The Best Food and Drink in New Jersey from The Best Food and Drink in New Jersey for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in New Jersey for 2018 Gallery
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The Best Food and Drink in New Jersey
From world renowned tomatoes to legendary hot dogs, New Jersey is chock full of culinary treasures. And to celebrate all the great food and drink that the country’s most densely populated state has to offer, we’ve rounded up 23 of the Garden State’s claims to culinary fame as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Best Bar: McGovern’s Tavern, Newark
For 80 years, McGovern’s Tavern, an Irish pub located six blocks from Newark’s Penn Station, has attracted a clientele of blue collar types, office workers, college students, and police officers and firefighters (many of whose hats and helmets hang from the ceiling). Originally opened by Frank McGovern in 1936 as a meeting place for Irish immigrants, the bar survived the Newark riots in 1967 (which led to the closure of many businesses) and today serves up pints of Guinness, other brews, and bar fare like a 10-inch pizza and a sandwich called the Dublin Decker (corned beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing served on rye bread). McGovern's is closed on weekends.
Courtesy of Kane Brewing Company
Best Beer: Kane Brewing Company, Sunday Brunch
Best Burger: White Manna, Hackensack
A North Jersey legend, White Manna is one of the last remaining diner-style burger joints that arose in the tradition of White Castle. What’s served here is the perfect interpretation of that form, honed over decades and decades, unchanging. Walk up to the tiny counter, place your order with the grillman, and watch as he smashes a small wad of meat onto the flattop with a handful of thin-sliced onions, keeps careful track of it as it cooks, and sandwiches it into a Martin’s potato roll. Make it a double with cheese, and the burger that will end up on your plate next to some pickle chips won’t be pretty, but it’s astonishingly delicious.
Best Cheesesteak: Donkey’s Place, Camden
Since opening in 1947, Donkey’s has been turning out some spectacular cheesesteaks, and doing it slightly differently from their neighbors in Philly: Instead of a soft Italian roll, theirs comes on a poppy seed-topped kaiser. It may be sacrilege to some, but one bite will tell you all you need to know. Piles of thin-shaved steak take up half of the grill; a mound of sliced onions occupies the rest. Each pile of steak gets a sprinkle of seasoning before being piled onto a soft steamed bun, then topped with onions and a couple slices of melty American cheese. Not incorporating the cheese into the beef can also be seen as a cardinal sin, but — once again — the proof is in the pudding, and the end result is one spectacular cheesesteak.
Photo by Brion S. via Yelp
Best Chinese Restaurant: Hunan Taste, Denville
This upscale Chinese restaurant is ornately decorated and a great place for a night out, and has been pulling in the crowds since it was first opened by the Hsiung family in 1986. Popular favorites include soup dumplings, steamed or fried whole fish, Peking duck, Mandarin pork chop, and sizzling filet mignon.
There’s also a separate section of the menu devoted to traditional Chinese dishes including beef tendon and tripe in hot Sichuan pepper sauce; bang bang chicken (shredded in hot peanut sesame sauce — a must-order); Sichuan beef, chicken, or fish in fiery hot oil; and the Emperor’s Special Seafood Pot, filled with shrimp, scallops, abalone, tripe, quail eggs, and sea cucumber.
Photo by Lisa V. via Yelp
Best Cupcakes: Pink Cake Box, Denville
Pink Cake Box is a critically acclaimed bakery that features sweets ranging from the tiniest of cupcakes to a towering wedding cake structure. This bakery will take your breath away with its sculptural masterpieces and cakes so moist and delicious that you won’t even care how beautiful they are. Flavors include hazelnut Frangelico, pink Champagne cake, pumpkin, and dozens more. Try this amazing bakeshop for a specialty experience you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the nation.
Best Dive Bar: Great Notch Inn, Little Falls
Situated where routes 3 and 46 meet in Little Falls, Great Notch Inn is a true roadside dive bar. Walk inside this neon-lit cabin bar, and you’ll find friendly locals sipping on cheap drinks. The jukebox plays classic rock, the bikers mingle with those who just happen to wander in, and the beer is always cold. What more could you want?
Photo by Christine M. via Yelp
Best Doughnuts: Uncle Dood’s Donuts, Toms River
There’s a good reason Uncle Dood’s has such a strong fan base in Jersey: the doughnuts are fun, fancy, and delicious. This relatively new opening is both amusing and delicious; doughnuts such as Vermont Swine (maple icing and bacon bits) and Bed Rockin’ (vanilla frosting and Fruity Pebbles) make us smile when we read the name and when we bite into the sweet, fluffy creation.
