HOME > Chowhound > New Jersey >


Hands Down- Best BYOB in Central Jersey?

Have had this started before but want to hear what the THREE best BYOs are in Central Jersey. I list my 'current' three as:

El Meson, Freehold- Best authentic Mexican in the land
Pithara Taverna, HP- nothing short of great food
Sahara, NB- tons of variety, not as good as other two though

Thanks to all.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Bad experience at Sahara,

    but I'll ad Origin Thai in Somerville.

    2 Replies
    1. re: RPMcMurphy

      I was torn between putting Origin Thai in Morristown/Somerville or Sahara. nice call, thanks.

      1. re: RPMcMurphy

        Do give *Splash of Thai* a chance. (It's around the corner and down the block from Origin.) You do know that I'm a big Origin fan but hard as it may be to believe, I think Splash may have them edged out by a nose. I don't know if they have the same super-bargain-type lunch menu but I'll post something when I find out.

      2. I'll throw in Thai Thai, Old Bridge, RT 516

        1. Lorena's, in Maplewood, is in a BYO class above all others, i.e., one of the best restaurants in the state!

          Table, in Little Silver, is excellent.

          Cafe de Thai, in Matawan, is a new favorite of ours. We've been there twice and ordered mainly from the French side of the menu (though we've had Thai curry puffs both times), Delicious!


          El Meson is our favorite Mexican restaurant in NJ. However, I think it's hyperbole to state that it's the best "authentic Mexican in the land." Based on what I've heard from people who have been to Mexico, I don't think the food's particularly authentic, but it is very tasty.

          2 Replies
          1. re: RGR

            by "the land" I meant no more than a few county radius- just an expression that I like the place, no more- no less.

            1. re: RGR

              A strong second for Lorena's being alone at the top of the heap.

            2. I really like the food and service at Taka in Asbury Park

              1. For steak, an uncovered gem is Mike & Nellies on rt 35 in Ocean. It's the only place in the area that serves prime that I know of and the prices are quite reasonable. Not the best looking place in the world but the steak is perfect.

                1. A difficult task indeed.....

                  For the purposes of this exercise, I'll use Chowhound's arbitrary division of the state of New Jersey, which would exclude Lorena's in Maplewood, along with various restaurants in places like Morristown, Summit, Springfield, Newark, etc.

                  My three "best" BYO restaurants in central Jersey are:

                  The Blue Bottle Cafe in Hopewell,
                  da Filippo's in Somerville, and
                  55 Main in Flemington.

                  I'm also fond of Manon in Lambertville and The Ferry House in Princeton.

                  There are many good Thai, Japanese and Indian BYOs out there but I always have a hard time thinking of them as BYOs! I always think wine when I hear "BYO" and I don't take wine to those establishments. But that's just me. I don't think many would disagree that Shumi in Somerville is a great BYO.

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: ambrose

                    I'm the complete opposite, I always bring wine to those places. IMHO, nothing like a nice champagne or prosecco or a riesling to offet the spice.

                    1. re: ambrose

                      Great point about Shumi. I totally forgot to mention it because Shumi's appeal will be limited to sushi afficionados, and those who aren't yet but might want to learn how to add another 'snob feather' to their culinary cap. Sit at the sushi bar, give Ike free reign, and kiss all else goodbye. :))))

                      1. re: ambrose


                        The Chowhound administrators have never provided a specific statement of which counties/towns belong on which boards. So, it's been left to us to make that determination. In many cases, it's quite obvious. But in others, confusion can reign especially when trying to decide about the borders of Central NJ. That's one of the major reasons we've begged for just one board for all of NJ. Obviously, to no avail. :-(

                        While I agree that Morristown is definitely too far north to qualify as Central NJ, I've seen Newark-related posts on both boards though I think of it as north. Imo, Summit and Short Hills are at the outer limits of Central while Springfield and Maplewood are definitely in.

                        Thus, for purposes of this thread, Lorena's definitely qualifies as *the* best BYO not only in Central NJ, but in the entire state! :-)

                        1. re: RGR

                          I have to admit it is confusing that there is a "Mid Atlantic" board, but there is also a board for the Baltimore area? I always considered Baltimore is if anything, the geographic center of the Mid Atlantic region.

                          Add to that the fact that the actual Mid Atlantic board seems exclusive to discussion of NJ, with a surprising focus on the Monmouth County area...

                          Oh, and one of my favorite BYOs is Mie Thai in Woodbridge...

                          1. re: equal_Mark

                            While it is true that a small cadre of Monmouth County Hounds seem to dominate this board, Hounds in other counties of Central NJ do manage to make their voices heard. And posts from some in Del. and MD also manage to slip in. :-))

                            With regard to Mie Thai, give all the positive reports I read about it, the one time we tried it, we were severely disapponted. Imo, there is far better Thai to be had elsewhere.

