By John Burton
RED BANK – It took a little longer than initially anticipated, but it was worth the wait, said Matteo Ingrao, owner of Char Steakhouse.
“I’m pleased with everything,” Ingrao said of his Broad Street establishment that opened in late February.
What Ingrao has found especially pleasing has been the way the steakhouse’s large rear dining room looks and how the restaurant’s bar turned out. The bar, he said, was constructed in the front of the restaurant, very visible from the front doors. “I like that – the visual aspect of that,” he said.
Char, 33 Broad St., was under construction for more than nine months with work taking 45 to 60 days longer than Ingrao initially anticipated.
“Hurricane Sandy, don’t forget,” he mentioned as to one of the reasons for the longer construction period. Also, as anyone who has ever refurbished a building knows, “It’s like when you open up an old can. You don’t know what’s inside,” he said.
At some point in the past there was a fire in the structure, causing some additional work and necessitating some redesigning as the project progressed. Work included creating rooms that didn’t previously exist in the building that was completely remodeled and expanding the bar area and installing some booths. “So people can come in, nosh and have a drink,” he said. The crowd that arrived fairly early on Char’s full night of operation in late February immediately proved that “our bar is a winner,” he said.
The three-story building, located on the corner of Broad and Mechanic streets, previously was Ashes, a restaurant and cigar bar that closed in summer 2010.
In February 2012 when Char owners Ingrao and his brother, Luciano, won planning board approval for their project, their architect, Jeff Cahill, said the design would could combine elements of a traditional steakhouse – warm colors, a lot of wood – with modern accents, including the two-story glass wall looking out on to Broad Street.
While Cahill said last year the project was expected to cost approximately $2 million, Ingrao declined to discuss the final cost.
The design of the Red Bank restaurant is different than the Char Steakhouse owned by Ingrao in Raritan in Somerset County.
What is primarily the same is the menu, he said
Both locations feature steaks. Ingrao said he loves the rib-eye cut and West Coast oysters – the restaurant features a raw bar – and a variety of seafood and chicken courses.
Ingrao says he noticed, “There seems to be big lobster fans in the area.” The restaurant sold out on its first night.
Good cuts of meat and expensive seafood, however, do not make a good restaurant. Ingrao, who has been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years, said what makes a good spot is “consistency of food and service.
”Everyone who walks through our door, they’re our clients, spending their hard-earned money. So we want to earn their trust,” he said.
Char Steakhouse is open daily at 4 p.m. for dinner.