Eat & Drink

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

Newark

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

Newark

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

Bayonne

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

Belmar

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

Union

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

Haddonfield

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

Montclair

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

Matawan

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

Ramsey

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

Millville

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

Newark

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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For Tide Table Group, Nearly 40 Years of Food and Fun


The Tide Table Group partners gather at Beach Haven’s Black Whale. From left: Bob Nugent, Linda Burris, Melanie and Eric Magaziner, Bill Burris and Ginna Nugent. All photos by James J. Connolly



First jobs don’t often portend where a person will wind up professionally, something for which anyone who has bagged groceries as a teenager is probably grateful. Not so Eric Magaziner, who began his career cleaning clams at age 14 on Long Beach Island. It wasn’t so much the bivalves that made Magaziner want to spend the next 30-plus years shucking shellfish. It was more the people who showed him how.

Magaziner, who lives in Manahawkin, is one of the founders of Tide Table Group, a company that owns and operates five restaurants in and around Long Beach Island, all of them nearly impossible to get into in July and August. He doesn’t look the part of the corporate exec. On this sunny March afternoon at Beach Haven’s Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Tide Table’s third restaurant and, with 150 seats, one of its biggest, Magaziner, in T-shirt and baseball cap, slouches in a booth picking at oyster crackers with his wife, Melanie, and two of their Tide Table partners, Ginna and Bob Nugent.

Though they’ve just closed on their seventh property, a 5-acre tract on the mainland side of Barnegat Bay in Eagleswood that won’t become a restaurant until 2020, and are less than two months away from opening their most ambitious place yet, Beach Haven’s Bird & Betty, no one is in a hurry. Stress levels are happy-hour low, and everyone is up for tracing the trajectory that has won them local fame and the kind of fortune that can’t be counted in dollars.

“It started with Ginna and Bob,” says Melanie, a Manahawkin native. “Ginna’s family has been in the seafood business going back more than 50 years.” Ginna’s father, Marti Cassidy, fished out of Barnegat Light in the 1960s and ’70s when she was growing up in Beach Haven Terrace. Cassidy sold what he caught at his own place, Cassidy’s Fish Market. Ginna didn’t intend to surround herself with fish forever, but then she started dating Bob.

“Bob was getting the business going,” she says, meaning Ship Bottom Shellfish, the 50-seat seafood market and restaurant they opened in Ship Bottom in 1981, four years before they were married. Ginna, then a college student in California, came back to LBI to help Bob launch the tiny shop at the former site of an ice cream store. The work was hard, but business was good: “People loved the freshness of the local seafood,” she says. Four years in, they hired Eric, whose father, Bill Magaziner, was a regular and a friend.

Eric, who grew up in Philadelphia and spent summers in Beach Haven Park as a kid, liked the work at Ship Bottom Shellfish, partly because it was seasonal—six months of intense fish, clam and oyster slinging, followed by six months of doing whatever he wanted, including surfing with Bob—and partly because of the laid-back atmosphere fostered by Ginna and Bob. By the time he was in his mid-20s and a Stockton College graduate, Eric had his eye on a place of his own.

“A piece of land opened up at Mud City, and we got it cheap,” says Bob of the site that would become the Nugents’ and Magaziners’ second seafood restaurant, Mud City Crab House, in Manahawkin. “By then, we knew that Eric wasn’t going to pick mussels and clean clams the rest of his life.” Eric was 26 when he signed on as a partner in Mud City. Then it was Melanie’s turn to blow off grad school and join her boyfriend in becoming an entrepreneur.

“I had always worked in restaurants, so I knew the front of the house,” says Melanie. “I was just about to go away to school. That got thwarted.”

Mud City opened in 1999 and, like Ship Bottom Shellfish, was an instant success, says Bob. And that’s despite the fact that, when it was under construction, “people would drive by and tell us we were crazy to open a restaurant there, because it was out of the way and in a marsh.”

Now, Melanie says, “for people to think it was out of the way is mind-boggling.”

Within three weeks, the 65-seat crab house was one of the most successful restaurant in the area, the partners agree. All four credit the seafood and the fact that Manahawkin residents didn’t like having to cross the bridge to LBI for something good to eat. “Beach Haven West, across the highway, did not have any restaurants at the time,” says Melanie.

Though the partners got used to seeing each other every day at their restaurants, roles were never clearly defined. They still aren’t. All four of the partners do a bit of everything. “He cooked,” says Bob, meaning Eric; “She cooked,” he says, meaning Ginna: “and I just came along for the ride,” he jokes. Eric, Bob says, lost 30 pounds the first year Mud City was open because he was working so hard. “At one point,” says Bob, “we realized Eric hadn’t had a beer in like a month and a half. I go, ‘Are you sick?’”

Eric was not sick, just consumed by his new responsibilities. But he had already been through a major health scare. “Eric had cancer as a child,” says Melanie. He doesn’t talk publicly about his past affliction and current health status, she says, but it’s obvious he’s a survivor. Though he is upbeat and talkative, his voice is all but missing; he can barely speak above a whisper.

“It’s one of the reasons we work with local cancer organizations,” says Melanie. Typical of their efforts is Crabbin’ for a Cure, for which Tide Table hosts a crabcake dinner each year that benefits Jetty Rock Foundation.

Tide Table Group’s charitable instincts don’t end there. The foursome, together with Linda and Bill Burris, the couple with whom they partnered in the Black Whale and two more Beach Haven locations—Parker’s Garage & Oyster Saloon and Bird & Betty’s (due to open this summer)—are known throughout the area for their support of local nonprofits. In addition to Melanie’s volunteer work on the board of the Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean County, there is Chowderfest each fall and each winter, Arctic Outreach, an organization that helps local people and environmental causes. The partners also support Clam Jam and Coquina Jam, surf competitions that bring the surf and business communities together; Coquina also raises funds for women with cancer.

Even that barely scrapes the sandy surface of their local good works: Jeremy DeFilippis, Jetty Rock’s treasurer and one of three directors, says his organization collaborates on about 10 charity events with Tide Table every year. “They are over-the-top dedicated to their community is why,” he says. “We partner with other restaurant groups, but none of them anywhere near the extent of Tide Table. They were the first, and the relationship blossomed from there 15-plus years ago.”

Tide Table’s willingness to pitch in sealed its relationship with Jetty Rock, but it’s the vibe of their establishments that makes it a pleasure, DeFilippis says. “Not only are they great people, their places are fun,” he says. “They’re places where you find yourself having a good time.”

That seems to be the case regardless of what each new restaurant has to offer. The first two restaurants did not always have liquor licenses, for example (Mud City now does), so regulars got used to bringing their own coolers of beer and wine. The coolers were fully packed, says Billy Mehl, the Nugents’ son-in-law and Tide Table’s general manager, because most patrons knew they might wait outside upwards of two hours for a table. The Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Tide Table’s third location, opened with a liquor license in 2006.

Though the formula for the Black Whale is slightly different, the result upon opening was the same. “It was a new adventure, because this place is a little more refined than the first two,” says Melanie. “But it was instantly successful. I think our reputation followed us. Plus, in Beach Haven, once the summer gets here, you’ve got a captive audience.”

The reliable formula of fresh, local seafood in a town where every summer night is a Saturday night, according to Bob, accounts for why Tide Table has focused on Beach Haven for its latest openings. After the Nugents and Magaziners joined forces for their fourth place in 2014, a 100-seat seafood and steak house next door to Mud City called Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House, they returned to Beach Haven to open Parker’s Garage, their most ambitious restaurant to date.

Parker’s opened in 2017 in an old boat-engine repair shop right on Barnegat Bay. It’s the only restaurant for which they brought in a top-tier chef, Kyle Baddorf, who formerly worked with the Garces Restaurant Group of Philadelphia.

“When you have four restaurants that are established, you can’t just do the same old thing,” says Melanie. “People expect more from you.” With Parker’s, they got it.

The restaurant’s view across the bay “is like being on Key West every night of the summer,” she says. Summertime sunsets, seen out the open back of Parker’s Garage, can be extraordinary. Parker’s also opened a new chapter in local farming for Tide Table. In 2017, just as the restaurant was opening, the partners started an oyster-farming co-op with the Barnegat Oyster Collective.

“We have 75 cages, called float cages. You get a few thousand oysters in each cage,” says Eric. Tide Table also has its own local oyster farmer, Shane Logo. DeFilippis likes the plan for oyster recycling that Melanie implemented after learning about a Virgina-based program. After the staff collects empty oyster shells, they are dried and returned to the bay, where spat, or oyster larvae, can attach to them and grow. “One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water each day, so in essence, they’re cleaning the bay and contributing to the health of our coastal waters,” he says, of the program now run by Jetty Rock Foundation, Stockton University, Parsons Seafood and Long Beach Township.

The Nugents, Magaziners and Burrises weren’t necessarily looking to expand when they landed their sixth property, a giant nightclub and restaurant across the lane from Parker’s, in 2017. The historic building, which can accommodate 1,200, opened as a hotel in the early 1900s and is believed to have been home to Long Beach Island’s earliest tavern. Melanie dug into local history books to research the onetime fisherman’s bar and found that it was popular during Prohibition. But a more recent chapter in its history interested the Tide Table partners.

In the 1950s, the building, then known as the Acme Hotel, was sold to a local married couple, Bird and Betty Clutter, who owned it until 1976.

“Betty was well known in the community for yelling at everybody to leave when it was closing time,” says Melanie. “She’d shout, ‘Get out!’ But nobody ever did. People have been stopping by to tell us stories about them. They were characters.” Acme changed hands again in the 1980s and became the Ketch, a nightclub and restaurant. Tide Table plans a throwback 1960s and ’70s feel for the location, which they dubbed Bird & Betty’s. It will be their first expansion into nightlife.

“We’ll have a talent booker. We may get national touring acts,” says Bob. The menu will include Neapolitan pizza in addition to seafood and cocktails. Baddorf will be executive chef.

“It’s kind of monstrous, but it’s a natural progression for us,” says Melanie during a tour of the vast building, which Tide Table GM Mehl was gutting in anticipation of a pre-Memorial Day opening.

For the moment, the partners are too preoccupied with Bird & Betty’s to think of a name for their seventh place, the 5-acre site in Eagleswood that will become a restaurant in 2020. But no one minds the distraction.

“As crazy and as busy as we are, we’re in a fun profession where we get to try new food and cocktails daily. We’re lucky,” says Melanie. Her partners are quick to chime in about the other things that make them feel lucky: the quiet winter months, when several of the restaurants are closed and the Nugents and Magaziners often travel together; the five or six employees, including waitresses and bartenders, who have been with them for more than 20 years and feel like family; and the promise that Mehl and his wife, Brianna, the Nugents’ daughter, are on board to guide the business into the future.

