NAI Mertz named leasing agent for Cherry Hill offices

NAI Mertz, a commercial real estate firm, announced it has been named the exclusive leasing agent for The Executive Mews at Cherry Hill, an executive office campus with 24 one-story buildings in Cherry Hill.

Becky Ting, senior vice president at NAI Mertz, and Julie Kronfeld, vice president, represented the owners, Pine Tree Plaza LLC, in the deal.

“This is an amazing office campus in the heart of the popular Cherry Hill retail corridor located on Route 70. A great mix of tenants currently exists here, making this a great destination for companies looking for Class A office space in a friendly and convenient location,” Ting said.

The property, located at 1930 Marlton Pike East, has parking and is within close access to Interstate 295, Route 73 and the New Jersey Turnpike.

“Whether you are starting or growing your business, Executive Mews at Cherry Hill provides you with a professional environment, and offers tenants the flexibility to adjust as your business grows,” Kronfeld said.

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Outer Coastal Plain Wineries Win Big at Wine Competition

It’s only January and South Jersey won big in wine already. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the largest competition of its kind for American wines, and this year Sharrott, Bellview, Auburn Road, and 4JGs wineries—all from New Jersey’s Outer Coastal Plain AVA—took home 21 awards. (Out of 1,132 wineries in competition, New Jersey won a total of 36 awards.) For more information on Outer Coastal Plain AVA and its wines, check out the Outer Coast Plain Vineyard Association.

Burns Night at Josie Kelly’s Public House
Friday, January 25, 7 pm

In case you weren’t aware, Scots celebrate something called “Burns Night” on January 25 in honor of famed Scotsman poet Robert Burns. Josie Kelly’s Public House in Somers Point is an Irish coastal-style pub, but they’ll be doing a celebratory “Burns Supper” just the same. Expect food, bagpipes, and (maybe) a recitation of Burns’s “Address to a Haggis,” with or without presentation of said meat product. No advance tickets required. Josie Kelly’s Public House, 908 Shore Road, Somers Point; 609-904-6485

Winterfest 2019 with the Jersey Shore Chef’s Association
Sunday, January 27,  3:30–7 pm

The Jersey Shore Chef’s Association is an established chapter of the American Culinary Federation, and this Sunday it’s holding its annual “Winterfest” fundraiser, gathering the talents of its members for “A Tailgate to Remember.” Tickets are $65, and the day includes an hors d’oeuvres competition, various chef stations, a silent auction, and tailgating games. Proceeds go to benefit non-profits including Oceans of Love, the Victor J. Houston Scholarship Fund, Childhood Hunger Day, and Fulfill (formerly Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties). No need to bring plastic chairs: the (upscale) tailgating takes place at the Crystal Point Yacht Club, 3900 River Road, Point Pleasant; 732-295-7000

Beer & Cured Meat Pairing Class in Jersey City
Tuesday, January 29, 7–8:30 pm

Even if you’re still clinging to your New Year’s resolution, if you love beer and/or cheese you should head over to Jersey Wine & Spirits in Jersey City this Tuesday. As part of their monthly pairing class series, they’re partnering up with fellow JC business Van Hook Cheese & Grocery to teach you everything you need to know about pairing cured meats and tasty beer. Tickets are $40 and include all your sips and bites. Jersey Wine and Spirits, 492 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City; 201-763-5888

Istine Wine Dinner at Stella Marina
Wednesday, February 6, 7–10 pm

Angela Fronti is owner and winemaker at Istine Winery in Chianti, Italy, and this Wednesday evening she’ll return to Stella Marina in Asbury Park for their annual wine pairing dinner, featuring her Chianti Classico selection. Roberto Scarpati of SoilAir Selection wine importer and wholesaler will be on hand to assist in the night’s revelry. Tickets are $75 and details on the menu are “coming soon.” Stella Marina, 800 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park; 732-775-7776

