4 Great Shore Adventures You Shouldn’t Miss

All illustrations by Ali Macdonald

Barnegat Light

Interest in oysters is on the rise. They have complex flavors, a local connection, pair well with cocktails—and they’re supposed to make you kinda randy. The bivalve, once plentiful in New Jersey’s tidal waters, is making a comeback thanks to a new generation of resourceful oyster farmers. You can get a new perspective on modern oyster farming—literally waist deep—thanks to Barnegat Oyster Collective’s oyster farm tours. Founders Matt Gregg and Scott Lennox—both pioneering oyster farmers—take turns leading the tours that start at Van’s Boat Rental in Barnegat Light. The tours start with a five-minute scenic cruise on a 25-foot flat-bottom skiff with seating for eight (on shellfish crates). Your destination: a 12-acre oyster farm on Barnegat Bay. Here, oysters are raised in 400 steel-netting cages. Amid the salty summer air and sunshine, the farmers show the different stages of oyster growth, from juvenile oysters to market size. Oysters are then popped open for tasting—the freshest seafood you’re going to get, all while standing in the crystal-clear bay water. “It’s just a unique experience,” says Gregg. “You’re not just learning where oysters come from, you’re getting your hands and feet wet. Everyone we take out there says it was the best experience of their summer.” Oysters are filter feeders, which means they eat the microorganisms that can choke our bays of oxygen. The renewed interest in oysters has created careers for these young baymen. In short, oysters are good for both the local ecology and the economy. The 90-minute tour is $65 and requires advance booking. Tours run twice daily every Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day weekend, or weekdays by appointment. Check the website for exact times. You’ll need everything you would for a day at the beach—bathing suit, shades, towel, snacks, drink and sunscreen—as well as a pair of old sneakers or water shoes for walking in the bay. A fresh lemon and a jar of cocktail sauce also come in handy. —Jon Coen

801 Bayview Avenue; 609-450-9005

Cape May

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Rollin A. Fritch is designed in part for intercepting smugglers. Sitting at her home berth at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May Harbor, she needn’t worry about me. As my kayak passes within 20 feet of her stern, all I’m carrying is a sealed float bag with two bottles of water, a turkey sandwich and a granola bar. By this point in my tour, I’ve become acclimated to my kayak, thanks to my guide, Jeff Martin, owner/operator of Aqua Trails. It’s a summer weekday, so the broad harbor is relatively quiet. Still, Martin (in a separate kayak) takes care as he leads me along the margins of the harbor, then across the choppy channel. Families of osprey watch our movements from their nests atop the channel markers. The morning breeze picks up, sending ripples across the water as we paddle around a sandbar. “You can almost set your watch by the breeze,” Martin tells me. A local high school marine-biology and oceanography teacher, Martin has an encyclopedic knowledge of these waters. We take a break on a small beach, and he explains the natural and man-made forces behind the creation and maintenance of the harbor. On the mudflats behind us, three kinds of seagulls and a pair of American oyster catchers with distinctive orange bills browse for insects and small crustaceans to lunch on. Back in the kayaks, we paddle past a clam factory and enter the calm waters of Upper Thorofare. The paddling is effortless here. We proceed under two low bridges into Mill Creek, an unadulterated salt marsh that serves as a nursery for numerous species of fish and a sanctuary for the local avian population. For several thrilling minutes, a parade of 3-inch-long menhaden (known locally as bunkerfish) skitters across the water’s surface like a shimmering wave. Any closer and they’d jump right into my kayak. In the distance, a common tern dives for food. A snowy egret wades patiently in the shallow water. Martin points out a semipalmated plover and several sandpipers. Stacks of mussels cling to the seaweed along the banks. Finally, the salt marsh empties back into the harbor. We cross the channel again and return to our starting point, having covered about five miles in two invigorating hours. My tour, packaged by Congress Hall, cost $60 and included lunch and a ride to and from the hotel. Or you can sign up directly with Aqua Tours for $45. Aqua Tours also offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, sunset and full-moon tours, and camp for kids. —Ken Schlager

1600 Delaware Avenue; 609-884-5600

Gateway National Recreation Area

This easy, self-guided, 12-mile ride up the spine of Sandy Hook is ideal for a family outing. The paved, multiuse path (also fit for runners or walkers) winds past oceanfront beaches and the rocky edge of Sandy Hook Bay on its way to Fort Hancock, the ghostly army base at Sandy Hook’s northern tip. The ride starts at parking area B, just beyond the entrance to the national recreation area (parking fee, $15). Cedar, juniper, cherry and holly trees shade much of the path. About two miles in, we pass two vintage Nike missiles on their launchers, vestiges of Sandy Hook’s incarnation as a military outpost. Tours of the Nike Missile Radar Site are available on a handful of select dates this summer (check the website). Eventually, the trail opens onto the grassy expanse of Fort Hancock, a former U.S. Army installation. At its peak during World War II, the fort—it’s more like a small town—was home to more than 7,000 soldiers. Its main military role was to protect New York Harbor from invasion by sea. In the Cold War era, the Nike missiles were installed to defend the entire East Coast. The fort was decommissioned in December 1974. The stately, yellow-brick living quarters of the fort’s Officers’ Row face the bay in various states of disrepair, their porches collapsing beneath the ravages of time. At the end of the row, the former Lieutenants’ Quarters serves as the History House (open 1-5 pm daily, through August). Behind Officers’ Row, the 103-foot-tall Sandy Hook Lighthouse watches over its surroundings, as it has for 250 years (tours available from 1-4:30 pm daily). The visitors’ center is located in the Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters (open from 9 am-5 pm daily). The ride continues past the U.S. Coast Guard station, following the path to the right, then left toward the concrete-and-steel remains of the Nine-Gun Battery. The paved trail ends just beyond the battery. Here, we dismount and continue on foot up a sandy path to the North Beach observation deck for a view of lower Manhattan, about 15 miles across the open water. Turning back, we retrace the trail past the Nine-Gun Battery and head toward Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook’s clothing-optional area. (No worries, you can’t see the beach from the trail.) We continue on Atlantic Drive, which brings us back to the main path south of Fort Hancock. From here, it’s a quick four miles back to our starting point. —KS

The A.J. Meerwald was built to carry loads of oysters dredged from the floor of the Delaware Bay. Its dredging days long behind it, the graceful, two-masted gaff schooner, originally launched in 1928, now serves as an educational and tour boat. Throughout the warm-weather months, tours are available on the Meerwald from several New Jersey ports. Built in New Jersey, the Meerwald has had a bumpy and complex history. When it began its seagoing career, New Jersey’s oyster industry was booming, and the ship’s owners, the Meerwald family, thrived. Then came the Great Depression and World War II. During the war, the ship was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard and converted into a fireboat. The Meerwald changed hands several times in the ensuing decades. Eventually, the ship was donated to its current owner, the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, a nonprofit that raised the funds to restore the Meerwald and now operates it out of Port Norris, still on the Delaware Bay. In 1998, the Meerwald was declared the state’s official tall ship. The Bayshore Center utilizes the A.J. Meerwald for onboard educational programs, summer camps and charter trips, which help to fund its overhead expenses. Morning, afternoon, evening and themed (birding, oystering) sails—with Captain Johann Steinke at the helm—are available through early October from such New Jersey ports as Beach Haven, Cape May and Bivalve. Tickets for two-hour cruises range from $17.50 to $37.50. —Dominique McIndoe


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Meet Jess Murgittroyd, a Vegan Cookie Master

Jess Murgittroyd baking her vegan chocolate chip cookies at Root 9 Baking Company. Photo courtesy of Justin Kompier

Some small business owners end up there more by accident than ambition. Not Jess Murgittroyd. Self-taught pastry chef, Bergen County native, and founder of both Green City Pops and, as of two years ago, Root 9 Baking Company, Murgittroyd wanted to be an entrepreneur since she was little. Not only did she teach herself pastry, but when she went vegan two years ago, she basically re-taught herself everything, except this time without eggs, butter and dairy. Her goal: to make a “veganized” version of the classic chocolate chip cookie. Murgittroyd insists you can’t tell the difference between her vegan cookie and the non-vegan version.

