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6 days in NJ

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It's our first trip back "up North" in 3 years after moving to FL... We are excited and hungry for real food and anxious for that first taste of home. I've been checking around these boards and have a tiny list. But I'm getting overwhelmed with choices.
We = husband and me.
Will be in Somerset and can (and will) go anywhere for something tasty.
We are NOT foo-foo and really miss:
normal pizza!
normal Chinese !
walking into a pork store and just inhaling the smells for a few desperate seconds
eating after 9pm (there is nothing open 24hrs here except Walmart!)
not getting a funny look for calling it "gravy" when it's not brown!
Could care less if the napkins are cloth or who speaks what language in the kitchen.
Name me one place you go when you want what you can get "only in Jersey" .

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  1. May I suggest that you post your "tiny list." Then Hounds can chime in suggestions. But just to get started...

    I don't know what you consider "normal" pizza, but when a pizza yen strikes, we head straight to Pete & Elda's, in Neptune. If you like the thin crust type, theirs is first-rate. And the meatballs and sausages with extra onions and peppers are not too shabby either. As for dining after 9 p.m., no problem since the pizzeria side of the restaurant serves until 1:15 a.m.! (The bar area closes at 2 a.m.)

    http://www.peteandeldas.com

    1 Reply
    1. re: RGR

      I know what you mean about the "pork store". If ure in somerset area check out randazzo's on 202 in raritan www.randazzospastryshop.com, cookies, cakes & pastries are as good as brooklyn's bakeries -- delish. sausage and stuffed peppers vgood. smells UMMM! good luck finding a decent pizza place, i have my own favs but they are more local to Woodbridge. best NORMAL chinese is China Cafe, behind best buy on route 1, woodbridge. Enjoy your stay.

    2. You mention normal Chinese. For extraordinary Chinese, try Wonder Seafood on Route 27 in Edison. Anything seafood. It's all impeccably fresh and lightly sauced, Hong Kong style. Stay away from the beef/pork dishes, which are no better than acceptable takeout. Their dim sum on Sundays is also excellent--the closer you get to noon, the more interesting the food gets (but the more crowded it becomes).

      1. One of my "only in NJ" treats is the regional submarine sandwich. In its best form, a selection of italian meats sliced very thin, probably a provolone cheese and an assembly of shreaded lettuce sliced tomato & onions - all pretty well soaked with a oil & vinegar. The big crusty-outside/soft inside submarine roll is an essential player here to hold this wonderful thing together through to the end.

        Now that I have described the set-up, I will have to defer to the local experts for this season's best prospects. My experiences have been mostly at the northern Jersey Shore and where there are examples from Neptune (is Sorrento's #5 on Rt.33 still around?) south along the shore to Pt Pleasant

        3 Replies
        1. re: neil

          It's been ages and ages since I've had a sub from Sorrento's. The one I always went to was on Park Av./Route 33, in Freehold. I believe it's the original location. At the time I went there, it was a pretty small place which was later enlarged.

          1. re: RGR

            Sorrento's is still there, as mentioned by RGR. They do a brisk breakfast business on one side of the building, and are always packed for lunch (less so for dinner) on the other side. I go from time to time due to the convenience, but have come to the conclusion that the subs are just okay -- the meats/cheeses don't seem to be of high quality and the bread is kind of chewy. I stick to the tuna sub which is really good and full of mayo with a package of Dipsy Doodles (yum).

          2. re: neil

            i think that Jersey's Mike's is the best example of this type of sandwich. Of course, now that they're a franchise, they can be found all over the country. Put the best is still at the original location in Point Pleasant Beach. ok, so it's not physically the same original location, but it's close enough.

            http://www.jerseymikes.com

          3. pork roll egg and cheese on a hard roll at your local coffee shop/greasy spoon/diner

            1. Welcome back home. I hope you have a great trip.

              Pizza: I totally agree with Pete and Eldas. I would also add Grimaldi's in Hoboken, Star Tavern in Orange/Montclair, and Spiritos in Elizabeth.
              Chineese: I am partial to Waterlillies in Summit.

              Also, if you are looking for "Jersey Authentic", you should try to make sure that you hit a Rita's Italian Ice while you are here, as well as a dog from hot dog johnny's in Butzville, and hit a rodizio place in Newark's Ironbound to round out your trip (I vote for Brazilia but you will see other opinions on this).

