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Why are there so many terrible restaurants in Jersey?

vikingkaj Dec 28, 2012 05:40 AM

Just wondering why there is so much bad food in New Jersey when there is a lot of good food nearby.

Is a a decent, medium priced restaurant with a limited menu and emphasis on fresh food rather than the mind-numbing variations on reheated Italian too much to ask for?

And any place that seems decent at the start usually slides downhill fast...

I have a hard time believing that Jersey consumers are that unsophisticated and I know people here like to eat. We also have great produce. Things should be better.

Any thoughts?

  1. a
    angelopat Mar 28, 2014 01:37 PM

    It all depends on what you're looking for.You will not find any NYT 4 star restaurants here.What you will find is some good family run places like Chefs Table in Franklin Lakes or Rob's in Madison, a bunch of good Korean restaurants in Palisades Park and Ft Lee, Cenzini in Oakland,Pizza a Mano in Ridgewood and so on.Don't forget that a lot of good restaurants in NJ are BYO where you can save a ton of money.For a $1000 night out go to NYC.For a $200 night out, north Jersey that I know is not bad

    5 Replies
    1. re: angelopat
      Monica Mar 28, 2014 01:46 PM

      I have been hearing about Chef's table in Franklin lakes but wow, $32 for a regular baked salmon(assuming farmed atlantic salmon) seems pretty expensive even for Manhattan standard.

      1. re: Monica
        a
        angelopat Mar 28, 2014 04:42 PM

        Never had the salmon but judging from the overall quality I would assume is wild.Stick with classic french if you go.That is what chef/owner Claude does best.The escargot and bouillabaisse on fridays is to die for

        1. re: Monica
          Chemicalkinetics Mar 28, 2014 06:39 PM

          <$32 for a regular baked salmon(assuming farmed atlantic salmon) seems pretty expensive even for Manhattan standard.>

          Ha ha ha.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            Monica Mar 28, 2014 06:58 PM

            What's so funny?

            1. re: Monica
              ParadiseWaits Mar 30, 2014 04:03 PM

              There's always Manhattan for you sweetheart.

      2. f
        Funkalicious Nov 11, 2013 12:54 PM

        This maybe true in Northern Jersey but not in the central & south. The highly skilled Chief move over to NYC to make alot more $$$

        8 Replies
        1. re: Funkalicious
          Monica Nov 11, 2013 01:18 PM

          Chefs in NYC don't necessarily make more money in NYC...actually a lot of times, it's the opposite.

          1. re: Monica
            l
            LEOFONT Nov 11, 2013 02:32 PM

            I agree, however some of classic places that have "names" will pay top dollar , knowing that they will pay their name executive chefs, 6 figures.

            1. re: LEOFONT
              Monica Nov 11, 2013 02:51 PM

              A lot of chefs can make 6 figures working for hotels and country clubs outside of Manhattan but the same chefs can't make that much in Manhattan. Only the best of best can probably make more than 6 figures in Manhattan. It's amazing how low most chefs get paid.

              1. re: Monica
                vikingkaj Nov 13, 2013 08:48 AM

                Not really amazing if you take the green card status of the average line cook into account.

                1. re: vikingkaj
                  Monica Nov 13, 2013 09:07 AM

                  I am talking about the professionally trained chefs, not the mexican cooks.

                2. re: Monica
                  Chemicalkinetics Nov 13, 2013 08:57 AM

                  <Only the best of best can probably make more than 6 figures in Manhattan>

                  More than 6? Like 7 figures, huh? That is a lot. I can imagine celebrity chefs get that much from advertisements and all, but I am surprised that some professional chefs get 7 figures.

                  <It's amazing how low most chefs get paid.>

                  Yeah, but that is because food industry is about inexpensive food. The flip side of the question is how many people are willing to pay twice as much as they are paying for restaurant food. A $8 burger becoming $16. A ribseye steak increases from $40 to $80....etc.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                    Monica Nov 13, 2013 09:11 AM

                    What I meant was some of the best chefs get paid 6 figures not 7 figures.

                    As for the second one, I am talking about a lot of professionally trained chefs in general where inexpensive food isn't the only thing to consider.

                    I know a bit about chefs salary in general because i have 2 CIA trained chefs in the family who worked for various restaurants, including hotels, country clubs and some of the top restaurants in NYC. Most top NYC restaurants don't pay well at all. It's often country clubs and hotels outside of NYC that pay well.

            2. re: Funkalicious
              vikingkaj Nov 13, 2013 08:42 AM

              Seems like you guys are all talking Manhattan. How do you explain Brooklyn? Does not seem like a lot of corporate entertaining going on there. But plenty of small restaurants serving local sourced food well prepared and reasonably priced.

            3. t
              Tom34 Mar 15, 2013 03:04 PM

              As I indicated before, many big cities like NY also have a large corporate clientele where entertaining business clients at top restaurants is a cost of doing business.

              Cities like NY are also high end entertainment destinations where high end food is part of the entertainment bill.

              The affluence of many of its residents is also a significant factor. Many in this group work very long hours and eat many meals out.

              1. h
                Heatherb Mar 15, 2013 11:41 AM

                What I liked about Jersey is that you can usually find something for everyone. My extended family do not have sophisticated palates - they are happy with red-sauce joints and diners. That's fine.

                My buddies like pub food - plenty of those places around.

                My two best friends are not really that into fine dining, but we have places like the Under the Moon, the Brothers Moon and Blue Bottle Cafe that we enjoy eating at.

                I can honestly say that I have never felt that I lacked for options when I lived in Jersey, unless I was in the center of Hamilton at rush hour and only pizza places were in sight.

                If you're looking for another Per Se, no you're not going to find that outside of an urban area for the most part. New Jersey is all suburbs and depressed cities, so there's little in the way of high-density populations that can support many of those kind of restaurants.

                But if you think this problem is unique to Jersey, you're deluding yourself. Trying to find a decent place to eat in Maryland outside of DC or in PA once you're more than 50 miles from Philly is far more difficult.

                1. r
                  Rigmaster Mar 15, 2013 09:08 AM

                  It's not that NJ consumers are unsophisticated. It's also not that NJ restaurants are any more or less terrible than in other places. However, It's that when you take a chance to try a new place, or even an old standby, you expect better but are underwhelmed. There's probably no single reason things are often bad, but I'll offer the following themes that I see and what it takes to change:

                  1) People continue to frequent bad restaurants. They're all businesses, and if they can make money even if the food and service is terrible, then they will as long as they can. Solution - Diners need to be all right with leaving if poor food or service is delivered. It's a terrible inconvenience given the long waits, but it sends the message that something's really wrong.

                  2) Service and cooking staff really aren't given a stake in the business. While tips are great and many do earn them, I find that the really top non-chain places do something extra to keep their staff turnover low. It's not always pay, but it's something. The real issue is owners that don't really care about anything but the profit. Solution - Get immediate feedback. That's not just stopping by and asking how things are. It's measuring how long people are waiting, picking up every instance or trend when food isn't eaten or returned, and doing something about it on-the-spot.

                  3) Smaller, better prepared menus would increase the quality (and speed) of the food. There are too many selections at most restaurants. Cooks and chefs can't make everything well. Solution - pare down menus, offer more specials based on what's seasonally available, offer a limited selection for children - I know that's a hot button, but restaurants don't make money on children's meals.