Robert Sinskey Vineyards at South + Pine
Thursday, February 7, 7–10 pm

It’s the Napa Valley by way of Morristown on Thursday, February 7, for the first-ever wine pairing dinner at South + Pine, featuring “earth friendly,” biodynamic wines from Robert Sinskey Vineyards. Maria Sinskey (seasoned chef, RSV Culinary Director, and wife of Rob) will be on hand to discuss the wines as they’re served alongside chef Leia Gaccione’s menu for the evening. The night begins with the light fruit and florals of Sinskey’s Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, courses into chef Gaccione’s Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin and Charred Strip Loin—the latter paired with a 2011 Robert Sinskey Marcien, the vineyard’s organic, Napa Valley ode to “Right Bank” Bordeaux. The meal ends with a Local Ricotta Cake paired with a Late Harvest Pinot Blanc. Not a bad start to the weekend, though fair warning it’s $125 plus tax and tip. Still, it should sell out, so (hasty) reservations are recommended by contacting Amanti Vino at 973-509-9463. South + Pine, 90 South Street, Morristown; 862-260-9700

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Q&A: We talked with Tara Dowdell about race and business on MLK Day (and her answers may surprise you)

Tara Dowdell is the founder and president of Tara Dowdell Group, a marketing and strategic communications firm, and TDG Speakers. She also is a sought-after television commentator, frequently appearing on local and national programs to discuss politics, government and business topics.

(For more on her firm, click here.)

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Dowdell has served in a number of public and private positions in her career.

ROI-NJ reached out to her on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to discuss the impact and role race plays in New Jersey and the nation — with an emphasis on the business community.

Here are her thoughts:

ROI-NJ: Describe the state of race relations in New Jersey — and in this country — today?

Tara Dowdell: I think the fact that we’re still asking this question says it all. With respect to the nation, I think it’s clear that we’re still very divided, and we obviously have a lot of work to do. However, there are signs of promise.

We’ve seen a lot of viral videos of public displays of racist or xenophobic behavior or harassment, but the pushback is almost always swift from those who oppose it. We’ve seen companies fire employees for engaging in racist or xenophobic behavior.

These are positive signs, especially when you consider that this has not always been the case. However, we know from the data that there’s been an increase in hate crimes in this country and a resurgence of hate groups, so we still have a lot of work to do.

With respect to New Jersey, we’re a diverse state, but we still have our own racial fault lines. When I was 2, we were the first black family to move on our street in Hillside, and we had a cross burned on our house. It was literally nailed to our house in order to burn it down. The teenagers that did it are still alive. I can recount several other incidents like that, and, again, the perpetrators are still alive.

ROI: You are the owner of a successful marketing agency as well as a well-sought-out thought leader on a variety of subjects. Do you feel the fact that you are African-American helps, hurts or has no impact on your business or your brand?

TD: I believe being black and a woman has created an additional set of challenges for me in business. Don’t get me wrong, I fight as hard as I can to overcome those challenges. The biggest challenge has been financial.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve discovered that my firm was being paid less despite delivering more than a white male counterpart. I know some people will say that maybe we did not ask for as much as he did. Well, we did. We’ve also been the last vendor standing on projects where other vendors have been getting paid more and let go for performance issues.

I think a lot of it has to do with implicit bias, which is why I strongly believe that the programs and efforts aimed at addressing these issues are still very much needed.

ROI: I just referred to you as African-American. Last month, ROI-NJ had you on our People of Color influencers. Some still refer to people as being black. How do you categorize your race/ethnicity — and is it still important to do so?

TD: I want to stipulate that I do not speak for all black people. This question is somewhat complicated, because the black community is not monolithic. I personally refer to myself as black because it is part of my identity and my experiences, which have shaped me.

ROI: Tell me one thing people from minority and ethnic groups wish people who are not part of such a group would understand.

TD: Certainly, there are several things, but if I am to name one issue that I think is less explored, it is the notion that people of color, and in particular black people, call out racism as means of gaining some kind of advantage or benefit. This could not be farther from the truth.

I wish I did not have to call out racism. I wish there was no racism for me to call out. It’s not easy and it’s definitely not advantageous or beneficial to call out bias. It’s exhausting and painful and often makes those raising the issue targets or deemed a ‘troublemaker’ or ‘whiner,’ which is harmful in business.

I would also add that, in my experience, by the time most black people or people of color speak out on racism, they’ve actually already endured a lot of discrimination that they did not speak out on.