              19 Replies
              1. re: ohromujici

                I tried Rita's once and thought it was awful!

                1. re: RGR

                  Wow, RGR. We finally disagree on something. I have to admit that I am a big fan of yours. I tried Lorena's in Maplewood solely because you recomended it. You are always right on the money with your posts but on Rita's Italian Ice, we utterly disagree. I eat the wild cherry ice almost every day on my way home from work. The mango flavor is the bomb, as well as the coconut. I think you should give it another chance. It has a big following here in Jersey so perhaps you just tried some wierd flavor that they stopped making or something.

                  1. re: ohromujici

                    Hey, ohromujici,

                    I'm honored that you consider yourself a "fan" of my posts. :-) And I'm thrilled to hear that you enjoyed Lorena's -- though I'd have been shocked to hear otherwise because, to be honest, I've never ever heard a discouraging word about anyone's dining experiences there.

                    As regards Rita's, I did not have ices since I don't care for them. I had what Rita's has the temerity to call "gelato." In a word: Feh! It is, in fact, a crime against the use of that name because what they are selling bears absolutely no resemblance whatsover to the real thing!

                    Our favorite place for homemade gelato in NJ was Cold Cream, in Belmar. Sadly, it has closed. We recently tried the homemade gelato at Cafe 360, in Freehold, and it was very good. In NYC, *the* place to go for sensational gelato is Il Laboratorio del Gelato, on the Lower East Side.

                    1. re: RGR

                      I have to admit that Rita's use of the word "gelato" for the product that is actually served there confused me at first. It is definitely not "gelato" but a different animal entirely.

                      But if you don't care for ices in general, than I don't think it's really fair to judge Rita's at all. After all, ices are what they do. All the "gelato" is, is ice layered with custard.

                      1. re: flourgirl

                        If Rita's is selling a product and calling it "gelato," I think one has a right to expect real gelato and not a cup of ice with whatever. (I don't recall the custard, but if you say it's in there....) That's what's not fair here. Afaic, (1) it's false labelling and (2) I have every right to judge it.

                        1. re: RGR

                          I didn't say you didn't have the right to judge the gelato. What I guess I should have said was in my opinion, if you don't like ices, you should have said so in the first place when you said you didn't like Rita's. Apparently some people here value your opinion and if you don't like ices, your opinion of a business that sells nothing BUT ices and ice based conconctions is probably going to be colored by your dislike of ices. Fair enough?

                          1. re: flourgirl

                            Fair enough? Not exactly. Granted, I probably should have been more explicit in my original post about exactly what I had. But in this particular case, the fact that I don't care that much for ices is irrelevent because I didn't order ices, I ordered "gelato." That word has a specific meaning in the food world. We're now agreed that the concoction at Rita's is not that, and since I knew nothing about Rita's, I couldn't have known it wasn't going to be the real thing. In any event, even if it does contain ices, there are other ingredients in it, so it might have ended up being so tasty that I would have liked it. I'm open-minded about such things. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

                            1. re: RGR

                              I'm no fan of Rita's... but I'm not sure they deserve derision for their product name. I suspect that Rita's started offering their own type of gelati before most Americans were aware of Italian gelato. (Rita's calls it gelati; not gelato.) Rita's started in the 1980s, when most of us were marveling over Frusen Gladje as the latest in frozen treats. Remember those white plastic pints? Now in the 21st century, Rita's has to contend with new customers who order gelati and expect something other than soft-serve-slush-swirl.

                              It's true that gelato and gelati are the Italian words for ice cream. But strictly speaking: "Gelato" is an Italian word for "frozen" and comes from the Italian word gelare, meaning "to freeze." (source: the unimpeachable Wikipedia!) Rita's is not incorrect to call their mixture gelati. However, they may want to consider re-naming it.

                              Rita's history: http://www.ritasice.com/about.html

                              1. re: val ann c

                                Thanks for that explanation, val!

                                My knowledge of Italian being rather liminted, I always thought the word "gelati" was the plural of "gelato."