“It’s not a bad life,” says Melanie.

“We wouldn’t trade it,” says Ginna.

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At Summit House, an Unusual Reunion of Beer and Beef


Illustration by Amber Day



For every 50 or so gallons of beer a brewery makes, it has to dispose of about 300 pounds of spent grain. Many offer it to local farmers to feed their animals. If that’s impractical, the grain often ends up in landfills, adding more methane to the atmosphere.

When Untied Brewery opened in New Providence in January, the owners—married couple Matt and Kim Green, and Kim’s cousin Mark Russo—made it job one to find a local farmer willing to haul away the 2,000 or so pounds of spent grain they would generate every week.

Not just any farmer, says Kim, but one producing “all-natural, pasture-raised beef or pork. With one exception, the very few who loosely fit those criteria were located outside Jersey.”

The exception was Corne Vogelaar, manager of the 400-acre River Bend Farm in Peapack. Very soon, he was pulling up to Untied’s loading dock and driving off with 10 rubber totes, each packed with 200 pounds of feed for his cattle.

Before Untied opened, Kim had e-mailed Dylan Baker, co-owner of Summit House in nearby Summit, knowing the restaurant was into local products. She asked if he could recommend a farmer. “It took me maybe four weeks to get back to her,” Baker admits. “I called her and said, ‘I’ve got the perfect guy for you—Corne Vogelaar. We buy whole cows from him.’”

“We both realized,” says Baker, “we had a relationship with the same farmer, and partnering fit like a glove.”

Summit House began adding Untied beers to its draft roster. One is Summit House Pilsner, a custom brew made with the barley that went to Vogelaar when spent. “It’s the most popular beer we have on tap,” Baker says. The other is Untied’s Hilltopper Ale, an American strong amber.

But it would take time to complete the beef-beer circle.

“Corne told us it would take 100 days of feeding the Untied barley to his cows before they would be ready for slaughter,” Baker relates. In mid-April, Summit House received its first steer finished on Untied’s spent barley. Then came 45 days of dry aging at Summit House. “It’s a unique product, not a commodity,” Bakers says.

The collaboration will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 11, at a Beer + Steer dinner for 60 at Summit House. Executive chef Justin Antiorio will pair Vogelaar’s barley-fed beef with Untied beers. “We might,” says Baker, “braise some of the lesser cuts in an Untied stout and create a dish inspired by an Irish stew, and pair it with an Untied beer that complements it, possibly an IPA.” But the main event is seeking taste relationships in a simply prepared barley-fed steak and a beer made from the same barley.

“It won’t be obvious,” Baker says. “But when you eat it and drink it with the beer, it will have a unique synergy on the palate.”

The spent barley accounts for only 20 percent of what Vogelaar’s cows eat daily, with easier-to-digest grass their primary food. “Through the brewer’s grains,” Vogelaar says, “we get a little extra marbling and finish on the beef.”

He also gets happy cows. “They definitely like it,” he says, playing a phone video of his cows dashing for the troughs of barley. “They trot a little faster when they see it.”

Apart from the Beer + Steer dinner, Summit House mixes River Bend beef with other organic, pasture-raised beef for its burger and offers a River Bend roast beef sandwich at lunch. The plan moving forward is to offer River Bend’s barley-fed beef as nightly specials. Call ahead to see what will be available.

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The 22 Best Restaurants in Cape May


In dubbing itself “the nation’s oldest seashore resort,” the City of Cape May isn’t going overboard. Jersey’s southernmost beach town has drawn crowds since at least 1766, when the Philadelphia Gazette deemed it “a healthy place for sea bathing.” The restored Victorian architecture gives this National Historic Landmark town a charm like no other Shore destination. Cape May is also one of the largest commercial fishing ports on the East Coast—a boon for local restaurants.

Note: Many restaurants close for the winter. Some addresses are in West Cape May, Cape May Point or Rio Grande, a short drive from the heart of town.

Here are our 22 top picks for the best restaurants in Cape May, in alphabetical order.

Over the last 15 years, 410 Bank’s Caribbean and Southern menu with a touch of the French Quarter has consistently won its category in NJM’s annual Jersey Fresh Readers’ Poll. Part of the appeal of the restaurant, opened in 1984, is the sultry ambience, with slowly spinning ceiling fans and dignified servers, and the bewitching stroll through a tropical garden to reach the front door. BYO
410 Bank Street, 609-884-2127

Photo courtesy of Beach Plum Farm

The setting is as much a draw as the food. On Wednesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons in the summer, dine al fresco at Beach Plum Farm in four-course prix fixe meals. The farm, part of Cape Resorts, supplies fruit and produce to the group’s restaurants, among them the Blue Pig, Ebbitt Room and Rusty Nail. The Wednesday dinner is entirely drawn from the farm. Friday adds local seafood. Sunday afternoon is a barbecue featuring sustainably-raised meats and pasture-raised poultry. Wednesday and Friday tickets must be bought in advance. The farm also hosts holiday and other dinners in fall, winter and spring. BYO or buy wine at the farm
140 Stevens Street, West Cape May, 609-972-8070

Photo courtesy of Blue Pig Tavern

Named for an 1800s gambling parlor in the venerable Congress Hall Hotel, the Blue Pig serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch in a light-filled rustic dining room augmented with patio seating. The food is casual and largely American—at dinner, there’s meatloaf with mashed potatoes, fish & chips, burgers, pasta, also a kids’ menu.
200 Congress Place, 609-884-8422

Lobster tail. Photo courtesy of the Ebbitt Room/Cape Resorts

One of the leading spots for fine dining in downtown Cape May, just a block from the pedestrian mall in the renovated 1879 Virginia Hotel. Despite the hotel’s Victorian trappings, chef Jason Hanin’s American menu (dinner only) is contemporary—strong on fresh-caught seafood, with steaks and a vegetarian option. Every dish utilizes fresh produce and fruit from Cape Resorts’ Beach Plum Farm just down the road.
25 Jackson Street, 609-884-5700

Jack Wright, a native Scotsman, grew up on curries. When a storefront next to his Exit Zero publishing company became available a few years ago, he turned it into a homey restaurant, Exit Zero Cookhouse. Today it has a new name, a liquor license and an all-American menu in addition to the popular old curries. No reservations taken.
10 Sunset Boulevard, 609-770-8479

Salmon with mango salsa. Photo courtesy of Gecko’s

The menu of this friendly shack with indoor seating and outdoor picnic tables lands a lot farther south than Cape May—in the American Southwest and Mexico. Think pork posole, shrimp and chorizo quesadillas, duck in green mole sauce and grilled salmon with mango salsa. BYO
479 West Perry Street, West Cape May, 609-898-7750

Photo courtesy of George’s Place

As a small corner storefront right by the beach, George’s Place doesn’t look like a diner, but it’s the real deal, and Greek at that. Pancakes, waffles, eggs and that South Jersey staple, scrapple, make for some of the best breakfasts in town. At lunch and dinner, the Greek heritage of owners Peter and Yianni Tsiartsionis is on proud display. BYO and cash only.
301 Beach Avenue, 609-884-6088

All eating regimens accommodated here. Virtually everything on the menu can be made gluten-free, and apart from the scallop and fish entrées, nearly everything can be ordered vegan. Choose from soup, salads, flatbreads, pastas and more. BYO
600 Park Boulevard, 609-898-6161

Vincenzo Sanzone named his restaurant for the Sicilian town where he grew up and learned cooking from his grandmother. Iccara nowadays is called Carini, but the spirit of nonna’s cooking lives on at Sanzone’s BYO. Not that grandma necessarily made dishes as lavish as Sanzone’s lobster with shallots and mushrooms in tomato cream sauce with squid ink fettuccine. Or crab cakes with lemon beurre blanc risotto, or filet mignon with shallot butter.
311 Mansion Street, 609-884-0200

Photo courtesy of the Lobster House.

When you cross the bridge over Cape May Harbor, entering Cape May, the first big thing you come to is the Lobster House. It sits dockside on Fisherman’s Wharf, with its own fishing fleet supplying, among others, its huge seafood restaurant with full bar, its fish market and raw bar. Weather permitting, from May to October, one can also enjoy cocktails and light lunch or dinner on the deck of the 130-foot Schooner American, moored alongside. The restaurant and market are open 365 days a year.
906 Schellengers Landing Road, 609-884-8296

Photo courtesy of Louisa’s Cafe

With only 34 seats, there may be a wait; the menu is limited to seafood (with salads, soup, a few sides and no meat); and it’s cash only. But hold on. The simply prepared food and genuine hospitality have been winning loyalists since the place opened in 1980. Desserts are a strong point, and portions (of everything) are generous. BYO
104 Jackson Street, 609-884-5882

The Craig family, owners of the nearby fine-dining Washington Inn and the Cape May Winery, saw an untapped market for high-quality, reasonably priced, family-friendly dining, and created the 150-seat Lucky Bones in 2006. Open year-round, it offers crisp brick-oven pizzas, crisp Buffalo wings, creamless clam chowder, steaks and chops and a full bar. But seafood is Lucky Bones’s forte, as befits its perch at Cape May Harbor.
1200 Route 9, 609-884-2663

Pancakes, French toast and mimosas, thy name is Mad Batter. Ask anyone in line on a Sunday morning. But in fairness there is much more (like full-menu breakfasts, lunches and dinners) to this OG of Cape May’s ’70s revival, fueled by gingerbread-happy Baby Boomers. The Batter opened in ’76 in the Carroll Villa Hotel, and has been booming ever since. Dinner is eclectic, from chorizo paella to Tuscan fettucine. There’s a kids’ menu and, keeping up with the times, a gluten-free one as well.
19 Jackson Street, 609-884-5970

Summer, 2019, will be cook Lucille Thompson’s 83rd season working in the Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte. The 90-year-old follows in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, both legends at the hotel, built in 1876. Lucille is known for her creamy/crusty dinner rolls and for maintaining the quality of her mother’s fried chicken, collards, lemon meringue pie and other Southern staples that reach deep into the Chalfonte’s history. She says she’s feeling fine and ready to go. We profiled Lucille in 2018.
301 Howard Street, 609-884-8409