ROI: How do you think the actions and the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. impact society and the business world today, more than 50 years since his death?

TD: I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but we clearly have a long way to go. Despite the data showing that diverse companies perform better, we still see people of color woefully underrepresented in corporate leadership and on boards. Black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs, but still struggle to raise capital. And, based on the data, it has nothing to do with results or viability of the business.

ROI: How comfortable were you answering these questions?

TD: Candidly, it was not very comfortable for me — it never is — but, hopefully, I’ve offered a perspective that can help to build greater understanding with fair-minded people.

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N.J.’s industrial market has another record year, Cushman & Wakefield report says

The New Jersey industrial market has hit another year of record numbers, according to Cushman & Wakefield‘s most recent fourth quarter 2018 research report.

The commercial real estate services firm said its report revealed vacancy hit a record low and net absorption hit an all-time high by the end of the year.

“The three-year stretch from 2016 to 2018 has been the strongest run for New Jersey industrial market occupancy gains and one of the most robust stretches for leasing in recent history. We also are coming off the best back-to-back years for new construction completions this century,” Andrew Judd, Cushman & Wakefield’s New Jersey market leader, said. “Much of this can be credited to the rise of eCommerce, strong import totals at the port, a healthy economy, and robust retail sales.”

Although there’s not too much space in the industrial market, Cushman & Wakefield said, vacancy did tick lower by 20 basis points to 3.2 percent. And warehouse space, which accounts for about 76 percent of the state’s industrial inventory, ended 2018 at 3.1 percent.

“Central New Jersey warehouse vacancy fell to 2.2 percent, fueled by diminishing Class A and B space from Exit 12 down through Exit 7A,” Judd said. “Northern New Jersey’s rate has declined to 4.2 percent, with the Port and Meadowlands submarkets tightening notably.”

By the end of the year, there was 14.9 million square feet of occupancy gains, Cushman & Wakefield said. For five years in a row, the state has exceeded 10 million square feet in annual absorption for a total of more than 67 million square feet. The fourth quarter of 2018 also marked the 24th consecutive quarter with positive net absorption.

Although leasing activity hit 25.7 million square feet for the year, last three quarters of the year were slow, Cushman & Wakefield said, due to fewer existing space options across the marketplace, especially for big-box retailers.

The fourth quarter had 5.3 million square feet of new activity, with 17 new leases greater than 100,000 square feet and five new leases more than 200,000 square feet.  Passaic County led the way in the quarter, with 1.2 million square feet of new deals. This included Gucci’s 418,000-square-foot commitment in Wayne and Corbion’s 391,515-square-foot deal in Totowa.

Asking rents in the industrial space slipped to $8.49 per-square-foot in the quarter. This is the first reversal since early 2017, Cushman & Wakefield said.

“This decline was not due to landlords dropping pricing,” Jason Price, director, Tri-State Suburbs Research, Cushman & Wakefield, said. “It ties to the lease-up of higher-quality warehouse space throughout the market and the fact that many Class A options are listed without asking prices. The trend was similar for warehouse space, which has dipped to $8.16 per-square-foot, though it is important to understand that that sector still finished 2018 4.9 percent higher year over year.”

Cushman & Wakefield said industrial construction completions in the quarter totaled 9.4 million square feet, which is only slightly lower than the 9.8 million-square-foot high in 2017. Of the total built, 87.2 percent was leased during development or immediately once completed. Meanwhile, industrial development hit 6 million square feet with 42.5 percent already leased, mostly concentrated in the Port Region, Upper 287 Corridor and Exit 8A.

“There is still some room left in the expansion cycle, however we expect comparatively moderate improvements in 2019 compared to the last few years,” Price said. “The lack of existing available space options in core submarkets will return leasing to more normalized levels yet continue to push up rental rates. On the construction front, approved land sites will dissipate further, making redevelopment plays more common for developers in primary submarkets.”

To see the full report, click here.

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RWJBarnabas waives copays and more for federal workers affected by shutdown

RWJBarnabas Health is waiving copays, deductibles and other balances for furloughed federal employees and their dependents, the system announced Monday.

