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What towns in NJ have the best restaurant scenes?

rich47 Jun 28, 2011 08:26 AM

I was impressed with Maplewood, and I'm wondering if there are other wonderful hidden clusters like it.

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  1. seal RE: rich47 Jun 28, 2011 10:50 AM

    Hardly hidden, but Asbury Park continues to be a place to eat and be seen. Shame that most of my time in town is spent hiding at At The Table instead of near the Pony and the boardwalk where the scene is.

    But I have to give the big nod to Red Bank. From a night at the bar at Nicholas to Sunday morning breakfast tacos at North of the Border and then a walk through the farmer's market, more and more of my dining out lately is in Red Bank. I like the food at both new asian joints too and Red has become our go-to place when we can't decide. There's also Dish, Willy's, The Cheese Cave, Via 45, and I really like the cupcakes from the place inside Ricky's. But again, all this is hardly a secret.

    1 Reply
    1. re: seal
      MGZ RE: seal Jul 2, 2011 04:33 AM

      A couple worthy, long-standing Red Bank gems to add to the list: Elsie's and the Bagel Oven.

    2. briansnat RE: rich47 Jun 28, 2011 11:12 AM

      Montclair is always up there. Hoboken too. Neither is exactly hidden though. Morristown area is OK. Seems to run hot and cold over the years.

      21 Replies
      1. re: briansnat
        ttoommyy RE: briansnat Jun 28, 2011 02:22 PM

        Hoboken is not what it once was (if it ever really was). I live there. I know. Search the NJ boards for Hoboken restaurants and you will not get a lot of lengthy discussions. Most "foodies" who live in the Hoboken area would rather go to NYC.

        1. re: ttoommyy
          tommy RE: ttoommyy Jun 28, 2011 02:42 PM

          I was under the impression that hoboken has gotten much better, as it wasn't exactly good in the 90's and first part of the last decade.

          1. re: tommy
            ttoommyy RE: tommy Jun 29, 2011 08:37 AM

            Then you've gotten the wrong impression! :)

            The problem is that most restaurants start out with good intentions but quickly realize that to stay in business they have to cater to the "frat crowd" that runs rampant in Hoboken on the weekends and throughout the summer. There are about 5 restaurants in town I would recommend to anyone serious about food.

            1. re: tommy
              NellyNel RE: tommy Jun 29, 2011 12:08 PM

              I agree with ttoommyy 100%

              When I moved to Hoboken six years ago - I really had high hopes for all the culinary adventures that were to be found!

              Boy, was I wrong!

              What a disappointment.

              Honestly, I don't think I have ever raved over a meal in Hoboken, or even over any sandwich I have eaten, in any of the few Italian Deli's.....and don't get me started on the incredible mediocrity that is Carlo's Bakery!! (The Cake Boss) UGH! (Which is also the only Italian bakery in Hoboken...

              Good Grief! For an old Italian area - the Italian food to be had is particularly bad.

              Cucharamama, I think is probably the best restaurant in Hoboken, other than that I really struggle to think of any others that may stand out.

              PS -I now live in Jersey City, not much of a culinary improvement there, either, but at least, in the Heights, I have a bunch of tasty Mexican and Columbian joints!

              233 Clinton St, Hoboken, NJ 07030

              1. re: NellyNel
                ttoommyy RE: NellyNel Jun 30, 2011 08:45 AM

                Have you ever been to Amanda's in Hoboken, NellyNel? If not, you should try it.

                1. re: ttoommyy
                  NellyNel RE: ttoommyy Jul 1, 2011 06:40 AM

                  No, I havent actually. It's always been on my radar...
                  I heard it was owned by the same people who own Elysian.
                  While I love the atmosphere of the Elysian, and I did have a rather delicious cocktail there once, the food was beyond disappointing. After that, I was never in a rush to get to Amandas. I probably will try it one day...

                  Chucharamma is the other restaurant owned by the Zafra owner, and can be excellent.
                  I think La Isla is **okay**...some things are delicious, but most things average.

                  I'm really sad to hear Arthurs is closing, even though I thought the steak was disgusting, like Tommy said, it was an institution.
                  (their burgers were good!)

                  La Isla
                  104 Washington St, Hoboken, NJ 07030

                  1. re: NellyNel
                    ttoommyy RE: NellyNel Jul 1, 2011 11:07 AM

                    I've never liked Arthur's. Greasy oversized burgers and fatty steaks. Never saw the appeal.