Fried scallops. Photo courtesy of Mayer’s Tavern

Once billed as among the best dive bars in America, Mayer’s reopened in 2018 under new ownership after a two-year renovation. Its attitude under chef/co-owner Alex Laudeman—her great-great-grandfather ran party boats in what became Cape May Harbor—brings to mind the old TV series Cheers. Kick back with a Dark ’n’ Stormy, margarita or rum and ginger beer, then dig into fried calamari, a cold shellfish tower or a burger with Dijon mayo. Arrive early to grab a table on the porch and revel in the sunset.—Lynn Martenstein
894 3rd Avenue, 609-435-5078

One of the grand dames of Cape May, the Inn, with its canopied porch and ocean view, is formal but friendly and old-school romantic. That holds when you sit down to dinner as well. Service is gracious and solicitous. Executive chef Carl Messick’s New American fine-dining menu is posh, generous in flavor and portion.
1301 Beach Avenue, 609-884-9090

The screened porch at the Red Store in the lovely enclave of Cape May Point brings you summer dining (and weekend brunch) at its most charming. Chef Lucas Manteca and his wife, Deanna Ebner, transformed the former general store into a place of culinary pleasure, variety and value. Manteca’s creativity makes every one of his six-course, $65 prix fixe dinners a gentle adventure. BYO
500 Cape Avenue, Cape May Point, 609-884-5757

Shrimp, oysters and clams at the Rusty Nail. Photo courtesy of the Rusty Nail/Cape May Resorts

Breakfast, lunch and dinner at a reincarnated beach bar in sight of the beach is how the Rusty Nail hangs its hat. The surfer vibe holds at the outdoor fire pit in summer and the indoor fireplace when the weather cools. The fare is familiar—everything you’d expect at breakfast; chili, chowder, quesadillas, burgers, wraps at lunch; that plus stuffed flounder, chicken parm and the like at dinner. Add specialty cocktails, wine, beer and Monday pig roasts in summer, and you’ve hit the nail on the head.
205 Beach Avenue, 609-884-0017

It’s worth the drive to the Cape May Airport at Rio Grande, about six miles from downtown Cape May, to feast on chef Lucas Manteca’s joyous tacos, rice bowls, leaf bowls and proteins such as house-made chorizo, al pastor (pork shoulder), chicken and brisket. Don’t miss the Mexican street corn with crema and chipotle mayo. Right next door is the tasting room of the award-winning Cape May Brewery.
1288 Hornet Road, Rio Grande, 609-849-9045

Photo courtesy of Tisha’s Fine Dining

Founded in 1988 in Wildwood by Letitia “Tisha” Negro, this BYO moved to Cape May in 1995 when Tisha’s son Paul and his wife, Jennifer, took over. They are still serving sophisticated dinners—grilled salmon and shrimp with Thai chili sauce, short rib Bolognese with pappardelle—in a gracious setting. Lunch ranges from a variety of burgers, po-boys and wraps to salads and risottos.
322 Washington Street Mall, 609-884-9119

Photo courtesy of the YB.

Built in 1846, the stately home at the north end of town became an inn in 1940, but didn’t come into its own as a dining destination until the Craig family bought it in 1979. Mimi Wood, its chef since the mid-’90s, keeps the largely American menu modern, with several gluten-free and one vegan option, and upscale, as befits the setting. The inn’s ace in the hole just might be its wine list, by far the most extensive in Cape May.
801 Washington Street, 609-884-5697

Opened in 2011 by Yianni Tsiartsionis, younger brother of Peter (see George’s Place), YB serves contemporary American food. Brunch offerings include wraps, omelets and five different benedicts. Dinner ranges from crab cakes and bacon-wrapped scallops to a ribeye with béarnaise sauce and a cowboy pork chop with chorizo cornbread stuffing. BYO
314 Beach Avenue, 609-989-2009

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13 of the Jersey Shore’s Best Raw Bars


Avenue features outdoor seating, huge oyster platters and the seafood towers known in France as plateaus. Photo by Paul S. Bartholomew

Long Branch

In opening Avenue on the boardwalk in Long Branch in 2006, general manager Thierry Carrier, a French native, recalls, “Before we thought about anything else, we wanted a separate raw bar with seats where you could watch the guys shucking and could look out at the ocean.” Over the years, and especially in summer, Carrier says, about 40 percent of tables in the tall-windowed restaurant order something from the raw bar. There is much to choose from: Jersey clams and oysters, plus oysters from Maine and the West Coast. Happy hour prices and selections are generous. “In France,” says Carrier, “from the south to Bordeaux to Paris, you see raw bar plateaus in all the brasseries.” These are the towers that are the ne plus ultra of slurping. At Avenue, the petite plateau is $55, the grand is $85 and the royale, which serves six to eight people, is $135. It includes 12 oysters, 12 clams, 24 Prince Edward Island mussels, 8 jumbo shrimp, a whole chilled 1.5-pound lobster, four snow crab claws, an octopus salad, a conch salad and raw razor clams. Avenue also sells a lot of caviar, including Russian osetra at $135 an ounce. “It’s hard to come by,” Carrier says. “Somehow, people know we do. I’m always amazed, but it’s great.” —Eric Levin

23 Ocean Avenue, 732-759-2900

Wildwood

Sunsets on the large outdoor deck are the main draw at this lively, attractive spot on the bay side of Wildwood. The dinner menu is on the pricey side, but the raw bar offers good value. The oyster sampler provides tastes of six different oysters; at our visit there were four from New Jersey, one from Prince Edward Island and one from Wellfleet, Massachusetts. We judged Jersey’s own Delaware Bay and Rose Cove selections to be the best. Also from the raw bar: Prussian Pearls (raw oysters with chilled vodka, sour cream, red onion and caviar); jumbo, lump crab cocktail; and oyster or shrimp shooters. There’s a long list of other tempting appetizers. On the specials list, we were thrilled to discover pacu ribs, a hard-to-find, easy-to-eat Brazilian fish dish slathered in a tangy mango sauce. —Ken Schlager

500 West Hand Avenue, 609-522-1062

Monmouth Beach

Overlooking the Shrewsbury River in the Channel Club Marina, Beach Tavern provides a nautical setting for oyster slurping. “It’s a good time here, especially at happy hour, when it’s packed,” says Beach Tavern’s Ken Mansfield. (Happy hours are extensive and run year-round, weekdays and weekends.) “It’s not a high-end thing; people are just excited to eat oysters and pair them with beer or prosecco.” Beach Tavern gets its oysters from Jersey’s Barnegat Oyster Collective. Its varieties include large, briny Wildling Bastards from Great Bay, north of Atlantic City, and BamBaLam Salts from Barnegat Light. The Tavern also serves oysters from Maryland, Connecticut and the West Coast, as well as clams from Virginia. Located on a back street, Beach Tavern has the feel of a hidden gem, because it’s not visible from the main drag, Ocean Avenue. Want max wow? Order the Yacht: The biggest seafood tower includes 12 oysters, 12 shrimp, 12 clams, king crab, a whole lobster and a bottle of 2014 Argyle prosecco for $150. —Emily Drew

33 West Street, 732-870-8999

Clockwise from left: Bonney Read’s kitchen; a shucker does his thing; Cajun-spiced boiled shrimp. Photo by Paul S. Bartholomew

Asbury Park

When Chef James Avery created the Bonney Read, his seafood restaurant, he placed the raw bar so it would be visible from the street and the first thing the customer passes when entering. “It’s like a stage,” he says. “There’s a little bit of theatrics, the professionals working there, carefully making sure not to spill a drop of the liquor when opening the oyster.” One may also see oystermen in muddy boots hauling in buckets of fresh product packed in ice from the coves of Barnegat Bay. “The oysters are tumbled in ice before shucking,” he says. “It wakes them up, and they stay plump.” The daily oyster stock will always include one West Coast (“a little creamier and silkier”); two East Coast (“more briny and minerally”); one wild, from New England or farther north; and one cultivated, from Barnegat Bay. Jersey clams are featured as well. “Our clams are wild, from Sandy Hook Bay,” Avery says. “They’re called Special Necks, a cross between top necks and middle necks. Some clams give you a copper-penny taste. Ours go through a triple purge process. They lose the copper taste but retain their brininess.” Bonney Read makes its own house mignonette and cocktail sauces. For its crab claws, it makes a yuzu-mustard sauce; for its chilled lobster and shrimp, a curry aioli. There is always a crudo, marinated in a bit of olive oil, citrus or acid, and some salt. Avery serves raw local scallops with an olive gremolata and Meyer lemon juice and raw albacore tuna with a squeeze of fresh grapefruit and some olive oil. Then there are shooters: an oyster in a shot glass with a hit of spiked gazpacho. Happy as a Clam Happy Hour is every night during summer. Sundays in the restaurant, it’s Bubbles & Pearls: a dozen oysters and a bottle of Champagne, from $35 to $85, depending on the bubbly. —EL

525 Cookman Avenue, 732-455-3352

Three tiers of raw and cooked seafood at Dock’s epitomize the dizzying luxury raw bars can deliver. Photo by Paul S. Bartholomew

Atlantic City

Housed in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, this modern, upscale seafood restaurant offers sweeping seaside views and fresh local catches. Opened last year, it features a raw bar menu with steamed or chilled king crab, blue crab and Maine lobster; chilled shrimp; raw clams; and tableside caviar service with Bulgarian “Russian” osetra or California white sturgeon. Raw oyster options include Cape May Salts, Long Island Bluepoints, Pemaquids from Maine, Wellfleets, and Sweet Jesus oysters from Maryland. Just as popular are the light and aromatic New England clam chowder, a 2-pound Maine lobster cooked over a wood-fired grill, and the four shellfish pots, especially the one with Maine lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, Andouille sausage, corn and potatoes for $49. With more than 2,700 bottles on the wine list, you have plenty of pairing options. —Shelby Vittek

1000 Boardwalk, 609-449-1000

Barnegat Light

A year-round hangout on Long Beach Island, Daymark has a lively bar scene, an upstairs room for weddings, and a particularly good raw bar focused on local product. “It helps that we get High Bar oysters literally from across the street,” says Brian Sabarese, who owns Daymark as well as the Arlington in Ship Bottom. “We get Viking Village scallops every day.” Opened in 2016 in the building that formerly housed Rick’s American Café, Daymark is bright and airy, with a tiled floor, a long stone bar, wooden booths and nautically themed wallpaper. It’s a full restaurant, but raw bar aficionados lean toward the daily selection of oysters from the Delaware and Barnegat bays. The staff will happily guide you. “Local [Barnegat] oysters are actually best for beginners,” says Sabarese, “because they’re smaller than Delaware Bay oysters. They’re nice and fresh and briny, and easier to swallow.” Local clams and bluefin tuna from Massachusetts also sell well at the bar. —ED

