Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > New Jersey >
Jun 28, 2011 08:26 AM

What towns in NJ have the best restaurant scenes?

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

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. 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

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

    2. 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

        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

          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

            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

              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

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

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  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

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

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

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

                                        1. re: roro1831

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

                          2. re: NellyNel

                            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

                              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.


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

                              1. re: tommy

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

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: menton1

                        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

                          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

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

                        2. 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

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

                            1. re: rich47

                              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

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

                                1. re: Duppie

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

                                  1. re: joonjoon

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

                                    1. re: Duppie

                                      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

                                        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

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        "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. 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

                                    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

                                      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.