                  4) Know the market and clientele well. Too many restaurants actually think they're going to be the next great "it" dining gem. Reality is, few have the food sources, staff, chefs, and location to be great. It's far better to be a very good local gem that gets astounding raves and repeat business from people nearby. Most NJ town restaurants not located in a mall-traffic hotspot just don't have a chance unless they make food good and fairly priced enough for the locals to skip chains or eating at home. Solution - Adjust the menus more often to feature/highlight things that locals will buy eat. There's a reason why good local pizza, sandwich, and burger joints become iconic. Really, Five Guys and Bobby Flay are making a mint off burgers. Some failing local restaurants just couldn't bring themselves to see that need and cater to it.

                  5) NJ restaurants often overlook that fine-dining is risky due to NYC and Philly because those cities offer an event, not just a meal. Spending $60+ for a meal in those cities is easier to stomach because it often comes attached to another event/outing. Even better is the fact that you can find another suitable replacement if your original choice doesn't meet your expectations. I can't stand driving an hour or more in NJ, being underwhelmed by the food or service and willing to leave but have no acceptable alternatives in many locations. Solution - This is a hard pill for NJ restaurants to swallow - but it's all about the value. In some cases, that might mean not overpricing the food. In other cases, it means offering something more. I give an F grade to all restaurants that serve cold bread and ice cold butter. It's almost always and indicator that the rest of the meal experience isn't going to have the "wow" factor or maybe not even be good. That's far more common in NJ than I care to admit.

                  The good news in NJ though is that the appetite for great food and great restaurants is still strong.

                  1. c
                    chip_nyc Mar 15, 2013 05:12 AM

                    I am a very good cook, and I would appreciate a restaurant that makes something at least as well as I make. With the exception of some strip mall ethnic places (very few at that) I have not found any in NJ. Via 45, for example, is severely over hyped. The food is boring and uninspired, and the service is diner-like.

                    Also, the person who said BYO is not the problem, is very wrong. The reason restaurants choose not to have a liquor license is the extortionist cost of it. It is a huge liability. Those restaurants who choose not to have a liquor license need to over charge for food and/or cut corners. Those who have a liquor license need to over charge to pay off the note they took for the license: and they too have to either over charge or cut corners.

                    Simply repealing the liquor license requirement would liberate restaurant owners and you'd see an enlightenment of creativity and quality.

                    26 Replies
                    1. re: chip_nyc
                      MGZ Mar 15, 2013 06:00 AM

                      Like you, chip, I too find my own abilities in the kitchen to be equal or better than many of those who make food for a living. I found that here in NJ, and well as in many other, larger places. Hell, I've had lousy meals in just about every large city in America. But, in the end, "so what?"

                      Be a 'hound and search out some better stuff. It's out there. There must be a reason that, for years, folks have left Manhattan to eat Indian on Oak Tree Road right?

                      As to the liquor license thing, you make a valid point about the effect of the cost, in many communities, upon the restaurant owners bottom lines. Nonetheless, it does advantage the consumer and the various municipalities. I must confess, however, finding some irony in your antipathy to a set of laws that represent NJ's conservative past.

                      One thing I failed to mention. I'm the kinda guy who believes that we each make our own lives, travel our own paths. To me, I can't see why anyone would live anywhere they hate - it's a mighty big world.

                      1. re: chip_nyc
                        j
                        jiffypop Mar 15, 2013 07:39 AM

                        about liquor licenses - gee, do you think that the former hold the mob had over the restaurant and other businesses in the 20th century might have affected the laws in NJ?

                        1. re: jiffypop
                          f
                          fourunder Mar 15, 2013 10:31 AM

                          Are you implying organized crime dictated how liquor licenses were distributed out to the public....or the mob was the government? This is New Jersey specific.

                          1. re: fourunder
                            j
                            jiffypop Mar 17, 2013 11:30 PM

                            hmmm. if the government makes a law in response to some outside agent - like the mob - does that make the government complicit? I'm not going down that path. The link below is a huge document that details the mob's activities as late as 1992 in bars [LOVE the internet]. If this were ANY other board besides a NY/NJ one, there's no way I'd post it. So many people in this country STILL believe that being Italian means you're in the mob. I've actually had people say that AT MY DINNER TABLE IN MY OWN HOUSE.

                            http://www.state.nj.us/sci/pdf/ocbars...

                            1. re: jiffypop
                              f
                              fourunder Mar 18, 2013 12:05 AM

                              you mean Bill Fugazy is not in the Mob?

                              If there is an undesirable that is associated with any particular licensed establishment....then you have no further to look then the local police and State Police to blame.....as they are entrusted to perform the necessary background checks on anyone applying for a license....or working in the establishment for that matter.

                            2. re: fourunder
                              njmarshall55 Mar 18, 2013 08:16 AM

                              I don't have to pump my own gas nor wait my own tables in NJ...coincidence???

                              1. re: fourunder
                                vikingkaj Nov 2, 2013 10:32 AM

                                I tend to think of a lot of the local graft in NJ as "disorganized" crime. Since we have no conflict of interest laws you usually end up doing business with the law firm of the mayor or local councilman if you want to get your application approved. Then of course there are the building permits which get held up for no discernible reason until you switch to the local contractor who just happens to be the brother in law of the councilman. Of course, if your family are the paving contractors for the Garden State Parkway, everything is mysteriously approved with alacrity again for no discernible reason. Then again, treating the mayor and council to lunch with an exclusive brunello or amarone flowing freely, or other gifts delivered to their house like the Langavulin 16 at Christmas won't hurt either. And if all else fails there are the foil wrapped bundles of 100's delivered from the back of the Mercedes in the diner parking lot. Lot's of times it can be difficult to figure out just who you have to schmier so you just end up paying everyone on principle.

                                Check out the story of Schlomo Dwek sometime for an eye opener.

                                1. re: vikingkaj
                                  f
                                  fourunder Nov 2, 2013 10:47 AM

                                  No one is doubting that bribes exist with corrupt officials....but, I recently sold my license and the only township employees spoken with were the Township Clerk and her assistant. The Buyer additionally had to speak with the Police Department to handle her Background Check .

                              2. re: jiffypop
                                y
                                Yum_T Nov 11, 2013 02:18 PM

                                Of course NJ is corrupt. And people would be naive to think Mafia, ex-mafia-now-businessmen are not influencing Government policies. Example in Middlesex county in Central Jersey we still can't buy alcohol in grocery stores, and at Costco on Sunday we can't buy alcohol until noon - everyone is not Christian... its a freakin secular country! Even car dealers are required to close the store on Sunday. Either the government is backwards (like some middle east countries) or extremely corrupt.

                                1. re: Yum_T
                                  l
                                  LEOFONT Nov 11, 2013 02:34 PM

                                  CORRECT,....The Sunday closings till noon goes back to when many people went to church, unlike today..........

                                  1. re: LEOFONT
                                    equal_Mark Mar 28, 2014 10:10 AM

                                    Do you folks honestly feel compelled to buy liquor before noon on Sundays?

