A Rose is a Rose is a Drink

Raymond’s Journal

By Raymond Badach

“A rose is a rose is a rose.”  When Gertrude Stein was asked what she meant by this, she basically said that when it comes down to it, a thing is what it is. That may be true, but a rose is pretty special for many reasons. They smell great, they feel like velvet, they come in all colors and sizes, and they even manage to look beautiful when they start to lose their petals. Some other horticultural words that are important to every gardener: annual, perennial, and biennial.  Most weekend gardeners know all about annuals, those bright flowers that give it their all every spring and summer and then die out and never return. The perennial is the avid gardener’s staple since these plants come back every year bigger and stronger (unless you have a winter like the one we just had). The biennial is a confusing plant, which really should be called, “Are You Really Going to Come Back in Two Years?”

You probably don’t ever think about it, but flowers are a big part of the restaurant business. I was always inspired by the flowers in certain NYC restaurants, not to mention the colossal displays at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My wife and I used to love to go to Provence in Soho and were always happy to see those bright blue window boxes with red geraniums. They also had a beautiful garden room. When you dined there, you could swear you were in Paris or at least New Orleans.

When 28 opened, most of our vendors weren’t delivering to New Jersey, so I’d have to trek into the city almost every day to pick up fish, bread, and visit the meat packing district. The flower district was another stop I started to make. The idea that I could actually do flower arrangements for the restaurant was crazy and too creatively challenging. Because of the soaring ceilings in 28 (and now Raymond’s), we started using seasonal shrubs and branch cuttings from U.S. Evergreen on Sixth Avenue, which looked like a forest surrounded by four walls. It was easier to arrange forsythia, magnolia, cherry blossoms, lilacs, peonies, pussy willows, and other flowering tree branches. It was also convenient since everything was already bundled and I could throw them in the back of my car on top of everything else. Did I mention that it was hard to park? Well, you really couldn’t park. That’s how I ended up getting six tickets in a half an hour one morning. I received the first three from a stone-faced officer who asked me to move.  I put those in my pocket and promised the cop I’d be right out. I came out and there were three more tickets on my windshield. I guess I should have been grateful that the car wasn’t towed and at least I got my flower fix for the week.

If you haven’t noticed, we have a little garden in the back of Raymond’s and have grown various plants and herbs over the years. Tall purple tulips planted by my wife looked great for a couple of years. A little potato plant came back after one of our sous chefs planted a little spud. We also had a garden mascot at one time—a cement duck named “Foie” by a former chef. Foie was heavy but someone walked off with it one night; the staff was pretty upset.

This year our annual spring fund raiser is coming back like a true perennial– that is, bigger and stronger. We will be selling our refreshing fruit and herb-inspired drinks (Lavender Lemonade or a Hibiscus Spritzer) to raise money for the Garden Club of Montclair. We will also be selling our drinks on site at the Montclair History Center Herb Sale (Crane House, May 3, 10 am to 4 pm), the Van Vleck Plant Sale (Van Vleck House and Gardens, May 5, 10 am to 4 pm), and at the Master Gardeners of Essex County Plant Sale (Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, May 5, 10 am to 4 pm).  At our Ridgewood location, where we grow our own mint and other herbs for our summer beverages, all proceeds will go to The Conservancy for Ridgewood Public Lands and help fund their Children’s Butterfly and Sensory Garden.

We hope that you can make it to one of these events, have a drink, and buy a plant to start your own garden. Even better, stop by and have a drink under the pear trees that are in full bloom right now on Church Street.



Ray’s Journal

by Raymond Badach

This month, we started a new enterprise at Raymond’s—DELIVERY.  If you knew us in the early days, when I was making food out of my apartment on Walden Place, my girlfriend Jasmine was our delivery “person.”  She’d pack everything in baskets and bring it to local businesses who had heard about the little secret I was keeping from my landlord. He began to get suspicious when my garbage cans became impossible to pull to the curb.

In 1989, when I first opened Raymond’s at 32A Church Street, I wasn’t too concerned about delivery. I was way too busy trying to get Raymond’s going–making everything from scratch and handling a small staff that often chose not to show up.

Even though I avoided the idea of delivery early in my restaurant career, let’s say I had a lot of practice.  In 1974, I was 12 and living in the Jersey City Heights.  Our paperboy, Melchor (Mel-core), asked me if I would take over his Jersey Journal route for two weeks while he was on vacation. Without the consent of my parents, who were both working, I began training with Mel. I was a quick study and I liked the job. When Mel got back, it was hard to give up the route but, luckily for me, Mel seemed to be losing interest and was getting ready to start high school. Not only did I inherit Mel’s route, but after a few months, I took on another route in the neighborhood. This meant I would be delivering about 175 newspapers over a two-mile radius. Those papers were heavy.  I graduated from using a bright red, canvas satchel to a small, folding shopping cart. I delivered six days a week and earned pretty decent tips.

