Russell and Bettes Rumson NJ Review
Dec 26, 2018

Russell & Bette’s

By Lori Draz

Russell and Bettes Rumson NJ Review

Some places have that favorite pair of jeans or broken-in cowboy boots feeling. Even though Russell & Bette’s is fairly new, it’s a comfortable space with well-worn energy, and it was just what we were looking for as we began the hectic holiday season.

Many remember this space as What’s Your Beef, a Rumson classic. It then became Russell & Bette’s and recently underwent a productive management change. Yes, the salad bar is gone, but those warm wood-paneled walls, colorful windows and relaxing tables and bar are still the same, and that suited our group of five just fine.

We liked our waitress who had that “order anything, it’s all good” vibe. We liked our tasty cocktails, among the strongest we’ve had in a while. We liked the manageable compact menu that offered just enough selections for everyone, and we liked its quiet confidence. It’s not a slave to high-tech décor or super-chic selections; it’s a restaurant that fits well into the Rumson community … established, high quality and satisfying.

Oh yes – we also liked the Motown and classic soul music too. No surprises, just solid, satisfying songs, just like our evening.

We started with the cheese plate that came with Macona almonds and a delightful honeycomb honey. Eggplant meatballs that rest on a spicy heirloom tomato sauce were highly recommended. While they were good, the texture was quite soft; real meatballs fans may find that surprising, but remember – they are eggplant.

We also had the Mac & Cheese, baby shell pasta tossed in a brie and Gruyere cheese sauce, with browned bread crumbs. Visually, it looked a little pale compared to most mac and cheese dishes, but this version was our favorite appetizer. The brie flavor clearly ramped up the creamy quotient of this delicious dish – try it.

We also had a special of fried green tomatoes on a yellow tomato puree with burrata cheese on top. How lovely to see such a summery dish on a night when the cool winds were blowing. It was crunchy, creamy and tasty.

russell and bettes lobster risotto rumson nj

Lobster Risotto

Now for the entrees. Diner one had Lobster Risotto, a generous one-pound shelled Maine lobster portion with heirloom cherry tomatoes and an organic wild-mushroom blend. She enjoyed it, and said that while the risotto was a little firm, it was still nicely creamy and full of taste.

Diner two selected Coq au Vin. He was served a smallish thigh and leg instead of a breast, but said the dish delivered. It was served with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach in a fresh herb-chardonnay wine sauce.

Diner three had the Pork Chop Milanese topped with baby arugula, sweetie-drop peppers, onion, shaved Parmigiano, and fingerling roasted potatoes. This was a huge chop with a crunchy crust, and after tasting several bites, I agreed this was one of the best pork chops I’ve tasted in recent memory. I was instantly hooked on those cherry red sweetie-drop peppers – I could have eaten them like peanuts.

Our fourth diner went for Hanger Steak, a sizzling selection served in a cast iron skillet with roasted black garlic butter, asparagus and red bliss cheddar-smashed potatoes. The steak was quite tender, with a pink center and black edges that indicated an observant chef, and it had a robust taste. The portion size was quite nice too, leaving some leftovers for lunch the next day.

I selected Braised Short Ribs, coated with a surprising sherry-garlic cream, porcini mushrooms and parmesan sauce, served with sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. I really enjoyed the dish. I wasn’t expecting that sauce to work as well as it did with the ribs, and the spinach was perfectly done, still bright green and tender without being mushy.

We ordered three desserts. A flourless chocolate cake, bread pudding and an autumn crisp, which is an apple and cranberry compote, topped with a crumble topping and served with vanilla ice cream. This crisp is best served to real Apple Annies. The fruit is tender, tart and chunky, and the crumble topping and vanilla ice cream tame this rustic treat.

Flourless chocolate cake is thick and rich, more of a fudge than a cake. This dish will appeal to chocolate lovers, as its richness and deep chocolate taste are hard to ignore.

The bread pudding was the group’s favorite. Served warm, it had a very homey feeling and taste, not too sweet but nicely creamy. It was a comfort food crescendo.russell and bettes rumson nj

Russell & Bette’s has specials on select days. On Sunday nights, you can enjoy half-priced glasses of wine. Monday nights feature half-priced bottles of wine. Wednesday is Burger Night, with a burger and a draft beer or glass of house wine for $15. And on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 pm, there is live music in the bar.

Cost: Moderate

What we liked: The warm décor; compact yet diverse menu; portion sizes; well-made cocktails; quality ingredients; and the ambiance, including the lighting and the music.

What could be better: Maybe another chicken and pasta selection.

We give it 4 and half J’s.

Russell & Bette’s is located at 21 W. River Road in Rumson, 732-842-6205. Open Monday through Thursday, 4:30 to 9:30 pm; Friday, 4:30 to 10:30 pm; and Sunday 4 to 9 pm. For details, visit