                    1. re: ttoommyy
                      joonjoon RE: ttoommyy Jul 1, 2011 12:24 PM

                      24 oz steaks for 20 bucks and liter mugs for 5 bucks? I don't know how any man can not love that arrangement.

                      1. re: joonjoon
                        roro1831 RE: joonjoon Jul 1, 2011 12:27 PM

                        Easy I can't drink beer anymore and the steak isn't very good. Just because its cheap doesn't make it taste better.

                        1. re: joonjoon
                          tommy RE: joonjoon Jul 1, 2011 12:44 PM

                          The steak is horrible and therefore worth 0 dollars. I can get better at the local supermarket.

                          I loved it when I was 20 years old, however. Although back then the steak was 10 bucks and a liter of beer was 2.50.

                          1. re: joonjoon
                            ttoommyy RE: joonjoon Jul 1, 2011 12:54 PM

                            But it's been my experience that the 24oz steaks are all fat and gristle, why would I go and waste $20?

                            1. re: joonjoon
                              menton1 RE: joonjoon Jul 1, 2011 01:32 PM

                              You can go to the Ironbound and get a 48 oz steak for $25 bucks. Equally awful. Only those favoring quantity over quality will "love that arrangement".

                              1. re: menton1
                                joonjoon RE: menton1 Jul 1, 2011 02:38 PM

                                Menton, where can I get this at the ironbound? I'll have to check it out.

                                As far as the steaks at Arthurs, while there have been duds on 1 or 2 visits (re: all fat and gristle) I'm usually pretty happy with them. I go to the one in North Brunswick once a year with friends - it's a long time tradition since college.

                                And tommy - 0 dollars? Really? C'mon.

                                1. re: joonjoon
                                  tommy RE: joonjoon Jul 1, 2011 02:56 PM

                                  Yes, 0 dollars. For me it's not worth eating. Why would I want to spend 20 dollars when I can 1) not spend 20 dollars, or 2) buy a much better piece of beef at any store in the state for less.

                                  I'm not sure when you were in college, but the Arthur's in NB hasn't been affiliated with the one in Hoboken (and Morris Plains) for some time.

                                  1. re: joonjoon
                                    menton1 RE: joonjoon Jul 1, 2011 05:58 PM

                                    For starters, I know Meson Madrid in Pal Park serves a 3 pounder (because an acquaintance just told me they had it there),but there are a half dozen places in Newark that do it too. Awful stuff...Absolutely better off in your pocket. Gluttony is not an attractive trait.

                                    Meson Madrid Restaurant
                                    343 Bergen Blvd, Palisades Park, NJ 07650

                                    1. re: joonjoon
                                      NellyNel RE: joonjoon Jul 5, 2011 06:49 AM

                                      I agree, $0.

                                      The first time we went, the steak was *edible* - maybe worth $5.
                                      The second time, however, it was absolutely disgusting, and I could not eat it - so, it was worth ZERO bucks.

                                      We did go back for a burger in desparation one night, and I liked it, but then again, I was starving at the time!

                                      1. re: NellyNel
                                        roro1831 RE: NellyNel Jul 5, 2011 01:04 PM

                                        Nelly have you tried the Hamilton Inn in JC? The onion soup dumplings are very good.

                                        1. re: roro1831
                                          NellyNel RE: roro1831 Jul 7, 2011 06:46 AM

                                          No, I haven't...
                                          Thanks for the reco - I just checked it out online - it looks good.

                          2. re: NellyNel
                            roro1831 RE: NellyNel Jun 30, 2011 02:00 PM

                            I agree with the opinion of Hoboken, not much to speak of other than Amanda's, La Isla, Zafra and the other place the woman that owns Zafra owns. Just because you have a lot of restaurants doesn't mean the food is good. Most places are bars that have bar food. Just found out that Arthur's is closing. Not great steaks but it's been around for a while. I'm sur the cookie cutter bar is going to move in.

                            La Isla
                            104 Washington St, Hoboken, NJ 07030

                            1. re: roro1831
                              tommy RE: roro1831 Jun 30, 2011 02:40 PM

                              Arthur's is closing? That would be sad. It's an institution. Could they possibly not be profitable? I'd find that hard to believe. Although perhaps there has been a shift in dining habits over the last 10 years.

                              ETA: http://www.nj.com/hobokennow/index.ss...

