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Posted May 30, 2005

Spotlight -- The Food Haven

Story by Justin Watrel

The Food Haven may have changed names several times over the years, but it still looks and feels the same.

The first (and last) time I walked into the restaurant was 1976, when it was still named the Town Lunch.

I had a French toast breakfast with my grandfather after I had finished the fifth grade.

The old Town Lunch has been through several incarnations since going by names Pat’s Cup & Saucer and Ingers.

Having bought the restaurant from the previous owners in 2003, the restaurant now named The Food Haven, opened December of that year by new owners, Mary and Albert Rivera.

Mary Rivera, who runs the restaurant full time, comes from a family where running small businesses was part of their life.

"My father ran several businesses over the years," Mary admitted, "so I grew up always wanting to create something and call it my own."

Albert Rivera comes from a restaurant background. His family runs a Mexican restaurant in Brick, New Jersey that has garnered excellent reviews.

Mary came to this country from Turkey with her parents when she was twelve years old. Albert is American born of Mexican descendants.

When they bought the business, the Riveras found that they liked the location of the restaurant because of its proximity to home, its prime spot on the Boulevard and the history behind the establishment.

"It’s a family orientated luncheonette that reminded me of the show "Cheers", where everyone knows your name.

I enjoy interacting with our long time customers and conversing with them.

It amazes me how many people have been coming to the restaurant every week for so many years."

Their business has been surprisingly good since they opened the doors of the restaurant as The Food Haven.

"We have a very good word of mouth," Mary said, "we have people coming from all over Bergen County to check us out."

What has really surprised the owners of The Food Haven is that for all the people who come from other towns, not many people from Hasbrouck Heights have come in to see what the restaurant has to offer.

"I think people still think of us as just a place for breakfast and a quick lunch. We have so much more on the menu," Mary added.

While the look of the restaurant may not have changed, the menu certainly has, offering many unique menu items and daily specials.

They have kept the traditional items that the restaurant has always been known for such as Lumber Jack breakfasts, grilled cheese, hamburger platters and various salads, the Riveras have added several ethnic dishes based on family recipes from Mary’s home country and her mother-in-law's recipes that she brought from Mexico.

"I am very lucky to have inherited a cook that came with the restaurant," Mary said, "he has been with me for three years and makes the most wonderful meals.

What we offer on top of our regular menu is authentic Mexican items that my husband’s mother used to make in her home country. Her mole recipe is one of her specialties."

For breakfast, on top of the choices such as egg sandwiches, omelets, pancakes and French toast, Mary has created a full Mexican breakfast.

Some of the items featured are Chorizo Tacos, which are scrambled eggs with Chorizo sausage wrapped in soft tortillas and served with home fries. Egg Quesadillas are flour tortillas stuffed with scrambled eggs, bacon or ham, tomatoes, peppers, onions and melted American cheese and her Huevos Rancheros, three eggs made your way with mild salsa and a blend of Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese over lightly fried tortillas.

Mary stresses that her salsas are all homemade in house and that her supplier of tortillas and Chorizo sausage come from specialty Mexican suppliers in Passaic, so they are truly authentic.

For lunch, the menu features such items as club sandwiches, hamburger platters, various salads (tossed, chicken, tuna, and egg), Philly cheese steaks and an assortment of wraps.

On her Mexican lunch menu, she has added items such as Mole Enchiladas (with her Mother-in-law's recipe), which is chicken and tortillas cooked with the mole sauce, topped with lettuce, onions, radishes, Mexican cheese and sour cream.

Her Tostadas are flat crispy corn tortillas topped with chicken prepared in Chile Chipotle sauce, refried beans, lettuce, cheese and sour cream.

She also has soft tacos (chicken or beef) and Fajitas on the menu.

She has also been experimenting with Greek and Turkish dishes on the daily specials.

Daily breakfast and lunch specials are available every day and there is always a fresh soup of the day. Mary stresses "almost all our items are made from scratch here in the restaurant.

We make all our own meatballs, meatloaf, barbecue and salsa sauces.

Our soups are all made in house every day and our hamburger meat comes from a specialty butcher and are hand-formed in our kitchen.

They are not the frozen preformed type used in most restaurants.

We strive for the best quality in all our menu items."

Most of the baking is also done on premises such as their apple pies, muffins, rice pudding and their specialty, homemade flan (a type of caramel custard).

Some of the daily items have included Cajun Chicken on a Pita, Corned Beef Reubens, Chicken Quesadilla, BBQ Pork on a hard roll, Spaghetti with meatballs and breaded Shrimp with French fries. Soups include Chicken Noodle, Split Pea, Beef Barley and Vegetable.

The daily specials change every day and with Mary’s sense of quality, she makes only a certain amount so that they are always fresh.

"If I run out, I run out. I want my customers to have the best quality food," Mary said.

One thing Mary stressed was that The Food Haven has parking in front of the restaurant and has a parking lot in the back.

"Parking is at such a premium on the Boulevard and many customers don’t know all they have to do is round the corner and we have our parking lot.

Also, we are in walking distance from all over town."

Mary has also started catering and does take out orders and delivery. "All you have to do is call us and we will take care of the rest.

We want to let people in Hasbrouck Heights know that we are open for business seven days a week and to come try us out," Mary said, "they will be very happy with our menu and especially our prices.

We are a perfect place to take your family for breakfast and lunch.

We want our restaurant to be part of the community."

The Food Haven is located at 452 Boulevard. Phone 201-288-7778. The web site is: ###

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