One would think that any new restaurant in downtown Scotch Plains would be big news, especially when the restaurant's cuisine is something more exotic than Italian. However, Daisy's Restaurant quietly took over the space of the short-lived Steve's Sliders on East Second Street, opened its doors in mid-November, and has been serving up affordable, Spanish-American comfort foods without much fuss or fanfare ever since.
The restaurant serves up cafeteria-style service for lunch or dinner, and the daily specials are kept warm and replenished in a long row of metal buffet trays. What's on the menu depends on the day and can range from a list of 20 items, including bistec (beef steak) en salsa, bacalao guisado (cod fish), costilla a la bbq (bbq ribs), spaguetti con albondiga (spaghetti with meatballs), and berenjena con res (eggplant with beef), as well as traditional Spanish dishes that are more off-the-beaten-path: rabo guisado (stewed beef oxtail), cuajito (pork stomach), chivo guisado (stewed goat meat), cuajito (pork stomach), and patita de cerdo guisada (stewed pig feet). Each of the daily specials costs a mere $5.99 and comes with a choice of white or Spanish yellow rice as well as black beans or crushed plantains.
Daisy's also offers several sandwiches and soups to feed the lunch crowd. Soups come with a side of rice and run $4 for small and $6 for large. Choices are chicken, beef, and crab, and for the more adventurous, sopa de mondongo (tripe) and cocido de pata de vaca (cows' feet). At $3.50 to $5 and sandwich options such as pernil (roast pork), Cubano, steak, fish, and chicken, it's hard to find a more filling, cheap bite.
The new establishment also features several higher-priced seafood and meat selections that are made to order, such as camarones enchilada (shrimp in hot sauce, $12.00), paella valenciana for two (seafood casserole, $25.00), pechuga de pollo empanizada (chicken breast in garlic sauce, $9.50), bistec encebollado (beef steak with onions, $9.50), and masita de cerdo (pork bits, $9.50).
I visited the restaurant at the end of its first week and tried several of their $5.99 specials. Included in my Spanish feast were both the white and yellow rice, black beans, beef stew, pernil asado, and the pollo al horno (baked chicken). I was told desserts were not being offered at the restaurant just yet, but would be in the future.
Of this smorgasboard, the beans, beef stew, and pernil pork were all moderately solid dishes a traditional Spanish home cook (as opposed to a gourmet chef) might serve. None were particular stand-outs in flavor complexity. There were, however, two items that did make me take pause. The rice was fluffy and wonderful and made an excellent base for Daisy's baked chicken: an outstanding blend of citrus, garlic, and stock/jus. Both the white and dark meats were tender to the point of falling off the bone, and the flavorful skin and slight acidic-sweet finish to the sauce was the perfect blend that many strive for but few achieve. Don't even get me started, because I will wax on about this chicken for days. It is bone-sucking, plate-licking good. What's more, the flavors only intensified overnight, resulting in even better leftovers. If that's not reason enough to try it, I don't know what is.
On the one hand, service and décor are no-frills. The seating area is fairly roomy, the overly-casual, utilitarian setting does not invite one to linger, and depending on the individual, English is not necessarily a first language. On the other hand, the people behind the counter and in the kitchen are friendly and certainly take the time to understand or figure out what the customers' needs might be. Plus, the new Spanish-American goes overboard with take-out. Their to-go napkins are a high-quality, at-home, entertaining brand (don't laugh--people do notice the difference), and each item (versus each dish) receives its own, individual container and is filled to the brim with food—as opposed to squashing each item into different compartments of a Styrofoam box. We are talking A LOT of food here. Daisy's, which is still very much just getting its feet wet in the restaurant business, does not skimp on portions, even at these low prices.
The sign on Daisy's Restaurant window announces it as having the "best Spanish food in town." To be fair, it is the only Spanish restaurant in town. However, I do think Daisy's is off to a reasonable start given its affordability and large portions. And with chicken that good, I'll definitely be back. I just hope in this shaky economy where they're practically giving food away, Daisy's doesn't disappear as quickly as Steve's did.
1731 East 2nd Street, Scotch Plains
Hours of Operation:
Lunch and Dinner, Monday through Sunday, 11 am-8 pm
BYO. Free delivery and catering available.
All major credit cards accepted.