RWJBarnabas, based in West Orange, said the action is effective immediately at all of its hospitals, ambulatory facilities and owned physician practices.

Jack Morris, the board chairman, and Barry Ostrowsky, CEO and president, made the announcement.

“We recognize the financial hardship being experienced by these families, because they are our neighbors and friends — they live in the communities we serve each day,” Morris said in a prepared statement.

The health system added that payments owed for past visits will be deferred until reinstatement of back wages. Proof of federal employment is required, the system noted.

“We are an organization that is committed to not just delivering health care, but improving the health of those we serve,” Ostrowsky said in a statement. “Affordability is a key factor in whether families can access care, and we believe that our action today can help alleviate some of the pressures these furloughed federal workers are currently facing.”

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10 Restaurants in NJ Offering Free Meals and Discounts to Furloughed Federal Employees

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Roughly 800,000 employees have been furloughed during the current and longest-ever government shutdown. New Jersey is home to thousands of them, with Essex, Atlantic, and Somerset counties home to the largest populations. Relief services for federal employees continue to pop-up, with PayPal just announcing it’s extending $25 million in credit to impacted workers (eligible, upon employment verification, for $500 of interest-free advanced PayPal credit). While bigger agencies work on bigger deals, Jersey’s gotta eat. The Community Food Bank of New Jersey is reaching out to the state’s 5,000 furloughed workers (and 730,000 NJ SNAP recipients), including with an Instagram post on where to find food.

Restaurants are pitching in, too. We’ve compiled a list of some of the New Jersey restaurants and cafes keeping Jersey’s federal workers fed and caffeinated through the shutdown.

Montclair Bread Co. owner Rachel Wyman has a family full of government employees, so she’s seen the pain of the shutdown firsthand. No surprise, her booming bakery business is going the extra mile to help furloughed workers (and those working unpaid) during the shutdown, offering involuntarily limbo-ed government employees a free cup of coffee and a sandwich or loaf of bread. They also hand-delivered 2,500 doughnuts and coffee to the hundreds of unpaid (but “essential”) TSA workers at Newark Liberty Airport. (Senator Bob Menendez also visited Montclair Bread Co. on Friday to discuss the shutdown, live on Facebook.) Montclair Bread Co., 16 Label Street, Montclair; 973-509-2525

—There is such thing as a free lunch (when times are tough, anyway). Not long ago we interviewed Downtown Dhaba owner Srini Rao, who recently reopened his restaurant in a new space in Westwood. To show his support during the shutdown, both Downtown Dhaba and Rao’s Allendale restaurant Nirvana Indian Kitchen are offering a free lunch to anyone with a government ID. Downtown Dhaba, 266 Center Avenue, Westwood; 201-664-0123; Nirvana Indian Kitchen, 29 West Allendale Avenue, Allendale; 201-818-2300

—Glen Rock-area grassroots activism group Glen Rock After the March has partnered with local restaurant Stone & Rail, creating a GoFundMe page to subsidize “a free entrée to any unpaid federal worker (and their guest)”. The fund exceeded its initial $1,000 goal as of Friday, but donations are welcome as long as the shutdown lasts, with any excess funds going to the United Way. Stone & Rail, 175 Rock Road; 201-345-0709

—The Coast Guard has a major training center in Cape May (the fifth largest of its bases), so it comes as no surprise that many local area restaurants and businesses are participating in deals for furloughed workers. (There are also larger donation drives, such as one being held by the Tri-Boro First Aid Squad in Seaside Park, which you can find out more about here). Meanwhile, restaurants like the C-View Inn in Cape May is offering 50% off its menu (drinks excluded) through the shutdown, and The Iron Room is offering Coast Guard members and their spouses a free meal Tuesday through Thursday. (Drinks and tip aren’t included, but it’s nice to get a free meal for your spouse, too.) C-View Inn, 1380 Washington Street, Cape May; 609-884-4712; The Iron Room, 648 North Albany Avenue, Atlantic City; 609-348-6400

