It snows right through the roof. Sometimes it's real. Sometimes it's fake. But it's always an experience at the Afghan French restaurant Setaara with its remarkable two-story rear courtyard inspired by a Moroccan riad. Nationally recognized this summer by the LA Times, the restaurant's outdoor seating rings a fountain filled with rose petals and lighting imported from Morocco, Egypt and Turkey.
Restaurant co-owner Abdullah Panah, whose family hails from Afghanistan, says the design was inspired by his trips in the Middle East, particularly to Morocco and Iran.
With heat lamps and fire pits, the restaurant has become one of the most popular spots at the Jersey Shore. Panah said, "We change our decor with the seasons and holidays. The trees are still there now but with Valentines decor. We will likely sporadically have snow some days until March. In May we switch over to palm trees”
The menu is Afgan-French influenced with a couple of Italian dishes as a nod to the restaurant's location in the heart of Ducktown. Not surprisingly, it's AC's first Afghan Restaurant. But it is also the city’s only French restaurant.
For those that don’t like spicy food, they will be pleasantly surprised with the food being extremely
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dining but can be purchased from the whole animal butcher shop inside the restaurant (the ever-savory, yet subtly seasoned. or those that aren't ready to try Afghan food can try our savory non-Afghan options.
Other Hot Winter Spots -- The Butcher's Block in Long Branch.
One of the Jersey Shore's hottest restaurant last year continues to heat up the dining scene, inside and outside this winter. Tom Ambrisi's The Butcher's Block is tucked away on West Avenue in an industrial area of Long Branch protected by cold winter winds off the ocean. It's the perfect stop for our regular spotlight of 2021 winter outdoor dining options at the Jersey Shore.
Led by its partner design company, The Reclaimed Firm, the exterior of The Butcher's Block restaurant offers a variety of outdoor seating options. Against the wall of the restaurant, on a raised outdoor platform, diners are protected on two sides. Out in the large patio area, the seating is fairly flexible with large tables and plenty of outdoor heaters. In another section, there are
are fire pits and casual seating. When asked if they will always be open outdoors, the answer is the same as with most restaurants this winter -- weather permitting. But on a night when the temperature dipped to freezing, plenty of people were still warmed by the heaters and eating outside.
The Butcher's Block is a no-apologies meat restaurant where you walk inside to watch the butcher cut your slab of beef, pork or lamb sliced. It's all farm-to-table meat and not only available for dining but can be purchased from the whole animal butcher shop inside the restaurant (the ever-changing sausage options are amazing). In the same building, but not directly related is D'Ambrisi Wholesale Foods, a wholesale business run by Tom D'Ambrisi's father and brother.
Even without a bar tab -- it's BYOB now -- the prices are on the higher end, so be prepared. It's difficult to get a reservation because the owners are only making reservations for "friends and family". But call or stop by at off times and you can most likely get a seat.
Ambrisi and The Butcher's Block were in the news last year, related to masks and social distancing. A patron recently complained that she noticed some staff not wearing masked. Ambrisi took to the offensive by posting an Instagram video of himself telling her “to stay the f— home." The video, which went viral with thousands of “likes” and more than 1000 comments, has been deleted but has only added to the allure of the restaurant.
This winter, the restaurant is open starting at 4:00 pm Thursday through Saturday. The Butcher Shop is open (with take-out) from noon-4:30, Wednesday through Sunday.
Follow us here on thecitypulse.com as we continue tour restaurants with outstanding outdoor seating throughout the season.