                              It likely won't be the same. Oh well. There's always Morris Plains.

                              1. re: tommy
                                roro1831 RE: tommy Jun 30, 2011 03:00 PM

                                I can't view the link on my phone but its being bought by the people that own Lana and Teak so I will not likely be stopping by.

                    2. menton1 RE: rich47 Jun 28, 2011 01:03 PM

                      I've noticed you've asked this same question on other boards. Are you writing a book?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: menton1
                        rich47 RE: menton1 Jun 28, 2011 02:17 PM

                        Just asked on NJ and NY. I'm not writing a book. I'm a journalist, writing an article about Maplewood. But the points I'm making apply to the region's suburbs generally, so I wanted to give a shout-out to a couple of other places. It's basically one sentence, and not meant to be exhaustive.

                        1. re: menton1
                          rich47 RE: menton1 Jun 28, 2011 02:18 PM

                          I should say - personal motives, too. I live in NJ and my wife and I love to eat. We were very happy to discover a few places in Maplewood, and we're looking for other places to go.

                          1. re: rich47
                            Curlz RE: rich47 Jun 30, 2011 04:32 PM

                            Montclair is really the next best comparison, and with a range of inexpensive to upscale restaurants.

                        2. j
                          joonjoon RE: rich47 Jun 28, 2011 01:56 PM

                          For my money, if I could pick only 1 town in NJ I could eat in, it would be Edison.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: joonjoon
                            rich47 RE: joonjoon Jun 28, 2011 02:19 PM

                            Cool. I haven't spent much time there. A lot of Indian food, I hear.

                            1. re: rich47
                              joonjoon RE: rich47 Jun 28, 2011 02:52 PM

                              Not just Indian. You can find almost every conceivable ethnic restaurant available in NJ in Edison & neighboring areas. Korean. Korean Chinese. Pakistani. Northern Indian. Southern Indian. Indian Chinese. Chinese - Sichuan, Shanghai, Cantonese. Viet. Thai. Malay, Turkish, Middle Eastern.... whatever you're in the mood for, it's most likely somewhere in or near Edison.

                              If you include nearby areas it gets even better, with one of the best old school burger joints in NJ - White Rose, ridiculous fat sandwiches at the grease trucks, and then you get a decent upscale dining scene along with what may be NJ's best brew pub (although that's not really saying much) and only of NJ's only Ethopian joints. Venture a little deeper into New Brunswick and you get tons of authentic Mexican as well.

                              Yeah, it really doesn't get much better than that in NJ.

                              1. re: joonjoon
                                Duppie RE: joonjoon Jun 28, 2011 03:44 PM

                                Thai,Malay? Surely you don't mean Penang?

                                1. re: Duppie
                                  joonjoon RE: Duppie Jun 28, 2011 04:24 PM

                                  There are plenty of Thai restaurants in the area, and at least a couple Malay joints, including Penang.

                                  1. re: joonjoon
                                    Duppie RE: joonjoon Jun 28, 2011 04:30 PM

                                    Good. Other than Penang, could you recommend some likely choices?

                                    1. re: Duppie
                                      joonjoon RE: Duppie Jun 28, 2011 08:25 PM

                                      Sorry Duppie, I haven't had a chance to go to any of them! I've been too distracted with other (more comfortable) options to try out any Malay options (well, other than Penang in East Hanover if that counts). I realize this is awfully un-'hound-like of me; I'll make it a point to try a Malay joint next time I'm there. Will report back.

                                      1. re: joonjoon
                                        Duppie RE: joonjoon Jun 29, 2011 02:10 AM

                                        Fair enough. I just hoped you found some decent alternatives to Penang which IMO stopped trying years ago and is now an embarrasing poser.As to Thai....what can I say?

                                2. re: joonjoon
                                  menton1 RE: joonjoon Jun 28, 2011 06:38 PM

                                  There's no "scene" in Edison because it's really not a "town". It's sprawled out onto several highways, which is where most of these restos are. It's also only good for cheap basic eats, no better dining there. Besides, there's something intangibly nice about strolling into a restaurant in a real downtown, which it seems is what the OP was looking for...

                                  1. re: menton1
                                    Duppie RE: menton1 Jun 28, 2011 06:51 PM

                                    I would tend to agree,there are so many Asian inspired restaurant in Edison, some better than others but no real downtown or restaurant stroll if you will.