We caught up the pastry chef to talk about why (and how) vegan cookies, what’s next for a vegan baking business in our semi-health-obsessed era, and when we should expect to see her cookies on retail shelves.

Table Hopping: You’re a self-taught pastry chef, but how did you get into vegan cookies?
JM: I had been vegetarian for about four years. I went vegan two years ago. Being a pastry chef, I just couldn’t find any good vegan cookies! I love chocolate chip cookies, obviously, so I decided to veganize a lot of my recipes.

TH: What did that look like?
JM: It’s actually like re-learning pastry. It’s challenging. Having the fundamentals, just knowing how to bake traditionally definitely helped me a ton with vegan baking. I would literally just think about egg replacers, what could I use, what would be a good binder. You have to think outside the box. For instance, I created a butter recipe. It’s a base of coconut oil. I emulsify it and it creams and whips just like butter would.

TH: And egg substitutes? We just covered aquafaba—or chickpea brine—in cocktails. How does it work in cookies?
JM: Essentially, we’re replacing protein of the egg with the protein of the chickpea. Aquafaba acts as a binder. It really holds all our ingredients together. And it doesn’t taste like anything.

TH: That’s probably a big question for non-vegans. Your cookies look like the classic version, but do ingredient substitutions change the flavor?
JM: You can’t taste it whatsoever. Really, I like to have people taste the cookies; after the fact, I tell them they’re vegan and minds are blown. You’d never know these cookies are plant-based. They taste like their butter counterparts.

TH: Do you use any local ingredients?
JM: We’re actually using a locally-milled flower. Well, we use a combination of King Arthur flour—they’re Vermont-based—and Farmers Ground Flour. They’re in New York State.

Vegan chocolate chip cookies from Root 9 in Whippany. Photo courtesy of Justin Kompier

TH: Currently you do Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate, Birthday Cake, and Classic Oatmeal cookies. Any plans on new flavors?
JM: We’re actually always in R&D. Soon, we’re launching our own line of bars: brownies, blondies. We actually just launched our “Brookie”—half brownie, half cookie. Eventually we want to get a little crazy with flavors—have some fun, funky flavors, do a “Kitchen Sink” cookie with potato chips and stuff. Really get crazy. We actually have equipment to make stuffed cookies as well, so eventually we can do a Caramel-stuffed or an Apple Pie-stuffed Oatmeal Cookie.

TH: There’s lots of specialized, even vegan, baked goods out there these days. Why chocolate chip cookies?
JM: No one’s really doing this on a food-service level. For instance, you can’t find Impossible Burgers in stores. It’s only available to purchase through restaurants and big distribution centers. We saw nobody was doing vegan cookie dough on that level. And the cookies that I have tasted that are vegan, for me—well, I’m very picky about my chocolate chip cookies. I just kind of said to myself “I can make this better.” That’s how Root 9 came to be.

TH: But you’re not a retail store, correct?
JM: We have the online store, but we’re basically a wholesale bakery. We bake in Whippany. We have distribution through US Foods. Our cookies are available to purchase wholesale in the whole northeast region.

TH: Do you have any plans to go retail? Right now there’s no packaged “Root 9” cookie available in stores.
JM: We’re not really focusing right now on retail. In about a year-and-a-half to two years, we want to do a retail launch, break into the supermarket game, but right now, we’re focusing on our food-service side of things—bulk packaging, ready-to-bake cookie dough. We send it out and the customer bakes them on site. Or they can keep them in the freezer and bake off as they need them. The customer’s always getting a fresh-baked cookie, and there’s no waste involved. It’s a win-win.

TH: What kind of places are you selling to?
JM: Any restaurant, bakery, coffee shop, hotel, colleges, universities, even health care systems. Hospitals systems are getting so many more requests for plant-based. They love the fact that we’re dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free. Eventually, when we go retail, we’ll have individually-wrapped cookies and bars. We’ll also have our cookie dough for sale in the refrigerated section… By 2021, we hope to be national. On the West Coast.

Root 9 doesn’t do retail yet, but they are still doing pop-ups—“we limit it to maybe under 10 a year”—and the next is July 13 at the NJ Veg Fest in Atlantic City.

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N.J.’s new medical marijuana applications enhance market for patients, providers

File photo

John D. Fanburg of Brach Eichler.

The most recent request for proposals by the New Jersey Department of Health‘s Division of Medicinal Marijuana portends not only an enhanced marketplace for both patients and providers, it exhibits the sophistication of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration fulfilling its mission of creating a mature marijuana market in New Jersey.

The 25 new licenses are also the best opportunity yet for New Jersey entrepreneurs to gain an equal footing with their out-of-state peers in creating successful business plans under the program. The Murphy administration also left itself in a position to control the quality of participants in the program by offering only 25 new licenses, as opposed to the previously discussed 108. If there is a great depth of demand from patients and a population of qualified prospective providers, the administration can always continue to expand the market.

It’s good for business

The last round, which attracted nearly 150 applications for six licenses, definitively eliminated companies without substantial prior experience, which left New Jersey-based applicants out of the running. Now that the largest companies already received licenses, the more than 144 unsuccessful applications from the last round have a head start on this cycle of licensure.

The existing 12 licensed entities required vertically integrated businesses, which disadvantaged local or smaller companies that frequently formed collaborative entities out of necessity to fulfill all the application requirements in previous rounds. This new application process offers 21 opportunities for entrepreneurs to apply for a specialized license, allowing the previous 144 unsuccessful applicants, and many more who were discouraged by the expansiveness of the previous cycle, to apply based on their expertise.

It’s good for consumers

The state will continue to select locations based on serving population centers. With 31 providers (19 new providers in addition to the current 12) throughout the state, anyone with a prescription should be within a half-hour drive, and many people within 10 minutes, increasing access to the estimated 300,000 New Jersey residents who need medical marijuana for chronic issues.

Dispensaries, like coffee shops, have innovative retail concepts and product differentiation. Under the expansion, the marketplace will bloom beyond the cigarette or pipe, which are often less popular options to edibles, vape, edible oils and THC pill form.

More suppliers will lead to more specific strains and better treatment options, as well as, presumably, more advantageous pricing.

