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Spanish, Portuguese, or Brazilian recommendations in the Newark area

f
freshfigs May 14, 2009 01:44 PM

Looking for a good Spanish, Portuguese, or Brazilian restaurant in Newark or its surrounding communities (Kearny, East Newark, Harrison, Belleville, Elizabeth, Union, Hillside, etc).

I've been to a number of the Newark Ironbound standbys (Casa Vasca, Seabra Marisqueira, Tony da Caneca, Iberia, Fornos of Spain, Spain Restaurant, Picnic, Brasilia Grill, Adega Grill) and have not really been impressed by any of them. They're ok, but nothing remarkable - maybe I need to order from the daily specials menu in the bar area (something that others here have recommended in the past)?

There are also a bunch of places that I've never been to but sound interesting, including Sol-Mar, Coimbra, Paleio Bar & Grill, McWhorter BBQ, Portugalia, and Cafe Opcao. Has anyone been to these spots? If so, what do you think, and what dishes would you recommend?

Please chime in if you agree or disagree with the reviewers in the external links I've provided:

Sol-Mar (Portuguese seafood): http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-05-06/restaurants/the-eel-has-landed-at-sol-mar/
Coimbra (Portuguese): http://www.yelp.com/biz/coimbra-newark
Paleio Bar & Grill (Not sure if it's Portuguese or Brazilian, but it looks to be a slick, trendy restaurant/bar/nightspot): http://www.paleio.com/index.php
McWhorter BBQ (Portuguese bbq): http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-09-23/restaurants/hotter-and-faster-at-mcwhorter-barbecue/
Portugalia (Portuguese bar/restaurant): couldn't find any articles about it
Cafe Opçao (Seems to be a Brazilian or Portuguese cafe - can anyone confirm?): http://www.cafeopcao.com/

There's also a brazilian riodizio called Boi Na Brasa:
http://www.villagevoice.com/2006-03-07/restaurants/humpless/
http://www.yelp.com/biz/boi-na-brasa-newark

I've been to its smaller original location on Adams Street, which was good initially, but merely ok on more recent visits (mainly because their meats were too salty).

Has anyone been to this place recently? If so, what are your thoughts?

Boi Na Brasa also has a huge, gaudy newer location on Merchant Street, which I have not visited. For those who have, is it better (or worse) than the Adams Street branch? Are there any cuts of meat that are recommended or should be avoided? How are their cocktails and other alcoholic drinks?

What about Casanova, which is another Brazilian bbq spot in the Ironbound? How does it compare with Boi Na Brasa, Brasilia, and the other riodizios in the area?

http://www.yelp.com/biz/casanova-braz...

I've also noticed some humble Brazilian cafes scattered around the neighborhood. I do not recall the names of these places at the moment, but hopefully some of you know what I'm talking about.

Any Spanish, Portuguese, or Brazilian recommendations outside of Newark in towns like Kearny, Harrison, Union, etc are welcome, too.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. f
    freshfigs May 14, 2009 02:08 PM

    OK, I just found an old thread that is similar to mine:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/340702

    It discusses some other eateries in the Newark area, including Torremolinos (Portuguese in Kearny), Solar do Minho (Portuguese in Belleville), Beira Mar of Spain (Newark), Burnet (Union), and so forth. I'm not even sure if any of these places are still open, but figured I'd see if you guys knew.

    Any opinions on these places or the ones in the first post of this thread?

    1. d
      deepdish3 May 15, 2009 07:39 AM

      Try Fernandes Steak House. Listed in Zagat. Got a 26 rating.

      3 Replies
      1. re: deepdish3
        f
        freshfigs May 15, 2009 02:48 PM

        Thanks for the tip. I totally forgot about that place; haven't tried it, but have definitely heard about it.

        What would you recommend at Fernandes Steakhouse? Is riodizio the only way to go? Are there any recommended barbecue entrees that aren't featured in the riodizio (i.e. can only be ordered a la carte)?

        How are the grilled and sauteed steaks/chicken/veal dishes? Does Fernandes prepare these dishes as well as the barbecue?

        What about seafood and other non-meat dishes? My impression is that it probably wouldn't be great at this place due to the fact that this is a meat restaurant. Am I wrong?

        Finally, is this a straight-up Portuguese restaurant that happens to offer riodizio, or is it a combined Portuguese/Brazilian eatery?

        Thanks.

        1. re: freshfigs
          d
          deepdish3 May 18, 2009 06:16 AM

          Just went to Fernandes...don't bother. Food is very gross. Riodizio was just OK. As far as BBQ stuff, it comes out overcooked and very large portions, but no class. I think Brazilia Grill is better, but you can have them all.

          1. re: deepdish3
            f
            freshfigs May 18, 2009 09:37 AM

            Wow, that's a shame. Thanks for the heads-up.

      2. n
        nixienox May 15, 2009 08:26 AM

        I agree with you on the Ironbound restaurants I've tried, I've just wanted them to be better. It could be they just aren't to my taste. But this review in the Village Voice about Sol-Mar sounds promising. http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-05-0...