404 Broadway, 609-494-2100

Atlantic City

Opened in 1897, Dock’s has been sustained by four generations of the Dougherty family through world wars, the Great Depression, and the declines and rebirths of Atlantic City. Dock’s closed in 2015 for a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion. What didn’t change with the 2016 reopening was the family’s commitment to fresh seafood. Behind the bar, chilled lobsters, oysters, clams and shrimp sparkle on ice below the chalkboard list of daily offerings. Oyster enthusiasts can count on about a dozen rotating selections that include Cape May Salts, Brigantine Salts, plump Chesapeake Bay oysters from Maryland, briny Wellfleets from Cape Cod, and Bluepoints and Barren Island oysters from New York State. You also can get littleneck or top neck clams on the half shell. During happy hour (4-6 pm, daily), select oysters are just $1 each. For a taste of everything, order the shellfish sampler, a tower of oysters, clams, shrimp, mussels, shrimp ceviche, crabmeat and chilled lobster ($34.50 for two people, $66 for four). —SV

2405 Atlantic Avenue, 609-345-0092

Atlantic City

The Dougherty family, who also own nearby Dock’s Oyster House, have combined the feel of a sports bar and a seafood shack right off the Boardwalk in Bally’s. The 20-foot raw bar cranks out multitiered samplers ($32 or $64). Oysters by the piece come from the Garden State’s Delaware and Great bays, as well as from the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island, and Virginia’s James and Rappahannock rivers. Other options include raw littleneck, top neck and cherrystone clams, shrimp ceviche, and tuna tartare in a lemon-soy dressing with blue and red corn tortilla chips in a wide cocktail glass. Bloody Mary oyster shooters are three for $12. Fish-of-the-day specials can be ordered grilled, pan roasted, fried or blackened. Grab an outdoor table on the patio, where at night there’s recorded music and lawn games like cornhole and giant Jenga. —SV

1900 Pacific Avenue, 609-431-0092

Cape May

Don’t be scared by the typical hour-long waits for a summertime table here. That’s for the indoor restaurant. The open-air raw bar, on the other hand, is self-service, and tables turn quickly. I counted more than 80 along the dockside deck, which stretches the length of a football field into Cape May Harbor. The fishing boats and the 130-foot Schooner American tied up alongside add to the ambience. You can request one of 10 indoor, dockside tables with waitress service. Raw oysters from Shell Rock in the Delaware Bay and local clams are plump and fresh. (Cape May Salts are served only in the indoor restaurant.) Other offerings include barbecued clams (topped with bacon and sharp cheddar), u-peel shrimp, steamed mussels, and stone crab claws. Steamed lobsters are popular, and the dense, creamy crab soup is a specialty. —KS

Fisherman’s Wharf, 906 Schellengers Landing Road, 609-884-8296

Choices at Triton include, from bottom left: a beer flight from a large chalkboard list; a platter of clams, oysters and shrimp; a lobster roll. Photo by Paul S. Bartholomew

Beach Haven

The clatter of shells, the clink of glasses and the chatter of a young crowd fill Triton, a happy-hour hot spot on LBI. Long pine tables with stools encourage conviviality among the young patrons, who tend to linger, partly because choices abound. Beer, for example. There are about 24 taps of craft beer and a good wine list to go with an on-site wine shop. But the main draws are local oysters and clams. On the chalkboard you’ll find the daily offering, which includes selections from far (Prince Edward Island mussels) as well as near. The house special is the Seafood Tower: 12 clams, 12 oysters, six shrimp and a 1-pound steamed lobster. Staff will help you pick a wine befitting your choice of oysters, perhaps a Muscadet or a sauvignon blanc. “We want to make the oyster-bar experience special, so you’re not just ordering a chardonnay out of habit,” says Tracey Battista, who owns Triton with her husband, Michael. “We love to turn people on to things they don’t know about.” —ED

308 Centre Street, 609-492-7308

Beach Haven

In its third summer, this ambitious BYO’s commitment to fresh oysters now includes an oyster-farming co-op with the LBI-based Barnegat Oyster Collective. Their Oyster Saloon serves a locally farmed signature oyster, Parker’s Pearl—as well as various East Coast and West Coast oysters. Local middle neck clams are offered raw on the half shell. Hungry parties can go overboard with a Single Prop or Twin Screw mixed seafood tower. The Tuna Cracker combines raw yellowfin with citrus mayo and housemade crackers. Shareables include kettle shrimp, lobster corn dog, and disco fries with short-rib gravy. The lengthy menu features a fish house stew and other seafood classics, plus a selection of whole fish, lobster and meat dishes. Reservations are essential—especially if you want to catch the perfect sunset over Barnegat Bay. —KS

116 Northwest Avenue, 609-492-1066

Long Branch

Much has changed since this oceanfront landmark opened in 1995. “I’ve definitely noticed that a raw bar menu is like a wine list now,” says manager Darrell Wordelmann, noting increased sophistication and curiosity among his customers. “It has to be detailed, because people like to pick out what’s hot.” Barnegat oysters sell well, as do bluepoints from New York and littleneck and top neck clams from Jersey. “What’s faded away is the fancy stuff,” Wordelmann says. “Razor clams have fallen off the map. King crabs have priced themselves off the market.” Fun is still on the menu, like the Bloody Mary with a Barnegat oyster pickle, celery and dehydrated olive. Look for more shooter options this summer. —ED

100 Ocean Avenue North, 732-870-1200

Wildwood

Three brothers opened Urie’s Fish Fry in 1956 as a paper-plate restaurant. Forty years later, the family sold it to a local restaurant group that renamed it Urie’s Waterfront. It faces the intracoastal waterway, so for sunset views and live music, grab a seat on the outdoor deck. Order a tray of clams or oysters on the half shell and a shrimp cocktail. Then move on to broiled stuffed shrimp or Maryland blue crabs, steamed and seasoned with Old Bay, and priced per crab. —SV

588 Rio Grande Avenue, 609-522-4189

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Inkwell Coffeehouse Remains a Beloved Constant


Photo by Tiago Lino via Pexels



Down the shore, some things never change. In Long Branch, that would include the Inkwell Coffeehouse, an iconic West End gathering place since 1965 that remains a favorite among local musicians, poets and undergrads from nearby Monmouth University.

Kathy Molloy of Ocean cherishes memories of drinking Dutch coffee at the Inkwell with her buddy Marta and other girlfriends after nights out. That was in the mid-1980s. Now her 21-year-old daughter carries on the tradition.

“It’s cool to share the Inkwell with another generation,” says Molloy.

Of course, not everything about the Inkwell has stayed the same. In 1979, it moved to its current location in a Dutch Colonial on Second Avenue, two blocks from the boardwalk. In summer, regulars grab an outdoor table on the front porch or the side patio. Inside, colored lights twinkle and whimsical art adorns the dark-painted walls. Live music fills the patio on open-mic nights in the summertime.

While owner Anthony Esposito acknowledges the Inkwell has evolved during his 18 years at the helm, he’s careful to preserve the classics. You can still order basic breakfast fare, grilled sandwiches and tempting desserts. But in recent years, the young staff has added vegan options, as well as smoothies and 12 blended-coffee choices, known as Inkacino’s.

Brendan Gillespie of Manasquan frequents the Inkwell with his bandmates after almost every gig. He’s comfortable here; the servers know him by name.

“It’s so underground,” says Gillespie, “but at the same time not underground at all, because everyone knows about it.”

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Global Eats: 46 Restaurants That Put the World on Your Plate


Sambusas and a salad with shrimp at Dashen in New Brunswick. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager



All but four of the 50 states are geographically larger than ours. But New Jersey—thanks to its immigrant communities and the diverse roots of many of its citizens—offers a veritable expo of world cuisines in its packed confines. In these pages, we concentrate on the cooking with which you may be least familiar, omitting those we think you know best (Chinese, French, Greek, Indian, Japanese, Thai) and the two we’ve celebrated in previous issues (Italian and Mexican). So grab a fork, chopsticks, ladle or strip of Ethiopian injera. The flavors and portions tend to be big, the tabs small. —Eric Levin

MORE ON GLOBAL EATING:
In Palisades Park, Korean Food is King
New Jersey’s 20 Most Underrated Food Markets

Afghan Kabob  

Wrightstown • 82 Fort Dix Street, 609-723-3050

Located just outside Fort Dix, Afghan Kabob is often filled with men and women in uniform. Many developed a taste for the cuisine while deployed in Afghanistan, the owner’s native land. The juicy kebabs (chicken, lamb or beef kofta) are fragrant with cumin, saffron and black pepper. They’re served over rice pilaf, with warm pita and a green salad. Don’t overlook the stewed chickpeas with curry and chili; they’re essential—and best spread over everything. Cash only. BYO. —Shelby Vittek

Korai Kitchen

Jersey City • 576 Summit Avenue, 201-721-6566

When Nur-E Gulshan Rahman and her daughter, Nur-E Farhana Rahman, were scouting locations, they avoided blocks packed with Indian restaurants. Though India and Bangladesh share a border, the cuisines differ, and the Rahmans wanted to bring their food out of India’s shadow. In 2018, they opened Korai Kitchen near Journal Square. Everything is served family style in a buffet in the cozy storefront. The menu, which changes twice a day, might include creamy chicken korma, pumpkin shrimp curry, begun bhaja (fried eggplant), and various spiced vegetables. Hilsa, considered the supreme fish, is flown in from Bangladesh. Everything is cooked by Nur-E Gulshan, including the stellar bhorthas, flavorful mashes made from eggplant, potato, tomato or egg. BYO. —SV

Samba

Montclair • 7 Park Street, 973-744-6764

Since 2011, Brazilian native Ilson Goncalves has been showing people there is more to Brazilian food than steak (though his sirloins are very good). Examples? Grilled salmon with passion-fruit sauce, and acorn squash filled with shrimp, squash and Parmesan. On weekends, Samba serves feijoada, the national dish—one of the world’s great meat stews, combining beef, pork ribs, bacon and black beans with sides of collards, vegetables and seasoned yucca powder to dump into the stew, enriching its flavor and texture. BYO. —EL

Villa de Colombia

Hackensack • 12 Mercer Street, 201-343-3399

A classic Colombian meal at this elegant, 30-year-old eatery starts with ceviche mixto, lime-cured chunks of seafood with shaved onion and plantain chips. And maybe the chorizo appetizer, with onions, peppers and some biscuit-like arepas. Upgrade from the standard thin steak to the thick, juicy skirt steak of the paisa churrasco. If you’d like to never be hungry again, attempt to finish the unofficial national dish, bandeja paisa: grilled steak, fried pork belly, rice, beans, sweet plantains, avocado and a fried egg. There is a bowl of spicy, house-made salsa on the table. Use it. The in-house bakery sells those fluffy arepas, savory empanadas, and the powerfully addictive buñuelo, a cheesy puff bread. BYO. —Michael Aharon