How many applications for +/- 40 municipalities?

We expect that the New Jersey Department of Health’s request for applications for the next 25 licenses, due Aug. 22, will generate hundreds of applications.

The complexity is that each of those applicants will need a commitment from a municipality to welcome medical marijuana enterprises, and that is a shrinking rather than an expanding number. Many towns declined to participate in the last round — and opposition to any cannabis at all was solidified as a result of the politicking of the Adult Use (Recreational) Cannabis bills during this spring.

As a result of the six applicants chosen in the last round, the field is that much narrower. Look for only 25 or so municipalities to put out the welcome mat, and, while some will provide blanket endorsements, many of these will have a filtering process before endorsing specific applicants be cited in a dozen or more applications.

John D. Fanburg is managing member; chair, healthcare law; and co-chair, cannabis law, for Brach Eichler.

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Show & Tell: How to keep your current employees from looking elsewhere

Richard Singer is director of permanent placement services with Robert Half in New Jersey.

According to data gathered by Robert Half, 43% of workers  plan to look for a new job within the next 12 months. In a tight job market where talent can be hard to come by, how can you keep your current employees from looking elsewhere?

“We advise clients all of the time on retention strategies. The most important thing is that companies know their employee base and what makes each person tick. Are you offering above-market salaries? Are you thinking outside the box when it comes to perks and benefits? More than half of employees (52%) say that flexible schedules and leaving early on Friday would be the best perks a company could offer. Bottom line: If you want to retain your employees and not lose them to the competition, it is time to start looking at your own internal hiring processes and analyzing what makes your company a great place to work.”

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CBD solution: Rosenbaum liked how cannabis-derived oil helped her anxiety … so she created her own company

Alexis Rosenbaum had no desire to experience cannabis, she said, until she developed debilitating anxiety in her late 20s. 

“Then, I figured, what have I got to lose?” she said. 

Her experience was positive — so much, in fact, that Rosenbaum, now 32, founded Rosebud CBD in Jersey City last year as a woman-owned and -run provider of cannabidiol, or CBD, oil.

The business has been a stunning success. Rosenbaum, the CEO, said she had more than $1 million in sales in its first year. And she’s not surprised.

“If this plant has affected me the way it has, who better to tell this story in order to help others open their eyes and perspectives, too?” she said. 

Originally from Cincinnati, Rosenbaum said moving to Hoboken in the summer of 2017 was a key catalyst for her entrepreneurship — and great for business. 

“Establishing myself as a ‘new’ Jersey girl who wants to have a company rooted here, to bring in product and money for the state, has been a huge pro,” she said. 

CBD oil can be taken a variety of ways, including mixed in beverages.

And, much like her product, Rosenbaum said the business’s unfolding has been rather organic, with “amazing” connections having fallen into place. 

“I’ve just tried to be real and honest and show my face while talking about the things I’ve experienced so that I can be here for our customers,” she said. “The plant has been stigmatized, but Rosebud is a safe place in which to continue to ask questions.”

Her search for answers, Rosenbaum said, is what led to her success, after all. 


After graduating from Morehead State University in Kentucky with a degree in social work in 2011, Rosenbaum said she worked a variety of jobs that gave her lots of opportunity to observe leaders in small businesses, including as a front desk assistant, a sales representative, a personal assistant and a home manager. 

“My husband was chasing his pro baseball career, and it was difficult to have a full-time job and still make time to travel and see him,” Rosenbaum said. 

Her husband, Danny Rosenbaum, played professional baseball for several years, including with the Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox organizations. 

That is what gave Alexis Rosenbaum the idea for her first successful business. 

“I saw a niche in my husband’s industry that no one was filling,” she said. “I would go to team stores and would not resonate with any of the gear, because everything marketed toward women was pink and bedazzled.” 

Rosenbaum said she therefore began manufacturing and selling items created from leftover baseball glove laces with her sister, Hannah King, in 2013. 

“We made bracelets, lanyards, keychains and more, engraving personal messages onto the leather,” she said. 

With a patent and licensing deals with Major League Baseball teams, the pair was able to take a $100 investment and build a six-figure business in less than two years, with a 70 percent revenue growth year-over-year. 

But, when her husband left baseball, Rosenbaum said she lost interest and sold  Game Day Feels in 2017 before relocating to New Jersey. 

“My husband was offered a job here and we believed we had maxed out our potential in Ohio,” she said. “It seemed like an exciting opportunity to challenge ourselves within a totally new space, next to one of the biggest cities where the possibilities are endless.” 


Upon relocating, Rosenbaum said she found work as an on-call remote director of business development for a small marketing and communications agency. 

But her anxiety only grew worse — until her sister convinced her to try full-flower cannabis. 

“I saw immense changes in my life and stress levels, but, without being able to microdose, I sometimes became paranoid,” Rosenbaum said. “So, I hunted for something else to use.”  

That’s when she discovered CBD, or the most prevalent phytocannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. 

“It helped me catch my breath, feel more in control and slow down,” Rosenbaum said. 

Because it is non-intoxicating, CBD is legal in all 50 states, regardless of other laws legalizing cannabis.

CBD, Rosenbaum said, can safely reduce anxiety, inflammation and pain in both humans and animals. 

“But the products I was exploring, I still couldn’t identify where the hemp was being grown or how many people touched the product before it reached me,” she said. “That opened the door for me to explore the possibility that I might be able to do this on my own.” 

Rosenbaum said that, through some research and explorative networking, she was able to connect and have several conversations with a farm in Eugene, Oregon, with which she ultimately would establish a relationship and trust over six months. 

“I also was buying, testing and selling their oil in bare packaging, seeing if people would want and enjoy this product as much as me,” she said. “Finally, in the spring of last year, I decided to launch my own brand — and tell my own story — using the products grown at their farm.” 


Rosebud uses nothing but organic coconut oil and organic hemp in its full-spectrum CBD oils, whereas competitors often use ingredients such as fillers, additives, flavorings or preservatives. 

“We also don’t spray a single thing on our plants, as they are fed with everything they need from the earth,” Rosenbaum said. 

Each 15-milliliter bottle contains nearly 30 servings, with a 350mg bottle ($55) serving nearly 12mg of CBD per drop and a 1000mg bottle ($125) serving nearly 33mg. 

Rosebud also has partnered with Lauren’s All-Purpose Salve to produce a 350mg CBD salve ($75) to help relieve ailments such as psoriasis and eczema, Rosenbaum said.

“The cost of running and growing a successful business, of working directly with a small organic farm, of paying our farmers and their employees a fair wage and of applying for certain certifications — all of that was taken into consideration when creating the pricing for our elevated, high-quality product,” Rosenbaum said. 

Because it is non-intoxicating, the 2018 federal Farm Bill legalizes hemp (from which CBD is extracted) as long as products derived contain no more than 0.3% THC.

“That’s why having a direct connection with our farm is really important. Our product is handled by the same people all the way from seed to bottle, so there isn’t a lot of room for error.”


After running the business herself for nearly a year, Rosenbaum said she brought on several independent contractors to help manage customer service, retail sales, marketing, design, events business development and operations in January. 