        1. j
          jmoryl May 15, 2009 09:27 AM

          I'm a big fan of Portuguese wines, so on my Newark shoping excursions I often stop somewhere for lunch. You are right: most of these places aren't exactly fine dining, but still can make for an interesting meal. I would prefer it if the places went more for quality over quantity, which is usually almost excessive.

          Just to add a few data points:

          I've recently had a few simple dishes at the bar at Portugalia and enjoyed what I had (specials off the board - roast chicken, suckling pig). There is also a separate dining room. I also enjoy sitting in the bar at Sol Mar - which has a good vibe. Again, order from the daily specials. Places I've been meaning to try include Coimbra, Campino Mercado (off the beaten path on Jabez St.) and Pic-Nic on Grant St. in North Newark (not the place on Ferry mentioned elsewhere - that one looks like a greasy spoon).

          Some of the well known places right around Ferry are very lame, so it is worth checking out the backstreets. For Brazilian I've only been to Brasilia, which was basically ok, but I hear rumors that it has gone downhill. And are there any places that are actually Spanish (despite some of the names)?

          4 Replies
          1. re: jmoryl
            f
            freshfigs May 15, 2009 02:52 PM

            Agree about quality vs. quantity in many of Newark's Ironbound restaurants. Seems that many places such as Iberia are food factories first and foremost.

            Thanks for the tip to sit at the bar and order off the specials menu. I'll have to try that next time.

            Never heard of Campino Mercado. In fact, I'd never even known that Jabez Street even existed! Thanks again.

            I'm curious, too, about the presence of straight-up Spanish restaurants. Seems that most places such as Iberia are better described as Spanish-Portuguese (i.e. owned and operated by Portuguese who serve a mostly Spanish menu along with some Portuguese stews and seafood dishes).

            1. re: freshfigs
              j
              jmoryl May 18, 2009 09:18 AM

              Just a quick update. This weekend I stopped into Coimbra and had dinner at the bar. Nice looking place with good staff. Was thinking fish, but wound up having tripe and beans Porto style (from the specials, after finding out that the lamb had run out). Tripe was tender, served in a the typical Portuguese terracotta casserole, with some ham and what looked like the bony parts of suckling pig for flavor. Good quality, large portion. This, with a half bottle of red and an espresso cost just over $20, which is great value. I will be back to try some other dishes. (very decent wine prices with a nice portuguese selection, BTW).

              Oh, I noticed that O Poeta (mentioned in some links above) is now called something like Xcape - looks to be a real neighborhood type place. And the Pic-Nic I mentioned is actually in East Newark, which is just north of Harrison.

              1. re: jmoryl
                f
                freshfigs May 18, 2009 10:04 AM

                Thanks for the report on Coimbra. It's definitely one of the places I want to try out. The only thing is that the next time I'm in the Ironbound (probably in the next week or two) I will be with family members, so I'm not sure I can convince them to sit in the bar area.

                If I have to sit in the main dining room, I'm assuming that I will not be able to order from the specials menu posted in the bar area. Is that correct? Because it seems that most people have great things to say about Coimbra's bar specials but think that the regular menu is merely ok.

                I'm increasingly of the opinion that few, if any of these older Portuguese and Spanish restaurants in Newark do the basic menu items well. Maybe Coimbra's an exception, who knows?

                Also interested in your earlier recommendation of Campino Mercado. I did some research on it and people had good things to say about the decor and food. It might be worth trying for my family get-together; if so, I'll definitely report back here.

                I've actually seen the branch of Pic-Nic in East Newark that you mentioned; it's around the corner from Tops Diner. Hopefully it's better than the one on Ferry Street. Also, I noticed that Xcape place on previous drives through the Ironbound; didn't realize that's the old location of Poeta. Looked a little bit seedy, but hey, that might mean good things for the food.

                1. re: freshfigs
                  j
                  jmoryl May 18, 2009 10:59 AM

                  While I didn't investigate the dining room I have a feeling that everthing available at the bar can also be had there. I only sat at the bar because I was by myeslf (there are also some tables in the bar room) and being able to watch Middlesboro play Aston Villa was a plus. Coimbra has the specials printed on a sheet attached to the backs of the menus.

                  Campino looks a bit more upscale than the Ironbound run-of-the-mill. One review I came across said they don't overcook their fish, unlike the norm in many Ironbound places. And the Pic-Nic in East Newark looks to be no relation to the one on Ferry St. - the bar and dining room are very neat and clean, for one thing!

          2. f
            freshfigs May 16, 2009 05:30 AM

            I'd like to mention two more Newark Ironbound restaurants that I've heard about, but have never visited:

            *Mediterranean Manor, on the corner of Jefferson and Chestnut Streets. A friend tells me that he passed by recently and the name seems to have changed to "Casa Seabra", at least on the outside awning.