Division Cafe

Somerville • 8 Division Street, 908-450-7979

Chef/owner Maida Morales, originally from San José, Costa Rica, opened Division Cafe in 2013. It’s known for its baked empanadas and traditional Costa Rican food, which is sometimes characterized as simple. Costa Rican dishes don’t front-load spicy chilies, but they are present, flavorful and satisfying. Divison makes a solid gallo pinto (“spotted rooster”), the national dish of fried rice and beans, fried egg, corn tortillas, fried farmer’s cheese and sweet plantains. Equally comforting are arroz con pollo (rice with pulled chicken) and carne en salsa, a beef and vegetable stew served with white rice and beans. BYO. —SV

CubaNu

Rahway • 1467 Main Street, 732-540-1724

Brothers Pablo and Jerry Varona opened this swank lounge in 2007. Their mother, Rosa, supplied most of the recipes for traditional Cuban dishes like pernil (roast pork) and ropa vieja (shredded beef). The brothers have added their own—the popular Babalú chicken, stuffed with fried sweet plantains, black beans, chorizo and a hint of goat cheese. Another popular twist is Cubanitos—pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles, the ingredients of a traditional Cuban sandwich, but fried inside a wonton. The flan is creamy and eggy, its caramel topping not too sweet. Signature cocktails include the CubaNu Punch, made with Midori, coconut rum, banana liqueur, and pineapple and orange juices. “It’s our job to make sure everyone has a great experience,” says Pablo. —Carmen Cusido 

Sol Sazon

Willingboro • 4324 Route 130 #4, 609-835-0002

Luis Geronimo grew up watching his mom and grandmother make Dominican dishes, which inspired him to pursue a culinary career. Last October, he opened Sol Sazon, dedicated to “Dominican soul food.” Pastelitos (savory turnovers) and yuca fries, loaded with tomato, onions and avocado crema, are served with a flight of sauces. One is bright, herbaceous chimichurri. It lifts any dish, including the broiled whole-parrotfish special. Fresh juices (tamarind, passion fruit and a Caribbean fruit called soursop) are especially refreshing. BYO. —SV

The dining area at Dashen in New Brunswick. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

At Dashen, samplers come with injera and stews sometimes served in a mesob, a colorful, round, wicker basket. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

Dashen

New Brunswick • 88 Albany Street, 732-249-0494 

For a vibrant introduction to Ethiopian eating, order one of Dashen’s combo platters, ranging from five to 10 samples of traditional meat and vegetable dishes. Consider doro wot (spicy chicken stew), tibs wot (spiced, cubed, stir-fried beef), menchet abesh (mild ground beef simmered in spiced butter), kitfo (lean beef spiced with red pepper, cumin and ginger), gomen (simmered collard greens), shiro (chickpeas with Ethiopian spices and herbs) or kik alicha (yellow split peas with garlic, ginger and turmeric). They’ll be served atop injera, the sour, spongy crepe made of teff flour that serves as both plate and utensil. You tear off pieces to scoop up the sauces and stews. BYO. —SV

Mesob

Montclair • 515 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-655-9000

Fifteen years ago, sisters Berekti and Akberet Mengistu fearlessly opened Mesob despite never having worked in a restaurant. They’d grown up in a family of 10 children. With relatives dropping by all the time, cooking dinner for 40 on little notice was no big deal. They figured they could handle it. And they were right. Mesob is busy most nights, and people have taken to the Ethiopian way of eating: scooping up subtly spiced meat and vegetable stews with hand-torn strips of spongy injera, Ethiopia’s uniquely absorbent sourdough crepes. BYO. —EL

Max’s

Bloomfield • 65 Belleville Avenue, 973-743-1900
Jersey City • 687 Newark Avenue, 201-798-2700

Maximo Gimenez, a native Filipino and a Stanford grad, opened the first Max’s in 1945 in Quezon City. It became a chain. The whole-fried-chicken recipe, a signature dish created by Gimenez’s niece long ago, is unusually tender and tasty. Other hits include the crispy spring rolls filled with adobo-seasoned pork purée, and the bicol express, which is fried pork belly in coconut milk with shrimp paste and spices. Ease the heat with a bowl of halo-halo—purple yam ice cream with sweet beans, fruit preserves, rice flakes, coconut shreds and even cheddar to counter the sweetness. —CC

Manila Cafe

Mount Laurel • 200 Larchment Boulevard, 856-222-0604

Part market, part café. Order from the daily selections at the hot-tray counter. Staples include chicken adobo (in a vinegar-soy sauce), pancit (rice noodles with vegetables), barbecue chicken or pork skewers, and kare-kare (a peanut-sauce stew simmered with oxtail and other meats). Portions are plentiful. For dessert, try ube halaya, a jam made from boiled, mashed purple yam (ube) topped with coconut flakes; or halo-halo, consisting of ube ice cream, shaved ice, evaporated milk and other toppings. Starting at 8 am Sundays, Manila Cafe hosts a Filipino breakfast feast. BYO. —SV

Black Forest Inn

Stanhope • 249 Route 206 North, 973-347-3344

The Aichem family, originally from Germany, has been serving the traditional dishes of their homeland since 1977. Stepping into the Black Forest Inn is like stepping into a lost era of restaurants: multiple dining rooms, dark wooden paneling and, particular to this tradition, servers dressed in dirndls. Also unchanged are the wonderfully prepared classic German selections: crisp Wiener schnitzel, buttery spaetzle, rich slices of sauerbraten, sweet braised cabbage, and flammkuchen, a type of thin German pizza spread with crème fraîche, bits of bacon, caramelized red onion and mushrooms. There are more than a dozen dessert options, but the light and flaky apple strudel is the only one you owe it to yourself to try. —SV

La Parrilla

Trenton • 1007 Hamilton Avenue, 609-989-1912

On the former site of the famed DeLorenzo’s Pizza, La Parilla (“The Grill”) is reasonably priced and family friendly. It’s owned by siblings Juan Carlos and Amanda Diaz; their brother, Eduardo, is the manager. About 60 percent of their customers are Latino. The most popular dish is Tres Carnes a la Parilla, with three grilled meats: flank steak, chicken breast and carne adobada (traditional Guatemalan pork marinated in a tomato-based adobo). It comes with rice and beans, salad, avocado, sweet plantains and fried taquitos. The drink of choice is té de elote, a warm corn tea with kernels of corn, milk and a hint of cinnamon. BYO. —CC

Mommie Joe’s

Trenton • 1036 South Broad Street, 609-695-6561

A variety of Caribbean flags adorn Mommie Joe’s sign, but the best food here is Haitian. For more than 30 years, the take-out spot has served delicious diri ak djon djon, a specialty known as black rice. Earthy and deeply flavored with black mushrooms native to northern Haiti, it also accompanies spicy stews of oxtail, chicken, pork or goat, as well as fried fish. All come with fiery peppers sliced thin and marinated in vinegar. BYO. —SV

Mount Masala in Voorhees. Clockwise from above right: Salt-and-pepper shrimp; sizzling chicken momo; Manchurian goat and Himalayan beef, with rice and sauces on the side. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

Mount Masala

Voorhees • 300 White Horse Road, 856-281-9711

There’s spicy, and then there’s Mount Masala spicy. The family-owned restaurant—opened by Gayatri “GG” Giri, her husband, Bharat Bist, and her brother, Jaya Nepal, in 2017 in the former Tiffin space—doesn’t shy from the heat of the food of their native Nepal. “With spice, you are warmer, with more energy, and can climb higher,” says GG. Of Nepali cuisine, she says, “Hardly any people know about it. I wanted to showcase the flavors I had in my daily life.” 

Nepal’s earthy flavors involve cumin, dried chilies, coriander, pepper and garlic. They turn up in everything from dry-pot Himalayan beef to cumin-laden Manchurian goat to chili-flecked chow mein. Sizzling momos (Himalayan dumplings stuffed with vegetables or chicken and topped with tomato chutney) are served, still smoking, in a cast-iron dish. The restaurant imports all its herbs and spices from Nepal, as well as yak milk, which has twice the fat of cow’s milk and is blended with regular milk to make super-creamy ice creams. BYO. —SV

Cafe MoBay in Bloomfield. From left: Patrick Smith; fresh sorrel, mango and pineapple drinks. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

Cafe MoBay

Bloomfield • 1039 Broad Street, 973-337-8460

“People tell me, ‘There’s not many Jamaicans in Bloomfield. Why do you put a Jamaican restaurant here?’” says Patrick Smith. “I always tell them, ‘Good food people will find good food. It might take awhile, but they will.’” Smith’s Cafe MoBay (short for Montego Bay) is a little over two years old, and people are finding their way there. Smith—who grew up in Jamaica, graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York, and became a chef in New York restaurants and New Jersey country clubs—serves a menu he calls “90 percent Jamaican.” His jerk Gulf shrimp with sweet plantain and house-made tomato marmalade is irresistible. His curried goat with rice (a Jamaican staple) is tender and delicious, his sautéed callaloo one of the most involving leafy vegetable dishes around. Smith’s French training especially shines in desserts like his brioche bread pudding with vanilla rum sauce and his warm, flourless chocolate cake. BYO. —EL

Morgan’s Island Grill

Hightstown • 110 Mercer Street, 609-308-2108

Chef Kenroy Morgan, a native of Jamaica, and his wife, Jewel, opened this place in 2013. In the bright and cheery restaurant, Morgan makes excellent renditions of the Jamaican dishes he learned from his father: flavorful beef patties, unapologetically spicy grilled jerk chicken, tender curried goat over seasoned rice, slow-cooked and fragrant oxtail stew, and fried sweet plantains. Then there’s ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish—made with ackee fruit, salted cod, onions, hot pepper and spices—delicious and transporting. BYO. —SV

Eden Korean

Cherry Hill • 1428 Marlton Pike East, 856-489-5757

The tables do not have built-in grills like many Korean barbecue joints, but the menu is unmistakably Korean. Owned by the Kwak family for nearly a decade, Eden’s highlights include handmade beef and pork dumplings, and dolsot bibimbap, a sizzling stone bowl filled with rice, marinated beef, vegetables and a fried egg tossed with gochujang. Thinly sliced barbecued short ribs, called galbi, are simple and completely delicious. Banchan, the side dishes served with a Korean meal, include kimchi, marinated mushrooms, seaweed and seasoned bean sprouts. They’re great to nibble on before your meal arrives. BYO. —SV