                                    1. re: equal_Mark
                                      MGZ Mar 28, 2014 10:13 AM

                                      Sometimes

                                      1. re: equal_Mark
                                        Monica Mar 28, 2014 10:14 AM

                                        Sunday noon bbq requires lots of beer.

                                        1. re: Monica
                                          MGZ Mar 28, 2014 10:39 AM

                                          So does a 'Sunday morning coming down'.

                                          1. re: MGZ
                                            equal_Mark Mar 28, 2014 10:52 AM

                                            Most folks understand the concept of using a refrigerator to keep beer cold overnight... :-)

                                            1. re: equal_Mark
                                              MGZ Mar 28, 2014 11:00 AM

                                              Most folks probably stop drinking and go to bed before all the beer's gone too.

                                              1. re: MGZ
                                                t
                                                Tom34 Mar 28, 2014 04:35 PM

                                                Not soccer moms.

                                    2. re: Yum_T
                                      t
                                      Tom34 Nov 11, 2013 05:12 PM

                                      Anybody with $2500. in their pocket can buy a politician. Our founding fathers would be turning in their graves if they saw how the government was for sale and the salesmen's (politicians) careers spanned decade(S).

                                  2. re: chip_nyc
                                    t
                                    Tom34 Mar 15, 2013 10:03 AM

                                    I know several family owned restaurants where the family spent well over $100,000 to obtain a scarce liquor license. If the state significantly increases the number of licenses available, the value of the existing licenses would likely drop significantly as would the marketability of the restaurant itself if the owners decided to sell. This would hit older owners particularly hard as the projected proceeds from the sale of their restaurant with the extremely desirable / valuable liquor license may make up a big part of their retirement nest egg. I don't think younger folks who took on mountains of debt to acquire a L.L. would want to see the market flooded with them either.

                                    1. re: Tom34
                                      MGZ Mar 15, 2013 10:12 AM

                                      That is a very good point, Tom. And, one I had not ever considered.

                                      1. re: Tom34
                                        y
                                        Yum_T Nov 11, 2013 07:26 PM

                                        Thats Socialistic Cronyism. The need of the citizens is more important than the need of a few mom and pop store that paid 100K and are scared that their only special offering is liquor license. Restaurants are about good food. Liquor does help make money, but if every place has booze then people will opt for the place with the best food, ambiance and service.

                                        1. re: Yum_T
                                          f
                                          fourunder Nov 11, 2013 07:41 PM

                                          but if every place has booze then people will opt for the place with the best food, ambiance and service...
                                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                          NYC alone, disproves your theory.

                                          There is also no need for any citizen to purchase alcohol, or any product for that matter, at his or her convenience. that's what options and choices are for.

                                          1. re: Yum_T
                                            t
                                            Tom34 Nov 12, 2013 03:00 AM

                                            If you financed your future to obtain one for 6 figures I suspect you would want your money back at a minimum.

                                            1. re: Tom34
                                              y
                                              Yum_T Nov 12, 2013 08:48 PM

                                              And they should work to ensure that you are not solely relying on your booze permit - or just convert to a bar instead of being a lousy food option.

                                              Do the laws / authorities treat bar and restaurant the same?

                                              1. re: Yum_T
                                                t
                                                Tom34 Nov 13, 2013 09:15 AM

                                                Most of the privately owned restaurants I know that have a liquor license serve very good food. My issue is if you are of the type that think the 6 figures somebody paid out to get a LL doesn't matter and we should flood the market with LL's which would dramatically reduce the value of theirs, then open YOUR wallet and give them back the 6 figures they paid for it. Bottom line is its always easy to be generous when its somebody else's hard earned money on the line!!!!!

                                        2. re: chip_nyc
                                          f
                                          fourunder Mar 15, 2013 10:28 AM

                                          chip,

                                          I could not disagree with your more about overcharging by most licensed establishments...however, I do agree with you on BYOBs.

                                        3. c
                                          chip_nyc Mar 15, 2013 04:52 AM

                                          I moved to NJ (Holmdel) after 18 years on Manhattan. Restaurants are horrible here. I don't expect the same diversity and options as big city. But, for example, Leesburg, VA, has at least a half dozen very good restaurants. I have not found one anywhere in NJ except ONE in Princeton.

                                          I think it is the horrible, commerce crushing taxes and regulations, including the near impossibility to get a liquor license. Selling alcohol is where profits are made. When a place can sell alcohol, they need to cheapen the costs -- which means lower quality ingredients. Or at the least, playing it safe and "mainstreaming" the menu.

                                          I travel a lot. NJ is exceptionally bad in restaurant quality. I think that's the cause.

                                          Until NJ residents get rid of their affinity for intrusive government, union empowerment, protectionist regulations (like controlling liquor licenses), we will have the crap food we deserve.

                                          (Incidentally, this progressive left wing state makes it illegal to get raw and natural dairy.)

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: chip_nyc
                                            d
                                            Dinermite Mar 15, 2013 05:28 AM

                                            Thanks Chip, for bringing to light the effect that government is having on NJ's commerce, especially the food industry. I agree that over-regulation strangles creativity and the opportnuities to build and expand your business and menu to fit the vision you had when deciding to open it.

                                            1. re: chip_nyc
                                              c
                                              chowhounder411 Mar 15, 2013 08:33 AM

                                              You should travel a lot within your own state and you will find some great restaurants. Holmdel itself is a wasteland for food but the James Beard recognized Drew's Bayshore Bistro was in nearby Keyport before Sandy destroyed it (they will supposedly reopen soon). Chengdu 23 is better than Szechuan in Manhattan though I haven't been to Flushing so I can't say it's better than all of NY. Pilsener Haus & Biergarten puts NY biergartens to shame. Shumi. Porta. Thirty Acres. American Cut. I have yet to try but they are getting hype: Pig & Prince, Sati's, Zeppoli, VB3. Your car is your friend. The concentration of great restaurants within several square miles that you seek does not exist here but the restaurants are not "horrible here."

                                              I appreciate your sentiments on our high taxes and overregulation but the least regulated states with low taxes aren't exactly culinary meccas. Last I checked, NY was a bit overregulated, I even heard something about a soda ban once...

                                              Additionally, the craft beer movement within NJ is growing in part thanks for Gov. Christie and his loosening of regulations.

                                              1. re: chowhounder411
                                                h
                                                HillJ Mar 15, 2013 09:10 AM

                                                Just to clarify, Drew's is reopened.

                                                1. re: chowhounder411
                                                  Chemicalkinetics Mar 15, 2013 10:30 AM

                                                  <Additionally, the craft beer movement within NJ is growing in part thanks for Gov. Christie and his loosening of regulations.>

                                                  ??? Really? What did he do or his administration?

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                    c
                                                    chowhounder411 Mar 19, 2013 01:13 PM

                                                    !!! "Gov. Chris Christie today signed a law expanding the amount of suds a New Jersey microbrewery can produce, sell and offer for samples. It also gives brew companies the chance to increase the number of sites they open."

                                                    http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/...

