Great Finds: Bell Market, Holmdel NJ
I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just so bored of the lunch places around my job that I’d rather brown-bag it most days. It’s a shame, really. I remember the days when I’d get together with a few co-workers and go out to the diner, have a few laughs at the expense of our colleagues, and go back to work feeling a bit more relaxed. I’ve been on the hunt for something new for a while now and I am happy to say, I’ve found the cure to fix lunch boredom for good, and the cure is more Bell Market, in Holmdel NJ.
But Bell Market isn’t located in a downtown area. There isn’t a strip mall in sight, actually. Driving through rural and serene back roads of Holmdel, NJ, my GPS had me make a right turn straight into a McMansion housing community and on the horizon was a massive mirror-covered rectangle building that looked as if it should be part of AREA 51. The parking lots are color coded. You need to take round-abouts within this parking lot to finally reach the car slots. What is happening? Where am I?
This was the first time I’ve ever heard or visited the Bell Labs Holmdel complex. Back in the late 1950’s AT&T built a building on the property meant to be a research laboratory. They expanded on to the building about 10 years later and was considered one of the most advanced research facilities of its time. People studied the design of the complex and the building and its ultra-modern approach to space utilization and natural light. The buildings exterior is covered in a mirror finish you can see far and wide, and inside the building you see shadows of birds flying over head. Its interesting how even though you see the heavy cement structure, multiple tiered floors and elevator shafts, you don’t really feel like you’re indoors. For a time, the building was close to empty until a few other businesses decided to make it their home.
Now, there is a sense that there is a new focus and purpose for the building and its first floor indoor courtyard areas are being converted into retail space. Working employees typing away on the floors above can come downstairs, have lunch, buy that birthday gift they won’t have time to do this weekend, pick up some flowers for a loved one, make a dentist appointment, get their bangs trimmed and sip a bangin’ cup of coffee… all without putting on a coat.
They also are treated to a most interesting and unique set of five mini-restaurants making up what I can only call a “food court of art” where they can choose from artisan pizza, authentic Japanese and ramen, ultra-fresh salads, beautiful breads and baked goods and clean, modern sandwiches. This culmination of wonder-taste is known as Bell Market, and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8am - 7pm (except on Mondays until 4pm).
I brought a bunch of co-workers here with me and didn’t tell them where we were going. When we pulled up to the front of the complex to see the massive UFO-shaped water tower that has been a staple of the landscape for 40+ years, the car filled up with the sound of “Uhhhhhh…” which was music to my ears.
But when you go in, it’s just super fun and different. As we walked through the main massive open lobby towards Bell Market, we were overwhelmed with the sheer size of this building. They take advantage of the beautiful sunlight with some interesting greenery throughout the area. Common seating spreads and tables are available to employees and guests looking to take a break.
Within the Bell Market area, plenty of seating is available even at peak busy times. No line or wait is ever too long and certainly, whatever they’re making you wait for is totally worth it. I’m not sure what my favorite is but surely the oven-fired pizza at Corbo & Sons alone is worth the trip. If you are picky about pizza, if you appreciate a good mix of soft, chewy, crisp & bubbly, you may fall in love. Also fantastic during the winter, Jozu’s authentic ramen w/ pork belly and boiled egg warms your soul and will surprise you in the flavor complexities within.
I think the best way to describe each restaurant within Bell Market is that each one has a menu that’s exceptionally well-designed and full of thought. They source all of their ingredients locally and even grow their own herbs on premises.
I’m a sucker for ambiance, furniture and lighting. I could hang out in this place and in this building all day long. Inside a building so stoic and considered somewhat in need of some TLC is a comfortable and relaxed sensation. Its almost like time is standing still; I found myself aware of the minutes, aware of my surroundings. I felt small and realized I was surrounded by succulents. Bell Market will make you want to go home and COOK GOOD FOOD, have a sudden urge to garden, and drift inward with analytical thought about your interior design… all at once.
Hours later and I’m still impressed with my GREAT FIND! I can’t wait to go back and try something different and to share Bell Market with a few different co-workers. If you have the time at lunch, don’t be shy about driving in to this concrete complex. You’re absolutely allowed in and you’ll absolutely want to share this with everyone you know.
101 Crawford's Corner Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733
Check website for hours of operation.