Four Seasons

North Brunswick • 1892 Route 130 North, 732-658-6555

Known as Headquarters until January of this year, Four Seasons does a large take-out business, but fills the dining room as well. Lentils bob in a bright, lemony soup, a signature dish. Cabbage rolls stuffed with spiced, chopped meat are a frequent special. Chicken kabobs are moist and meaty and come with grilled peppers and onions, as well as hummus, which is light, with balanced notes of sesame and garlic. The baba ghanoush is properly smoky, but the subtle flavor of eggplant shines through. Grape leaves stuffed with rice and chickpeas are excellent and warm. The tabouli seduces with chopped fresh parsley and lemon juice. —Emily Drew

Norma’s

Cherry Hill • 145 Barclay Farms Center, 856-795-1373

Norma and George Bitar, who emigrated from Lebanon during that country’s civil war, opened Norma’s in 1996. The restaurant and gourmet shop became a haven for Middle Eastern families, as well as others who relish the age-old recipes Norma prepares: stewed lamb with honey and almonds; kabobs; sfiha (a Levantine open-faced lamb or beef pie); mujaddara (lentils, rice and caramelized onions); and kibbi (bulgur, onions and ground meat, served fried, baked or raw). The vegetarian platter offers crisp falafel and mezze such as hummus, baba ghanoush and stellar stuffed grape leaves with fresh pita. Norma’s also offers vegan and vegetarian takes on traditional dishes such as moussaka and shawarma. The Bitars’ three children—Elias, Mariette and Ziad—carry on the family’s legacy. BYO. —SV

Rose’s Place

Fair Lawn • 32-01 Broadway, 201-475-8800
Englewood •  126 Engle Street, 201-541-0020

Rose Hajjarian opened the original Rose’s Place in Fair Lawn in 2000 and its Englewood branch in 2008. “Rose is the mind behind everything,” says her daughter, Yesmene Allam, Englewood’s chef. “We make everything from scratch from fresh ingredients and cook everything to order. We grill over hardwood charcoal, not gas.” You can taste the difference in the smoky baba ghanoush, which has a balancing brightness, and in the small, dense mekanek sausages, made with lamb, pine nuts and—the subtly enhancing ingredient—pomegranate molasses. Imam bayildi is a Lebanese eggplant and tomato ragù, redolent of cumin and allspice. Kofta, ground lamb sausage smothered with tahini sauce, forms an inseparable alliance. BYO. —EL

Coco Asian Cuisine

Edison • 1803 Lincoln Highway, 732-777-1300

Much of the menu is adorned with Thai favorites for the suburban audience, but the standouts are Malay. Roti canai, a crispy pancake served with a dipping sauce thick with curried chicken and potatoes, makes a great start. Satays, skewers of chicken or beef seasoned with a marinade that includes lemongrass and turmeric, are grilled to juicy perfection. Beef rendang, a semi-spicy Malaysian staple, is tender and flavorful, with notes of lemongrass, curry and coconut. Pulut hitam, a warm, creamy dessert porridge, is rich with black sticky rice and coconut milk. BYO. —SV

Marakesh

Parsippany • 321 Route 46 East, 973-808-0062

The Moroccan-born Abdelfettah El Akkari opened Marakesh in a small strip mall in 1996. Since then, he’s grown the restaurant’s impressive collection of Moroccan decor: textured ceramics, Moorish lighting, vibrant throw pillows and a Moroccan drum. With low-lying couches and etched brass trays that serve as tables, the dining area feels more like a lounge—which makes sense, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings, when dinner is accompanied by belly dancers (reservations recommended). Even then, you’ll want to come for the robust flavors on the menu. The sampler includes a rich and thick hummus, a salad of cooked eggplant and tomatoes called zaalouk, and a complex and smoky baba ghanoush, served alongside warm pita. Traditional tagine dishes are cooked in a clay pot; the saffron-spiced lamb shank and Tunisian chicken, flavored with harissa, are especially tender. Herby and aromatic, the grilled lamb kofta, made from seasoned minced meat, is charred and juicy. BYO. —SV

Seven Valleys

Hoboken • 936 Washington Street, 201-792-5979

Encountering a dearth of Persian restaurants in Hudson County, Hoboken mother-daughter pair Maryanne Fike and Dale Ryan opened Seven Valleys to share herby rice pilafs, juicy kebabs and hearty stews with the community. Now, lovers of tahdig (crispy saffron rice), ghormeh sabzi (a stew of herbs, beans and dried Persian limes), and many other traditional dishes have a (small, 24-seat) place with sleek, airy decor to frequent. Not as traditional, but popular with Seven Valleys diners, are vegetarian swaps, such as tofu in place of chicken in fesenjan, a stew thick with pomegranate paste and ground walnuts. Servers are happy to suggest dishes and explain ingredients, from the sour cherries in the albaloo polo rice to the sumac bottles on every table. BYO. —Sophia F. Gottfried

Top: Costanera’s ceviche consists of lump crab, ahi tuna and shrimp, and is served with toasted corn nuts. Below, from left: Costanera’s Chicharron de Pescado; shrimp soup; Tiradito Nikkei. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

Costanera

Montclair • 511 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-337-8289

Chef Juan Placencia’s first restaurant (for his latest, see review, page 84) earned three stars from NJM when it opened in 2010. It’s still terrific and busy as ever. Portions are huge and flavors are rich and well woven, from a big bowl of spicy prawn soup (with floating fried egg) to some of the best pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) anywhere—the invigorating marinade penetrates deep into the meat. Ceviches, Peru’s signature marinated raw-fish salads, and tiraditos, Peruvian crudos, are spirited and super fresh. BYO. —EL

Terras Ceviche

Middlesex • 559 Bound Brook Road, 732-752-3700

Ceviche is spoken here: raw fish, shrimp and scallops marinated in lime juice with onions and chili peppers, served with sweet potato, large-kernel Peruvian corn and cancha (toasted corn nuts). Equally bright are tiraditos, thin slices of red snapper in lime juice, topped with creamy sauce. Anticuchos, a street food, are skewers of grilled veal hearts, tripe or filet mignon. Terras Ceviche makes excellent lomo saltado, a stir-fry of sirloin, onions and tomatoes; and chaufas, a style of fried rice.Both stem from the influence of Chinese immigrants. BYO. —SV

Royal Warsaw’s hearty Plate a la Warsaw, with stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, pierogi and hunter’s stew. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

Royal Warsaw

Elmwood Park • 871 River Drive, 201-794-9277

A palace of polished comfort food, Royal Warsaw offers house-made pierogi plump with meat, potato and cheese, or with sauerkraut and mushrooms. Potato pancakes, another staple, are fluffy. Polish cuisine is rich in meat: grilled kielbasa; breaded pork cutlets; cabbage stuffed with pork and rice; a hearty, pork-based hunter’s stew; and pork shank slow cooked in vegetables and beer sauce until the meat falls off the bone. It all goes well with a Polish lager such as ?ywiec or Lomza, both on draught. —SV

Broa Cafe 

Jersey City • 297 Grove Street, 201-463-1467

Tucked into the garden level of a brownstone, Broa could easily be missed. But what a shame that would be. The interior is filled with mementos from chef/owner Michael Casalinho’s family, who hail from the Leiria region of Portugal. The single chalkboard menu, scribbled with offerings that change nightly, is visible from most of the 40 seats. Broa’s items are petiscos (analogous to Spanish tapas). They are delicious, from bean salads bright with onion and olive oil to flaming platters of chorizo, garlicky shrimp, braised octopus and crispy fried sardines. Groups of five or more can try everything on the menu for $45 per person. For dessert, have a creamy pasteis de nata, the classic Portuguese egg tart. On warm evenings, sit on the back patio under string lights. BYO. —SFG

Seabra’s Marisquiera

Newark • 87 Madison Street, 973-465-1250

For 30 years, Seabra’s has been a landmark in Newark’s Ironbound and a bastion of super-fresh seafood cooked in traditional Portuguese style. At lunch, it’s fun to hang with locals at the bar and schmooze over cockles in garlic sauce. Dining room hits include acorda de marisco, a bread stew loaded with seafood in a garlic-and-coriander sauce, all topped with a poached egg. The Portuguese wines are good and reasonably priced. —Rosie Saferstein

Buen Provecho 

Hamilton • 1701 Hamilton Avenue, 609-981-7700

Christina Bonilla, 32, always dreamed of running her own restaurant and learned to cook Puerto Rican dishes like picadillo from her grandmother, Delia. After earning a culinary degree, she opened Buen Provecho (Spanish for bon appetit) in 2014 with her father’s help. Picadillo, spicy ground beef in tomato sauce, is here served with avocado. “Most of our Hispanic and Puerto Rican customers say our cooking reminds them of home,” she says. Other favorites include bistec encebollado (steak and green onions with avocado) and chipotle shrimp. In-demand desserts are piña colada upside-down cake and chocolate-pecan-coconut rum cake. BYO. —CC

La Ponceña

New Brunswick • 57 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, 732-249-3754

Eulalia Vargas Rivera and her husband, Esteban, opened La Ponceña (a person from Ponce) in 1975. Since Esteban’s death in 2016, Eulalia and her children have run the restaurant. “Many of our customers have been here for years,” says her son, Esteban Jr. “Some come on Fridays or Saturdays, when they know my sister will make her tilapia and red snapper, items not usually on the menu.” The biggest sellers are braised chicken, bacalao, oxtail and mofongo—fried, mashed plantains seasoned with salt, garlic and oil. Appetizers like alcapurrias—fritters made with plantain or cassava dough and stuffed with ground beef—usually sell out quickly. BYO. —CC 

Milly’s

Vineland • 602 East Chestnut Avenue, 856-405-0015

Opened by Milagro “Milly” Juarez in 2013, Milly’s offers Mexican favorites: guacamole, tacos, burritos and sopes. But the pupusas, El Salvador’s most notable dish, are wonderful. The saucer-sized discs are handmade corn-flour tortillas stuffed with cheese and pork or refried beans, served with tangy cabbage slaw, and are best with a healthy hit of green hot sauce. Sopa Azteca, a tortilla soup, is peppery and filling. BYO. —SV

Casa d’Paco

Newark • 73 Warwick Street, 862-307-9466

Angel Leston and his father, Francisco, who goes by Paco, serve the food of their native Galicia, on the northwest coast of Spain. They opened their small restaurant, with Spanish wine list and sangrias, in 2015 in the Ironbound. The menu is coastal, including a distinctive, soupy style of seafood paella and a marriage of seafood and tapas in the piquant chipirones da casa—grilled baby squid with grilled onions and cherry peppers. Angel’s mom, Ana, makes memorable desserts. —Julia Mullaney