Best Food Truck: Oink and Moo
Oink and Moo has operated in New Jersey since 2012, enjoying its status as a well-kept Garden State secret in towns like Hoboken and Asbury Park. However, shortly after the truck expanded to Philadelphia, it won a Vendy award for Rookie of the Year — and we’re pretty happy the secret got out. The concept is simple: beef brisket or pulled pork barbecue done well (not well-done) in the form of sliders, chili, tacos, quesadillas, and ribs. It also has a brick-and-mortar location in Florham Park, New Jersey, but where’s the fun in that? You want to enjoy barbecue like this as soon as it’s off the heat.
Yelp/ Tatiana H.
Best French Fries: White Manna, Hackensack
This legendary Hackensack burger joint is nothing short of a local legend, and it satisfies the munchies with its fresh crinkle-cut fries, served with or without cheese. The restaurant’s quirky process requires you to order your burgers first from the cook, while fries and drinks are ordered separately at the counter.
Photo by Kings Food Markets via Yelp
Best Grocery Store: Kings
Kings is a New Jersey-founded grocery store chain that stocks local farm produce, fine meats & cheeses, prepared foods and other groceries. The general consensus is that although products maybe a tad expensive, Kings carries the quality products you are looking for.
Arlene Mae P. via Yelp
Best Hot Dog: Rutt’s Hut, Clifton
Even if Rutt’s Hut, located in blue-collar Clifton, served their trademark Ripper — a pork-and-beef Thumann’s link that’s deep-fried in beef fat until it rips apart — out of the back of a minivan, it would still be the state’s most delicious hot dog. The fact that this roadside shack has not only a counter to end all counters amid its stand-up dining room, but also an adjoining tap room where you can drink cheap beer and chat with old-timers and fellow pilgrims, propels Rutt’s Hut to legendary status. Whether you order an "In-And-Outer" (just a quick dunk in the oil), a Ripper, a well-done "Weller," or the crunchy, porky, almost-overcooked "Cremator," make sure you get it "all the way": topped with mustard and a spicy, sweet, onion- and cabbage-based relish.
Best Italian Restaurant: Spirito’s, Elizabeth
If you’re from a certain part of Northern New Jersey, there’s approximately a 100 percent chance that you’ve heard of Spirito’s, and an equally good chance that you’ve been there. Owned and operated by the Spirito family since it opened in 1932, the dim, wood-paneled Spirito’s is a restaurant where time — and the menu — stands still. Crowds gather nightly for three equally legendary menu items: ethereally light homemade ravioli, swimming in marinara; veal parm that’s so big it doesn’t fit on the plate it’s served on; and the pizza. A thin, crisp crust, an oregano-heavy sauce, and just the right amount of cheese make this pizza one that mercifully won’t fill you up after a slice or two, even if you top it with sausage and pepperoni (which you should do). That’s a good thing, because you’re going to want some ravioli, too. And that veal Parm. A couple of things to know before going: It’s cash-only, and you have to bring your own butter for the bread. Why? Because that’s the way it is.
Best Jewish Deli: Harold’s, Edison
Everything at Harold’s in Edison, New Jersey, is super-sized. A cold smoked fish platter filled with whitefish salad or sable feeds two to three people. The deli sandwiches feed the same (maybe even more) and offer items like corned beef, brisket, hot pastrami, and beef tongue. Whatever you decide to go with at Harold’s, be sure to swing by the world’s largest pickle bar — a real sight to behold.
Best Mexican Restaurant: Panchos Mexican Taqueria, Atlantic City
Located right next door to the legendary White House Sub Shop, this unassuming taqueria was opened to cater primarily to employees of the local casinos, but it quickly achieved a level of local renown when chef David Chang stopped by and deemed it “the best Mexican food on the East Coast” in Lucky Peach, and when legendary Philly chef Michael Solomonov fell in love with it on an episode of Vice Munchies. So what makes this place so good, exactly? For one, the tortillas aren’t just homemade, they’re made to order. Second, tacos and huaraches are filled with a wide variety of expertly prepared proteins like steak, chicken, brisket, goat, tripe, chorizo, and carnitas. And third, their mole poblano enchiladas are life-changing. Don’t try to call or look for a website; they don’t answer the phone much and there isn’t one. Just go.
Crystal Golf Resort
Most Expensive Restaurant: Restaurant Latour, Hamburg
Located inside the bucolic Crystal Springs Resort, New Jersey’s most expensive restaurant is the playground of chef Anthony Bucco, who works closely with local farmers and purveyors to source the finest seasonal ingredients available and craft them into very pricey dishes. Two menus are available: a five course “Anthology” tasting for $115 (plus $55 for wines) and a seven course degustation for $145 (plus $65 for wines). The wine cellar here is also very impressive, home to more than 6,000 labels.