                            1. re: equal_Mark

                              I can understand the rationale for separating Baltimore and Washington, DC from the Mid-Atlantic board but I still find it amusing that the description of the Mid-Atlantic board includes Pennsylvania!

                              Since there is a separate board for Pennsylvania, you'd think that the administrators could get some technical wiz to remove 'PA' from the Mid-Atlantic board description.

                            2. re: RGR

                              No fair, RJR, you moved the goalposts!! LOL

                              While it's true that the administrators have never provided a specific statement regarding their very confusing division of our fair state, you can tell a lot by the way they move posts. For example, I have seen them move Newark posts from Mid-Atlantic to Tri-State but not the other way round. And since Newark is only five miles from NYC it surely fits the geographical description for the Tri-State board. On the other hand, Newark posts that remain on the Mid-Atlantic board nearly always get more responses than ones on the Tri-State board. The reasons for this have been discussed before.

                              But I digress. My current bone of contention is that you seem to have changed your own definition of central Jersey in order to have Lorena's considered as one of the best BYOs in central Jersey (by the way, imho, it most definitely is the best in the state). A year or so ago, you mentioned that central Jersey runs from Hunterdon in the west through Middlesex in the east (and presumably includes Somerset in the middle). I myself prefer this “county based” definition of central Jersey and not the straight line definition you seem to prefer now, which would cut through several counties. BTW, if you DO adopt the straight line definition, I believe that Maplewood is marginally north of both Springfield and Summit but slightly south of Newark.

                              Now, to get back to the OP's original question, I have three more BYOs in central Jersey that I really like, though not quite as much as the three I previously mentioned. These are:

                              Matt's Red Rooster Grill in Flemington,
                              Ajihei in Princeton, and
                              The Brothers Moon in Hopewell.

                              1. re: ambrose

                                Hi folks - pardon the interruption, but if you want to discuss how the boards are divided any further, please start a thread on the Site Talk board. Also, if you see posts, such as Newark ones on the Mid-Atlantic board, that are clearly on the wrong board, please do flag them for us and we'll move them.

                                Thank you.

                                1. re: ambrose

                                  Hey, ambrose,

                                  Shall I presume your response to "R*J*R" was to me, R*G*R? If so, I don't recall ever providing those geographical boundaries for Central NJ. I have always considered Lorena's to be in Central NJ, so I take a bit of umbrage at your accusation that I have "moved the goalposts."

                                  To get back to the question at hand, I had forgotten all about Le Rendez-vous, in Kenilworth, until it was mentioned upthread that it was just re-reviewed in the "NY Times" this past Sunday. It was a huge favorite ours while the El Sawi brothers owned it. For a time, we went there weekly. We haven't been there too often since Philip Lievre bought it. But our meals there have always been excellent, and this review is a reminder that it is one of the best BYO's in Central NJ. It has also enticed me to go back there very soon.


                                  1. re: RGR

                                    I just love Philippe!! He is the most gracious host and his food is fabulous! What a great article...I am so happy for him! :)

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      RGR, my apologies for getting your middle initial wrong. Having grown up in an environment where both French and English were spoken, I still sometimes mix up my "gs" and my "js".

                                      In keeping with the moderators' request to discuss board division on Site Talk, I have responded to the "goalpost" issue there. :-))


                                      1. re: ambrose


                                        It is *I* who owes *you* an apology! Obviously, you have a much better memory than I do. lol After looking at the thread you have linked to, I see that you are correct about how I addressed the divisions between Central vs. Tri-State. I have answered you there.

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          however we define central jersey, thanks to those on here that suggested Gaetanos in Red Bank. Went this weekend. Terrific.

                                    2. re: ambrose

                                      I see you like restaurants in Hopewell! If you're in the area, you should really try Za in Pennington. Food is excellent though somewhat expensive. They don't take reservations so that can be a problem on weekends.

                                      1. re: mountebank

                                        They took reservations for me when I went on Saturday.

                                  2. re: ambrose

                                    What do you suggest in Morristown area: Have been to and enjoyed Origin Thai, Garlic Rose and Tasserts to this point.

                                    1. re: yankeefan

                                      Tasserts Excellent thanks for the recommnedation. Went to Garlic Rose in Cranford not sure if it the same owner not a fan. Glad I found this site some good recommendations

                                      1. re: mommy911

                                        Glad you liked Tasserts. Garlic Rose in Madison has always been better than the one in Cranford in my opinion- I thought it may have been because it was a byob, but I think the servers and cooks are a little better.