Hakki Baba

Cliffside Park • 555 Anderson Avenue, 201-844-8444

The Turgut family have been restaurateurs since the 1920s, beginning in Antep, Turkey. Ferda Turgut runs Hakki Baba with her parents, siblings and nephew. (Hakki Baba was the nickname of the family’s first restaurateur.) The appetizer combination platters (four or six items) alone could make a fine and substantial meal, especially for vegetarians. Choices include smoky baba ghanoush, spicy walnut-and-tomato spread, briny feta, thick labne and almost a dozen other starters. Then make way for the kebabs: juicy chicken, lamb or beef, central to Turkish cooking. Each comes with pilaf, over toasted pita, or on smoked eggplant and yogurt. BYO. —SFG

Köy Turkish Grill

East Brunswick • 647A Route 18, 732-955-6449
Marlboro • 280 Route 9 North, Marlboro, 732-792-3659

Apparently as handy with saws and sheetrock as with kitchen tools, owners Jawad and Hina Malik and Adeel Siddiq transformed an old pizzeria into a soothing, scarlet sanctuary with hanging lanterns and billowy ceiling fabrics. Their aim was to create the feeling of a köy, Turkish for village, with food to match. The plump zucchini pancakes called mucver, with red peppers and feta in garlic-yogurt sauce, make a fine introduction to the cuisine. The pomegranate salad, a mound of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and walnuts in a sweet-and-sour pomegranate dressing, is delicious under its shower of pomegranate seeds. Köy’s grilled lamb chops over rice with a side salad is its signature entrée. There are two flaky baklavas: walnut and pistachio. BYO. —ED

Shirin Cafe

Manalapan • 345 Route 9 South, 732-462-8585

Uzbekistan—north of Afghanistan and south of Russia—is the home of plov, a fragrant, well-seasoned, golden pilaf with carrots, mounded with chunks of tender lamb and beef. It’s the Uzbek national dish. Shirin’s small storefront, decorated with Central Asian figurines and art, is packed and lively on weekends, peaceful on weeknights. Shurpa is a traditional Uzbek soup of lamb, beef and vegetables. Kutabi—pancakes stuffed with either lamb and beef or with sautéed greens—come with a savory yogurt dipping sauce. Listed as a starter, it’s big enough for two. Shirin also offers Russian and Armenian dishes. BYO. —ED

Pho Ninh Kieu

Parsippany • 73 New Road, 973-521-9900

For about three years, the Huynh family has been turning out perfectly executed Vietnamese café cuisine. There are several types of bun (cool rice vermicelli tossed with salad, herbs, peanut and choice of grilled meats, crisp spring rolls or shrimp), intricate fried rice dishes and vegetable-forward stir-fries. Com dia are sort of the blue plate specials of Vietnam, served over couscous-like broken rice with fish sauce, cucumber and tomato. The star is com tam dac biet, which includes a grilled pork chop, shredded pork and a slice of a quiche-like pork-noodle pie, all topped with a fried egg. The Huynhs are most proud of their pho soup (left), aromatic and more delicately flavored than most. BYO. —MA

Olaide’s Kitchen in Parlin. Clockwise from left: Amayase, a Nigerian stew, with efo elegusi with goat and a mound of jollof; owner Olaide Tella holds a plate of efo elegusi; a bowl of ila, an okra soup, with yams and stew. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

Olaide’s Kitchen

Parlin • 499 Ernston Road, 732-952-8880

After moving to New Jersey from Lagos, Nigeria, in 1998, Olaide Tella worked as a certified nurse assistant to support her young family. At the same time she ran a West African catering company out of her basement. In 2017, she opened Olaide’s Kitchen, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Her Nigerian and Ghanian specialties include jollof, rice cooked in tomato sauce; asaro, a yam porridge with sautéed fish; ila, plain okra soup served with a stew; amayase, an aromatic stew of green peppers and meat; efo elegusi, a green stew with kale and pumpkin seeds; and suya, beef skewers coated in a nutty spice blend. BYO. —SV

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New Jersey’s 20 Most Underrated Food Markets


City Fresh Market in Union City carries foods from throughout Latin America. Photo by Laura Baer



The Jersey food scene is so vibrant and diverse that a comprehensive list of cuisine-specific markets would be overwhelming. The following list of 20 omits essential markets we’ve previously celebrated (Mitsuwa in Edgewater, Corrado’s in Clifton) in order to introduce you to lesser known places worth a visit.

MORE ON GLOBAL EATING:
The Ultimate Guide to Jersey’s Global Restaurant Scene
In Palisades Park, Korean Food is King

99 Ranch Market

Edison, Hackensack, Jersey City 

99 Ranch is part of the largest Asian supermarket chain in the United States. Its aisles turn up Japanese dorayaki (bean-paste-filled pancakes), Korean kimchi, Chinese black bean garlic sauce, Thai tom yum goong (spicy shrimp soup), Vietnamese pho ga (chicken-noodle soup) and Taiwanese pineapple cake. The same variety fills the produce aisles and the food court, where a shopper can try Chinese dim sum, Japanese ramen or Hong Kong-style barbecue. The chain, which started in California, is more than 30 years old and now comprises 50 stores, three in New Jersey.

Gold Valley Supermarket

Springfield • 211 Morris Avenue, 973-564-9092

The mission is to provide fresh food at an affordable price “to the neighboring community, including the Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Caucasian, Spanish, Indian and others.” This mix coexists comfortably. Canned banana blossoms from Thailand sit beside Filipino jackfruit in syrup. Vietnamese instant rice noodles (pho ga and pho bo) snuggle up to Japanese udon and soba noodles. Coming upon the large selection of Latin Goya products is a bit jarring at first, but they too fit into the global mix. 

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Asian Food Markets: Jersey City, Marlboro, North Plainfield, Piscataway, Plainsboro
  • Food Bazaar: Elizabeth, Fairview, North Bergen, Trenton, West New York
  • Kam Man Market: Edison, East Hanover

English Gardener Gift Shop

Haddonfield • 123 Kings Highway East, 856-354-5051

The English Cook and Gardener Gift shop would be a more fitting name. Shelves are packed with packaged foods from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It’s a great place to stock up for your next Downton Abbey viewing party (the movie comes out in September). There are popular British teas like PG Tips and Ty-phoo, and upscale brands like Brodies and Taylors of Harrogate. No fresh-baked goods, but you can pick up ready-made pastries including crumpets, Eccles cakes, Bramley apple pies, Jaffa cakes, shortbreads, Welsh biscuits and mini Battenburg cakes, as well as mixes for making scones and soda bread and ingredients like Irish oats, golden syrup, Devon custard, marmalade and Maldonado sea salt. Savory selections include Marmite, mushy peas, piccalilli, chutney and porridge. Cheerio!

ALSO OF NOTE:

The Pie Store, Montclair

Joe’s Market

Newark • 1011 South Orange Avenue, 973-373-5215

Even without palm trees, the Caribbean vibe is strong, from exotic greens (callaloo, dasheen, sunchoy) to fresh, hard-to-find seafood (doctor fish, parrotfish, pompano, porgy, red mullet, goatfish) and many types of jerk seasoning. The store carries African and American products, too, but the reggae soundtrack and many Jamaican packaged food and drinks (St. Mary’s banana chips, Agony peanut punch, canned ackee in brine) make it clear where Joe’s heart lies.

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Ando West Indian Market, Jersey City
  • Caribbean Supermarket, Elizabeth
  • Original Kaneshie Market, Parlin
  • Tropical Sun, East Orange

Hong Kong Supermarket

East Brunswick • 265 Route 18 South, 732-651-8288

Walking down the soy sauce aisle here brings to mind the myth that the Inuit have 100 words for snow. In this soy sauce aisle, you’ll find black, thin, light, dark, sweet and aged sauces, including soy sauces for cooking, for seafood, and for glazing food. The market carries noodles, teas, seaweed and soups in many varieties. It also has a good selection of fresh and frozen fish, fresh meat and a large produce section. Download the Waygo app before shopping in this or any other Asian market; the app translates Chinese characters when you point your phone’s camera at them. 

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • East West Market, Bloomfield
  • New Harrison Supermarket, Harrison

Appetit Fine European Food

Cherry Hill • 1614 Route 70 West, 856-324-0211

Appetit imports foods from countries such as Bulgaria, Albania, Russia and Romania. “Even things like instant coffee and tomato sauce taste different than the American versions,” explains Viktor Levashki, a Bulgarian immigrant who owns the store with his wife. He points to displays of meats, cheeses, olives, olive oils, jams, honey, chocolates and cookies. Juices like birch and pumpkin sit alongside bottles of Fanta, which Appetit carries in flavors generally unavailable here, such as the lemon-and-elderflower Fanta Madness. Herring is a best seller, as are the many types of feta. “Try the desserts,” Levashki urges, pointing to a case of frozen cakes from Moldova and Ukraine. He explains that many are made with beet sugar rather than the cane sugar or corn syrup used in many domestic baked goods. “It’s a different sweetness,” he says. “Americans should try it!” 

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Amira Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Fair Lawn
  • Broadway Food Palace, Fair Lawn
  • Ema International Foods, Clifton
  • Emporium International Food, Old Bridge

Fiesta Oriental Food

Cherry Hill • 225 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, 856-429-0041

The cuisine of the Philippines has been influenced by its colonizations by the Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Americans. Fiesta caters to a growing local Filipino population. “But our customers include Americans, Germans, Spanish and people of other nationalities, too,” says Alma Castro, who’s worked in the store since it opened 30 years ago. “The most popular foods we sell are things like soy sauce, fish sauce and vinegars,” she says, adding that “snack foods are also popular. Cookies and chips—things people miss from home.” Shelves hold many varieties of noodles and rice, canned fish and corned beef, and boxes of mixes for making favorites like bibingka (Filipino coconut cake) and puto (steamed rice cakes). The store brings in fresh-baked goods from northern Jersey, and also offers frozen fish, meat and sausages. 

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Phil-Am, East Brunswick 
  • Fil-Am Mart, Edison
  • FilStop, Jersey City
  • Tropical Hut, Old Bridge and Somerdale

Swiss Pork Store

Fair Lawn • 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, 201-797-9779

The two men—one German, one Swiss—who founded the store in 1950 were so worried about lingering anti-German sentiment that they decided to call the store Swiss. Still, the German heritage is unmistakable in the cases of smoked pork, sausages and various types of bratwurst. And, as the store’s slogan states, “We’re not just pork!” There’s rotkraut (pickled red cabbage), weinsauerkraut (pickled cabbage in wine), Bavarian-style sauerkraut, loaves of dense, dark breads, and boxes of cherry- and brandy-filled chocolates. 

