Our Favorite NJ Restaurant Towns

Porta in Jersey City

Pizza fave Porta enlivens one of the all-pedestrian blocks of Newark Avenue in Jersey City. Photo by Laura Moss

A great destination restaurant can be worth the drive from anywhere—even more so the dining destinations we celebrate here.

Each offers a range of choices and prices that take the worry out of a night on the town.


Chef/owner James Avery raises a Guinness at his Black Swan Public House in Asbury Park

A proper pour of Guinness draft should take exactly 119 seconds, says chef/owner James Avery. Photo by Christopher Lane

At the turn of the 21st century, restaurants led the way in the revitalization of this Shore town, once so emblematic that local hero Bruce Springsteen called his 1973 debut album Greetings From Asbury Park. New places such as Sonny’s Southern Cuisine, Bistro Ole and Harry’s Roadhouse invigorated a moribund downtown. Though those pioneers are gone, restaurants remain as central to Asbury Park as the beach and the music scene. At the north end of town, veteran restaurateur Tim McLoone transformed the old Howard Johnson’s, in all its doo-wop architectural glory, into Tim McLoone’s Supper Club. At the south end, Stella Marina (“star of the sea”) serves up oceanfront views as well as Italian cooking. On the boardwalk, changes are coming, as new owners renovate (for 2024 opening) the stable they acquired from pioneer Marilyn Schlossbach: Langosta Lounge, Asbury Park Yacht Club and Pop’s Garage.

A few blocks from the beach, on Bangs Avenue, stands Porta, renowned for its pizza and its social scene. It’s owned by the Smith group, whose stable includes the lovely French restaurant Pascal & Sabine on Bangs. A few doors down, Barrio Costero offers hip Mexican cuisine.

Cookman Avenue remains a vital area, with upscale Japanese Taka, gourmet pizzeria Talula’s (one of NJM’s favorite Jersey pizza spots), seafood stalwart the Bonney Read and, on nearby Mattison Avenue, Black Swan Public House, a classic pub, among the draws. Along Lake Avenue on the west side, young crowds enjoy Austro-Hungarian and German cuisine at Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, where just a soft pretzel and a beer can hit the spot. Also on Lake, Moonstruck, with its wide-ranging Italian and American menu, has been a landmark since it hopped the border from Ocean Grove in 2002. —Kelly-Jane Cotter

Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Avenue, 732-774-1155; Stella Marina, 800 Ocean Avenue, 732-775-7776; Porta, 601 Bangs Avenue, 732-774-3395; Pascal & Sabine, 601 Bangs Avenue, 732-774-3395; Barrio Costero, 610 Bangs Avenue, 732-455-5544; Taka, 660 Cookman Avenue, 732-775-1020; Talula’s, 550 Cookman Avenue, 732-455-3003; The Bonney Read, 525 Cookman Avenue, 732-455-3352; Black Swan Public House, 601 Mattison Avenue, 732-361-7159; Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, 527 Lake Avenue, 732-997-8767; Moonstruck, 517 Lake Avenue, 732-988-0123


Knife & Fork Inn in Atlantic City

At Knife & Fork Inn, mural and menu winningly turn back time. Photo courtesy of Knife & Fork Inn/Nick Valinote

The big city by the sea offers the Shore’s best dining scene and, unlike most Shore towns, it’s open year-round. Yes, the casinos offer some splurge-worthy options. On the Marina side, the Borgata has the Old Homestead Steakhouse (one of our favorite NJ steakhouses) and Angeline (one of our favorite NJ Italian destinations). At the Boardwalk’s Ocean Casino Resort, American Cut (steak) and Dolce Mare (seafood) offer gorgeous views. But there is a lot more to AC. In town, iconic, dress-up-worthy steak-and-seafood restaurants Dock’s Oyster House and Knife & Fork Inn and top-tier Italian gems Girasole and Cafe 2825, are busy.

Craving Vietnamese? Hit Com Ga Ninh Kieu for pho tai (cash only, takeout only) for some of the best banh mi in the state. Up for empanadas? Try Mr. Taco. Pizza? Old school Tony’s Baltimore Grill is spot on. (For a laugh, order the cheese plate, which is literally slices of regular old block cheese and provolone with plastic-wrapped saltines, and ask for the chilled carafe of red wine.) For cheese steaks and hoagies, White House Sub Shop is still the summit.

