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Good restaurant in Ridgewood, N.J. area?

Hi 'Hounds!
Got a question for those in New Jersey. I live in California, but my brother has lived in the New Jersey area (Ridgewood) for almost 5 years now. I would like to send him a gift certificate from a restaurant from that area, but I have only visited there once, and don't know any of the restaurants there. I would like to give a certificate for $75-100, and send the money to the restaurant and then have them send the certificate out.
Can anyone out there help me out with this? Thanks!

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  1. Bacari Grill in Washington Township is very nice.

    2 Replies
    1. re: patmolloy

      Thanks, I'll check it out!
      Any additional suggestions out there?

      1. re: patmolloy

        I have heard nothing but bad things about Bacari. Overcooked, tasteless, boring food. It looks "nice", but it is not hound worthy. I've heard this from people who have been there for dinner, for holiday parties, for showers, etc. And I've also heard that it is overpriced.

        You didn't mention the type of food he would enjoy, so I have a few recs. In Ridgewood, I would highly recommend Sakura Bana. It is an excellent sushi place, and it is extremely popular. Every night the wait to get in the door or to get take out is very long. The fish is excellent, the rolls are very interesting, and they have some unique sashimi and sushi options.

        In the area, I would recommend Andreas in Waldwick. It's an Italian restaurant with outstanding food. I'm very, very picky about Italian food, and I tend to not go to Italian restuarants--but this place is the exception. They have a great menu with classics, and then their specials are always great. My go-to dish there is chilean sea bass on a bed of broccoli rabe with lemon and capers. And I always get their famous napoleon for dessert.

        43 Franklin Ave, Ridgewood, NJ 07450

        Andreas Ristorante Italiano
        26 E Prospect St, A Waldwick, NJ

      2. does it have to be in Ridgewood? i would recommend Cafe Panache in Ramsey or Saddle River Inn, both of which are about 10-15 min. drive from Ridgewood.

        1. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest something a little different than most, as I have come to find peoples' opinion and preferences are different.

          I believe the important issue is the generosity of the gift, and not necessarily where or how much it is for.. Generally speaking, it is nice to receive a gift for a place that normally would not be in the recipients financial range, but at least, the gift would contribute to the intended experience. You are going to receive many yeahs and nays, and dissenting opinions....I'll leave that for others.....

          Consider simply a Certificate to Houston's in Riverside Square Mall in Hackensack or the new Grand Lux Cafe or Napa Valley Grille located in the Garden State Plaza mall. I am sure your brother or his family shops at one or both and they could use it for a meal at some future time. All three are reliable choices and safe recommendations to satisfy a wide range of tastes.

          The new Grand Lux Cafe is a new concept from the parent Cheesecake Factory. It's more upscale and originally conceived to be part of The Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. I have been to all three places and if I received a gift from either of the three, I would be more than presently surprised. it is also located next to the new AMC Movie complex, so it is convenient for date nights.

          With that said, my suggestion for a "Wow" gift would be for Lu Nello's in Cedar Grove/Little Falls. It's the choice for my gifts to friends and business associates.

          All places can be Googled and have their own websites, so gift certificates can be easily purchased.

          7 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            Thank you everyone, especially you, forunder, for your thoughtful reply. I appreciate that you considered several components of the gift.
            I will definitely consider all of these suggestions with my sister, who is sending the gift with me.

            1. re: aurora50


              Thank you for the polite communication and kind words. The reason I worded my first response carefully was my suspicion of the responses that you would receive, not by me, but others. It appears this is a tough crowd. It's always easy to spend other people's money.

              For you naysayers who by chance would receive a gift certificate from Morton's The Steakhouse in Riverside Square, would you still feel the same way.......disappointed and may I add, ungrateful.

              BTW...this is gift from family people......not from some business client or employer. If a family member of mine was disappointed after I thoughtfully and generously took the time and effort to send me a gift of any kind after research and much contemplation.....from 3000 miles away...........it would be the last gift they ever received from me. Also consider this gift can be passed on to nieces or nephews, or enjoyed for a pleasant lunch during a day of shopping, rather than the fast food food court. I know you all shop.