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Ehmer Quality Meats, Hillsdale
  • Forked River German Butcher Shop, Forked River
  • Kocher’s Market, Ridgefield
  • Union Pork Store, Union

The Greek Store

Kenilworth • 612 Boulevard, 908-272-2550

Although this store is almost 70 years old, it’s still younger than some of its recipes. “The koulourakia [butter cookie] recipe is over 150 years old; it was originally from Constantinople and was passed to us by a family friend,” says Lia Diamandas, granddaughter of the founder. The store-made spanakopita is another best seller. “We also make our own moussaka, pastitsio and baklava,” says Diamandas. Local Greek families shop here, but “we have an assortment of customers, especially as people travel more and become more aware of Greek food and how healthy the Mediterranean diet is,” she says. Diamantis points to another popular product: feta, aged and sold in small wooden barrels “like wine casks.” The store offers tastes of many of its goods—olives, breads and, yes, the koulourakia cookies. 

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Local Greek, Princeton
  • Mediterranean Gourmet, Fort Lee

Hungarian Meat Center

Passaic • 189 Parker Avenue, 973-473-1645

The aroma of smoked meat and paprika makes a mouthwatering first impression when you enter this small shop full of hanging salamis and cases of smoked ham, smoked pork loin, smoked slab bacon and smoked salami. The Rozsa family has owned the store for two decades and prepares the meats using traditional Hungarian recipes and ingredients. There are traditional Hungarian sausages, including kolbasz, szalonna, hurka and blood hurka. In the refrigerator case, you’ll find goose lard and pickled cabbage. The shelves hold bags of paprika, walnuts, ground poppy seeds and and chestnut purée, a popular Hungarian treat served with whipped cream.

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Buday Meat Market, New Brunswick

Subzi Mandi

Iselin • 1518 Oak Tree Road B, 732-603-0588 (branches in Parsippany and Piscataway)

At Subzi Mandi, produce is featured in a large, open space in the center of the store. Among familiar items, you’ll find fresh tamarind, aloe vera, jackfruit and banana flowers. Surrounding the produce area are large sacks of orange, white and yellow dal (dried lentils, peas or beans) and colorful cloth bags of rice. Spices such as chili powder, fennel, coriander and turmeric, so important in Indian cuisine, are offered not just in tiny tins, as in American markets, but in large bags up to 4 pounds. And they are very fresh. There are plenty of snack foods and freezer cases of samosas and kulfi. 

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Narmada Indian Groceries, Clifton
  • Patel Brothers, multiple locations
  • Patidar Supermarket, Hillsborough
  • Star Bazaar, Lawrence and Somerset

HMart

Cherry Hill, Edison, Fort Lee, Leonia, Little Ferry, Paramus, Ridgefield

A trip to HMart makes for an instant immersion in Korean food, less familiar to many of us than Chinese or Japanese. Buy some sweet, nutty corn tea to steep at home. Sample kimchi made from radish, mustard greens or cucumbers, in addition to the familiar cabbage. Buy spicy gochujang pepper paste to add a touch of fire to your cooking. Experiment with vegetables such as burdock, knob celery, black kale, king oyster mushrooms, seafood mushrooms, ginkgo nuts and lotus root. Some of the fruits and sweets are beautifully packaged for gift giving. Consider giving that gift to yourself!

City Fresh Market

Union City • 518 32nd Street, 201-348-3660

Choices in the produce section range from Dominican avocados and celery to Mexican chayote to Peruvian mangoes to other produce such as aloe vera leaves, fresh sugar cane, jicama, tomatillos, rambutan, cactus leaves, yucca, taro and sorrel. One aisle holds goods from Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Mexico. Another is devoted to products from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Brazil, Peru and Colombia. There are cookies, coffees, spices, beans, pastas and sauces, packages of guava paste and cakes of brown sugar. Tropical climates know how to cool off deliciously, so check out the frozen Mexican paletas (Popsicles) in flavors like Mayan chocolate, rum raisin, pecan, mango and coconut.

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Cousin’s Supermarket, Camden
  • Kikos Supermarket, Fairview
  • La Placita Supermarket, Union City
  • Selecto Supermarket, Trenton

Nouri Brothers

Paterson • 999 Main Street, 973-279-2388

A neon sign outside proclaims Hot Pita Bread. Inside, the aisles smell of exotic spices. This large market was opened over 40 years ago by Abed Noury and his brothers. Today, Abed is still an active manager, with lots of involvement from Christine and George, two of his five grown children. “The store started as a bakery—we’re still known for our pita, which we bake fresh daily—and then branched out into everything else,” says George. “It’s like one-stop shopping for our customers, who come from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Armenia, Palestine and other places. They can find the same things they’d find at home.” Those include dates, olives, pickles, beans, grape leaves, halvah, tahini and pastries. The store, which has a hot-food deli, recently added a brick-oven, sit-down café. “Everything is made here with our grandma’s recipes and our mother’s,” say the siblings. What’s their favorite? “Everything!”

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Afandina Mediterranean Specialties, East Brunswick
  • Caspian Market, Ridgewood
  • Phoenician Market, North Brunswick
  • Sultan Food Bazaar, Parsippany

Piast Meats and Provisions

Garfield, Maplewood

Kielbasa and pierogi are just the start. At the two Garfield stores, varieties of fresh meat, mostly pork, plus sausages, cured hams and lunch meats, as well as cheeses, fill the displays. All three stores have a takeout bar with hot prepared foods. “Provisions” encompass tins of cabbage soup, meat and sauerkraut stew, pickled vegetables, fruit juices, honey, jams and syrups. At the Garfield stores, the conversation is nearly all in Polish. Garfield has a large Polish community, but in a concession to English speakers, there’s a printed handout describing 16 varieties of pierogi and dumplings, with instructions on how to prepare them. As they say in Polish, “Zapraszamy!

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Bratek Deli, Garfield
  • Polish American Deli, Runnemede
  • Polonia Meat Market, Clifton

Seabra Foods

Harrison, Hillside, Kearny, Newark 

Newark’s Ironbound district is home to many markets specializing in Portuguese and Brazilian foods. Seabra Foods has its flagship supermarket there. In addition to what you’d find in an American supermarket, there are aisles devoted to the foods of Portugal, Brazil and other South American countries. Stacks of dried salt cod (bacalao) are piled on a table near the fresh fish counter. There are cases of traditional sausages such as linguiça, salchichón, alheira and farinheira. If you’d like to try making feijoada (Brazilian black bean stew), buying a specially bundled packet of the requisite meats—sausage, dried beef and smoked slab bacon—simplifies matters. Seabra also has a good selection of Portuguese baked goods such as pound cakes, sweet breads, and pastel de nata (egg-custard tarts).

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Brazilian Market, Long Branch
  • Emporium 112 Supermarket, Newark
  • Seabra’s Market (not related to Seabra Foods): Elizabeth, Newark, Union

Gourmanoff

Paramus • 221 Route 4 West, 201-308-6888

More gourmet than Gorbachev, this is a food market you can imagine Czar Nicholas and his family frequenting. There’s smoked fish (including smoked sea bass at $42 a pound) and an entire case of caviars. Take a break from pancakes to try the more delicate blini; from Coca-Cola to try kvas (a traditional fermented rye drink with less than 1 percent alcohol); and from regular salami to try Russian, Estonian, Karpatian or Old Kiev varieties. Dense, dark breads beckon from the in-house bakery. Or choose from a wide range of prepared foods (after all, the Czarina probably never cooked). Recently, a man stood at the bread display and, in accented English, asked his young daughter to request a Lithuanian loaf from the baker. “But Daddy,” she said plaintively, “I don’t know how to say it in Russian!” English will do.

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Babushka’s Deli, Livingston 
  • Prime Food Markets, Livingston
  • Russian Store, Fair Lawn
  • Syberia, Fort Lee

Stewart’s Scottish Market

Kearny • 338 Kearny Avenue, 201-991-1436

In the late 1800s, several Scottish companies, including the Clark Thread Company of Paisley, opened factories in Kearny, and immigrants followed. Businesses sprang up to serve the displaced Scots. Stewart’s Scottish Market was not the first to open, but is one of the last standing. The store has been in the same family since it debuted in 1931, still turning out sausages, meat pies, pasties, blood pudding and potato scones. “We also do lots of mail orders, shipping to people all over the country,” says Mike Keefe, the manager, who adds that business is most brisk from Thanksgiving to Burns Night at the end of January, when many celebrate Scottish poet Robert Burns by eating haggis and other national foods. The store sells a variety of imported, packaged foods, including Scott’s Porage Oats (with a kilted Scottish shot putter on the box), Green’s Yorkshire pudding mix and Chivers blackcurrant jam. 

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Cameron’s Scottish Food, Brick

Istanbul Food Bazaar

Clifton • 1500 Main Avenue, 973-955-2989

Housed in what was once the Henry Doherty Silk Company, this large market stocks halal meat, fresh fish, cheese, poultry, dairy and packaged goods from Turkey and elsewhere in the region. The selection of olives alone is as big as most salad bars. Turkish delight comes in flavors including rose petal, pistachio, pomegranate, fig and walnut. Dried dates start with the familiar medjool and move on to mabroom, safawi, sagai and sukkari. The bakery features honey-soaked baklava and sugar-dusted almond cookies.

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Basci Mediterranean Food and Halal Meat Market, Fairview
  • Bereket Market Place, Monmouth Junction
  • Sahara 34 Arabic and Turkish Food, Matawan
  • Sultan Food Bazaar, Parsippany

Makola African Market

Newark • 375 Lyons Avenue, 973-926-3919

At Makola Market, you shop to the lively beat of African music on the sound system. Named for a bustling outdoor market in Accra, the capital of Ghana, the store specializes in products from that country, as well as Liberia, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and other West African nations. Staples like oat flour, plantain flour, rice and pounded yam come in small packages all the way up to 100-pound sacks. The store sells meats popular in West Africa, including goat, tripe, oxtail, cow feet and cow skin. Packaged goods include popular African nonalcoholic beverages like ginger beer, Vita Malt and Maltina. Also an attraction: bolts of the bright, printed cloth Ghana is known for.

ALSO OF NOTE:

  • Ecowas Food Market, Newark
  • LizzyBoat African Market, Pennsauken
  • New Jersey African-Caribbean Market, Trenton
  • So It Is African Market, Stratford

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