According to an Instagram post, Brickwall Tavern is going by the numbers, “offering federal workers with a valid government ID a percentage off of their food bill based on how many days the government has been closed.” The deal is available to federal workers with a valid ID at their Asbury Park and Burlington (and Philly) locations. Brickwall Tavern, 522 Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park; 732-774-1264

JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank and Toms River already invests in the community by offering in-need diners the opportunity to pay as they can and/or volunteer to cover the cost of their meals. During the shutdown, both locations are offering federal employees and their families dinner, Wednesday through Saturday, as well as Sunday Brunch. They also encourage workers to come by and “learn what other resources might be available to you.” JBJ Soul Kitchen, 207 Monmouth Street, Red Bank; 732-842-0900

—Arguably one of the funkier roadside spots you’ll find on Route 46, Steve’s Burgers is offering a maybe much-needed, All-American free cheeseburger and fries to furloughed government workers through the shutdown. Steve’s Burgers, 506 Route 46, Garfield; 973-772-1770

—If hamburgers aren’t your thing, check out Ice Cream by Mike in Ridgewood, where Mike Elias himself took to Instagram to announce their support with a free hot dog for every federal worker with a valid ID. Ice Cream by Mike, 305 East Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood; 201-343-4514

—If you’re a furloughed worker looking for a well-deserved coffee break, Hidden Grounds Coffee Co. has you covered. The Jersey coffee shop mini-chain is offering free java to all furloughed government workers—“Valid until our government gets it together again!”—at its locations in New Brunswick, Jersey City, and Hoboken. It’s not a meal, but it’ll get you through the latest headlines. Hidden Grounds Coffee Co., 106 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick; 732-317-4117

Gregory’s Bar & Restaurant in Somers Point invites federal workers to come enjoy free tacos on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the government shutdown. Gregory’s Bar & Restaurant, 900 Shore Road, Somers Point; 609-927-6665

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NJBIA: $15 minimum wage agreement will have big impact on small business

The agreement by Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leadership to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour may be predictable, but it is far from economically responsible.

Yes, the phase-in is deliberate. But there does not appear to be any consideration of the significant impacts this increase will have on small businesses and its various sectors, both now and in the future.

There has been no acknowledgment of the cumulative costs our small businesses already have to absorb to run a business in New Jersey — like added mandates, expensive compliance regulations, more subsidies for energy delivery and increased taxes as a means to balance the state budget. For this, New Jersey ranks dead last for business friendliness before we even get to a $15 minimum wage.

But, also consider that the agreement fails to include an economic analysis of the annual increases on the state’s economy and job creation. Such a provision would give the state the ability to freeze a scheduled increase during an economic downturn or after a natural disaster, like Superstorm Sandy.

Even California realized the need to enact a similar economic safeguard when it decided to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2022. Recall how a hard-hitting recession impacted New Jersey small businesses just 10 years ago, not to mention the devastation to businesses that were closed for weeks post-Superstorm Sandy, with many not being able to reopen at all.

We should also be concerned about the impact on health benefits and overall compensation. In the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s 2018 Health Benefits Survey, we were already seeing a 7 percent decline in employers who offered health coverage plans for their employees, due to costs. Unless there is consideration of how to address overall compensation in this minimum wage proposal, more employers will undoubtedly choose to drop employee health benefits plans to adjust for the increase in wages. In fact, they have told us so.

Also lacking are exemptions or tax credits for Medicaid providers. Consider home health care aides, for example, who treat the most vulnerable members in our community. When Medicaid reimburses less than New Jersey’s minimum wage for those services, where will the money come from to make up the difference?

And, when it comes to exempting seasonal workers, we need to remember that New Jersey is blessed with having four seasons of tourism, not just a summer one.

Further, a small business exemption — at a minimum — should be made for businesses with 10 employees or less. These are the true Main Street businesses who make our economy thrive.

And, most critical is the role of workforce development. The danger in artificially raising entry-level wages without raising skills — as this proposal does — is those employees lacking skills will be left behind.

NJBIA has long been an advocate for workforce development. Knowing that our members invest in their employees’ skill-building, we are calling for complementary legislation that would provide tax relief for companies who invest in their employees through investing in workforce development.