In the so-called Orange Loop (the street names are that color on a Monopoly board), visit Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, the adjacent Rhythm & Spirits, and chocolatier-meets-cocktail lounge Bar 32. If the soon-to-be open Good Dog Bar is as good as the Philly original, it will challenge Vagabond Kitchen as the place for burgers and craft beers. Tantalizing trivia: Good Dog is located in a former Atlantic City swinger’s club. And no, I’m not talking about the Lindy Hop. —Victor Fiorillo

Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, 609-317-7723; Ocean Casino Resort; Dock’s, 2405 Atlantic Avenue, 609-345-0092; Knife & Fork, 3600 Atlantic Avenue, 609-344-1133; Girasole; Café 2825, 2825 Atlantic Avenue, 609-344-6913; Com Ga Ninh Kieu, 1124 Atlantic Avenue, 609-572-9211; Mr. Taco, 3101 Atlantic Avenue, 609-246-6562; Baltimore Grill, 2800 Atlantic Avenue, 609-345-5766; White House, 2301 Arctic Avenue, 609-345-1564; Tennessee Beer Hall, 133 S. Tennessee Avenue, 609-541-4099; Rhythm & Spirits, 129 S. Tennessee Avenue, 609-350-6852; Bar 32, 121 S. Tennessee Avenue, 609-248-6960; Good Dog, 3426 Atlantic Avenue; Vagabond, 672 N. Trenton Avenue, 609-350-6721


The Rusty Nail in Cape May

The Rusty Nail’s beachfront setting is perfect for a warm day down the Shore. Photo by Jessica Orlowicz

This historic town at the state’s southern tip boasts a dining scene ranging from down-home to elegant. One of the newest attractions, the Lookout, in North Cape May, offers dramatic waterfront views along with shrimp and grits and croques madame with bellinis at brunch or, at dinner, martinis and scallops with bacon lardons. Downstairs is the more casual Exit Zero Ferry Station, known for burgers, blackened salmon and brews. On the elegant side, the historic Ebbitt Room in the Virginia Hotel is dinner only. (Monday pig roasts are the stuff of legends.)

A couple enjoys cocktails at Elaine's in Cape May

Lively outdoor fun is always on tap at Elaine’s. Photo by Jessica Orlowicz

Farm-to-table is more than a buzz phrase at Beach Plum Farm, a farm in West Cape May that made NJM’s 52 Things You Must Do in NJ list. Sapore, also in West Cape May, occupies a restored Victorian home where compelling Italian includes pasta pescatore brimming with seafood. Lobster roll is a highlight at the Rusty Nail. The outdoor scene at Elaine’s is as bright as its beach umbrellas. No guide to Cape May would be complete without mentioning the iconic Lobster House, serving more than 300,000 meals a year and doing it well. Don’t overlook the cheaper-than-hell breakfast at the counter in the coffee shop, where you can gab with locals. —VF

The Lookout and Exit Zero, 1200 Lincoln Boulevard, North Cape May, 609-551-4209; Ebbitt Room, 25 Jackson Street, 609-884-5700; Beach Plum Farm, 140 Stevens Street, West Cape May, 609-459-0121; Sapore, 416 S. Broadway, West Cape May, 609-600-1422; Rusty Nail, 205 Beach Avenue, 609-884-0017; Elaine’s, 513 Lafayette Street, 609-884-4358; Lobster House, 906 Schellingers Landing Road, 609-884-8296


This tiny borough is barely 15 minutes by car or train from Philadelphia, but locals have little reason to travel. One of the most coveted tables is recent Philly arrival June BYOB for fine French. If you want the revered whole Muscovy duck, best reserve it in advance. If you don’t, the escargot, short rib and rabbit dishes are divine. Peruvian Kiko’s just opened in January. Locals pack into the 16-seat restaurant for ceviches, rotisserie chicken and sweet potato-and-squash donuts. At Hearthside, food is cooked, as the name suggests, on a wood-fired hearth. In March, it switched from a la carte to a $125 prix fixe. Speaking of Philadelphia, we know many residents who cross the bridge for sushi at Sagami, which has set a high standard since 1974, long before sushi was trendy.