                                  3. I'd have to vote for Le Rendez-vous in Kenilworth. Just received an "Excellent" rating from the NY Times, which is nice to see, but it's very small -- it will be tougher than ever to get a reseration now.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: tshea

                                      No. 9-Lambertville
                                      Hamilton's Grill Room-Lambertville
                                      SalDeForte's-West Trenton

                                      Also like Siam in Lambertville.

                                    2. Wow, is my sense of direction wrong and shouldn't Bay Ave Trattoria in Highlands be included? I had another wonderful meal there last week and it was really great to bring a bottle of wine rather than be imprisoned by ridiculous prices. The pan roast of clams was delectable as always, and the goat cheese "strudel" on top of the beet salad was seriously addictive. My prawns were perfect and luckily I got to appreciate my friend's scottish salmon as well! I know some of the people on this board have had a couple of less than perfect experiences here, but to me it's food heaven.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Podie1956

                                        Podie - To be honest I was never a fan of Chef Joe during his days in Long Branch. I am however seriously considering wiping the slate clean and giving him another chance.

                                        1. re: bgut1

                                          I'm with you on that one, bgut. I just never cared for Joe & Maggie's much; over-constructed dishes stacked gracelessly. But we go to BayAveTrat with some regularity and have become fans. I don't love the room, it can be a little loud. But the food is good, simpler somehow. I was sticking religiously with the pan roast of clams with chorizo that Podie mentioned, like it a lot, but switched up the last time and had the goat cheese and fingerling potato tortino. It was just so good.

                                          You might want to give it a shot.

                                          1. re: Deb Van D

                                            Thanks Deb I think I will. BTW, well put description of the food at J&M.

                                            1. re: Deb Van D

                                              Had many problems with a meal at Bay Ave last summer and haven't returned since. But the one highlight was the pan roast of clams. It was really, really good.

                                              1. re: jsfein

                                                j - I would be interested to know the details.

                                              2. re: Deb Van D

                                                I would agree with you as well on this - was never a fan of Joe and Maggies in Long Branch either. However, Bay Avenue is a just not the same. This couple went for simple this time around. Don't go expecting really complex dishes with layered presentation.

                                                1. re: JerzeyShore

                                                  Agree with Jerzey and Deb. Old Bay is not Joe and Maggies. The food is much less complex but at the same time more focused on flavor.
                                                  If you go expecting a posh atmosphere, stay away. This is ultra casual, come as you are.
                                                  PS: Probably should have included Old Bay in the best BYO's in Central Jersey
                                                  I think Joe has found the right formula for success.

                                          2. Ole Bistro in Asbury Park is fabulous
                                            I agree with Pithara Taverna and you can buy Greek wine in the store next door
                                            Zafra in Hoboken (is that central jersey?)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Schmecht Gut

                                              Went to Girasole in Bound Brook this week. It was great!

                                              1. re: princessgirl

                                                I've always liked Girasole. The only criticism I've ever heard is that it is too casual! Go figure.

                                                There is, or was, a delightful little Spanish BYO called Mi Sueno just up the road from Girasole. It received a very good review in the Star-Ledger just a few months ago but I notice the web site appears to be defunct. Mi Sueno's location on a busy section of Route 28 was not the best so I hope it hasn't disappeared from the scene.

                                              1. The Seven Hills of Istanbul in Highland Park. Excellent food, not Thai and very Central NJ. No argument on the last point.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                  Im definitely looking forward to trying out Seven Hills, always end up at Pithari Taverna down the street though.

                                                  Out of curiousity, what from the menu do you most recommend at Seven Hills? Thanks for the info.

                                                  oh, by the way, Pithari has constructed a larger outdoor deck with an overhang which made it great this weekend while devouring some fresh squid.

                                                  1. re: yankeefan

                                                    My favorites at 7 Hills:

                                                    Ezogelin Corba (Red Lentil Soup)

                                                    Coban Salata (Shepherd's salad)

                                                    Apps: Hot = Sigara Boregi (Feta-filled Phyllo Scrolls)
                                                    Cold = Patlican Salatasi (Eggplant salad)

                                                    Main: Karasik Et (Combination meat platter with rice)

                                                    Dessert: Baklava

                                                  2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                    General Note:
                                                    Sadly, It has been reported that 7 Hills of Istanbul Highland Park has closed.