            2. re: fourunder

              The Grand Lux is a chain, as you mentioned above. It is mediocre at best. I would be very disappointed, personally, to get a gift certificate to this establishment. I dined there once a few months ago (at the Garden State Plaza location) and the food was basically diner food at restaurant prices. There was nothing interesting about the place, and the service was exactly what you would expect from a chain. They literally took my husband's dish away while he was still eating. But, as you said, everyone has their own taste.

              In my opinion, Cedar Grove is a little on the far side for a gift. I would stay in the Bergen County area.

              1. re: kimie

                Thank you kimie, do you have any suggestions? Or do you agree with any of the suggestions so far?

                1. re: aurora50

                  I operate a store in Ridgewood and have tried about every restaurant in town. In your price range, I'd personally be thrilled to get a gift certificate for Silver Oak Bistro. Even better, you can purchase a gift certificate from their website, silveroakbistro.com. The food is sort of upscale southern comfort food which really hits the spot on snowy day like today.

                  Mediterraneo on Broad St. in Ridgewood is also good, but I'm not sure if Michael sells gift certificates. Give him a call at 201-447-0022. Might be a better choice if your brother likes mediterranean/provencal/middle Eastern fare. Michael is a real stickler for detail and authenticity - his dorada is flown in from the mediterranean (and if he doesn't think you can appreciate it he will tell you that he's out of it - either that or else he really is out of it!).

                  Sakura Bana is good if your brother likes sushi, but I feel that they've gone downhill somewhat since remodeling the restaurant. Also have to voice another nay for Bacari Grill.

                2. re: kimie

                  Have to agree with Kimie; even for a new/unknown to me chain (which this is for northern NJ), I'd be less than thrilled about a g.c. to a restaurant at the mall. Unless you make it clear that you want them to have a 'date night' and give them AMC tickets along with it, I think there are many more choices in and around Bergen County.
                  I'm a major fan of Blu in Montclair (about a 30 min drive), which is also BYO. For $100, a couple can have a fantastic meal. The chef is often cited as one of NJ's best, but you're not going to find food this good at this low a price anywhere else that I can think of! www.restaurantblu.com
                  Another spot that gets raves is Cucharamama in Hoboken; I haven't been yet, but your brother could easily take the train right from Ridgewood and not worry about parking or driving. Again, this is a place with creative food that is highly touted in local and national publications (it was either Food & Wine or Gourmet that recently highlighted the place). www.cucharamama.com

                  1. re: Curlz

                    Thank you so much, everyone! If anyone else wants to join in, keep 'em coming - I'm going to consider each and every place.

              2. Sakurabana used to be our favorite but it no longer seems to have first rate sushi.
                Napa Valley Grill, although part of a small chain, is a lovely restaurant with surprisingly good food. Oceanos in Fairlawn, is a very popular, fairly new seafood restaurant. Unfortunately, even though Ridgewood has many, many restuarants, most are very mediocre.

                1 Reply
                1. re: nancyl126

                  i've been reading the reviews for the Sakurbana in ridgewood, post-remodeling... hm... the Sakurabana in Central Nyack is truly delicious. You should try the one in Nyack, it's still very very good.

                2. FYI, here's a terrific article about the owner of Cucharamama (and Zafra), the Hoboken restaurant I suggested:

                  1. I'm a real foodie - we dine out most nights and have tried most restaurants in Ridgewood. I think the 3 top ones are Silver Oak Bistro for ribs and out of the ordinary dishes, Latour, a very sweet BYO (most in Ridgewood are BYO) French does great food, and Village Green does some wonderful eclectic food, great service. At the moment I think these are the best Ridgewood has to offer. Some like Blend which serves alcohol but it's for the younger yuppier crowd.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: JUDYSBACI

                      I am a big fan of Silver Oak bistro...I think that would be a great meal.

