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Unofficial poll on best places to eat in NJ (high end and cheap) - moved from Tristate board

Okay all...just for foodie fun on a cold day...let's take an informal poll of the best places (high, middle of the road and cheap end) to eat in NJ, best locales to stroll to find ethnic food, and most overrated. I am a world traveler who loves to eat, and former NYC resident, so I was initially miserable when I came out to the burbs, thinking there would be no wonderful place to eat. I was wrong. While there certainly aren't as many places as NYC, there are many jewels. And, like someone else said on the blog earlier, it's the burbs---so everything is spread out. Add your thoughts, and I will put mine below (decidely Central and Northern end of the state, as that's where I am) to start off.

Mid to higher end restaurants:
***Stage Left in New Brunswick (higher end, unless you do the limited hrs for lunch, but fabulous food, service and wine...will help you with the wine too and not be rude...consistent too...I can never say enough about it...catch their podcasts...go for the special events...Paul Hobbs is coming...sad the wine shop is no more...remember tasting some special barrel bourbons there...yum

Stagehouse (Scotch Plains)...prix fixe great, lovely hangar steak and mushroom soup with truffle oil and a killer potato tarte...average desserts though

Boulevard Five72 in Kenilworth...yum, nuff said

A Toute Heure in Cranford...my shining star of the moment...pleeeeeez go! Fun, original, and on the slow food movement tip. Flavor is "in" again.

Frog and Peach...consistent and good

Catherine Lombardi's in New Brunswick (yum...owned by the Stage Left crew)...fab food...fab cocktails...
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A little cheaper Middle of the road in price restaurants:
Makedas in New Brunswick (LOVE IT) or Mesob in Montclair for Ethiopian

Daimatsu Japanese Restaurant in Mountainside...consistent and yummy sushi...ignore the look of the place and go to eat...whatever is on the specials board, make sure you order it...and they know how to do lovely little fried oysters and more

Thailand Restaurant (yes, that is actually the name) in Clark, is consistent and authentic, with great seafood. They're in a converted silver metal diner, but ignore the looks and eat there. Packed on the weekend, for sure. Fast and friendly for takeout too.

Really cheap restaurants/and fab takeout places:
Udupi Village (Montclair)...horrible ambience but the super duper tasty and super inexpensive dosas and uthappams are so filling and yummy

European Provisions in East Brunswick...lovely sandwiches made from their own smoked hams...in the Polish tradition...order a ham here for the holidays, but make sure it has the bone in, as it is more flavorful

Mr. Tod's Pie Factory in Somerset..Chocolate cream, sweet potato, pumpkin, or key lime are my favorites, but all the berry and apple pies are really good, considering no one knows how to make pie anymore, or charges way too much. His price is right. The main locale in Somerset is only for takeout pie, though I heard he has a small place in a different location in Somerset to sit and eat pie too, I think. Do not order for the holidays, unless you are prepared to wait in a massive line snaking out the door. Go on some other random weekend and treat yourself.

Locales for cheap eats that I love:
1/Polish food shops in Linden (homemade hams and cold cuts to die for at fab prices for fresh meat)...and some prepared foods, like stuffed cabbage, pierogies, mushroom soups, mushroom salads, and more
2/Little India in Edison and Iselin...chaat shops, markets, cheap eats and more...pick up the Indian meal in a bag and some yogurt and mango pickle at a market and you have a cheap meal that's way more nutritious and inexpensive than fast food
3/Portugeuse...Newark!
4/AUTHENTIC Japanese and not for an arm and a leg, head over to Edgewater and go to Mitsuwa plaza mall for wonderful food stands with real Japanese broth soups (ramen), soba, rice bowls, sushi, udon, and more...there's wonderful Japanese food markets with tons of wonderful teas, cakes, confections, candies, and fish...don't forget to stop for green bubble tea!

Place I haven't gone to yet, but I am dying to go to, considering how many people I know love it:
Lorena's in Maplewood

Most overated and overpriced and wouldn't return:
David Drake (for the price and all the hype, I was expecting one of the more memorable meals of my life)...good but not great...though the place is romantic

Would love some more ideas from you or thoughts on my picks!

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  1. You should try Fascino and Culinariane in Montclair. A treat for your tastebuds.

    1. I agree with you on David Drake being overated and of course I agree with ya that Catherine Lombardi has the best cocktails in NJ!

      for cheap eats, I go to Thai Kitchen in bridgewater/somverville. great food. Or for more american comfort food and an alternative when anyone says "hey lets go to [insert chain here] I go to Brunswick Grove on milltown road....bar and gril.

      High end, Nicholas

      For other cheap eats, I haven't found anything on South River's main street that I didn't really like. No bad experiences.