                                                2. re: chip_nyc
                                                  Chemicalkinetics Mar 15, 2013 10:38 AM

                                                  <I moved to NJ (Holmdel) after 18 years on Manhattan. Restaurants are horrible here. I don't expect the same diversity and options as big city. But, for example, Leesburg, VA, has at least a half dozen very good restaurants. >

                                                  I have lived in NJ for several years. I have lived in California and Georgia. I have spent time in numerous other states and countries, like Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Denver, Seattle, Richmond, Vancouver, Toronto, Hong Kong, Taipei...etc. I have to say that I have had not-so-good food experience in New Jersey compared to other places. I don't know exactly why, but I have some speculation.

                                                  What I truly do not understand is this: Why is there is New Jersey board on Chowhound? I know it is strange because most people complain the other way around, but I really don't get it. I understand why New York and San Francisco have their own boards, but why New Jersey? Conversely, the state of Georgia or Virgina does not.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                    m
                                                    maditudinal Mar 15, 2013 11:10 AM

                                                    chowhound started in NY, so it's not surprising that there's a NY-centric view in the boards. The only state boards are NJ, PA, FL and HI. HI is understandable, you pretty much can't go to any other state for food. FL has a large amount of NY metro area ex-pats. To be consistent, there should be a CT board, but it seems to be re-branded as "Southern New England".

                                                    My wild guess is that CH is popular in the NY and SF metro areas (and to a lesser extent, some of the other larger metro areas). Not so much in the rest of the country.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                      MGZ Mar 15, 2013 11:18 AM

                                                      "Why is there is New Jersey board on Chowhound? I know it is strange because most people complain the other way around, but I really don't get it. I understand why New York and San Francisco have their own boards, but why New Jersey? Conversely, the state of Georgia or Virgina (sic) does not."

                                                      Density of population. We ain't Montana, my friend. This State has more folks per square inch than any other.

                                                      1. re: MGZ
                                                        Chemicalkinetics Mar 15, 2013 11:48 AM

                                                        <Density of population>

                                                        I agree. I absolutely agree. We just don't have the density of good restaurants. :P

                                                        I think there may be more good restaurants and certainly more intereting restaurant in Virigina than in New Jersey.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                          m
                                                          maditudinal Mar 15, 2013 12:10 PM

                                                          You've obviously been only to the good parts of VA and the bad parts of NJ :)

                                                          There are plenty of good restaurants in NJ. You just need to make more of an effort to find them...

                                                          1. re: maditudinal
                                                            Chemicalkinetics Mar 15, 2013 12:33 PM

                                                            <You've obviously been only to the good parts of VA and the bad parts of NJ :)>

                                                            You know. That is a very fair argument. Yeah, deep down I have thought about that too. I tend to just go whereever in NJ. For my VA trips, I research ahead of time.

                                                  2. c
                                                    chowhounder411 Feb 5, 2013 08:45 AM

                                                    I appreciate your sentiments on NJ lacking fresh moderately priced food. This is a common complaint of mine. Most towns lack quality moderately priced dining - I find myself begrudgingly driving to places that do when I want something quick; I've learned laziness will only get me a bad meal. I honestly think blame lies with the numbers whether it's restaurateurs not liking the margins or the high costs of operating a business in this business-loving state (SARCASM). Fine dining establishments using farm fresh food aren't exactly doing molecular gastronomy in NJ but they are charging a lot for the dishes they put out.

                                                    My favorites for mid-priced meals are Chengdu 23 (Wayne), Origin Thai (Morristown, Basking Ridge, Somerville) and real smoked barbecue at Jersey Shore BBQ (Belmar) or Local Smoke (Neptune). Neapolitan comparable in quality to Brooklyn can be had at Porta (Asbury Park) and Mossutos (Wall).

                                                    As for the NJ dining scene in general, there is great food but not in every town. You can't expect the density of establishments serving quality food to be like NYC but we still fare better than most states. There is plenty of garbage in NY too, from soggy pizza to lipstick on a pig fine dining. I'm looking at your posts - I've driven in mind numbing traffic to Brooklyn just for dinner at Roberta's and Paulie Gee's. I've also driven 90 minutes to a restaurant elsewhere in NJ. Sushi comparable to the best in NY is here - Shumi (Somerville). I prefer the food at Forgione's American Cut in AC to his place in Lower Manhattan. Great food is here. But you have to get in the car and drive.

                                                    1. GraydonCarter Jan 5, 2013 08:33 PM

                                                      One note that hasn't been mentioned... how crowded NJ is. I've heard people say they would not live in NJ if they could have the same job elsewhere. There are just a lot of us living here.

                                                      The impact of this is that even mediocre places can survive.

                                                      It also means that with so many people crowded into such a small area, we have some pretty good choices. My local diner serves some above average food. Why go to a fancy place like Cubanu when Galaxy Diner does a fair dinner?

                                                      This is unique to NJ. You can't find a Jersey-style diner in Central Maryland.

                                                      1. j
                                                        jiffypop Jan 4, 2013 02:18 PM

                                                        I've read all 98 responses, and most of them have raised some interesting, and valid, points. i agree with those who said that restaurants migrate to the middle-of-the-road taste level. And remember, we've had a lot of in-migration over the years, including people who think that garlic is exotic [it's true - i've met them].

                                                        Red sauce - now THERE's a debate. Any red-sauce italian place will feature the sauce that the chef grew up with, and there's huge variation right there. My grandmother taught me no fewer than 4 red sauces [marinara, meat, veggie, and bolognese - yes, the meat and bolognese sauces are very different].

                                                        I've run across italian restaurats that have had menus similar to the one posted from Calabria - it's sort of a surprise to stumble across. Bistro 202 in Lincoln Park is one such surprise, but I've also noticed that the years since they've opened, they're moving to more of the traditional red sauce selections and less of the more Italy-style dishes. But, if you come in with a special request, they'll do their best to accomodate.

                                                        In the upper left hand corner of the state [Warren, western Morris, Sussex] there are quite a few farms that have gone old school: Berkshire pork, heritage chickens, local cheeses, beef, rabbits, lamb, etc. and i KNOW they're selling to restaurants, but I don't know which ones. I don't go out to eat very often,. and when I do, I usually stick close t home.

                                                        So, keep on looking. there IS great food out there - probably not where you expect it to be, though. I remember a wonderful jazz brunch at the old grist mill in Andover. local ingredients, a focused, proud chef, a bottle of champagne, and a very nice young man to share it with. Dirt parking lot, behind a bunch of closed stores, including a plumbing supply place.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: jiffypop
                                                          JustJake Jan 5, 2013 05:08 AM

                                                          I there was a 'like' button here, you'd get one from this writer, jiffypop.

                                                          1. re: JustJake
                                                            j
                                                            jiffypop Jan 5, 2013 07:23 AM

                                                            you are so kind! and that brunch - i don't know which made this old lady's heart go pitty-pat - the food or that nice young man [a colleague from Germany].

                                                            I dragged him off to ShopRite in Lincoln Park afterwards, where he engaged in a long discussion with the head of the new cheese department. Turns out that the young man was shocked at the extent and quality of the selection and the manager was only too happy to talk with him. And I got to shop in peace!

                                                          2. re: jiffypop
                                                            vikingkaj Nov 2, 2013 10:27 AM

                                                            Just curious, does your recipe for bolognese include pancetta, fegata, piselli and panna ?

                                                            Also, when I think of a meat sauce I tend to think of sugo which to me is the sauce that you cook the roast in and then toss this with pasta.