                      1. re: phDuh

                        Thank you everyone, I'm still pondering my options! One question has come to mind:
                        - Why are some restaurants in that area, BYO? It's no problem, I'm just curious -

                        1. re: aurora50

                          The history or the way liquor licenses were issued in the State of New Jersey dates back to just after World War II. As a show of gratitude for service to their Country, any returning resident War Veteran was granted a license to sell alcohol if he so applied to the State. Due to demographics and populations, small towns had a few issued, and larger cities like Newark or Jersey City received many more. I do not know the actual date this policy stopped, but in order to own a liquor license today, you must purchase one of the existing licenses within each individual township at a price determined by market value. A license in Jersey City can be had for possibly $10,000 today through bankruptcy, but a license in Paramus would fetch over one million easily.

                          Many restaurants do not want the added responsibility of liquor liability. For this is one reason many open as BYOB. If you started a thread about BYOB in general, you would again have many opposing positions. Personally, I feel BYOBs charge excessively without the same overhead full service establishments/restaurants have....that's not to say BYOBs do not offer value and a quality product. There are many excellent BYOBs, but many more mediocre ones.

                          New licenses can be issued based on population changes, or if a particular community need the income under certain guidelines. If a hotel were to open with 120 units or more, i believe they can apply for a license, but it would not be transferable from the location, only ownership. Coincidently, Ridgewood is currently issuing a new license and is taking bids.....starting price was $600,000.00

                          1. re: fourunder

                            totally interesting Fourunder!....thanks for the info, as I always wondered why so few licenses exists for some towns, while others have a dearth.

                            Also I agree with one other poster about the Village Green...also BYOB, but very good, interesting cuisine.

                    2. I agree with JUDYSBACI. My husband and I often dine in Ridgewood and any of those three are very nice. I might add KUMO if you know that they like sushi. I still don't get the fascination with Sakura Bona, I think KUMO (a couple of doors down) is much better, but hey, to each their own.

                      I understand the "mall" restaurant suggestions, because who wouldn't like a nice meal after a long afternoon of shopping -- especially since it's a gift, but these are much better.

                      I would also throw into the ring a lovely restaurant in Harrington Park (about 20 minutes from Ridgewood) called Roman Cafe.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: CookingBabs

                        Wow, thank you, fourunder! The info about the BYO and laws is really interesting!
                        And thank you for your input, CookingBabs.

                        1. re: aurora50


                          Now that you have a little information to consider, there are two food blogs that cover New Jersey and Ridgewood in particular. They will both give you a few more recommendations and the best thing is they both provide high resolution pictures for you to see. Both are regular posters on Chowhound.

                          If they do not link directly, Google and I am sure you will get the proper site easily:

                          <offthebroiler.com> Jason Perlow

                          <tommyeats.com> Tommy

                          Good Luck

                          1. re: fourunder

                            Thank you fourunder, I'll check them out.

                      2. They can take a short ride to Piermont NY and dine at Freelance Cafe, or if you really want to splurge, Xavier's. Really a true experience.


                        16 Replies
                        1. re: Raisel

                          we love xavier's. definitely worth the ride! but, yes, a splurge.

                          1. re: meb903

                            Respectfully disagree with fourunder re/ liquor licenses in NJ. Restaurants DO want licenses!!! You will NEVER see a BYOB in NY State, and the Jersey restaurateurs are of the same ilk. The only reason they don't have them is the limited availability, and the exhorbitant price of one that results from that situation! In New York, all you do is apply, demonstrate a clean background, pay your $5000 bucks, and, voila! Not so in NJ.

                            Regarding Ridgewood and environs--

                            Village Green, Mediterraneo, good choices IMHO. Silver Oak is on a decline, as well as having a very spare ambiance.

                            You could travel to Westwood, for Pourquoi Pas, a very authentic French bistro with personal attention from M. Vard, the proprietor.

                            1. re: menton1


                              Here's a little known fact for you, which I believe still exists today, and as an example, 202 Italian Bistro in Lincoln Park, NJ takes advantage of the exemption.