My next stint as a delivery boy involved food. The summer I turned 14, I had a lot more freedom and scored a delivery job working at Solowey’s Luncheonette on Journal Square. I would get to work by 7:30 AM to get the breakfast deliveries going. Everything on the menu was available for takeout and it was all delivered on foot. I walk-ran all over Journal Square trying to keep orders intact, hot, and on time.

Because both jobs were in an urban environment that had seen better days, I got to see a lot for someone my age. I learned how to navigate in an adult world and how to use the system.  If I was delivering Solowey’s food to the bank, sometimes the tellers would ask me to pick up a chili dog and orangeade at Boulevard Drinks. I’d stop at Greenspan’s for a “turkey and Russian” and a Dr. Brown’s for the lawyers up the street. Ironically, I even managed to feed the homeless couple who hung out by the loading docks at the back of the Jersey Journal building.

I learned a lot about the restaurant business back in those days and how important it was for those little places to have a delivery system. When I got my first cooking job at Evergreen in Upper Montclair, I realized that most of the “uptown” restaurants did not deliver and people would come to the back of the restaurant for takeout. When I stopped cooking out of my apartment—which was smart, because it was probably illegal—Raymond’s delivery option was put on the back burner (ha!).

I’ve never been a fan of convenience. I will go out of my way to find the best-tasting loaf of bread or wait on line for two hours at Supreme to get my son a T-shirt. But that’s not fair to our customers, especially those who’ve been following us for the past 30 years.  So finally, we’re introducing Raymond’s delivery through Doordash. It’s simple. All you have to do is place your Raymond’s order through their website (doordash.com) or the app on one of your space-age devices. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a delivery boy.  Be sure to tip him well.



Those Seltzer Bottles!


Over the years, there have been a few questions that we hear often: “How do you make your French toast?”(sorry- trade secret!), “What’s in a marshmallow? “What color is that in the back dining room?” But, the number one question has always been: “What’s the story with the seltzer bottles?” Sooo, here’s the story!

About a dozen years ago, we decided to move what we now call “Little Raymond’s” from its original location at 32a Church Street to our current Montclair home. We enlisted Grayling Design to help us to renovate the space to create the warm and inviting atmosphere that they created as some NYC landmarks, including Balthazar and (the late) Pastis.

After spending an afternoon in the dining room of what was then restaurant Twentyeight, the designers returned a couple of weeks later with a sketch of a newly designed Raymond’s. The drawing featured open glass shelves with a transom and clock meant to divide the room to create a more intimate space. We were thrilled with the design and excited to build the restaurant of our dreams!

We plunged right in, gutted the space, and began the process of creating a new identity for Raymond’s. Everything was moving along nicely and the room was looking pretty good. Then one of the designers said, “You guys have to figure out what you’re putting on the shelves.” Huh? WE have to figure it out??

What in the world could we put on the shelves that would look great, not resemble a store display, and take advantage of the beautiful light shining through those vintage windows? We were completely stumped as to what could work but reluctantly decided to look for seltzer bottles. We weren’t excited but we just couldn’t think of anything else. We found some blue bottles, some clear ones, and the occasional green or brown bottle, mostly at flea markets or street vendors. Yawn. Boy, we were going to need a lot of bottles.

Then it happened. We were on an excursion to NY looking for seating possibilities for the dining room when we saw them. Purple! Red! Orange! We never knew that seltzer bottles like these existed! We gathered every one that we could find in the store and when we were checking out said, “Gee, we wish you had more of these!” The woman asked, “How many do you need?”   “86” was the not-very-hopeful response (the shelves had been painstakingly measured and we knew exactly how many bottles we needed). After a minute or two of searching on her computer, she cheerily exclaimed, “We have them!” That moment was the turning point. We knew then that we really had something unique and that the new Raymond’s would be special, indeed.

The bottles that have become synonymous with Raymond’s are mostly from Argentina. They are old, dating from the 1940s or earlier, and have been restored. Mixed in are some more local bottles, mostly from our area–Brooklyn, Paterson. It’s been an unexpected pleasure to see how many happy memories these bottles have evoked in our customers over the years. We can’t imagine Raymond’s without them!


Welcome to our blog!

Hey there! If you are reading this, you have undoubtedly discovered our new, redesigned website. We hope that you enjoy the new format. As excited as we are to unveil our new site, we are especially happy to introduce our brand-spanking-new blog! This is where we’ll share more of our story of Raymond’s, including a closer look at our food, influences, team members, and whatever catches our fancy that we think you’ll enjoy.

Check back soon for more!