            Has anyone been there? If so, how is the food? I have heard in the past that the riodizio was good, but I'm hoping that someone who has eaten there recently can chime in, especially in light of the fact that the place may or may not have changed ownership (based on the possible name change).

            Also, how are their non-riodizio dishes? I'm especially curious about their Portuguese seafood appetizers and entrees. I saw a mention on another food site but there doesn't seem to be any discussion about this restaurant on chowhound.

            *Taste of Portugal, on the corner of Delancey and Van Buren Streets, is the other place I'm wondering about.

            2 Replies
            1. re: freshfigs
              n
              njguy99 May 16, 2009 05:38 AM

              Mediterranean Manor has always been owned by the Seabra family, so no change there. The name on the awning may reflect the catering hall that's also part of the property.

              The food is very good - not great - but the dining room is very loud and smoky, since the kitchen is right alongside the dining area.

              The rodizio is quite tasty, if limited. I was there a few weeks ago and they brought out probably 8 items and that was it. Appetizers were very good (get the chorizo and calamari - both are terrific). One member of our party got a seafood main course dish (can't remember what it was) and said it was delicious.

              If you can deal with the dining room's "ambiance" you'll have a good meal.

              1. re: njguy99
                f
                freshfigs May 19, 2009 09:36 AM

                Thanks for the tip. This place is definitely on my list of places to check out.

            2. f
              freshfigs May 20, 2009 07:39 AM

              Anyone else have an opinion on this topic?

              1. j
                jmoryl May 27, 2009 07:59 PM

                Another data point. In another thread someone mentions Burnet BBQ Union, NJ and that it has gone downhill. I am a semi-regular customer of the Burnet Ave. location, and it is just okay, but good value for a quick meal. Recently I found I could get similar takeout from Churrasco at 1644 Springfield Ave. in Maplewood (probaby 2 miles away from Burnet) and what I have tried so far is superior in just about every way. They also have a proper dining room in the front and a variety of specials that are more a bit more ambitious than the usual roast meats/fish (I have yet to explore these items).

                Check it out if you are a Burnet customer - I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jmoryl
                  f
                  freshfigs May 28, 2009 03:27 AM

                  Thanks again, jmoryl. I wouldn't have guessed that there would be good Portuguese barbecue in Maplewood, but the town does border Union, so maybe some of the Portuguese residents/businesses are starting to spill over.

                  1. re: jmoryl
                    n
                    njguy99 May 28, 2009 07:34 PM

                    I too am a regular Burnet customer, and I've grown pretty tired of the overcooked food and awful service at the Stuyvesant Avenue location. I'm looking forward to giving this new place a try!

                    (one correction, though: it's at 1844 Springfield Avenue, about half-a-block up from the Burger King and next to the old car dealership. I found a web site - http://www.churrascosteakhouse.com/ )

                    1. re: njguy99
                      j
                      jmoryl May 29, 2009 12:33 PM

                      Sorry about the typo: that's what I get for trying to read the address off the take-out menu from across the room. BTW, I hope their business is OK, as the dining room isn't very busy when I've stopped by.

                  2. f
                    freshfigs May 28, 2009 03:45 AM

                    I was going to create a separate thread on Portuguese desserts, but I may as well ask here:

                    Where can you get the best Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts) in the Newark area? I know of Teixeira's (pretty good) and Coutinho's (never had them there). Are there any other spots that are worth checking out? It's ok if the bakery is outside of the Ironbound or Newark altogether.

                    Also, Teixeira's has two locations: one on Ferry St and another that's hidden deep in the Ironbound on the corner of Kossuth and Magazine Streets. I've only been to the Ferry St location; if anyone has been to both, which has better bread/pastries/sweets? Is there a difference in the quality of the pastéis de nata between the two branches? What other Portuguese sweets should I make sure to get?

                    How do the egg custard tarts at Coutinho's compare with Teixeira's?

                    And which places serve the best coffee, espresso, or cappuccino in the Ironbound? Restaurant, coffeehouse, and luncheonette suggestions are all welcome.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: freshfigs
                      f
                      freshfigs Jun 5, 2009 08:36 AM

                      I've heard that Teixeira's Kossuth St location might be connected to their main bakery warehouse where everything is baked. I'm wondering if this means that that location would be the better one to pick up warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven pastéis de nata in the morning or early afternoon? Or would it not matter due to high turnover?

                    2. clairetraas Jun 8, 2009 10:40 PM

                      I like Cervantes in Cranford-- great Spanish food without having to drive into Newark and worry about parking. I recommend their paella and veal dishes.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: clairetraas
                        a
                        albinoni Jun 9, 2009 08:36 AM

                        Nearby, and IMO far superior, is Solar do Minho in Roselle Park. Still, with such a big menu, some things are better than others---a special of grilled red snapper was sensational, as was shrimp stuffed with crabmeat. Filet mignon with shrimp and mushroom sauce rivaled anything you'd get at a steakhouse. OTH, paella is just ok. House red (Portuguese label I'm not familiar with), available by the glass, is quite good.

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