The appropriately named 354 Steakhouse, at 354 Lawton Ave. Cliffside Park, NJ 07010, is perhaps the most noteworthy up-comer in the heavily contested steakhouse business. Although relatively new, the restaurant, which opened in late 2010, houses a chef with years of experience through his ownership of the Centro Latino Restaurant in West New York, as well as his position as Chef at JD’s Steak Pit in Fort Lee.
Owner and Chef Audel Ventura's signature dish, the Canadian Baby Back Ribs, are known for their "secret" homemade BBQ sauce, which Ventura will only share with his son, four cousins, and only close friends that he works with on a regular basis. He is also helped by his brothers; Salvador, Selvin, and Edgar.
"There's a secret to the madness here," says Ventura's son, Audel Ventura Jr., as he serves this writer a tempting plate of imported ribs glazed in delicate barbecue sauce.
Indeed, the ribs are incredible; with especially tender meat, they fall right off the bone and are perfectly complimented by the "secret" homemade sauce Ventura's swear by. It's a family favorite and for good reason. Although the ribs are perhaps a favorite dish, that's not to say that there aren't other selections that particularly stood out as this writer sampled everything under the sun. Ventura specifically prepared a certified Angus Beef Cowboy steak cooked to perfection, which easily rivaled the above-mentioned ribs. He also supplied his famous empanadas, which were complimented perfectly by a green tomato sauce. The empanadas are stuffed with either beef, chicken, guava, and cheese, or spinach and Manchego cheese. Each of these appetizers does justice in warming up the palette before the entree is served.
Ventura is quite the versatile chef; his diverse menu is full of various Cuban entrees, including the Palomilla steak, Pork chops in garlic sauce, and pan-seared chicken breast. The restaurant also offers various seafood dishes, as well as homemade hamburgers during lunchtime.
Desserts are homemade such as fried ice cream, creme brulee, and rice pudding. Best of all is the "Tres Leches" (three milk cakes), a sweet yet tasteful dish that serves as a perfect finish to any meal.
For those wishing to wind down after a day of work, a fully stocked bar fits well in the cozy, clean, and welcoming location, complete with inviting cherry wood paneling throughout the restaurant.
According to Ventura and his son, their success in being the hottest new steakhouse can be attributed to the warm and friendly way in which they run their business. "Most of our customers say that when they're here they feel like home," said Ventura Jr. "You can walk right in our kitchen and say hello," said Ventura. "You can truly feel the warmth in this place."