EMBERS TO REMEMBER
Discovering the Ironbound’s Espalha Brasas
By Andy Clurfeld & Photos by Daryl Stone
If you’re looking for a great place for lunch in the Ironbound and you happen to be picking up sausages for supper at Lopes, you’d be nuts not to ask the folks at Lopes for a recommendation, right?
Sitting at Espalha Brasas on Pacific Street, with soccer on the tube and the Portuguese language flowing freely all around, we’re happy we did ask Herminio Lopes and Karina Teixeira for their pick of the considerable crop.
Espalha Brasas, which translates to “loose embers,” is fairly new to the Ironbound, our server tells us, not even a couple of years old. Yet the place is jammed at the late-lunch hour, and there are grilled fresh sardines on the docket.
Little makes me happier than grilled fresh sardines. I don’t mind the work of filleting my own, either. It gives me a chance to appreciate each bite, to let my palate clear and prepare for the next taste of a small fish that tastes big.
They indeed taste big, this hulking portion that is one of the day’s specials—and I say that even after I’ve knocked back an equally hulking order of Portuguese chorizo, deftly spiced to achieve a balance of meat and heat. They’re simple, these chubs of chorizo, but they engage. As do the garlic shrimp, which taste juicier here than others I’ve had of late. They’re infused by the mild garlicky olive oil and have an obvious freshness I appreciate.
Shell steak is an Espalha Brasas specialty and it’s worth ordering to experience a cut that is at once chewy of texture and buttery of flavor: On this day, there’s a rendition with ham and egg on top, an egg that oozes gold when pierced, a perfect over-easy.
What a fortuitous twosome, I think to myself as our leftovers are wrapped. Charred-perfect sardines, splashed with low-acid olive oil and dashed with salt and pepper, and grilled shell steak, rosy-pink inside and striped coal-color on the outside. Crispy Portuguese-style potatoes on the side. Just-the-ticket starters. A scene we could’ve paid plane fare to experience.
Lucky us, we say to each other as we smile at the uniformed police officers gathering at a large table for a mid-afternoon, post-shift meal. The folks at Lopes surely steered us right.
109 Pacific St., Newark • 973-732-3070 This restaurant, with a bar, is open daily for lunch and dinner. Major credit cards accepted.
109 Pacific St., Newark • 973-732-3070
This restaurant, with a bar, is open daily for lunch and dinner. Major credit cards accepted.