Italian restaurants abound; two favorites are the intimate, Sicilian-leaning Zeppoli and the recently reimagined Nunzio. You can still get Nunzio’s chicken parm, but now also white-truffle gnocchi and squid-ink bucatini.

With spring arriving, you’ll want to order lunch from Maria’s Bread Sandwiches, which sources all ingredients from South Philly’s Mighty Bread Company and small farms in a 90-mile radius. Enjoy your takeout at breezy, sun-drenched Cooper River Park. —VF

June BYOB, 690 Haddon Avenue, 856-240-7041; Kiko’s, 624 W. Collings Avenue, 856-854-6888; Hearthside, 801 Haddon Avenue, 856-240-1164; Sagami, 37 W. Crescent Boulevard, 856-854-9773; Zeppoli, 618 Collings Avenue, 856-854-2670; Nunzio, 706 Haddon Avenue, 856-858-9840; Maria’s, 685 Haddon Avenue


These Middlesex towns happen to have one of the largest concentrations in the country of people of Indian heritage, earning them the nickname Little India. Dozens of restaurants here feature the subcontinent’s wide-ranging cuisines. For a typical South Indian breakfast, visit Dosa Express for the classic lentil pancakes known as dosas. For lunch or dinner, the sambar vegetable stew and the rice-and-lentil cake called idli pair well with coconut chutney and chai or “buttermilk,” a salty, spiced drink similar to a lassi. We’ve never seen as many varieties of biryani rice casseroles as at Hyderabad Bawarchi Biryani, where our favorite is the heavily spiced goat biryani, available only on weekends.

In the back of Apna Bazar grocery, a food court serves unforgettable Indian snacks and hard-to-find sweets called ladoos. Ever had paan? The digestive treat is a betel nut leaf wrapped around a sweet or savory filling. You’ll find a paan stand inside Desi Galaxy.

At Amma’s Kitchen, weekend waits can be long, so show up early for delicious thali—samplers of breads, curries and snacks served on a banana leaf. At Shalimar Grill, $16.99 chicken biryani are buy-one-get-one-free and includes free chicken kabobs. —VF

Dosa Express, 1170 Green Street, Iselin, 732-404-0047; Bawarchi, 1700 Oak Tree Road, Edison, 732-243-9777; Apna Bazar, 1700 Oak Tree Road, 732-603-9702; Desi Galaxy, 1396 Oak Tree Road, 732-283-1097; Amma’s Kitchen, 1700 Oak Tree Road, 732-354-1363; Shalimar Grill, 1388 Oak Tree Road, 732-283-2880


When Montclair was dubbed the Upper West Side of suburbia in a 1996 New York Magazine cover story, it accelerated the migration of Manhattan Baby Boomers looking for sophistication and diversity, but in a leafy Essex County town just 12 miles west of the city. Back then, Montclair boasted Thai and sushi places before they became ubiquitous in suburbia, and offered al fresco dining on the crescent of Church Street, home of Raymond’s, a mainstay since 1989, ever popular for its thick French toast and creative sandwiches.

Around the corner, on Bloomfield Avenue, the town’s main east-west thoroughfare, choices range from Mesob (Ethiopian, eat with your hands) to two NJM Top 30s—Fascino (Italian) and Faubourg (French)—and newcomers like Laboratorio Kitchen (New American), La Rocca Osteria (Italian) and the original outpost of Ani Ramen, a hip noodle house, now with nine locations.