                                As I said, I knew nothing about Rita's. One day, a couple of years ago, there one was in Freehold Boro, on the corner of Main & Throckmorton, diagonally across from El Meson. That's where I tried the "gelati." Since then, one has opened much closer to our house. It took over a vacant former Carvel stand on Route 9 North, in Manalapan. Then, Ace Aluminum bought the property, demolished the stand, built a big building to house their own business + a couple of tenants, and Rita's re-located into a corner of the new building. There's also another ices operation, whose name escapes me, in a very small stand-alone building further north on the south side of 9, in Marlboro.

                                1. re: RGR

                                  RGR, I believe that gelati is indeed the plural of gelato. But in the US, we usually refer to the classic Italian ice cream as gelato. And Rita's calls their product gelati.

                      2. re: RGR

                        Hi RGR. Sorry that my post started a chowhound fight. I do agree with you though (on the gelato part). I used to live in europe (London) and I traveled a bit to Italy and I thought the same thing that you did the first time I ordered a Rita's gelati: this isn't gelato. I often consider my first great love affair to be tiramisu gelato. I cheated on tiramisu gelato with strawberry gelato and occasionally nutella gelato. (it was quite scandalous) Once you get used to european gelato, it is hard to accept the Rita's version. I am still a fan of the ices though (as judged by the fact that I ran out in today's hurricane/monsoon storm to get a mango ice).

                        Despite your distaste for Rita's, I will still eagerly read your posts. : )

                        1. re: ohromujici

                          ohromujici, I thought this was a fun little conversation -- hardly a chowhound fight. I don't think we ever have fights on this Mid-Atlantic board. I've enjoyed this board for years because of the cordial, knowledgeable, enthusiastic people.
                          -- Val

                          1. re: ohromujici

                            Hey, ohromujici,

                            As Val said, Central NJ Hounds are a very friendly, enthusiastic group, and this was in no way a fight. Just a cordial difference of opinion. :-) After all, this would be a pretty boring place if *everybody* always agreed on *everything*! lol

                            1. re: ohromujici

                              Sorry guys, perhaps "fight" is the wrong word. As you might be able to tell by my log on name, english is my second language. I get worse at it every year. : ) I will try to chose words more carefully.

                              Just as FYI, I agree that this is a very pleasant chat room. I always meet nice people here.

                          2. re: ohromujici

                            ohromujici, I must absolutely agree about the cherry ice at Rita's, it's wonderful. I don't get to indulge as often as I'd like as I live almost exactly in the middle of the Rita's in Middletown and the one in Neptune. I'm thrilled to see that one is pending in Eatontown!

                          3. re: RGR

                            RGR - I agree with ohromujici about Rita's - if you've only tried it once, you should at least give it one more chance.

                            But as for hot dog johnny's in Buttzville, I have to disagree with ohromujici - I've been there twice and don't think the hotdogs are anything special. The location is terrific, but the hotdogs are not anything I'd go out of my way for.

                          4. re: ohromujici

                            Yes!! We love Rita's. We drove 2 hours for a Rita's when we first found it online- up in St. Augustine. Ate our gelati and drove home..... I felt zero guilt.

                            Been to the South Amboy men-with-sticks-o-meat place. I only remember the Sangria, actually...

                            1. re: ohromujici

                              Chinese: I agree in regards to Waterlillies in Summit

                              Ices: My feeling is that almost any pizzeria in N.Y. has better ices than Rita's. I've been there twice and found their ices very grainy and lacking ant real flavor.

                              Subs: find a good Italian deli and get a sub there. My son goes to the Jersey Mikes in Westfield and loves it, but I find the bread lacking character and crunch.

                              Pizza: Capri in Kenilworth on the Boulevard

                              Have a great trip!

                              1. re: ohromujici

                                Rita's is just OK for me - but certainly not "Jersey Authentic". Rita's is a franchised chain, they have them in 16 states, including over a dozen locations in Florida. So probably nothing new to the submitter since they live in Florida. I've had better Italian Ice at more 'authentic' Jersey pizza joints.

                              2. Whoo hoo thanks for all your replies.
                                It feels good just to READ words like "Pete and Eldas" (yes, yes, we are there!)
                                Can you believe they sell pork roll here in Florida? It's the real thing. But the only "hard rolls" they offer are rolls that are stale... So a pork roll, egg and cheese with salt, pepper ketchup is on my husbands lips as soon as he wakes up, if he has his way...

                                Also something he loves but can't get here is Cluck-U.