                                                            1. re: vikingkaj
                                                              l
                                                              LEOFONT Nov 2, 2013 10:50 AM

                                                              None of the above....diced carrots, onion, celery, sauteed in pancetta & olive oil, add ground pork, beef, veal, all
                                                              chopped...olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, onions, bay, thyme,
                                                              sauteed,...cup of white wine, chicken both, not beef broth, then add chopped Sam Marzano tomatos, simmer partly covered, one and a half hour

                                                              1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                j
                                                                jiffypop Nov 2, 2013 07:41 PM

                                                                if i have pancetta in the house, chances are that it would land in a bolognese. But i must confess that peas, liver, and cream would probably NOT. Truth to tell, we never used ground meat in it - the meats were always hand chopped. But as with all Italian foods [indeed, all foods in general], there are a zillion ways to make it - and it's a matter of personal preference, the availability of ingredients, and time.

                                                                and what you describe as a meat sauce is pretty much the same as my grandmother's - the sugo

                                                                1. re: jiffypop
                                                                  l
                                                                  LEOFONT Nov 3, 2013 09:13 AM

                                                                  Agreed,.....never put cream, peas, or liver in bolognese,....in many parts of northern Italy where most stay to the time honored traditions, either chopped fine or ground meats are included because the most important ingredient is.....FLAVOR !...and many here in this country don't have that ingredient......my suggestion, experiment with what you like, except for the aforementioned, use FRESH herbs liberally toward the end of the cooking time, and slow cooking in bolognese brings out the flavors,....I cook mine for 6 hours on low in a slow cooker, that concentrates the flavors.......

                                                                  1. re: jiffypop
                                                                    vikingkaj Nov 4, 2013 09:28 AM

                                                                    I was curious since all of these are sometimes used in an Italian bolognese.

                                                                    I will usually start the sauce with a little bacon, or pancetta if I have it. If I am doing this for company or a special occasion I add a few chicken livers when browning the chopped meat. They disappear into the sauce as you simmer it for an hour or two. I find it adds a certain richness to the sauce which doesn't taste at all of liver. But when I am doing it for the family I tend to keep it simple, just beef and pork.

                                                                    I have also had it in Bologna where they have added a little cream to the sauce. Not much, but maybe a couple of table spoons. It also adds a certain richness. Really good with tortoni and tortellini.

                                                                    There are also some recipes that add peas at the end, apparently mostly for color. It's not something I do regularly, but was interested in what others do.

                                                                    Apparently there are as many recipes for Bolognese as there are grandmothers in Italy...

                                                              2. s
                                                                stillnotdon Jan 3, 2013 06:20 PM

                                                                It seems to me that we are getting what we deserve. I sell furniture and we get people who want the most generic stuff--I think the same goes for food. We get all these identical Italian restaurants because that's what most people want. I share the OP's frustration. I live in the Princeton area, and have been frustrated by the high prices and lack of quality, variety, and consistency--and lack of moderately priced "middle of the week " restaurants All you folks who rave about the Blue Bottle in hopewell, for example----I don't get it. I've been twice--each time one of us had a very good entree and one of us didn't. It's expensive, and it is a stretch for me to go there---so why can't both our dinners be good? I can't afford a third try. Bottom line--the food isn't good because the majority of diners don't expect any better. And because it is a "small town" princeton area restauranteurs think they can get away with selling us short. I actually heard a local retailer say that he was advised by others in the area not to offer extended hours because, being the only game in town, his customers were basically at his mercy. So why bother to offer the best service possible? I've lived in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut--and New Jersey (central new Jersey in any case) is the most limited in terms of restaurant variety of any place i've ever lived.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: stillnotdon
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                                                                  lemarais Jan 4, 2013 12:28 PM

                                                                  Very true with furniture--- We did have Seaman's and Levitz go under, but they have a replacement in Bob's.

                                                                  Rule: If something is too cheap to be true, it is!

                                                                  And yes, boilerplate super-ordinary Ital-American is the most popular restaurant type in NJ-- seems that no matter what they serve they will be busy!

                                                                  1. re: lemarais
                                                                    t
                                                                    Tom34 Jan 4, 2013 01:09 PM

                                                                    I think one of the reasons you see so many is the main ingredients (Pasta, Boneless Chicken Breast & BHS veal) are readily available, relatively inexpensive & require little culinary skill to plate with the typical Italian/American menu. Throw in a few easy to prep seafood dishes with cheap farm raised seafood products & your there!

                                                                2. vikingkaj Jan 3, 2013 09:21 AM

                                                                  Also what about a good food truck or two?

                                                                  While I love the grease trucks at Rutgers they don't really count.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                    h
                                                                    HillJ Jan 3, 2013 09:54 AM

                                                                    Have you checked out the Cinnamon Snail when it lands at the RB Galleria?

                                                                    http://njmonthly.com/articles/restaur...

                                                                    this article is a wee bit worn date wise, but the food truck biz is an ever changing location biz. best to brush up and connect with the truck owners FB or Twitter feed.

                                                                  2. vikingkaj Jan 3, 2013 09:18 AM

                                                                    Some background:

                                                                    I've lived in New Jersey for close to 20 years now, in East Brunswick, Edison and now Red Bank.

                                                                    What prompted my post is that we have recently been visiting our daughter in Brooklyn a lot. It seems there that the local food thing has really caught on. Lots of smaller places with creative menus featuring berkshire pork, grass feed rib eyes, rabbit and polenta, etc.

                                                                    On the other hand if i google restaurants in Red Bank 50 percent of what comes up is Italian: Gaetanos, Pasteria, Racioppis, Torcello, Via 45, Basil T's, the Brothers, Pazzo, Tommy's, Buona Sera, the list goes on and on. Most of their menus haven't changed in 5 years. And every other place in town which is Not Italian seems to have a "pasta" option on the menu.

                                                                    Don't get me wrong, some of the Italian places in Jersey are really good. But lots also feature basically red sauce and dough, with trucked in ravioli. If not Attilio's, then they are Attilio's deluxe. It would be nice to have another option or two.

                                                                    Even the supposedly better places in our area like Nicholas, Fromagerie, and the Molly Pitcher have kind of a fusty air. Like simple food, great ingredients, well prepared, at $ 20-30 an entree in an informal but nice atmosphere, is too much to ask for?

                                                                    I know we have great produce in Jersey and we also have lots of culinary school grads. People here also really like to eat and are not unsophisticated. I just think things ought to be better, and I am perplexed as to why they are not.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                      h
                                                                      HillJ Jan 3, 2013 09:34 AM

                                                                      Maybe you suffer local burn out. When I do (from either dining out too much or repeating the same spots for meals too often) I switch gears.

                                                                      You mentioned B'klyn. Well, keep going. That food scene has been hopping for some time already!

                                                                      www.foodcurated.com is where I started.
                                                                      Brooklyn's out door food scene is a learning experience and always a full day of chowhounding.

                                                                      1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                        jrvedivici Jan 3, 2013 09:58 AM

                                                                        I honestly think your making an apples to oranges comparison. I draw this from trying to compare Brooklyn (city) to East Brunswick, Edison and Red Bank (the burbs). Also you mention Food Trucks which are really native to NY (most Burroughs) where they are only a handful of fat sandwich type trucks around colleges as you mentioned.