Montclair dining areas are stacked like a ladder. Moving north from Church and Bloomfield, you come to Ruthie’s for barbecue, pizza and live music; Antica Stazione for Italian; and da Pepo (in a bookstore in Watchung Plaza) for Italian and sandwiches. When you reach Upper Montclair, choices range from SLA Thai (“Simple Love Authentic”) to Turtle + The Wolf (New American) to Marcel, a popular lunch and brunch place owned by Israeli chef Meny Vaknin, turning out excellent shakshuka, shawarma and other dishes from the Middle East. —Debbie Galant

Raymond’s, 28 Church St., 973-744-9263; Mesob, 515 Bloomfield Ave., 973-655-9000; Fascino, 331 Bloomfield Ave., 973-233-0350; Faubourg, 544 Bloomfield Ave., 973-542-7700; Laboratorio Kitchen, 615 Bloomfield Ave., 973-746-6100; La Rocca Osteria, 21 Midland Ave., 973-746-0707; Ani Ramen, 511 Bloomfield Ave., 973-707-2085; Ruthie’s, 64 Chestnut St., 973-509-1134; Antica Stazione, 25 Depot Sq., 862-384-9233; Da Pepo, 54 Fairfield St., 973-655-8825; SLA Thai, 596 Valley Rd., 973-509-0111; Turtle and the Wolf, 622 Valley Rd, 973-783-9800; Marcel, 631 Valley Rd, 973-842-4088


Diners at Frankie in Jersey City

Looking for a glass of natural wine in a fun, laidback environment? Check out Aussie spot Frankie. Photo by Laura Moss

Over the last decade, as high-rise towers remade the skyline, Jersey City has risen as a food scene as well. More than 100 establishments now spread from downtown, near the Hudson River, up to the Heights and other neighborhoods. Downtown is where the buzz began, with Razza, chef/owner Dan Richer’s paean to Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza. Downtown also boasts Frankie, the Aussie-inspired natural-wine haven; Würstbar, where sausages, poutine and craft beer reign; the Archer, a rustic cocktail bar serving gamey bites; tiki-themed Cellar 335; DomoDomo for sophisticated sushi; and Porta for pizza.

“People who took a chance and opened restaurants here years ago are now seeing the fruits of their labor and opening more spots,” says Alessia Aron, owner of Beyond the Plate Food Tours. In the last year, the city has welcomed Krewe, a Cajun eatery in McGinley Square, and in downtown, contemporary Korean ONDO and French bistro Madame.

“Our job is to reflect what’s happening in the scene, and it’s changed dramatically,” says Aron. Especially in the Heights. There, you’ll savor house-made pastas at Corto, grab sophisticated sandwiches at Bread & Salt, tune into tamales and birria tacos at Irma’s Cafe. In Journal Square, don’t miss the bounty at Bangladeshi Korai Kitchen; or in Bergen-Lafayette, southwest of downtown, the delightful dumplings and noodles at Pinwheel Garden. —Shelby Vittek

Razza, 275/277 Grove Street, 201-356-9348; Frankie, 264 Grove Street, 201-333-0170; Würstbar, 516 Jersey Avenue, 201-479-8396; Archer, 176 Newark Avenue, 201-309-1090;  Cellar 335, 335 Newark Avenue, 201-222-1422; DomoDomo, 200 Greene Street, 201-267-0222; Porta, 135 Newark Avenue, 201-544-5199; Krew, 673 Bergen Avenue, 201-360-3854; Ondo, 3 2nd Avenue, 201-721-6771; Madame, 390 4th Street, 201-876-8800; Corto, 507 Palisade Avenue, 201-420-6290; Bread & Salt, 435 Palisade Avenue; Irma’s Cafe, 279 Central Avenue, 201-918-5341; Korai Kitchen, 576 Summit Avenue, 201-721-6566; Pinwheel Garden, 318 Communipaw Avenue, 201-413-5333


“Because we’re set in the marble-and-mahogany Vail Mansion”—the 1918 palazzo built for then AT&T head Theodore Vail”—diners think we might be stuffy or old-fashioned,” says Chris Cannon, owner of Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen. “But one visit, they see we’re all about a good time.” Indeed, three of the four dining rooms include bars. Veteran New York chef Tom Valenti’s New American food is robust yet nuanced, from soulful cheddar biscuits with caramelized onion butter and rosemary honey to Barnegat squid over house-made squid-ink spaghetti.

Virtually next door stands South + Pine (named for the street intersection), domain of chef/owner Leia Gaccione, a Passaic native whose parents named her for the Star Wars princess. She’s been on Top Chef, Iron Chef, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay (a mentor; she didn’t). Gaccione’s comfort food is assertive: try local pork chop over panzanella pasta with sausage and raisins, or the burger topped with fried egg, bacon and aioli.