“I’m creative and I like having the flexibility to work on different projects as they come up, so I like working with people who also value that type of lifestyle,” she said. “But, as a small team, it’s difficult to get ahead.” 

With Rosebud now in more than 100 retailers nationwide (including small cafes, yoga studios, barbershops and more in New Jersey) and moving more than 1,500 units per month online, Rosenbaum said she is now seeking investors to help her grow the business. 

“During the first half of this year, we have been making sure our product, packaging and marketing is up to date with all of the new and upcoming regulations,” she said. “In the second half, we will be all about expanding.

“We want to be that real, authentic, transparent brand that people feel they can trust and talk directly with.” 

Industry challenges 

Alexis Rosenbaum said there are several challenges to working within an industry associated with cannabis.  

“Banks are not usually interested in taking on the risk of working within an industry that is not yet regulated,” she said. “And there are a lot of barriers to running an e-commerce business in this space, like credit card processing, website hosting, using mail services such as Mailchimp and, especially, digital marketing.” 

Rosebud, for example, cannot advertise on social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook. 

“People are afraid of playing a role in the growth, marketing and sale of a legal product in an unregulated market with no real guidelines yet on how business should be handled,” Rosenbaum said.

Conversation Starter

Reach Alexis Rosenbaum at: hello@rosebudcbd.comor, for more information, visit:

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Bell’s Mansion, Where Filet Mignon Is Served on a Sizzling Lava Rock

Bell’s Mansion Lava Rock Filet. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

Bell’s Mansion is a stately old brick and stone home built by a local iron and mill baron dating back to 1835. Inside there are a number of cozy antique-filled dining rooms and a well-preserved, lengthy wooden bar that was salvaged from a Pennsylvania Hotel. In the warm weather, the action heads outside onto a two-tiered patio and bar surrounded by lush flower, fruit and vegetable gardens.

On a sunny evening, we settled into a table right next to aromatic rose bushes in full bloom and perused the cocktail menu of nearly two dozen martini variations while enjoying the sounds of a live guitarist. The full bar also serves an array of wines, sangria, draft beers and mixed drinks and features a happy hour from 3 to 6 pm every day of the week with great deals on drinks and appetizers.

Before we even got a chance to look at the menu, a basket of piping hot, crusty bread arrived, along with both salty butter as well as olive oil to tide us over until the appetizers appeared. Although we needed to ask for more sour cream for our potato, cheese and caramelized onion pierogies, the five large plump dumplings were a satisfying starter, along with a daily special of the tiniest sweet baby clams swimming in a briny broth flecked with slivers of salty chorizo sausage. The accompanying thick cuts of grilled bread allowed us to soak up and savor every last drop of the flavorful juices.

Bell’s Mansion pierogies. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

Crispy chicken sandwich. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

Cedar Plank Salmon. Photo by Suzanne Zimmer Lowery

Unfortunately, that same thick cut of charred bread was a little too much to get our mouths around on the otherwise delicious crispy barbecue chicken sandwich, layered with jalapenos, creamy coleslaw and aged cheddar.

An ample portion of smoky, cedar-plank salmon was perfectly bronzed, but still juicy, although the light nap of lemon chardonnay sauce forced us to again ask for a little extra to enjoy with the mashed sweet potatoes and zucchini.

The sun was beginning to set over the gardens when the true star of the evening arrived in a literal blaze of glory. The ‘outdoor only’ sliced filet mignon was paraded to the table leaving a trail of smoke, as it cooked atop a three-inch-thick slab of sizzling lava rock. Each delectable piece went straight from searing to sampling in a matter of seconds, along with garlic butter, and a side plate of creamy mashed potatoes and fresh-grilled zucchini and squash.

We were too full for dessert before strolling down the block to enjoy a nationally-recognized musical act at the nearby Stanhope House venue to complete a lovely summer evening.

Bell’s Mansion, 11 Main Street, Stanhope, 973-426-9977. Open for lunch and dinner, Monday-Saturday; brunch and dinner, Sunday.

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Why More People are Going Vegan

vegan diet

Fresh juices and smoothies from Subia’s Cafe in Jersey City.
Photo by Michael Persico

Remember when veganism was funny? When the idea of forgoing not just meat, but all animal-based products seemed impossibly weird to just about everyone? You probably do, because it wasn’t that long ago. But over the past decade, veganism has sped from the fringe onto mainstream supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. Cow’s milk has ceded a large portion of the dairy aisle to plant-based alternatives. Burger King, for goodness’ sake, is rolling out a veggie Whopper.

From 2014 to 2017, the number of Americans declaring themselves vegan jumped from 3 million to 19 million, according to analytics company GlobalData, and their numbers are likely to increase as word spreads: Veganism is healthy, good for the planet, and to many people, just the right thing to do.

It was certainly right for Donald Watson, a British woodworker and amateur nutritionist who coined the term “vegan” in 1944. But Watson was hardly the first to believe that meat was bad for the body, and possibly the soul as well. The 19th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, for example, was a pioneer of animal rights. (“The question is not, can they reason, nor, can they talk,” he famously wrote, “but can they suffer?”) In the third century C.E., the Greek philosopher Porphyry wrote a treatise titled, “On Abstinence from Animal Food.” In the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras (of theorem fame) required his students to follow an all-plant diet.

Veganism as a diet and a lifestyle began gaining traction in America in the 1960s and ’70s with the publication of the first vegan cookbook, Ten Talents, and the founding of the first soy “dairy.” Modern vegans come to the diet for various reasons, most commonly a concern for animal rights. Titusville resident Jodi O’Donnell-Ames, founder of the nonprofit Hope Loves Company, turned to vegetarianism as a teenager after reading Upton Sinclair’s searing 1906 indictment of the American meatpacking industry, The Jungle. Four months ago, she became vegan, abstaining from dairy and genetically modified organisms. “As I omitted more and more animal products from my diet,” she says, “I felt better and better.”

In a 2019 survey of 12,000 vegans conducted by vegan e-tailer Vomad, 68 percent said they adopted the diet out of concern for animals. “Veganism,” says Doris Lin, director of legal affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, “is based on a belief that animals can suffer and therefore have a right to live their lives free of human use and exploitation.”

Self-identifying ethical vegans eschew not just meat, but also any product based on what they consider animal exploitation, including dairy, eggs, honey, leather, wool and silk. Dairy farming, for instance, generally involves the slaughter of male calves, who can’t produce milk; much cheese-making requires rennet, the lining of a calf’s stomach. And at least some bees are killed in the removal of honey from the comb. White sugar is taboo for many vegans, since it’s usually refined with char made from the burning of cow bones.

vegan diet

A sandwich from Subia’s Cafe in Jersey City. Photo by Michael Persico

According to the Vomad survey, more than 17 percent of vegans adopt the diet for health concerns, and there are compelling reasons to believe those folks are onto something. A 2014 study by Loma Linda University’s Department of Nutrition concluded that vegan diets tended to extend life and to protect against cardiovascular diseases, some cancers, obesity, hypertension and type-2 diabetes. Eli Scheiman, a lawyer from South Orange, became a vegan at 23 because, he says, “even as a kid, my cholesterol was off the charts.” Since adopting the diet 17 years ago, his total cholesterol has ranged from 130 to 170, well below 199, the uppermost number in the desirable range.

