytime soon. The theater is also used for live performances and can be rented out for a movie party. Check out the TRACO site for upcoming movies and events.
Who’s responsible for all of this good stuff? The chef duties are taken care of by one Kim Ratto, who used to run The Java Joint right in the same downtown area some years ago. Illness forced her to give up that location, but now she is giving Toms River one more go at making a successful business. Her partner in crime is Helen Harris, an artist first and baker a close second. And this artistic sense permeates all through their establishment, including displaying artwork of local artists. The day we went with the kids they were showing the work of one of our friends.
Downtown Toms River is a tough sell, and certainly there have been a number of places that have come and gone over the years. But Kim and Helen believe in Toms River and in their abilities to create a menu that can appeal to the casual sophisticate in all of us.
We, in turn, believe in them.
The Cookie Cab – 10 Washington Street, Toms River. 732.244.0011.