                                                                        There was a topic similar to this recently where a poster used the term "lily white" reflection of the dining choices in the Monmouth County area. While that term sparked a debate I understood they were saying the majority of dining choices reflect the majority of the market they are located in. NYC/Brooklyn you have a far more diverse population thus a far wider range of dining options some of which might seem more "cutting edge" than the Lilly white that is represented more locally. There are some smaller niche restaurants in Red Bank, Asbury Park and surrounding area's.

                                                                        Good luck but as I said I think your comparing apples to oranges.

                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici
                                                                          JustJake Jan 3, 2013 11:11 AM

                                                                          That was "I" JR, with you hitting the nail on the head as to my intent, at that time - and it still holds true if you took a 'head count' of restaurants (Italian would win in a landslide).

                                                                          Most of the vg restaurants opening up in NYC are in Brooklyn or Queens - they're start ups, small, limited but great unusual menus and tapping into the large produce markets that are proximous to them. That's as exciting to me as it is to Viking or anyone else who loves good food. But that my friend is probably not going to happen here for a long time.

                                                                          Earlier on in this thread, I commented as to the time/expense needed for a local restaurant such as exists in Monmouth to access fresh produce or game etc. Jersey's a big state with a lot of miles to cover. A Brooklyn or Queens restaurant can probably access a great produce wholesaler, meat wholesalers within 20 minutes and that's probably the diff between the city and Jersey.

                                                                          While I used to sometimes 'tire' of Joe Romanowski's standard menu (only because of the times that I've dined there over the years) - it was his 2-3 specials, his soup special, his salad or appetizer special which caused me not to shut him down as they were always superb.

                                                                          I hope he gets up and running again.

                                                                          1. re: JustJake
                                                                            jrvedivici Jan 3, 2013 12:48 PM

                                                                            I honestly didn't recall who it was not that I would have kiss and told. I understood the point you were trying to make but it got blown out of proportion by the PC police.

                                                                            Anywho as stated I think that is similar to what vikingkaj complaint is. He's got a City palate while living in TGIF burbs.

                                                                      2. Angelina Jan 2, 2013 05:25 PM

                                                                        Go here...

                                                                        http://www.shirincafe.com/

                                                                        In Manalapan....BYOB..Russian

                                                                        SOO good!!!

                                                                        1. t
                                                                          tamerlanenj Jan 2, 2013 04:02 AM

                                                                          Bivio in Little Falls is better than any pizza in Manhattan. FACT.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: tamerlanenj
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                                                                            fourunder Jan 2, 2013 10:36 AM

                                                                            FACT....

                                                                            the female owner hostess is rude......but I'll concede the pizza is good.

                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8480...

                                                                            1. re: fourunder
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                                                                              lemarais Jan 2, 2013 12:12 PM

                                                                              Ever tried the pizza at Patsy's-- 117th and 1st Ave?

                                                                              1. re: lemarais
                                                                                f
                                                                                fourunder Jan 2, 2013 01:13 PM

                                                                                Yes...it's one of the few things we can agree on.

                                                                                1. re: lemarais
                                                                                  e
                                                                                  EL7 Jan 2, 2013 07:38 PM

                                                                                  PATSY'S!! OH YES!!! I grew up there! That IS the best pizza ever... at least in my world! Those were the days, talk about old school Italian! Thanks for the memories...

                                                                            2. h
                                                                              HillJ Jan 1, 2013 10:04 PM

                                                                              I don't follow the hit on Jersey folks. Not that I'm offended. For the last few years I've lived on both coasts because of work but I'm a NJ gal. Whatever the "beef" over what Jersey has to offer, what I'm reading could be applied anywhere.

                                                                              Terrible restaurants exist anywhere.

                                                                              1. Chemicalkinetics Jan 1, 2013 09:55 PM

                                                                                I have no idea. I have spent a lot of time in a few other states, and I am not sure why New Jersey has a lot of subpar restaurants. Maybe it is a marketing thing. It isn't so much New Jersey consumers are unsophisticated. Maybe Jersey residents like "good deal" meal, so they like inexpensive and large portion meal.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                  t
                                                                                  Tom34 Jan 2, 2013 10:14 AM

                                                                                  "Good Deal Meal" - I think there is something to this. The mid Atlantic region has pretty high wages and long hours to go with those wages. States like NJ have very large suburban cookie cutter bedroom communities which are often supported by 2 professional full time salaries with long hours. More frequent $50.00 out the door for a family of 4 may be more desirable than less frequent $100.00 out the door for a family of four.

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                    JustJake Jan 3, 2013 11:20 AM

                                                                                    It will always be quality over quantity for this writer. Always.

                                                                                    You'll never find me at an AYCE or a Buffet.

                                                                                  2. briansnat Dec 31, 2012 10:43 PM

                                                                                    Guess what, New York City is full of awful restaurants too. The population of NJ is roughly equal to the population of NYC, but the good places aren't necessarily a 5 minute subway ride away. You may have to drive 20, 40 or 90 minutes to get to one of the many very good restaurants in the state.

                                                                                    BTW, I bet someone who moves from Paris probably wonders why there are so many terrible restaurants in NYC.

                                                                                    25 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: briansnat
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                                                                                      LEOFONT Jan 1, 2013 08:21 AM

                                                                                      Problem with New Jersey Italian restaurants, they all have the same "cookie cutter" menu's....you see one menu, you seen them all !.....In NYC, go to any Mario Batali restaurants and you'll see AUTHENTIC Italian foods that NJ menu's never list.....what the common thread is here, is that their afraid to put something new and authentic on their menu's
                                                                                      concerned whether it will sell.
                                                                                      .......

                                                                                      1. re: LEOFONT
                                                                                        h
                                                                                        HillJ Jan 1, 2013 09:48 AM

                                                                                        Oh now LEOFONT in all fairness, you really believe that the tomato sauce from different Italian restaurants in NJ all taste the same? That the pasta entrees are identical? If that has been your experience, I have to wonder where you've been eating.

                                                                                        1. re: HillJ
                                                                                          t
                                                                                          Tom34 Jan 1, 2013 10:25 AM

                                                                                          I have found that chains that cater to reasonably priced family dining do stay middle of the road with taste regardless of the state their located in. Years of tasting surveys which involve children all the way up to grandma support their decision.

                                                                                          On the other hand, I have found incredible variation with independently owned Italian Restaurants. There are row home restaurants in S. Philly that are so authentic they would make Batali's commercialized restaurants look like Olive Garden. I will also say you better know what your ordering at a small "Authentic" S. Philly Italian Restaurant because some of the flavors are not what typical american's are used to.

                                                                                          1. re: Tom34
                                                                                            h
                                                                                            HillJ Jan 1, 2013 10:35 AM

                                                                                            Since I don't eat at any Italian chains at all I'll defer to your first hand experience. But I was thinking only of my experience with independent Italian restaurants. The sauce is signature for each place and I would be hard pressed to say the same cookie cutter experience.

                                                                                            1. re: HillJ
                                                                                              t
                                                                                              Tom34 Jan 1, 2013 10:52 AM

                                                                                              Agree 100%. I can't speak to North Jersey, but the variation with S. Jersey & S. Philly independently owned Italian restaurants run the gamut and I would suspect the same for North Jersey. That's what made me think Leofont's NJ experience involved mostly chains.