In a culture where meat is a dietary mainstay, non-vegans often question whether a vegan diet can deliver sufficient protein, but in fact, many plantbased foods are high in protein: A cup of soy-based tempeh offers 34 grams of it (roughly equal to four ounces of beef); four ounces of extra-firm tofu has 9-10 grams (roughly the same as two large eggs); and most legumes, 15 grams per cup (nearly twice as much as skim milk).

Although not all plant-based proteins contain the full gamut of amino acids, Chris Hirschler, department chair of Health and Physical Education at Monmouth University and himself a vegan, says that “for most people, as long as they’re eating a balanced diet, they’re going to get enough protein and amino acids—and a good portion of Americans probably eat too much protein anyway.” One thing vegans must be aware of is getting sufficient B12, a vitamin essential for cardiovascular, neurological and adrenal health. But this is easily assured with a daily B12 supplement.

It’s true that you can eat an unhealthy vegan diet—if you subsist, say, on french fries and pancakes with maple syrup. Hirschler notes, though, that even people who become vegans for reasons other than health tend to eat an increasingly healthy diet as they learn more about vegan nutrition.

People also go vegan out of concern for the environment. In fact, in the Vomad survey, nearly 10 percent of participants cited environmental concerns as their motivation. “It’s incredibly wasteful to put so many resources into growing crops to feed animals instead of eating those crops directly,” says Lin. Livestock, for instance, contribute 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases; of the world’s agricultural products, produce and grains have the smallest carbon footprints.

If any or all of that compels you toward veganism, but you aren’t quite there yet, consider adopting the diet gradually by eating fewer animal products and more plant-based foods. “Don’t worry so much about labels like ‘vegan,’” Hirschler says. “Just keep eating healthier and healthier.”

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The 25 Best Vegan Restaurants in New Jersey

An assortment of vegan dishes at Leaf in Haddonfield. Photo by Michael Persico

Lake Como

Peter Teevan rode onto the vegan scene in his Alternative Plate food truck. Last year, Teevan opened this brick-and-mortar spot. Feast on the Loaded Mac Attack, made with rice pasta and cashew-based nacho “cheese,” topped with avocado, tomato, cilantro and a tangy sauce. A crowd favorite, the Pork Roll Egg N Cheez often has house-made, wheat-based pork roll and tofu scrambled like eggs. The gyro, with coconut and tofu-based tzatziki sauce, and the Reuben are just as flavorful as their meat-based counterparts. BYO—SV
1602 Main Street, 732-552-3319


Growing up in East Orange, the seventh of eight children, Rashena Burroughs disliked meat so much she rejected it. She didn’t drink milk, either. Though meatless, she ate pastas and sugary things and became an overweight adult. Finally, she says, “I learned about ancient grains and healthier things and lost 60 pounds.” Burroughs, 45, opened Blueberry Café in 2017. It serves hemp-seed thickened smoothies, juices, pastas, soups, quinoa patties, tacos and a $16 wild-rice platter. Burroughs says people come for atmosphere and service as well as food. “We want to take care of the neighborhood,” she says. BYO—CC
547 Central Avenue, 973-732-1711

Red Bank

Shore natives Gail Doherty and Tiffany Betts opened Good Karma in 2010. Doherty, co-author of You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan, says just 20 percent of their customers are vegan. “We try to be welcoming and friendly and don’t judge people for not being vegan,” she says. “We try to make delicious food that just so happens to be vegan.” Doherty says 90 percent of the menu is organic. The popular, crispy, baked buffalo wings ($10), made from tempeh, come with house-made soy-based ranch dressing that tastes like the real thing. One menu section is dedicated to “live foods,” meaning not heated above 108 degrees. Doherty says low heat keeps alive enzymes that aid digestion, and that live foods help cool the body in hot weather. In 2018, the partners opened the take-out only Karma 2 Go on Bridge Avenue, where they also offer vegan cooking classes. BYO—BM
17 East Front Street, 732-450-8344; 1 Bridge Avenue, 732-268-8630

Falafel with sriracha tahini sauce and the Cuban panini at Greens and Grains. Photo courtesy of Greens and Grains

Galloway, Northfield, Margate City, Middletown, Shrewsbury

Since opening in 2015 in South Jersey, this fast-casual vegan empire has expanded throughout Atlantic and Monmouth counties, as well as Philadelphia. Popular items include smoothies, pitaya bowls, and falafel or chk’n wraps. Build your own greens or grains bowl topped with two or three sides, such as the excellent coconut-curry lentils and sweet potatoes; smoky eggplant and chickpea ragoût with cashew cream; or the spicy buffalo chickpea salad. BYO—SV
80 West Jimmie Leeds Road, Galloway, 609-277-7060; 1600 New Road, Northfield, 609-380-4337; 7801 Ventnor Avenue, Margate City, 609-300-5088; 1040 Route 35 South, Middletown; 454 Shrewsbury Plaza, Shrewsbury, 732-945-6551


Its slogan, “making health affordable for the ’hood,” refers to the Weequahic area on the south side of Newark. The walls, peppered with peace signs, flowers and slogans like, ‘Why can’t all my friends be vegan?’ are fun to peruse while waiting for a dairy-free smoothie ($5). There are a few tables, but most business is takeout. The Healthy Hippy serves both the Beyond and Impossible brand vegan burger patties, which mimic the taste and texture of meat. The burgers can be had with vegan cheese, fried onions and peppers, lettuce, tomato and pickles ($11–$13). Fish sandwiches, hot dogs, sausage and chicken tenders ($10 to $13), mostly soy-based, are adorned with house-made Hippy Sauce, like mayo but lightly spicy. Many items are fried and not necessarily low in calories. Co-owner and Newark native Charles Harper says it’s important to offer the community a style of food that feels familiar. It seems to be working. The few tables in the 10-month-old eatery are consistently full. BYO—SFG
154 Elizabeth Avenue, 973-368-2212

Haddon Township, Ocean City

Ashley Doyne, a former lacrosse player for the Philadelphia Wings, opened Heart Beet Kitchen in Haddon Township in 2015. The entire menu is gluten free, dairy free, meat free and egg free, from watermelon feta salad (with almond feta) to chorizo tacos (tempeh chorizo, cashew cream). Smoky, tender eggplant meatball sliders are topped with cashew Parmesan. The BLT is made with coconut bacon; a cheesesteak is put together with mushrooms, sautéed onions and cashew cheese. The Ocean City location is open only in summer. BYO—SV
29 Haddon Avenue, Haddon Township, 856-240-4406; 801 8th Street, Ocean City, 609-938-9786


Melissa Drullard and Diogenes Suazo’s vegan journey began a few years ago when their first child would not eat meat. It led them to experiment with meat alternatives, which in time transformed the whole family’s diet. Almost two years ago, they opened House of Flavor, a small, bright space emblazoned with messages such as Hippocrates’s, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” There are a build-your-own organic salad bar and vegan renditions of comfort foods, many with Spanish and Caribbean influences. A juicy, meaty-tasting Philly cheesesteak, made with seitan, bell peppers and onions, has a (potato starch) yellow cheese that really does taste like melted cheese. BYO—CS
911 Broadway, 201-858-4200