A few blocks away, chef David Burke’s 1776 faces the historic Morristown Green and its statue of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette intimately conferring about where to eat—oh, and those pesky Redcoats. Burke would have them in for splendid pizza, pasta, sushi, steak, salad, seafood, cocktails and dessert. “If you don’t know what or where you want to eat,” he says, “this is the place.”

A few miles down the road, at Blue Morel in the Westin Governor Morris Hotel, two top toques team up: Thomas Ciszak (of Blue Morel in Closter), who named the place for our state’s bounty from sea (blue) and land (morel) oversees things. Executive chef Bryan Gregg, advocate of “micro-local and super-seasonal,” brightens crab cakes with a salad of pea shoots and offsets short ribs and house-aged beef loin with peppery watercress. Gregg’s wine dinners, with one-night-only dishes, come with vintages chosen by general manager Justin Guthrie, a keen mixologist whose Gold Rush bourbon cocktail is best savored with Gregg’s epic burger smothered in bacon jam. Find more of our favorite Morristown restaurants here—KT Harrison

Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen, 110 South Street, 973-644-3180; South + Pine, 90 South Street, 862-260-9700; 1776 by David Burke, 67 East Park Place, 973-829-1776; Blue Morel, 2 Whippany Road, 973-451-2619


Patrons at Destination Dogs in New Brunswick

Located off the main drags in New Brunswick, Destination Dogs is a must for hot dogs and sausages. Photo by Jim Connolly

The Hub City has a lot to hang its hat on. Aside from its status as the seat of Middlesex County, flagship campus of Rutgers and world headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, it boasts two major hospitals (Robert Wood Johnson and St. Peter’s) and a dining scene worthy of those institutions. Students and professionals alike flock to restaurants along Albany and George streets, such as pub favorites Old Man Rafferty’s and Harvest Moon Brewery, and global exponents Dashen (Ethiopian), Chai Chenak (Pakistani), Indochine (Vietnamese) and Noodle Is Calling (Chinese). Opened in 1983, the Frog and the Peach was an early exemplar of New American cooking. Chef Bruce Lefebvre purchased the restaurant from founders Jim Black and Betsy Alger in 2012. The theater district is anchored by Stage Left Steak, which opened in 1992 as Stage Left and is still run by founders Mark Pascal and Francis Schott. On Church Street, fine dining shines at Steakhouse 85 and Salt, a seafood house.

Along Easton Avenue, Rutgers students dash across the street from Mamoun’s Falafel to happy-hour fave Stuff Yer Face before digging into desserts at Thomas Sweet. Also on Easton, you’ll find confident Middle Eastern cooking both at Evelyn’s and Efes Mediterranean Grill. Beyond the main drags, people flock to Destination Dogs on Paterson Street, and Delta’s on Dennis Street for soul food (and live jazz). —KJC

Old Man Rafferty’s, 106 Albany Street, 732-846-6153; Harvest Moon Brewery, 392 George Street, 732-249-6666; Dashen, 88 Albany Street, 732-249-0494; Chai Chenak, 349A George Street, 732-246-2600; Indochine, 371 George Street, 732-745-2928; Noodle is Calling, 354 George Street, 732-325-9880; Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street, 732-846-3216; Stage Left Steak, 5 Livingston Avenue, 732-828-4444; Steakhouse 85, 85 Church Street, 732-247-8585; Salt, 103 Church Street, 732-745-7258; Mamoun’s Falafel, 58 Easton Avenue, 732-640-0794; Stuff Yer Face, 49 Easton Avenue, 732-247-1727; Thomas Sweet, 55 Easton Avenue, 732-828-3855; Evelyn’s, 45 Easton Avenue, 732-246-8792; Efes Mediterranean Grill, 32 Easton Avenue, 732-249-4100; Destination Dogs, 101 Paterson Street, 732-993-1016; Delta’s, 19 Dennis Street, 732-249-1551


Farms encircle Newton, the county seat of agricultural Sussex County, and Fredon, its southerly postal zone, setting the tone for a vibrant restaurant scene.