                                                                                            2. re: Tom34
                                                                                              l
                                                                                              lemarais Jan 1, 2013 10:46 AM

                                                                                              There's nothing "authentic" about Italian-American red sauce fare-- Carbonara with cream (yuk) Chicken Francese, etc. Dishes never to be found in Italy, if that's what you mean by "authentic".

                                                                                              Here's an AUTHENTIC menu, from a restaurant I frequent on vacation in Liguria (Northwest):

                                                                                              http://www.magiarge.it/sitomagiarge/m...

                                                                                              1. re: lemarais
                                                                                                t
                                                                                                Tom34 Jan 1, 2013 11:46 AM

                                                                                                I don't know about red sauce not being authentic. Growing up a friend's off the boat grandmother who did not speak a word of English & wore nothing but black dresses made an unbelievable red sauce. I do recall though it was very different & not sweet like what I was used to.

                                                                                                Looking at your menu, I have seen some similar flavors in S. Philadelphia. That is precisely why we only go there with an old Italian friend who can guide us because, for example, what I think of as a little Sardine flavoring is more than likely very different from what is being served. But yes, people have to be careful when they use the word "authentic" because in most cases it seems we Americans have put a pretty significant twist on things.

                                                                                                1. re: lemarais
                                                                                                  seal Jan 1, 2013 12:08 PM

                                                                                                  Not sure if you read Italian, but last time we were here several of the primi were in a red sauce and two of the secondi were in a cream sauce. Just sayin...

                                                                                                  Oh, btw, we always find a wide disparity in dishes from different regions of Italy, much less out of country.

                                                                                                  http://aigondolieri.com/elenco_menu.a...

                                                                                                  1. re: seal
                                                                                                    l
                                                                                                    lemarais Jan 1, 2013 12:32 PM

                                                                                                    Absolutely! Italy has 20 regions, and the menu varies considerably from region to region. Sure, they have tomato based sauces, and use a bit of cream here and there (NEVER in Carbonara!)

                                                                                                    But there is nothing on Magiarge's menu resembling anything on an Italian-American restaurant here. No "authenticity". I particularly love when Ital-American restos use the terms "Northern" or "Southern" Italian here-- a complete ruse, no meaning whatsoever!

                                                                                                    1. re: lemarais
                                                                                                      t
                                                                                                      Tom34 Jan 1, 2013 02:12 PM

                                                                                                      Yeah, but don't forget, America is the melting pot of the world and what sell's in Italy to native Italians or tourist may not appeal to Americans on a large scale on a regular basis. Same goes for any cultural cuisine. The beauty of the US is with a little homework you can find both Authentic & Americanized.

                                                                                                  2. re: lemarais
                                                                                                    ttoommyy Jan 1, 2013 02:34 PM

                                                                                                    @lemarais
                                                                                                    It is authentic in that it is the cuisine of the Italians who immigrated to he US and had to make due with the ingredients they found here. Most of the "red sauce" restaurants make dishes that have something in common with a dish back in southern Italy, not the north. When it is good, it is very good. It is the food that I, as a second generation born in the US Italian American, was raised on. Yes, the food in Italy is wonderful, but it is like comparing apples to oranges.

                                                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy
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                                                                                                      fourunder Jan 1, 2013 02:44 PM

                                                                                                      .....or menton to marais

                                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy
                                                                                                        l
                                                                                                        lemarais Jan 1, 2013 03:28 PM

                                                                                                        Ok, yes, it is "Authentic Italian American". But you will never see most of the dishes on the menu at a resto here anywhere in Italy. "Southern Italy" has 8 regions, all with different food, all with nothing to do with the characterization "Southern Italian" here.

                                                                                                        Here's a menu from the Southwesternnmost tip of Italy,(Calabria) a terrific restaurant, and not the slightest resemblance to a "southern Italian" menu here! (If you're in this area, I highly recommend it!)

                                                                                                        http://www.antonioabbruzzino.it/publi...

                                                                                                      2. re: lemarais
                                                                                                        equal_Mark Jan 2, 2013 11:09 AM

                                                                                                        It holds true on every online forum regarding food and cooking; when participants pull out the "authentic" card and attempt to out-authenticate each other, all useful discussion is at an end. Does not mater if the topic is Italian, Asian, Mexican or BBQ, when folks start dropping names and links trying to prove their cred, all is lost...

                                                                                                        1. re: equal_Mark
                                                                                                          m
                                                                                                          maditudinal Jan 4, 2013 01:56 PM

                                                                                                          Mark, you're so right, you can't be wrong.

                                                                                                          A classic example of unauthentic cuisine that was actually pretty good was the now-defunct Eurasian Eatery in Red Bank. The menu was full of bizarro culinary creations - Crimean curried lasagna? But most of it was quite tasty. Lord I miss that place...

                                                                                                          As you said, authentic is the foodie variation of Godwin's law.

                                                                                                          1. re: maditudinal
                                                                                                            h
                                                                                                            HillJ Jan 4, 2013 05:01 PM

                                                                                                            Crimean curried lasagna! Was the dish I ordered nearly every time I went there. Even kept a batch or two in the deep freeze. Before they closed I asked for the recipe.

                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ
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                                                                                                              aklein Jan 6, 2013 04:50 AM

                                                                                                              ^^^^^^^ awesome....did you get the recipe? never had the chance. that was my #1 order

                                                                                                              1. re: aklein
                                                                                                                h
                                                                                                                HillJ Jan 6, 2013 05:35 AM

                                                                                                                Yes! They used a mild green curry plus a mild white sauce plus used the dried yellow curry powder and flaked the tofu into small curds while a bit warm and pre sauted all of the vegetables cut into small bite size cubes. EA made small batches and used whole wheat lasagna noodles and mild white cheese crumbles. Oven at 375 until the dish was super melty.

                                                                                                                Their recipe was all about the lazy mans layering of flavors on hand. Cool approach.

                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ
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                                                                                                                  aklein Jan 6, 2013 06:22 AM

                                                                                                                  thanks, HillJ... sorry for going OT... back to your regular programming!

                                                                                                                  1. re: aklein
                                                                                                                    h
                                                                                                                    HillJ Jan 6, 2013 07:42 AM

                                                                                                                    You're quite welcome. Deserves being said! This threads was kinda bumming me out til now.

                                                                                                    2. re: HillJ
                                                                                                      drongo Jan 2, 2013 06:01 PM

                                                                                                      One thing I like about living here is that, provided I stay away from the chains, there's a diversity of Italian-American restaurants -- from awful to excellent, but not all the same. As far as "authentic" is concerned.... I worked for a company that had a site in Pomezia (near Rome) in Italy. We had a group of senior managers who visited us one year --- and some wiseacre decided we'd go to a local Italian restaurant. We were all nervous about how our visitors would respond to the food -- but they LOVED it! They said they liked it because it was so different -- they couldn't get that kind of food back home in Italy!

                                                                                                      (I remember this same group also wanted to spend half a day at the Short Hills mall -- perhaps they don't have big department stores in Rome!)