The walls are covered with masks from Eastern Asia, South America and Africa, representing the range of dishes offered at this Shore favorite with outdoor seating. “We have everything from burritos, curry and falafel to a meatloaf-and-mashed-potato dinner,” says Omer Basatemur, who opened Kaya’s in 2004. Though Basatemur says he doesn’t believe in “labeling diets” good or bad, he advocates eating mostly organic and non-GMO, which is what he serves at Kaya’s (named for his daughter, now 14). The Kaya’s Combo ($14)—with tofu buffalo wings, tempeh wings, seitan ribs and a stellar potato salad—is a great way to take the plunge. BYO—BM
1000 Main Street, 732-280-1141


Many of the Latin, Italian and American comfort foods recreated here taste surprisingly like the originals. Owner Janelle Soto says the restaurant, opened in 2014, was born of her desire to introduce people to plant-based eating, whether or not they become vegans. She says the killer dishes at Killer Vegan are its double-bacon cheeseburger, the patty made from mushrooms, beans and wheat, the bacon from coconut; and the panini, with Southern fried seitan subbing for chicken, plus avocado, red onion, tomato, and a delicious, spicy vegan chipotle mayo. Brunch (every first and third Sunday of the month) offers vegan pancakes, biscuits and tempeh bacon. BYO—CS
996 Stuyvesant Avenue, 908-964-8600

BBQ jackfruit flatbread; bagel with carrot lox; cauliflower buffalo bites; heart of palm “fish” tacos; and pad Thai with zucchini noodles at Leaf in Haddonfield. Photos by Michael Persico


Sisters Melissa, Rebecca and Ashleigh Mastandrea, who are all vegan, opened Leaf in 2017 to show that veganism is anything but boring. “It doesn’t have to be all salad and tofu,” says Melissa. Brightly lit, open and airy, the eatery has a diverse menu that attracts vegans and non-vegans alike. Buffalo Bites, baked cauliflower tossed in buffalo sauce, are a crowd favorite. So is a flatbread topped with barbecued jackfruit, which credibly mimics pulled pork, and the TLT, made with tempeh bacon. Fish tacos, with fried heart of palm replacing fish, are topped with red cabbage, cilantro and chili-lime dressing. At Sunday brunch, you can get a turmeric-tinted tofu scramble with spicy soy chorizo, and a bagel with veggie cream cheese, briny, herbaceous carrot lox, red onion and capers. BYO—SV
6 Kings Court, 856-528-5715

Living on the Veg

Beach Haven Gardens

On LBI, where the choices are mostly seafood or fast food, a vegan option is a haven­—one might say, a beach haven. Husband and wife Lauren and Rob Ramos opened the restaurant in 2005 and stay open roughly from St. Patrick’s Day to New Year’s Day. Brightly painted, with colorful picnic tables out front, the Veg offers creativity with humor. Take the Knuckle Sandwich ($11), combining steamed tofu, tempeh bacon, tomato, vegan cheese and ketchup on multigrain ciabatta, or the Tu-no Melt ($11), with vegan tuna salad made from mashed chickpeas, celery, onion and vegan mayo. All’s well that ends with a King Smoothie ($7) of banana, all-natural peanut butter, granola and chocolate almond milk. BYO—TLG
2613 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-492-4066

Mahonrry Hidalgo and his wife, Eslin Morris, do all the cooking at the Mexican-themed Luna Verde in Bradley Beach. Photos by Michael Persico

Bradley Beach

Eslin Morris worked in restaurants for years before she and her husband, Mahonrry Hidalgo, opened Luna Verde in 2018. At the Mexican restaurant, where the couple do all the cooking, dishes have a personal touch. “We serve what we eat at home,” she says. A vegan since 2006 and a vegetarian for 15 years before that, she says she wanted to “veganize” traditional Mexican food, which is similar to the food she grew up eating. “We’ve had vegan customers come from as far away as Alaska or as close as down the street,” she says. “We also have many who are not vegan, but are interested in our food.” Ceviche—traditionally made from raw fish cured in citrus juices—at Luna Verde is made with cooked heart of palm, which convincingly mimics the texture of seafood. The $13 al pastor tacos, made with seitan and jackfruit, are mildly spicy, with the texture and flavor of the traditional pork. The $9 tres leches (“three milks”) cake is made with one milk, namely coconut. The sweet $9 flan is made with cashew milk and agar, derived from algae. BYO–CC
400 Main Street, 732-361-8180

More Life Cafe

Jersey City

A literal buffet awaits you at More Life, where owner Marcell Portes draws from his family’s Dominican heritage (his mother runs the nearby, not-vegan El Sol Del Caribe, where he learned to cook and to run a restaurant). The buffet changes daily. Pack a plate with tangy stewed jackfruit (mimics pulled pork), coconut-flaked plantain cake, rice and beans, or vegan meatloaf with mashed potatoes (minus butter, of course). Pay by weight ($8.99 per pound). On the set menu, on the other hand, you’ll find plant-based cheesesteaks, burgers, quesadillas (most $9.50 to $12), and mac and cheese ($6). Portes, a Jersey City native, considers these a good way for skeptics to give vegan food a try. He would know. Now 26, he switched to a vegan diet five years ago in the hope of relieving his migraines. Now migraine free, he says his initially skeptical friends and family are now regulars. BYO—SFG
191 Mallory Avenue, 201-985-0001


When Fanny Fuentes-Phalon and Tracey Phalon met in the mid-’90s, they worked at a Red Lobster. More than a decade ago, the pair went meat free to help save animals. They opened Mundo Vegan in 2014 and married in 2013. Fuentes-Phalon, who is Salvadoran-American, veganizes traditional Latin and Italian dishes. Phalon helps with the latter, having grown up in an Italian-American neighborhood in Paterson. In the gluten-free ropa vieja (“old clothes” in Spanish), an $18 best seller, well-seasoned jackfruit mimics the shredded beef of this traditional Cuban dish. It comes with rice, beans and avocado. The popular, gluten-free, organic lasagna ($19) is made with a cashew and tofu ricotta. Mundo’s $18 barbecue seitan, one of the few dishes not gluten free, is seasoned with turmeric. It comes with house-made barbecue sauce, coleslaw (made with vegan mayo or lemon vinaigrette), rice and beans. The $8 nut-free, gluten-free organic brownie is made with avocado oil and flaxseed. Mundo offers a $40 vegan cooking class. BYO—CC
20 Church Street, 973-744-5503

Cherry Hill

Inside MOM’s Organic Market, this café offers a host of organic grain bowls, veggie burgers and raw juices that are good on the go. The Lin Bowl, with brown rice, miso-roasted tofu, carrots, seaweed, zucchini and mushrooms, is tossed in sesame oil and topped with kimchi and pea shoots. The Crowder Bowl—brown rice, spinach, peppers, tofu and cashews—is tossed in coconut-curry dressing. A cauliflower steak marinated in lemon juice, dill and garlic is served with brown rice, vegetables and chimichurri dressing. You can opt out of the actual cheese that comes with certain items to make them fully vegan. BYO—SV
1631 Kings Highway North, 856-685-5760