                                                  3. My driving range is short so I havent tried most places mentioned. There are places you cant get to from Long Branch. But I do like:
                                                    Thyme Square
                                                    Mike & Nellie's

                                                    2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Barbarella

                                                        45 Broad Street
                                                        Red Bank, NJ 07701

                                                        732.450.1001 (phone)
                                                        732.450.1011 (fax)


                                                    1. Lots of the sames as others, but there are some others not listed that my wife and I love!

                                                      Previously mentioned:
                                                      Blue Bottle Cafe - Hopewell
                                                      No. 9 - Lambertville
                                                      Hamilton's Grill Room - Lambertville
                                                      Ferry House - Princeton

                                                      Not mentioned:
                                                      Under the Moon - Bordentown
                                                      Oliver - A Bistro - Bordentown
                                                      Cafe Galleria - Lambertville
                                                      Vidalia - Pennington?
                                                      Delorenzo's Tomato Pies (Hudson Street) - Trenton
                                                      Delorenzo's Tomato Pies - Robbinsville - Gary's son from Hudson Street

                                                      I'm sure I'llthink of more! -mJ

                                                      1. Les Rendez-Vous -Kenilworth (French Bistro)
                                                        Edo - New Brunswick (sushi)
                                                        Pamir - Morristown (Afghan)
                                                        La Focaccia - Summit (Italian)

                                                        1. I'd like to add, for "not gourmet" food, but for a good burger and just fun, "fridays" like but actually "good" food......

                                                          Blitzburger in North Brunswick on 130.

                                                          1. I think price level is very important also. I prefer my BYOs to be in the 15$/plate range.

                                                            IMO El Meson is good but I'd say it's far from being the best, or even particularly authentic.

                                                            Richard from Far East Taste has opened up a tiny new hole in the wall in Spotswood. As of Friday the menu was nearly identical to the old joint, but he said he's going to be shutting the place down for a week to come up with an entirely new menu. Knowing Richard it'll be delicious either way.

                                                            I also enjoy Fune in Ocean, and Diaz/Jose Rice n Beans in Asbury. For something nicer, Bistro Ole would fit the bill.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: joonjoon

                                                              joon - Did you get the name of Richard's new place?

                                                              1. re: bgut1

                                                                Yeah, it's called (drum roll...).....Far East Taste I

                                                                (Yes that's a one).

                                                                Andrea recently did a review, but keep in mind it's based on the "old" menu: http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti...

                                                                1. re: joonjoon

                                                                  At some point stopped into Far East Taste - East Brunswick NJ right before entering Spotswood NJ. 100 Main Street 732-251-8818
                                                                  Chef Richard is so kind.
                                                                  The restaurant has about 6 tables inside, definitely a hole in the wall.
                                                                  Menu is Cantonese and Thai.
                                                                  There were people eating inside and the phone was ringing for orders.
                                                                  He has adorned the outside of the restaurant with BIG RED signs, menus, and lunch specials.
                                                                  Wonton Soup - Salty
                                                                  Wontons - OK
                                                                  Pad See Chicken - Good
                                                                  Triple Delight with Garlic Sauce - Good - The shrimp in this dish were very good, but there were only 4 of them, not crazy about the beef, chicken.
                                                                  White Rice - Excellent
                                                                  It is the kind of place you want to like because he is so nice but unfortuntely the dishes we tried just didn't do it for us. It's a big menu, be interested to hear other thoughts from people in the area.

                                                                  He did honor the coupon on the front of the menu without us asking.

                                                                  He has crazy cheap prices for lunch specials 4.75 - 7.00
                                                                  or buy 2 lunches and get the 3rd for 2.50

                                                                  Also offers a family meal special - any 2 combos (there is a list of them on the menu) + pint of pork or chicken fried rice or white rice + 3 egg rolls for 14.99

                                                                  Assume this is the new menu based on the date of the last post.
                                                                  No web site found.

                                                                  1. re: shabbystorm

                                                                    Shabby - I don't know if the same applies to that location but the rule of thumb for the Eatontown one is to order off of the chalkboard specials.

                                                                    1. re: bgut1

                                                                      Did not see blackboard specials there.
                                                                      By no means want to sound rude or snarky with this reply, but I asked Chef Richard personally what he would recommend, and those dishes were some of his picks.

                                                                      1. re: shabbystorm

                                                                        Shabby - I would be disappointed as well. I am however a bit surprised that Richard's recommendations were not excellent.

                                                            2. Top 3 in Central Jersey:
                                                              Orgins Thai in Somerville (a well-known favorite)
                                                              Blue Point Grill in Princeton (also top seafood anywhere- all seafood is less than 72 hours out of the water)- how has no one posted this yet???
                                                              Basilico in Millburn (may not be Central Jersey, but it is awesome) - you must, must try the homemade tortellini of the day- amazing

                                                              I want to try No 9 in Lambertville and Lorena's but they are a bit pricey. Pithara is probably next.

                                                              Also, honorable mention to Thai Thai in Old Bridge and El Meson as well as the new Vietnamese place in New Brunswick