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Jun 28, 2011 09:55 PM

Real New Jersey experience

From Philly to New York we are stopping for tomato pie in Trenton, which I gather from this board is a 'real New Jersey deal.'

Driving from New York, sort of down the coast to Cape May in September, then over to Wilmington. Are there food experiences that are signature to New Jersey, foods/beverages/food stands we shouldn't miss?

We will have lunch and dinner along the coast, I see praise for Red Bank and Asbury Park where we could eat lunch. What about south to Cape May? Packaged foods we should take home to the west coast? We want the full New Jersey food experience! Thank for any help.

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  1. I'm not sure of an exact Restaraunt, but you should stop at a diner and have am order of disco fries (fries with cheese and brown gravy). Personally, I like it with American cheese, but my husband goes for provolone.

    As for taking back, I think of salt water taffy, (although not uniquely NJ). I'm blanking on other ideas right now but I remember finding a bunco of jersey themed foods on the knot chat boards when I was planning my wedding.

    1. I don't know about "Jersey" foods, but I know of some decent places to try...

      Lorena's in Maplewood, 5 star place. tiny, out of the way, very high ratings, and deserved. Elegant French early to get chance for reservation....only about 15 seats. We ate at Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck in Atlantic City. Lorena's was a full step above those. Absolutely 5 star (and rated one of best restaurants in nation, not just Jersey).


      Best Israeli - Elizabeth, NJ - Union Co.

      Jerusalem Pizza
      150 Elmora Ave # B,
      Elizabeth, NJ - (908) 289-0291

      Local place, not gourmet, just fun and very good. Falafel is very good, pizza, all vegetarian and Kosher as well

      but it is the best baba ganoush and humus I've ever had


      here's a Jersey experience

      Jersey Shore (Keyport) - Amazing Fish

      Locals know all about Keyport Fishery:

      Dating back to 1936, these folks had a booth up at the Fulton Fish Market in NYC. That is how my Dad learned about them.

      This tiny little "fried fish" shack, served just about some of the best seafood anyone has ever tasted. Scratch that. Just about the best food anyone has ever tasted. Just that good. People would literally drive down from Connecticut just to get some.

      Unfortunately the original owners finally sold the place. The quality of the food dropped. But we just went back. I don't know what changed, but it is back to very very tasty stuff. Not quite what the original owners had, but still probably the best fried fish you will ever taste.

      I would particularly recommend the fish cakes, the crab cakes and the scallops. The fish cakes are just about as good as they used to be. Basically, until you have eaten these, you have never eaten a fish cake. They shouldn't even call it a fish cake, because it is just something else entirely.

      They also have tons of fresh fish if you want to buy.

      No seating! Buy some stuff, walk across the street and eat the food sitting right by the bay, like we regulars have been doing for years (me since the mid-60's). It may not sound like gourmet, until you take that first bite of the single best scallop (fried or otherwise) you have ever tasted.


      Atlantic City now has some good places. At Borgata, there is both Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck. I would recommend taking a reservation at a more off hour...beat the crowd and have quieter experience.


      The boardwalk at Jenkinson's is a bit touristy...but pleasant. You can eat at a restaurant on a pier, overlooking the water:

      there are other locations in Jersey that have that, restaurants right on a pier on the ocean..always very nice.


      NJ Monthly Magazine has done features about the best food in NJ. You might want to look up some old issues. My take on that is the lists tend to be the places with the best connections. But you still can find some good places through their lists.


      there definitely are amazing places to eat in Jersey, brain not working that great here at 3AM, but keep trying and you should find some great places.


      Keyport Fishery
      150 W Front St, Keyport, NJ

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChowJon99x

        'Fraid I did not have a good impression of Keyport Fishery but perhaps you may have a better experience.

        Keyport Fishery
        150 W Front St, Keyport, NJ

      2. Agreed on Delorenzo's as one of the ultimate NJ food experiences. Can't visit us without eating some red sauce.

        Also agreed on Lorena's being the best restaurant in the state, with Nicholas just a hair behind. But, although either place is a worthy rival for the best of any other area, fine dining is not what NJ is all about. If that's the kind of meal you want though, make a reservation early.

        Not so much about Keyport Fishery. True, NJ seafood can be as good as anywhere short of the coast of Spain, but the best in the state may be closer to Cape May than NYC. Go to Dock's in Atlantic City for your fish and check out the boardwalk for some salt water taffy too. My experiences at KF were both mediocre at best.