                                    1. re: menton1
                                      joonjoon RE: menton1 Jun 28, 2011 08:21 PM

                                      I might have misunderstood the question. If you're looking for that "night out on the town" experience I agree Edison wouldn't be what you're looking for. But that kind of scene can be found nearby in New Brunswick, which is part of the reason I personally consider the Edison area to be the #1 food destination in the state.

                                      1. re: joonjoon
                                        Duppie RE: joonjoon Jun 29, 2011 02:14 AM

                                        "The Edison area to be the #1 food destination in the state". I find that rather sad simply because it very well might be true.

                                3. re: joonjoon
                                  bgut1 RE: joonjoon Jun 28, 2011 02:19 PM

                                  +1 Montclair and Red Bank.

                                4. t
                                  tom246 RE: rich47 Jun 28, 2011 06:25 PM

                                  Its not that long ago that I would never consider Keyport with one of the best restaurant scenes but with 3 very good restaurants, it ranks right up there.
                                  All have sprung up in the past 5 years or so.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: tom246
                                    carlylecat RE: tom246 Jun 29, 2011 09:14 AM

                                    Bernardsville/Basking Ridge/Far Hills Area:

                                    High End:

                                    NInety Acres, Bernards Inn, Equus, Due Terre, Vine, 3 West, Pluckemin Inn, Sublime

                                    Pub / Casual:

                                    Station Pub, Claremont, Market, Bernard's Deli, Gladstone


                                    Bistro 73, Mockingbird, Sette,


                                    Tsuki, Origin, Tsuru


                                    Buona, Lennys, a million others

                                    The Bernards Inn
                                    27 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville, NJ 07924

                                    Due Terre
                                    107 Morristown Rd Ste C, Bernardsville, NJ 07924

                                    413 King George Rd Ste 774, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

                                    3 West
                                    665 Martinsville Rd Ste 101, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

                                    The Pluckemin Inn
                                    359 US Highway 202, Bedminster, NJ 07921

                                    1. re: carlylecat
                                      ttoommyy RE: carlylecat Jun 29, 2011 09:52 AM

                                      Just want to throw in that my family and I went to Ninety Acres this past Sunday and it was wonderful. The food is terrific, the service was great, the dining areas are well-appointed and the grounds are lovely. I highly recommend it.

                                  2. f
                                    fondofu RE: rich47 Jul 1, 2011 11:27 AM

                                    I have to tell you Point Pleasant Beach is really Starting to get a nice scene..lot's of great Places to choose from Daniels Bistro,Shipwreck Point, 709, Bluewater Grill, Coal House Pizza,
                                    Patio Bar , Reds Lobster Pot and Joe Leones..Its hard to pick..everyday you can do a diffrent flavor and taste which is very cool..lots of Great energy and positive Vibe In Point Beach Now

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: fondofu
                                      angelo04 RE: fondofu Jul 1, 2011 12:25 PM

                                      Is red's over by the Shrimp box? If so and IMHO, mediocre and over priced. Maybe it is just me.

                                      1. re: fondofu
                                        Curlz RE: fondofu Jul 1, 2011 01:49 PM

                                        OMG, Joe Leone's is a MUST-STOP if you're in the area! Not a restaurant, but you can go crazy getting stuff to take out!

                                        Joe Leone's
                                        400 Richmond Ave, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742

                                        1. re: fondofu
                                          MGZ RE: fondofu Jul 2, 2011 04:49 AM

                                          I agree that the changes in Point over the past few years have been quite welcome and impressive. Nevertheless, other than a personal love for enjoying fried plates and hot sauces on the deck at Red's and the fact that Shipwreck Point is "best in category" for the entire area, I am not sure that there is a lot of depth to the other choices. Daniel's, for example, has an awkward balance between what goes on in front of and behind the kitchen window. Coal House similarly struggles to balance the purity of the apprach to pizza they displayed when in Bradley and the Chuck e Cheese "come on in" attitude that has been added to attract crowds.

                                          (I will admit that I have avoided trying 709 due to a lack of interest in the generic menu and a lingering bit of sour grapes after their Facebook-inspired attempts to manipulate this board.)

                                          I know that Point is still predominantly a tourist town and that the restaurants are trying to capitalize upon that fact. The problem is when that reality is too apparent to me as a diner. Oh well, perhaps in time . . . .