                              Any BYOB in the State of New Jersey can sell wine......you heard me correct.......the exemption is provided they sell a wine that is produced within The State of New Jersey only.

                              Liquor licenses are desired and preferred for added sales, but your argument restaurants all want them is obvious for benefit, not actual ownership as a condition for guaranteed success. I am sure I can find many owners of liquor licenses that find they come with headaches....longer hours of operation, inventory costs, insurance and employee theft...........Many trade magazines have done features regarding liquor and wine sales. Sante Magazine in fact came to the conclusion bottled water sales are more profitable than any wine or liquor, and many restaurants unwilling to devote space in refrigerated coolers to water before, now do so in place of bottled wine. If your assertion all restauranteurs want liquor licenses was absolute, why haven't the owners of Cafe Panache and The Saddle River Inn reinvented themselves in another location over the years? I am sure both have made enough money and have stellar reputations to accomplish such a transition.

                              1. re: fourunder

                                That doesn't explain, fourunder, why there are NO byobs in New York State, as well as an extraordinary proliferation of restaurants on the New York side of the NY-NJ border all with licenses. EVERY restaurant in NY State, with some rare exceptions, has a license. 80% of NJ restos are byob.

                                Running any restaurant is filled with headaches, but the black ink on the spread sheet of your liquor sales can alleviate a headache fast!

                                As far as NJ wines go, well, uh, why spoil a well prepared entree? :)

                                1. re: menton1


                                  You obviously have strong beliefs and I know I won't be able to answer any of your questions satisfactorily , but your assertion there are only a few exceptions and every restaurant has a liquor license is inaccurate. A search on this site will dispute your claim there are BYOBs in NYC, and I do believe NYC is part of New York State. I can only surmise the actual percentage in numbers, but not all restaurants in Chinatown actually have a licenses and any well traveled dining patron knows it is allowable to bring your own beer, wine or spirit into any establishment there. I can personally attest to that.

                                2. re: fourunder

                                  i'm sure there are many reasons why various restaurants might not want to get involved in selling liquor. however, the fact remains that there are few out there and they are hugely expensive. they are considered an investment by many and they no doubt are considered an asset to the owner (who isn't always the restaurant owner). just as some people aren't interested in buying tech stocks, for example, many chefs/restaurant owners aren't interested in buying liquor licenses, and all that goes with having one.

                                  sure, at first glance, selling a bottle of wine for 35 that cost you 10 seems like instant profit. but when you factor in the cost of the loan to buy the license, the liabilty involved, insurance, employee theft, training, storage, other overhead, it's not exactly a license to print money. if it was, i'd buy one.

                                  from my perspective i think there's a nice balance of BYOs and licensed restaurants, although I would like to see a few more licenses in some high-end places, and less in places that have cookie-cutter wine and beer lists. i'd just as soon take those licenses away and give them to someone who cares. but so far no one has granted me that power.

                                  as far as gift certificates in the area go, there have been some good suggestions. not knowing what the OP's brother likes or where he goes makes it very difficult. but Oceanos and Varka come to mind.

                                  1. re: tommy

                                    Oh sure, NY Chinatown joints as well as hot dog stands won't have licenses, it's true. But I can't think of even ONE real resto in Rockland or Westchester that is a byob, can you? I can name hundreds in NJ. That just ain't because of the vicissitudes of selling liquor...

                                    1. re: tommy

                                      a couple of questions on NJ BYOB:
                                      1. Does a restaurant need a special BYOB licence? I was told that by a mexican spot in Bergenfield that nada on the cervezas
                                      2. what about NJ beers...ok to sell anywhere?

                                      1. re: sixelagogo


                                        Answer to # 2.......No, you need a consumption or retail license specific. The exemption is for wine only.... and few places I know of take advantage of this privilege..... if beer were allowed, there would be Budweiser everywhere from the Newark plant.

                                        Answer to # 1.......Ignorance is not bliss in this case.