                                Jersey Mikes sounds perfect. Is Wonder Seafood sorta kinda near the Costco in Edison? I think I know that place. I was hoping to stumble across Mei-Mei's or this tiny spot near the courthouse between Raritan and Manville...

                                I've been to Rendazzo's and it's excellent. I just almost passed out at the mention of "lobster claw". Come to Momma.

                                Oh and a Windmill...burnt.

                                We have a wedding to go to, reception at this place called Liberty house? Haven't really checked it out but maybe I need to scout out places to go AFTERwards for tasty treats (ha!)

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                  Wonder Seafood is about a mile south of the Costco, on the same side of Rt 27. It's a little past Reydel Volkswagen, in a non-descript brick building next to a very seedy motel.

                                  1. re: albinoni

                                    Liberty House in LIberty State Park? Very pretty place, great view, food & service ok. Enjoy!

                                    1. re: nyebaby37

                                      RGR--I would have to second the 'admiring poster' fanclub of yours--you were very helpful on the Manhattan Board when I needed to pick places to take my father and stepmum post-theater--I chose Le Madeline and the West Bank Cafe, and they were very happy :) Eliminating family discord is a 'good thing'

                                      Re Rita's: I had no idea they called there stuff gelati--Even the people I know who LOVE Rita's do NOT call it gelati, they call it 'water ice.' And I don't like ices either, at least I haven't since I retired my Snoopy Snow Cone maker in 1979.

                                      Another Chowhound recc: The Inlet Cafe in the Highlands. It seems like you should have one 'meal by the shore.' I went there recently and really enjoyed it.

                                      Is it my imagination or has the Windmill gone downhill--I am veggie, so I only get the fries, and they were less tasty than when I was in h.s. although my palate may be more sophisticated, now!

                                      1. re: veganish

                                        Agree, Inlet Cafe is definitely a try. Windmill no go for me.

                                2. Star Pizza and Cafe in Orange...a bit of a drive, but it's worth it for the best pizza in jersey.

                                  1. Also, for a complete unique Middlesex County experience, head to New Brunswick and get a "fat" sandwich from one of the Easton Ave. pizza and grill joints. They're legendary monster sandwiches...my favorite is the fat veggie-indian: french fries, felafel, mozzerella sticks, lettuce and marinara sauce on a sub roll. wierdly delicious.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: tamerlanenj

                                      Are the greasetrucks still there? Fat Cats? YUM!!!!

                                      1. re: MDM

                                        I can attest that the greasetrucks are still there. The fat cats are still being made with fervor. As I am sure you remember, they are best consumed at 2:00 AM when you are full of keg beer. It would be nice if the truck guys gave you a coupon for a half-off angioplasty at the hospital afterwards but so far they have not persued this business option.

                                        1. re: ohromujici

                                          It's a hole in the wall, and I don't eat subs, but people drive from all over to get Denny's Subs in Little Silver I've heard--another hole in the wall for very good pizza is Artillio's in the Shop Rite WLB shopping plaza.

                                          And shouldn't any return to Jersey involve a few diners--the Americana in my area used to be good.

                                          1. re: veganish

                                            I believe it is "Danny's" you are talking about. it is by the train station.

                                    2. I grew up in Trenton, now live in Upstate Ny. I miss Rita's, even though it is a chain it is not here in Rochester. I did not grow up with it in NJ. It is newer, but it is in my hometown now and I love it. Must have it when I go down ti Central NJ.I am not Italian so I don't worry about whether it is authentic. I just know it is fruitier and more slushy than traditional hard packed Italian ice. I just like it better, alot and wish they were up here. I find other italian ok, but bland.
                                      I also miss the pizza with thin sliced sausage, not the "mouse dropping " style found up here (excuse the vernacular, but that is what it reminds me of). I miss prok roll to, but can get my fix of it by bringing back some, and it is too fatty to eat regularly anyway.
                                      I miss good bagels as well, and traditional italian Hoagies with oil and vinegar. Oh well.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: rochfood

                                        rochfood, so much of your favs are actually avail via online ordering.
                                        it's not necessary to miss out!
                                        have you looked for businesses that will ship overnight to you?

                                      2. Oh, and DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies in Trenton seems like an absolute must.

                                        1. Google top 10 pork roll in NJ. We feel the same, but visit from the icy far north. Don't forget Italian hot dogs!