At Indian Masala, in an elegant 1920 townhouse, Chef Jamesbond Paramanandan, who came to the United States from South India a decade ago, proudly gives “Americans a taste of my mother’s and grandma’s village dishes.” His varied and intense spice mixtures—masalas—are composed daily.

Two years after opening the Circle in a 1720 farmhouse in Fredon, the restaurant’s precocious chef/owners, Brendan Ullmann, 28, and Tyler O’Toole, 30, keep expanding their vision of “distinctive, farm-fresh, refined but lively food,” says Ullmann. “And now we offer wine and cocktails and some adventurous dishes, like a multi-mushroom risotto that tastes deep in the forest.” Adds O’Toole, “We’re going for maximum flavor and enjoyment.”

Windy Brow Farm, a Fredon fruit-and-vegetable farm run on sustainable principles, is also a market, bakery, pick-your-own orchard and outdoor dining destination. One of its dozens of rotating ice cream flavors—Taylor Ham & French Toast—made a social media splash. Jake Hunt co-owns Windy Brow with his dad, James. The Hunts are not newcomers. The Hunt family is till farming some of the same land their ancestors did in the early 1700s. “Windy Brow was meant to be for us,” says Jake. Locals would agree.

Pad Thai noodles might be the most ordered item on any Thai menu. But at Thai Nakhon, they come at you with a rare harmony of the five Thai tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, hot). Also consider fragrant Thai dumplings stuffed with crab, shrimp, pork or chicken; citrusy, chili-strafed green-papaya salad; and crispy roast duck with tamarind, ginger or garlic-basil sauce. Chef Israel Xolo grew up in Mexico, where his Thai mom taught him her native cuisine. —KTH

India Masala, 214 Spring Street, Newton, 862-275-7128; The Circle, 310 Route 94, Fredon, 973-862-6410; Windy Brow Farm, 359 Ridge Road, Fredon, 973-579-9657; Thai Nakhon, 7 Woodside Avenue, Newton, 973-933-6925


An oyster at Elements in Princeton

An oyster from Elements, a farm-to-table restaurant presenting “interpretive-American cuisine.” Photo by Michael Gecawicz

The campus of a certain Ivy League university certainly sets an august tone with its Gothic buildings. But in a lucky break for budget-conscious students and visiting families, Princeton restaurants are quite approachable. Elements and Agricola, both on nearby Witherspoon Street, meld farm-to-table with eye-opening flavor combinations and techniques. At Elements, an NJM Top 30, chef/co-owner Scott Anderson focuses on local and sustainable ingredients to create what he calls “interpretive-American” cuisine, like a recent dish of scallops with crab, sweet potato and pea leaves. Agricola also supports local farms, including nearby Terhune Orchards and Griggstown Farm Market, and Rolling Hills Farm in Lambertville. Tiger Noodles on Nassau is popular with students for sushi, poke bowls and Chinese dishes.

Conte’s, on Witherspoon, is a renowned pizzeria with a vintage neon sign out front, a dining room with a glass-block bar, and that rarity, its own parking lot. At Planted Plate, on Spring Street, creative vegan ranges from falafel and salads to vegan versions of gyros, Reubens and crab cakes. Ficus, on Nassau, splits itself in two: Ficus Cafe, on the ground floor, offers boba and casual fare; Ficus Above, one flight up, features steak frites and duck breast, along with house-made zero-proof cocktails. Find more of our favorite restaurants in Princeton here—KJC

Elements, 66 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-0078; Agricola, 11 Witherspoon Street, 609-921-2798; Tiger Noodles, 252 Nassau Street, 609-252-0663; Conte’s, 339 Witherspoon Street, 609-921-8041; Planted Plate, 15 Spring Street, 609-356-0845; Ficus, 235 Nassau Street, 609-917-2656


Diners at Birravino in Red Bank

Classic Italian-American cooking is on the menu at Birravino. Photo by Jim Connolly

Crossing Cooper’s Bridge over the Navesink River from Middletown, Red Bank greets you with lovely parks on the riverbank and, a few blocks on, Victor and Bobby Rallo’s trattoria, Birravino. In warm weather, enjoy the beer garden, and in any season, the extensive wine list and classic Italian-American cooking.