                                        First let me say, any specific questions you have may be answered by doing a search with The Division of Alcohol and Beverage Control, State of New Jersey.

                                        Unless the township that oversees jurisdiction of the establishment has a local ordinance against liquor specifically, with permission of the ownership of the establishment, you may bring and consume beer and wine only. There are no special licenses needed, but the restaurant must adhere to general restrictions, such as legal age to consume.

                                        Although technically illegal, it is possible to bring in spirits or cordials if the ownership does not object. It comes down to a matter of enforcement, and local police rarely are called in. I would bet my last dollar most BYOBs have bottles in the back for their best customers. I have brought spirits and cordials myself and have never been denied, but I know it isn't permissable under State restrictions. What can I say....sometimes I like a cordial with my esspresso.

                                        With regards to the Bergenfield Mexican Spot, the key here is you did not receive the owners permission, so to speak........they may be unaware of their options or misinformed. I do not know if this has anything to do with the owner's position, but a few years back, there was an incident across the street from the Mexican restaurant next to the theater where a fatality occurred at the bar across the street. I believe the name of the bar was Los Garros........it's possible that could be the reason and he doesn't want the headache.

                                        1. re: fourunder

                                          as fourunder suggests, the NJ ABC laws are widely misunderstood. most owners and managers don't know the laws, and most don't seem to care to know them (it's not hard to learn them, you can read them online).

                                          the bottom line is everything is up to the restaurant's discretion, even when it's not supposed to be (taking and open bottle of wine from a restaurant, for example, which is perfectly legal as far as the ABC is concerned, and makes sense for everyone involved). unfortunately you can't make a restaurant follow the rules, even when their ignorance hurts your experience. i just try not to go back to those places if there alternatives.

                                          1. re: tommy


                                            Thank you for the supporting information.

                                            When it comes to perception, beliefs and knowledge......I would suggest the dining patron know the truth about restrictions and their rights aw well, and check the ABC guidelines for their own benefit. On another forum site earlier this year, I had a running battle with a moronic retired municipal cop who's position was it was legal to bring a wine doggy bag home, but it was illegal to transport it home. Others disagreed citing ABC Guidelines, but the cop maintained it was the State Legislature that dictated statutes concerning Driving in this case and not the ABC, and it was illegal to transport the wine without a specific license to do so. He further went on to say he carries the wine home in the passenger compartment in his car and if stopped by police, even though a cop, would expect to receive a ticket. Another poster corrected him and said it was perfectly legal to transport in the trunk.....the cop further maintained his position.......cops in many cases incorrectly apply statutes for their benefit and will tell you Department of Motor Vehicle statutes are a cop's best friend......Anyway, even when corrected, he refused to back down and ultimately said he was correct and perfectly legal to transport in cars in the trunk ....JUST LIKE HE ORIGINALLY STATED.....

                                            I suggested I was glad he was retired and off the road.....he did not like that.

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              My my, have I opened up a can of worms!!! LOL
                                              Being a native Californian, I never had a clue about New Jersey's liquor laws. My brother has never brought it up to me, but then again, he tends not to mention a lot of things -
                                              Anyway, in case anyone's curious, I think I'm leaning toward Restaurant Blu - my brother is a tad sophisticated, and I checked the site out and it looks like just the kind of place he'd like. But I'd like to thank you, one and all, for ALL of your responses on this thread. It's entertaining to read!

                                              1. re: aurora50


                                                A very good choice.........FYI, Restaurant Blu recently opened I believe a spot directly next to the restaurant, appropriately named.....Next Door.

                                                There is a thread here on the Tri-State Board currently being discussed:

                                                Next Door -Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ

                                                Ask to see if the GC will be accepted at either location.

                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                  Thank you, fourunder! I'll check it out.

                                                  1. re: aurora50

                                                    Agree that it would be good to be able to use the g.c. on either 'side', but Blu is where your bro will have the more sophisticated meal, in terms of atmosphere and menu. Great choice, imo! :-)