        Also, they don't call us the garden state for nothing. Jersey heirloom tomatoes and sweet corn are not to be missed. For the freshest ones, visit one of our excellent farmer's markets or go to Delicious Orchards (their apple crumb cake is to die for too) or Sickles. Or go to Red Bank early on a Sunday and get your tomatoes at the market near the Galleria and your corn Mexican style at nearby North of the Border.

        One other thing to eat here is a hot dog. There are many fine posts here about NJ dogs by many fine critics, but I like a good ripper from Rutt's Hut.

        Fyi, we are not just red sauce anymore. We have great and authentic asian food, first rate bbq, fine dining, a pastry shop to rival any in the world, real Latino cuisine and more. Eat what you like, I'm sure you will enjoy.

        Rutt's Hut
        417 River Rd, Clifton, NJ 07014

        North of the Border
        176 Monmouth St, Red Bank, NJ 07701

        Delicious Orchards
        State Route 34 S, Colts Neck, NJ 07722

        1. You have to have a fried pork roll, fried egg (over easy, natch) and cheese on a lightly buttered kaiser roll sandwich or your journey will be sadly incomplete.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Mr. Bingley

            In addition to what has been said:

            Grease Truck Sandwich from Rutgers
            "Sliders" from White Rose
            Italian Hot Dog (I personally like Jersey Joe's in Port Monmouth the best)
            Stop at Bill's Gyro in AC

            Jersey Joe's
            712 Port Monmouth Rd, Port Monmouth, NJ 07758

            1. re: Mr. Bingley

              I agree with Mr. Bingley, but have it with Taylor Ham ;p
              Also, NJ pizza....better than anywhere else.

              1. re: GrOlive

                +1 on "Taylor Ham". I think it's a regional (north vs. south) thing?


                1. re: riverman18

                  I recall calling it "pork roll" when I was growing up in central/south jersey. Then I recall suddenly calling it "taylor ham" when I moved to north jersey. I think it is a north/south thing.

                  1. re: tommy

                    Interesting....I always heard it called "Taylor Pork Roll" by Monmouth & Middlesex county folks. Makes sense, I guess....LOL

                    1. re: bakersma

                      LOL...definitely a regional thing, which my daughter and her college friends love to argue about. I think one of them even research the name calling difference and it had to do with a mistake in packaging at one point. Chalk it up there with those that go to the beach or down the shore :)

                      1. re: GrOlive

                        From Wikipedia, "Taylor originally called his product "Taylor's Prepared Ham", but was forced to change the name after the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was passed, since the product did not meet the new legal definition of "ham". The new name was "Pork Roll" and it was marketed as both "Taylor's Pork Roll" and "Trenton Pork Roll". Competitors marketed products with similar names like "Rolled Pork" and "Trenton style Pork Roll" and were sued by Taylor. A 1910 legal case ruled that the words "Pork Roll" could not be trademarked."

                        For some reason, Taylor Ham stuck in North Jersey while the rest of the state calls it Pork Roll without necessarily meaning made by Taylor, e.g., Case Pork Roll.

                        1. re: TomDel

                          Thanks for looking that up and posting it. Interesting!

                      2. re: bakersma

                        We just refer to it as Trenton Pork Roll. Maybe that is a Pennington thing.

                        1. re: jarona

                          Trenton Pork Roll is also made by Taylor Provisions Company, makers of Taylor Ham or "Pork Roll". Trenton Pork Roll is a milder version of Taylor Ham..

                        2. re: bakersma

                          Growing up in Monmouth County, my dad used to eat it almost every morning for breakfast, and we always called it pork roll. I didn't hear anyone call it "Taylor ham" until I went to school down in Rowan and ate breakfast with my girlfriend's family.

                          1. re: wereboar

                            Unsurprisingly, in the Trenton area when I was growing up, it was just called "pork roll" - never heard anyone call it Taylor ham.

                2. This is a really thought-provoking question. New Jersey is a mid-Atlantic state, but it's almost impossible to find any places that reflect that part of our culinary history anymore (the Cape May Lobster House comes to mind). I think the best of NJ cuisine is really wrapped into the diverse ethnic groups that have made the state their home, and, as is almost always the case, it's regional. So, while much of Jersey cuisine is identified with pizza and red-sauce, which is found state-wide, and great places can be found wherever you go if you know where to look, I think the signature NJ experience depends on where you are: the Newark/Elizabeth area for Portuguese and Spanish, Edison/Woodbridge for Asian (including Indian, Chinese and Korean), and Paterson/Clifton for Turkish and Arab, to name but a few.

                  The Lobster House
                  906 Schellengers Landing Rd, Cape May, NJ 08204