Pazzo MMX, on West Front Street, another lively Italian spot, boasts a temperature-controlled patio for outdoor dining all year. Teak, on Monmouth Street near the Count Basie Center for the Arts, draws pre-theater crowds for its Asian fusion and sushi. Some Red Bank establishments are worth visiting for aesthetics alone. Bright orange walls and colorful decorations elevate the vibe at Muang Thai, a cozy corner on East Front Street. On Monmouth Street, the Dublin House, a stately Victorian, serves hearty Irish fare. For a night with perhaps a sense of uplift, try JBJ Soul Kitchen, on Monmouth. Founded by Jon and Dorothea Bon Jovi and run by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, it’s a community restaurant where you can pay for your meal with money or by volunteering at the restaurant. You’ll enjoy a three-course meal alongside paying customers and patrons in need. —KJC

Birravino, 183 Riverside Avenue, 732-842-5990; Pazzo MMX, 141 West Front Street, 732-747-4551; Teak, 64 Monmouth Street, 732-747-5775; Dublin House, 30 Monmouth Street, 732-747-6699; Muang Thai, 7 East Front Street, 732-741-9999; JBJ Soul Kitchen, 207 Monmouth Street, 732-842-0900


A woman enjoys at outdoor meal with her dog at Date’N’Dog in Ridgewood

At Date’N’Dog, Diane Nilson, right, and her dog, Davey, enjoy an outdoor meal. Photo courtesy of Date’N’Dog

With a small but charming downtown, stately old homes and an express train to Manhattan, Ridgewood has long attracted New Yorkers eager to exchange a doorman for a front porch, but without losing good places to eat. “We’re kind of the restaurant capital of Bergen County,” boasts Tony Damiano, president of the Ridgewood Guild, a nonprofit that boosts local businesses. Like all good dining towns, Ridgewood offers a range of price points and cuisines. There are three Korean restaurants, three Persian, four Indian, and seven places to get sushi.

For tapas, consider Cravings, which offers a three-item-plus-dessert Tapas Tour for $38. For Italian, From Scratch, an evenings-only place run by a couple from Rome, offers that city’s signature pizza called pinsa (puffier and airier than Jersey style), plus mains like branzino and lasagna. Around the corner, S. Egidio creates a tavern-like vibe, with an espresso bar and a menu of pizza, pasta, antipasto and salads. Felina, for pasta, pizza, meat and fish, occupies a former bank building and has a big dining room that includes a capacious bar and busy mixologists. There’s also a niche next to the old bank vault, and in warm weather Bergen County’s only rooftop eatery.

Refined French can be found at Latour, near the train station, which offers classic Gallic favorites like foie gras and coq au vin. Roots, an upscale steakhouse, has a raw bar, liquor license and a 42-ounce prime porterhouse for two that will set you back $150.

Meeting a friend at lunch? Try Date’N’Dog, an idiosyncratic cafe with smoothies, salads, sandwiches and specialty coffees. Date’N’Dog also offers an online dating service for dog owners, and invites the pets to share outdoor tables. Lifelong Ridgewood resident Keith Dawkins, president of the Harlem Globetrotters, is a regular. He also recommends the Daily Treat, a family place now in its fifth decade, and Sook Pastry (one of our favorite bakeries, too) for French treats (“They just nail it every time,” he says). The scene is probably at its most glorious on summer weekends, when musicians serenade diners on Ridgewood Avenue, which is closed to traffic. —DG

Cravings, 8 Wilsey Square, 201-857-8533; From Scratch, 44 E. Ridgewood Avenue, 201-857-5188; S. Egidio, 201-389-3525, 17 N. Broad Street; Felina, 18 Prospect Street, 551-276-5454; Latour; Roots, 17 Chestnut Street, 201-444-1922; Date’N’Dog, 19 W. Ridgewood Avenue, 201-389-3949; Sook, 24 S Broad Street, 201-493-2500; Daily Treat, 177 E. Ridgewood Avenue, 201-652-9113

No one knows New Jersey like we do. Sign up for one of our free newsletters here. Want a print magazine mailed to you? Purchase an issue from our online store.

The post Our Favorite NJ Restaurant Towns appeared first on New Jersey Monthly.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published