      3 Replies
      1. re: RPMcMurphy

        RP - I have to agree with your choice of Thai Kitchen. I enjoyed an excellent lunch there this afternoon. It was also refreshing to find a restaurant that was packed for lunch with people in line waiting to be seated.

        1. re: bgut1

          Just over a year ago, mmgpsych, whose gastronomic advice I always respected, came down hard on the Thai Kitchen restaurant near the Somerville Circle.

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/531038

          So, I must ask my standard question about Thai Kitchen, namely which one did you go to? There are at least three, two of which are in Bridgewater. And can you elaborate on what you had for lunch? I am often in Somerville during the lunch hour and if I do Thai it's usually Origin or Splash of Thai. Thanks.

          1. re: ambrose

            ambrose - It was the Prince Rodgers location. I had the Tom Kai Gai Soup and the #4 on the specials menu which consisted of shrimp, chicken, long beans and bell peppers in a spicy curry sauce. Never eating there before, I tried the medium heat level which was just hot enough for me. Everything was very fresh and tasty and in fact the Tom Kai was one of the best renditions I recall ever having. Reading mmg's post, I do have to agree with his comment about the portion sizes. In fact one of the diners next to me complained about his lunch portion and proceeded to order an extra side of noodles. Considering that I had the soup to start, it was just the right amount of food for me. BTW, I have also eaten at Origin and enjoyed my meal there as well.

      2. For mid-high end (more mid on price, high on experience), I must add Blu in Montclair www.restaurantblu.com to the list!

        Also agree about Fascino, 'tho I'll admit that I haven't been back there since I discovered Blu.

        For a true bargain and authentic Greek food, Stamna Taverna in Bloomfield, just a block down from Holsten's (don't bother-eat dessert at Stamna!).

        Adega Grill and Casa Vasca are favorites in the Ironbound...

        1. hi folks,

          i am from los angeles, but working in philly and my friend is in somerset nj at the doubletree hotel.

          whats a good place to eat? i will be arriving tonight around 8:30. polish shops sound cool. but which ones and what time do they close? same with authentic portuguese food in newark. which places specifically please?

          chaat shops in iselin sounds cool too. but can i get specific names so i can locate them call to make sure they are open and go/

          thanks!

          7 Replies
          1. re: modernist

            If you're going to be in Somerset, your best bet is to go to New Brunswick...I'm sure a search for NB on this board will yield specifics, but:
            Makeda for Ethiopian (GREAT vibe and the food is terrific, imo)
            Stage Left
            Daryl's Wine Bar
            There are a few thoughts to get you started...but do a search on here for other ideas!

            1. re: modernist

              For Polish in Linden.....Big Stash has a lot of fans. They supposed to have excellent meats and a killer Prime Rib...they close around 11:00 PM ...and they have a full bar.

              Casa Vasca and Sebra's Marisqueira are two of the better places. Forno's. and Iberia have some love, but it's more quantity than quality. CV is Basque and Sebra's is Portuguese.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/470238

              http://www.njdiningguide.com/seabras....

              http://www.10best.com/Newark,NJ/Resta...

              1. re: fourunder

                Big Stash's struck me as a cafeteria. Or a VFW hall. I certainly hope for the sake of NJ that it's not considered one of NJ's "best".

                1. re: tommy

                  Actually, I have never been to Big Stash's, but I have heard from many, who do not know each other, that the food is good. My understanding is it is more like a blast from the past 60''s or 70's type place. I have never heard any mention of it being cafeteria style, but I wouldn't really know.

                  http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?...

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Haven't been there in several years, but the way it used to work is that the front room was indeed sort of cafeteria-ish. There was another big room to the side that had table service and a menu.

              2. re: modernist

                Indian Chaat:
                Head to Chowpatty in Iselin, off of exit 131 from the Garden State Parkway
                http://www.chowpattyfoods.com/

                While there I can recommend:
                Pani puri
                Dahi Battata Pouri
                Dehli Chaat
                Ragda Chaat
                Masala Paper Dosa

                For Polish, head to the Pole Town of Wallington
                Krakus restaurant
                208 Main Ave
                Wallington, NJ 07057
                973-779-1922
                (no website, but a quick review is here
                )http://www.merchantcircle.com/busines...

                I can recommend their Perogis, Borsht, and many salads

                1. re: sixelagogo

                  thanks for the responses. our eating schedule ended up getting screwed up because of a wild goose chase. i tried to go to a portuguese bbq place called bbq 29 on route 29 but we got there just as it was closing. ended up eating at the hotel, but the point was to see my girl anyway, so food on this outing was secondary.

                  thanks!

              3. Morgan Fishery, Rt. 35 N, Sayreville. Best seafood this side of the Piscatiqua River.