                                        2. b
                                          bifpocaroba RE: rich47 Jul 2, 2011 12:59 PM

                                          Caldwell/West Caldwell has a suprisingly good selection of restaurants and most are very good. Not much of a 'scene' though.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: bifpocaroba
                                            Curlz RE: bifpocaroba Jul 3, 2011 01:33 PM

                                            What are some of your favorites, bif? Other than an occasional trip to Nori, I never go over there any more since Trattoria Fresco closed. And do you know if anything decent ever opened in that space?

                                            1. re: Curlz
                                              bifpocaroba RE: Curlz Jul 5, 2011 08:44 AM

                                              Bangkok Kitchen is one of my all-time faves. We also like Caldwell Seafood (although some what pricey). Nori is good I also prefer Ocha across the street as well as as that little hole in the wall down the way Sushi Cafe. I went to Stephanie's once and wasn't thrilled but there are people that really like it.
                                              Divina is excellent and have they some of the best pastas in the area,(especially the Pappardelle Alla Luca). It's usually crowded and you need a rezzy. I like this place.
                                              Eurogrill is nice for a quick bite. You also have Luce which is always consistently good and great place to watch the 'scene'.
                                              I believe Rose Mediterranean opened up in the Trattoria Fresco spot. I haven't hear anything about except for what I read online and it seems to get good reviews. I see some reviews on Yelp and Urban Spoon and people seem to like it.
                                              There are also places tlike Calandras which is nice to sit outside and have some apps and the Cloverleaf for a good beer selection.

                                              Bangkok Kitchen
                                              391 Bloomfield Ave, Caldwell, NJ 07006

                                              403 Bloomfield Ave, Caldwell, NJ 07006

                                              460 Bloomfield Ave, Caldwell, NJ 07006

                                          2. equal_Mark RE: rich47 Jul 2, 2011 02:27 PM

                                            Between Red Bank and Asbury Park I like the diversity of the dining scene in Long Branch...

                                            1. t
                                              Teddysea RE: rich47 Jul 3, 2011 04:37 PM

                                              Seal, if you hid at "At the Table" then you only touched the very tip of the matchstick. Asbury Park has some other great restaurants as well. Langosta, Stella Marina, Cubacan on the Boardwalk; Bistro Ole, Brick Wall, Fish, Rafferty's, Trinifty and Pope in downtown; and the list goes on. It's edgy, fun, and delicious. I didn't even start with Italian and Mexican yet!

                                              Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant
                                              1200 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712

                                              Bistro Ole
                                              230 Main St, Asbury Park, NJ 07712

                                              1. JerzeyShore RE: rich47 Jul 6, 2011 02:12 AM

                                                With 30 restaurants and counting Asbury Park has something for everyone.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: JerzeyShore
                                                  roro1831 RE: JerzeyShore Jul 6, 2011 02:26 PM

                                                  We went to the Stone Pony Saturday for the concert and I wanted to try Cubacan, but we were with folks who aren't very adventerous, and ended up at McClune's (sp) They didn't even know how to shuck oysters. I have been hearing good things about the restaurants there.

                                                  1. re: roro1831
                                                    cantkick RE: roro1831 Jul 7, 2011 02:54 AM

                                                    Hey, I grew up on the New England seacoast, and I don't know how to shuck oysters. Perhaps the fact that I don't like them so never order them has something to do with it. :)

                                                    But if you want to see a pro attack a lobster, I'm your man.

                                                    1. re: cantkick
                                                      equal_Mark RE: cantkick Jul 7, 2011 06:18 AM

                                                      It's one thing for an individual not to know how to shuck an oyster, but for a restaurant that sits on the beach and has a Raw Bar to not be able to do it is rather an entirely different matter...

                                                      1. re: equal_Mark
                                                        roro1831 RE: equal_Mark Jul 7, 2011 08:51 AM

                                                        Exactly. They shucked them and didn't seperate the muscle from the shell. Inexcusable for a restaurant.

                                                  2. re: JerzeyShore
                                                    Sdenred RE: JerzeyShore Jul 7, 2011 10:24 AM

                                                    Asbury Park? Something for everyone except foodies. I've been to a number of these places and they are far from notable.

                                                    1. re: Sdenred
                                                      MGZ RE: Sdenred Jul 7, 2011 10:39 AM

                                                      Though the "f" word makes my skin crawl, I agree with you. There is a whole lot of mediocrity in AP. I've had a few good bites here and there, and a trip to Jimmy's or Frank's is generally quite rewarding, but there is no place that is great, not one thing that is outstanding.

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