Cliffside Park, Clifton

Kofte are traditional Middle Eastern or South Asian meatballs. Nefista, an international franchise that originated in Turkey, opened its first American location in Cliffside Park in 2016, with Clifton following about a year later. Tahir Kirklar, owner of the Clifton franchise, says he opened to serve the large Turkish community in Clifton and nearby Paterson. Nefista’s vegan meatballs are made with grains such as bulgur, with cumin and garlic. Choose mild or spicy kofteh for wraps or plates, which include lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. The flavors evoke the originals, and there’s vegan baklava for dessert. BYO—CS
656 Anderson Ave, Cliffside Park, 201-774-4080; 1279 Main Avenue, Clifton, 973-928-1303


Opened in 2010 with the Papa Ganache Project social services agency, Papa Ganache is a kosher, vegan, partly gluten-free and 100-percent organic bakery. “We have the average person coming in,” says owner Lisa Siroti, “because, well, ours is healthier than the average cupcake.” Siroti, who has maintained her practice as a clinical social worker, says everything is made in small batches and is cholesterol and preservative free. Gluten-free items are made and stored in a separate kitchen. After bestsellers like the Instagram-worthy chocolate obsession and crème brûlée cupcakes helped Papa Ganache win Food Network’s Cupcake Wars in 2012, the bakery has expanded to offer cakes, truffles, bagels, pot pies, quiche and baked ziti. “We’re not afraid of taking on any new possibility,” says Siroti, who herself is neither vegan nor gluten free. “Whatever hits our creative nerve, we try to bring it.” BYO—BM
106 Main Street, 732-217-1750

The Impossible Burger at Seed Burger in New Brunswick. Photo by Michael Persico

New Brunswick

Even non-vegans love the new generation of plant-based burgers. Seed Burger offers the two most popular brands: the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger. There are also chick’n, black bean, or kale-and-quinoa patties. Build your own and top it with your choice of fixings and four sauce options: a tangy vegan mayo-based Special Sauce, buffalo, chipotle or shoyu mayo. Save room for vegan ice cream from Asbury Park’s Cookman Creamery, stocked by the pint in the self-serve freezer. BYO—SV
176 Easton Avenue, 732-339-8897

Avon-by-the-Sea, Fair Haven, Wanamassa

What started as a juice bar in 2012 has grown into two restaurants and a bakery. Co-owners Alex Mazzucca and Cara Pescatore attended Rumson-Fair Haven High School, but didn’t become friends until mutual acquaintances reconnected them after each finished college and nutrition school. “The foundation for what we do,” says Mazzucca, “is filling our bodies with the healthiest, most nourishing foods and avoiding toxins, carcinogens, chemicals, pesticides.” The most popular items at the all-organic restaurants are the Seed Salad ($15), with marinated kale, baby greens and creamy tahini dressing; the Mexican omelet ($12) with tofu-cashew mix subbing for eggs, taco meat made from sunflower seeds, plus pico de gallo, cashew cheese and avocado. The bakery, in Wanamassa, has counter service, tables, and a design-your-own-cake option. Cooking classes are offered at both restaurants. BYO—BM
410 Main Street, Avon-by-the-Sea, 732-774-7333; 560A River Road, Fair Haven, 732-268-7533; 1405 Wickapecko Drive, Wanamassa, 732-361-3636

Simply Green Café


This cozy luncheonette, opened in 2017, does vegan versions of diner classics: breakfast sandwiches made with tofu scramble, cheese and meatless sausage; French toast stuffed with dairy-free cream cheeze; chick’n parm panini; cheezeburger empanadas; and eggplant po’boys on baguette, made with a crispy breaded eggplant topped with kale slaw, tomato and chipotle mayo. Desserts, like chocolate cheezecakes with walnuts and dates, are made in house. BYO—SV
25 North Spruce Street, 201-661-8905

Yvonne Rodriguez, left, and a sandwich and juices from Subia’s Cafe in Jersey City. Photos by Michael Persico

Jersey City

Siblings Nilsa, Yvonne and Eddie Rodriguez opened this cozy café and organic market in 2003, naming it for their mother. The café occupies the space that once housed their parents’ bodega. On our visit, soup du jour was a thick cauliflower purée with hints of carrot and garlic. The spicy buffalo strip sandwich shows just how flavorful vegan can be. It’s made from soy chicken in spicy buffalo sauce, with lettuce, onion, avocado, vegan tomato mayo and cashew cheddar on whole-wheat ciabatta. It comes with gluten free, organic blue corn tortilla chips, and adds up to a meal. BYO—CS
506 Jersey Avenue, 201-432-7639

New Brunswick

“Our food is balanced, organic and made from scratch,” says chef/owner Ron Biton, 48, who has followed a plant-based diet for a quarter century, “and I think we go above and beyond in decor and vibe.” He must be doing something right, because by the time you read this, he will have moved Veganized half a block to a space triple its size, with 100 seats, including an outdoor patio. Unlike the original space on Spring Street, the new space, on Elm Row, will have a liquor license and an actual bar. All the beers, wines, sake, spirits and cocktails are organic. In food, Biton wins hearts with dishes like the Off the Grill, which, though made primarily from grilled oyster mushrooms, mimics skirt steak and has a garlic-rosemary marinade. The Mackin Cheeze, with elbow pasta, sweet-potato-cashew cream, smoked shiitakes and roasted broccoli, is virtually indistinguishable from the dairy version. “We don’t compromise on textures and flavors,” Biton says. Meanwhile, he has transformed the Spring Street location into Veganized Pizza. Choices range from a Margherita made with cashew cheese to a cauliflower, bell pepper and maitake pizza with cashew cheese. “You can get vegan options at pizza places, but, “he claims, “we’ll be the only exlusively vegan organic pizza restaurant in the state.”—EL
1 Elm Row and 9 Spring Street, 732-342-7412

Vegan sushi, veggie crispy chicken with green beans, barbecue veggie ribs, smoked veggie duck and vegan cheesecake at Veggie Heaven in Denville. Photos by Michael Persico

Veggie Heaven

Denville, Montclair and Teaneck

The menu resembles that of any other Chinese restaurant, except that everything is vegan. That includes wonton soup, lo mein, barbecue veggie ribs, General Tso’s chicken, beef and broccoli, and salt-and-pepper shrimp—all using meat and seafood substitutes made of soybean protein, mushrooms or wheat gluten. Standouts include crispy chicken with black pepper, a stir-fry with potatoes and sautéed string beans; and a veggie-smoked duck that tastes surprisingly like the real thing. There are 34 sushi rolls and 11 desserts, including a tofu ice cream and an outstanding vanilla cheesecake. All three Veggie Heaven locations are owned by the same family but managed separately, with slightly different menus. BYO—SV
57 Bloomfield Avenue, Denville, 973-586-7800; 631 Valley Road, Montclair, 973-783-1088; 473 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, 201-836-0887