Photo by Carol C. via Yelp
Best Pizza: Santillo's Brick Oven Pizza, Elizabeth
What can you say about Al Santillo? Santillo may be the least well-known great pizza tradition curator in America, the gatekeeper to three generations of pizza-making and one of the most unique pizzerias in America. The man has tomato sauce running through his veins. Al Santillo’s grandfather, who had long made focaccia for his family at home, decided to try it as a business in 1950. "He wanted to keep the place open in the evening and make a little more money, so he started making pizza," his grandson Al has noted. "In 1957, he bought the brick oven I use now." It’s an oven Al says is called a low-arch, one whose every brick was cut by hand, and which he insists, "permits infinite possibilities in temperature and character."
Pizza infinity is difficult to conceive, but Santillo’s is something you just have to experience for yourself. You can only do takeout from Al's living room — it houses the massive cathedral-like oven that requires a 20-foot-long peel to retrieve the pizzas. And be prepared to order by the year — Al preserves every pizza style he can for posterity. They range from the 1940 Genuine Tomato Pie (no cheese) to the 2011 San Marzano "Tomatoes Over the Cheese" Pizza. But there are other intriguing options like Lasagna Pizza, thin-pan, Roman-style, Italian bread, and an off-the-menu grandpa pie as well. Start out with a 1957 Style Pizza Extra Thin (14-Inch round), or the popular Sicilian pizza, or just ask this quirky, pizza-possessed master to make you his own spontaneous creation.
Photo by Jin Y. via Yelp
Best Sandwich: White House Subs, Atlantic City: Italian
No trip to Atlantic City is complete without a visit to White House Sub Shop, now sadly down to just one location (the original) on Arctic Avenue, because the boardwalk location shut down along with the rest of Trump Taj Mahal in last year. But that’s OK; it’s been going strong since 1946, and it’s still worth the pilgrimage. When you go, there’s only one sandwich you need to order: the Italian. Genoa salami, provolone, ham, and capicola are piled onto a soft and chewy Italian loaf, topped with lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, chopped roasted peppers, Italian seasonings, oil, and vinegar. A full-length sandwich runs about a foot and a half, so you’ll probably want to share it. And if you want to double the fillings, make it a White House Special. There’s almost always a line around the block at this place, but the wait is well worth it.
Best Soft Pretzel: Stoltzfus’ Pretzels, Princeton
Tucked away in a sleepy corner of Princeton is the sprawling Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market, home to stalls selling fresh dairy products, meats, salads, produce, and even furniture straight from Pennsylvania Dutch country. But no visit to the market is complete without a stop at Stoltzfus’ Pretzels, located right by the entrance. These are hand-rolled throughout the day right at the front counter, and you can watch the whole production process from start to finish. Their classic soft pretzel, served warm from the oven, is a work of art, but don’t miss their pretzel dog, which wraps a stellar hot dog from Smoker’s Deli across the aisle with their fresh pretzel dough.
Yelp/ Mimi K
Best Soup: Cook to Order, Flemington
This low-key deli offers a nice menu of salads, sandwiches, and other lunchtime fare, but the soup here is the main draw. It’s devised by chef/ owner Brendan Stokes on a daily basis based on what’s fresh and in-season, but his broccoli and cheese soup (pictured) is a standout, and his tomato and spinach bisque won last year’s Hunterdon County Soup Cook-Off.
Photo by Laura S. via Yelp
Best Steakhouse: The River Palm Terrace, Edgewater
Even though it’s located on the opposite side of the Hudson River from Manhattan, just south of the George Washington Bridge, The River Palm Terrace can rank right up there with the big boys across the water. All steaks are Black Angus USDA Prime, dry-aged in-house for 28 days, and sliced daily by their in-house butcher, and seafood is purchased daily from New York’s Hunts Point Market, with at least six fresh varieties (and some surprisingly great sushi) on offer daily. New York strips, fillets, T-bones, and porterhouses for two are given a deep sear under a ripping-hot broiler, and nearly every other item on the menu is equally worthy of praise.
Photo by Honshu via Yelp
Best Sushi Bar: Honshu, Jersey City
An early trailblazer in the restaurant boom that’s been taking over the increasingly upscale area of Jersey City near the Exchange Place PATH station, Honshu has been charming the locals for more than 10 years. They recently moved to a new location, and it’s spacious, trendy, and great for both date night and a local takeout. The sushi is fresh and prepared with skill, and though the rolls will knock your socks off (especially the Fashion roll with yellowtail, salmon, jalapeño, fresh scallop, and green tobiko), it’s the rotating selection of nigiri and sashimi that really puts this place over the top. Opt for the golden eye snapper, baby yellowtail, white salmon, or live orange clam when they’re available, or (even better) trust them and order the omakase.
Photo by Victoria L. via Yelp
Best Taco: Aguilas de Mexico, Newark: Al Pastor
There’s no shortage of solid Mexican spots in Newark, but locals agree Aguilas de Mexico is the real deal. This family-owned Ironbound gem has only been around since 2012, but its freshness and consistency has already endeared it to locals. Al Pastor is tender and delicious, with a little crisp on the pork and some pineapple tying it all together. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.