The fact is that small business owners pay their employees what they can afford. They want the best workers who can provide the best products and services to be competitive, with a full understanding of their own budget. The economic pie is only so big for small business owners and the slices continue to get smaller. It is these job creators that drive New Jersey’s economy through the jobs that they create.

We call upon the governor and our legislative leadership to hit the pause button and take a deeper look into these consequences before pulling the trigger on such a significant piece of legislation that has long lasting ramifications for New Jersey’s economy.

Michele Siekerka is the CEO and president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

Kaplan Cos. new luxury rental community is now leasing

Kaplan Companies announced Friday its luxury rental community, Camelot West at Marlboro, is ready to lease with occupancy beginning late winter 2019.

“Camelot West at Marlboro is a sought-after collection of new townhome and apartment style rentals in Monmouth County,” Jason Kaplan, president of Kaplan Companies, said. “Those interested can choose from a versatile selection of floorplans filled with highly sought-after designer features, as well as enjoy a state-of the-art clubhouse and fully equipped amenities package. All residents have access to a tot lot, outdoor pool, fitness center, bark park and more.”

The new community has 50 townhomes that feature two bedrooms and up to 1,862 square feet of living space. There are also 200 one and two-bedroom apartment units ranging in size from 795 to 1,426 square feet.

The community is located within close access to Routes 79, 9 and 18, and the Aberdeen-Matawan train station, the Freehold Raceway Mall and the Jersey Shore and Jackson Premium Outlets.

“Camelot West at Marlboro is zoned for Marlboro Township School District, which means your children will experience a first-rate education in their own neighborhood,”  Kaplan said.

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Parker awards $2.5M grant to VNA Health Group

Piscataway-based Parker Foundation announced Thursday it has awarded a $2.5 million grant to Visiting Nurse Association Health Group to support its Advanced Care Institute.

The ACI aims to address health care needs of high-risk older adults who are often living with multiple chronic conditions by providing high quality, compassionate care in the home and community.

The funding will be used to expand ACI’s in-home primary care efforts and palliative medicine.

“We see the work the ACI is doing as crucial to our community and aligns perfectly with Parker’s vision: We make aging part of life,” Parker CEO and President Roberto Muñiz said. “Most people want to age at home and the VNA is a trailblazer in the home health industry. We know this funding will benefit many New Jersey seniors and their families.”

“We are so pleased that Parker recognizes the difficult, but necessary, services we provide in these areas and are incredibly grateful for their funding, but, most importantly, for their continued partnership,” Dr. Steven Landers, CEO and president of VNA, said.

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Vote for Your Favorite Places to Eat in the 2019 Jersey Choice Restaurant Poll!

Love to eat? The 2019 Jersey Choice Restaurant Poll is your chance to help select the best restaurants in New Jersey. The winning restaurants will be revealed in the August 2019 issue of New Jersey Monthly. By submitting a ballot, you become eligible to win one of three prizes in our random drawing.


Midnight, February 28. One vote per email address please. Limit one submission per household or location. Restaurants are welcome to distribute links to this ballot, but restaurants assisting in the submission of ballots will be disqualified. Serial votes from the same IP address will be disqualified.


Use the drop-down menu for each of the 45 categories to find the name of your favorite restaurant in that category.


If you don’t see the name of your favorite restaurant in any category, scroll to the bottom of the drop-down menu and click “Other.” This will open a set of new boxes where you can type in the restaurant name and town.


Local chains appear as a single entry on each drop-down menu; it is not necessary to specify the location. National chains are ineligible, except in the chain category.


Three winning entries will be chosen in a random drawing. The grand prize is dinner for two at the restaurant named Best of the Best in your region. Second prize:  A cheesecake courtesy of Anthony’s Cheesecake Café (shipped within New Jersey).  Third prize: A one-year subscription to New Jersey Monthly magazine. New Jersey Monthly will contact the winners following the poll deadline of February 28; winners’ names will be published in the August 2019 issue of New Jersey Monthly. 


You must be 21 or over to be eligible for the drawing. It is not necessary to vote in every category, but you must vote in at least 10 categories to be eligible for the drawing. See complete contest rules on the ballot page.

Restaurants assisting in the submission of online ballots will be disqualified. 


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