In 2011, Eric Nyman bought a food truck and operated it around Cherry Hill. A year later, he sold it and opened this café in Millville’s Glasstown Arts District. He serves a rotating menu of soups, salads and wraps with local ingredients. Stuff your wheat or gluten-free coconut wraps with sun-dried tomato hummus, roasted vegetables, buffalo tofu, spicy seitan sausage or a bean burger, and add toppings. Sweets include dairy-free cookies, Popsicles and cupcakes. The lavender lemonade is stellar. BYO—SV
501 North High Street, 856-265-7955


Rashena Burroughs, who owns the Blueberry Café next door, turned her hair salon into the Zucchini Bar in 2018. She named it for her signature zucchini muffin. She calls the place an “organic, vegan dessert and herbal tea bar.” Specialties include $8 apple-caramel cheesecake, made with cashew cheese and coconut milk; a banana split with plant-based vegan ice cream; and Crazy Shakes (example: banana, dates, pumpkin seeds, vegan vanilla ice cream, coconut milk, almond butter and chia seeds). For a dessert place, it offers a lot of savory items: oyster-mushroom gyro, empanadas, nacho bowls, and pizzas topped with cashew cheese and crumbled fennel. Burroughs eschews seitan and tempeh, which she considers processed foods. “We use vegetables, mushrooms and a lot of ancient grains like spelt, teff and rye,” she says. Having cooked for her large, meat-eating family, Burroughs says she relies on smell to get seasonings right for Caribbean and soul-food dishes. “We want to inspire wellness in communities like Newark that don’t have many healthy food options,” she says. BYO—CC
547 Central Avenue, 973-732-1711

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The Problem With the New Generation of Plant-Based Burgers

The Beyond Burger, a plant-based patty, is made with pea protein. Beet-juice extract mimics the bloody juices of real meat. Photo by Michael Persico

A new generation of plant-based burgers is sprouting up in the Garden State. With names like Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, they look, cook and taste like meat. Yes, they even “bleed” like meat.

If you’ve dined out over the last six months, you’ve likely seen and perhaps tried them. You can eat the Impossible Burger at the Pet Shop in Jersey City, Taphouse 15 in Jefferson, Keg & Kitchen in Haddon Township, or the Brickwall Tavern in Asbury Park and Burlington, among dozens of other restaurants.

The Beyond Burger is available at select retailers, including Whole Foods, Kings and Wegmans, as well as in restaurants such as Seed Burger in New Brunswick and chains like TGI Fridays and Zinburger.

Even fast-food chains like Burger King, McDonald’s, White Castle, Red Robin and Carl’s Jr. are jumping on board the fast-growing trend, adding either the Impossible or Beyond to their regular burger lineups.

Despite being made from plant-derived ingredients, they’re often the same price as—if not more expensive than—traditional beef burgers. But that hasn’t stopped vegans and non-vegans from ordering the new burgers.

“Meat eaters try them and they can’t believe it,” says Kevin Meeker, owner of Keg & Kitchen, who added an Impossible Burger to the menu earlier this year. He was surprised when he saw how quickly they sold. “Not a single person eats one and says it isn’t good.”

But are the burgers good for you? That’s a different question.

The Impossible Burger. Photo by Michael Persico

Both the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger were created by Silicon Valley food-tech start-ups and debuted in 2016. (Beyond’s vegan chicken substitutes became available in 2013, and a vegan beef product in 2014; the burger followed.) It was the perfect time. Consumers, growing more health conscious, were looking for plant-based foods, and the companies marketed the new burgers accordingly.

Now national demand has surged to the point of creating shortages. “You cannot supply enough of the product,” says Nolan Lewin, director of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center (FIC). “There’s no end [to their popularity] in sight.”

California-based Impossible Foods hired the FIC two years ago to provide space and help design equipment to cut, chop and form the company’s patties.

The Impossible and Beyond burger recipes differ, but both companies are focused on replicating the taste of beef using plant-based alternatives. The Beyond Burger uses pea protein. Beet-juice extract gives its patties a bloody appearance.

To achieve a meat-like appearance, Impossible Foods uses an innovative molecule called heme (as in hemoglobin, ordinarily found in animal blood and muscle tissue). The lab-made ingredient, derived from soy plants, is fermented with genetically engineered yeast. The result is an iron-rich, plant-derived compound that gives the burger a reddish tint and helps it brown and sear like a meat patty.

The label “plant-based” is true, as far as it goes. But the patties contain more than just plants. In addition to pea protein and beet-juice extract, the Beyond lists canola oil, refined coconut oil, potato starch, maltodextrin and other food additives as ingredients. The Impossible contains, among other things, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, methylcellulose (a synthetic cellulose-derived food stabilizer), cultured dextrose and modified food starch. In short, the new-wave vegan burgers are processed foods.

“I sort of look at it as a Frankenmeat,” says Ian Keith, head chef for Harvest, a café at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health at Rutgers that serves whole, minimally processed foods. Keith doesn’t hesitate to call the Impossible Burger a “heavily processed patty.”

“They’re marketing it as being healthier because it’s low cholesterol and vegan, but when you look at the breakdown of nutrition, it really isn’t a better choice,” says Peggy Policastro, a registered dietitian nutritionist and director of behavioral nutrition at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health at Rutgers.

The burgers, she adds, are “worse nutritionally. They’re a lot higher in sodium because they’re processed, and very high in saturated fat [such as coconut oil], the type of fat mostly associated with cardiovascular disease.” Traditional plant-based burgers, made from plants, have a good amount of fiber in them, Policastro notes. The two new vegan burgers don’t contain any.

Policastro says the Impossible and Beyond cast a “health halo,” meaning a perception that a particular food is good for you even when there is little or no evidence to confirm it. Marketing a product as “healthy” or “low-carb” is often enough to generate a halo.

“Anything that’s going to move the needle to a more plant-based diet is a good thing,” says Keith. “Do I necessarily agree that this is the best way to introduce plant-forward thinking? I don’t believe so.”

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N.J. American Water wraps up $1.4M deal for Mt. Ephraim sewer system

New Jersey American Water has completed its $1.4 million acquisition of the Mount Ephraim wastewater assets, it announced recently.

The Camden-based utility company said it purchased the borough-owned sewer system, which serves approximately 1,800 customers — most of whom get their water service from New Jersey American Water.

“As Mount Ephraim’s water company for more than a decade and a water provider to the area for over 90 years, we are pleased to expand our relationship with residents as their sewer service provider,” New Jersey American Water President Cheryl Norton said in a prepared statement. “Water and sewer is all we do, and we are deeply committed to making improvements to ensure the community’s sewer service is as clean, safe, reliable and affordable as the water service we provide.”

The state Board of Public Utilities approved the deal last month after residents voted in November 2018 to sell the system to New Jersey American Water.

The utility plans to invest more than $4 million in system upgrades over the next four years, while freezing rates for two years and increasing them no more than 3% over the following three years.

“The sale of our sewer system to New Jersey American Water is a big win for the residents of Mount Ephraim,” Mayor Joseph Wolk said in a statement. “By selling the system, we are eliminating uncontrollable sewer costs, which have been a major uncertainty in our budget. … The $1.4 million purchase price will be used to reduce the borough’s municipal debt. This is a great outcome for our residents.”

New Jersey American Water is a unit of Camden-based American Water.

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