                                                                                                      1. re: drongo
                                                                                                        ttoommyy Jan 3, 2013 03:54 AM

                                                                                                        Many Italians (from Italy) I know love to eat "American food" when visiting here. That includes Italian American food and hamburgers, no matter where, even McDonald's.
                                                                                                        As far as department stores go, they have them in Rome, but not quite on the level that we have them, especially all in one place!

                                                                                                    3. re: LEOFONT
                                                                                                      c
                                                                                                      coldsolderjoint Jan 1, 2013 10:41 PM

                                                                                                      Haha.. im not getting into the main discussion here.. but just a jeer.. I was in Vegas 2 weeks ago and went to Mario Batali's Restaurant. Quite Pricey in our tastes - $160 for two people which included only 1 beer, and 1 Bellini.

                                                                                                      While the appatizers and homemade meats were absolutley delicious, and the handmade gelatto was quite good, we found the pasta entree's we got to be quite mediocre and very salty. I woulda rather had the big old aluminum tin of chicken parm and spaghetti or penne vodka that is the staple container of the mom and pop pizzeria around here..

                                                                                                      just saying..

                                                                                                    4. re: briansnat
                                                                                                      JustJake Jan 3, 2013 11:20 AM

                                                                                                      It will always be quality over quantity for this writer. Always.

                                                                                                      You'll never find me at an AYCE or a Buffet.

                                                                                                      1. re: JustJake
                                                                                                        m
                                                                                                        maditudinal Jan 4, 2013 02:05 PM

                                                                                                        JJ - does one necessarily mean that you can't have the other?

                                                                                                        A lot of Indian restaurants offer AYCE lunch buffets. And many of them are quite good (i.e, Rasoi II in Iselin).

                                                                                                    5. seal Dec 31, 2012 07:38 AM

                                                                                                      Since I enjoy more than a few local restaurants, I can't believe I am replying to this thread...

                                                                                                      As a person with the cooking skills and recent motivation to do something different with my life, I have just completed a fairly exhaustive study of the feasability of opening a restaurant here in Monmouth County. My conclusion is that it would be extremely hard to make a decent living. I now fully understand why so many places choose the higher profit margin options like pizza, steak, or burgers.

                                                                                                      I wish we had a similar setup to Singapore, where cooperative food courts offer a plethora of one chef one specialty tiny joints that do nothing but crank out their one dish all day long. Even a food truck seems like a financially risky venture on paper.

                                                                                                      So my statement now is just the opposite from the OP's. I can't believe that there are so many good places that are making a go of it locally.

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: seal
                                                                                                        t
                                                                                                        Tom34 Dec 31, 2012 01:49 PM

                                                                                                        "I can't believe that there are so many good places that are making a go of it locally"

                                                                                                        With food costs up and disposable middle class income down it is getting harder and harder. My friends in the business tell me that (M - TH) foot traffic is at historic lows & if it doesn't get better many will be cutting back hours during the week. Whole PSMO choice grade Tenderloin topped $ 11.00 lb wholesale recently. Very hard to deal with such costs!

                                                                                                        1. re: Tom34
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                                                                                                          fourunder Dec 31, 2012 01:54 PM

                                                                                                          meat prices are going higher for 2013

                                                                                                          1. re: fourunder
                                                                                                            t
                                                                                                            Tom34 Dec 31, 2012 02:41 PM

                                                                                                            Yeah there might be a brief $ drop in Jan/Feb but overall 2013 doesn't look like a good year for beef lovers.

                                                                                                      2. JustJake Dec 30, 2012 03:42 PM

                                                                                                        MGZ, you just made a friend for life.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: JustJake
                                                                                                          MGZ Jan 2, 2013 11:14 AM

                                                                                                          Thanks. A grumpy ol' cuss like me needs all that he can get.

                                                                                                        2. MGZ Dec 30, 2012 09:32 AM

                                                                                                          Look, I appreciate your Saul Steinberg view of the world. There are only a few cities on the planet that can compete with New York or Philadelphia when it come to good chow. Nevertheless, there are plenty of sh*tty spots in both of those cities (as well as in Paris, San Francisco, London, etc.).

                                                                                                          There are a significant number of gems on this side of the Hudson. In addition to those specific places suggested by others, you might want to look for Indian or Chinese in and around Edison. There is solid, authentic Mexican all around too. Moreover, there are a plethora of joints putting out great pizza - in a few different styles. None of these could be considered expensive. Oh, and you might want to consider the Portuguese offerings in Newark. (I'll give you we have no good barbecue, but they don't have any in Manhattan, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, DC, and many other culinary capitals)

                                                                                                          Certainly, things could be better. That's true of the restaurant scene anywhere I have ever lived, visited, or even read about. It's also true of just about every facet of life in this Country at this moment in time. Personally, I'm glad that the Garden State has one of the lowest percentages of Chain restaurants in the US. To be honest, I kinda enjoy the hunt for stand out, 'hound worthy spots. That's why were here after all.

                                                                                                          I wish you good luck, the patience to be cool, and my best wishes that you find a few places you love to eat in the myriad small towns that comprise this State.

                                                                                                          1. corvette johnny Dec 29, 2012 08:53 PM

                                                                                                            On my iPad so can't type much yet.

                                                                                                            Viking, what state, and style, do you prefer for food? I've spent some time in a few.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: corvette johnny
                                                                                                              vikingkaj Mar 28, 2014 07:43 AM

                                                                                                              I love all kinds of food as long as it is good. I don't eat bugs and I don't eat brains or spinal cords (spongiform encephalopothy risk). Other than that, just about anything. I'm also a pretty good home cook of Swedish and German ancestry, so when it comes to those dishes I make my own.

                                                                                                              My favorite US food cities in order are as follows:

                                                                                                              1) Narlins (New Orleans) is probably the best food city in the country. People care about food and it shows. It is hard to find a bad meal in New Orleans unless you frequent the total tourist traps, and even some of those are pretty good.

                                                                                                              2) SF Bay Area and Sonoma/Napa. Great variety, especially good with lower end Asian and Mexican places, also a lot of great new American places. Always fun.

                                                                                                              3) Brooklyn is my new fave. Pok Pok, Buttermilk Channel, Prime Meats, Al di La, Frannies, Paulie Gees, Fette Sau, St. Anselm, Saraghina, the list goes on and on. Lot's of new places serving locally sourced food with smaller menus at reasonable prices, which is what I look for.

                                                                                                              4) Chicago is a sentimental favorite. Some of the food you can get there you can only get there, like a real hot dog (Vienna beef natural casing with the works including the green relish & little peppers), an Italian beef sandwich (all about the "stance"), or south side thin crust pizza. There are also some interesting newer places like Frontera.

                                                                                                            2. c
                                                                                                              cantkick Dec 29, 2012 06:11 PM

                                                                                                              One answer is: because there are a lot of restaurants in Jersey.

                                                                                                              Really, the question should be, "Why are there so many terrible restaurants in (fill in the blank)." No matter where you go, you will find a lot of terrible restaurants. Yes, even in NYC. The percentage of "terrible" restaurants in NJ is no more than anywhere else. In fact, I'd bet there is a greater proportion of bad restaurants in NYC.

                                                                                                              NJ has many fine restaurants, rivaling or exceeding those in NY. If you haven't discovered them yet, shame on you.

                                                                                                              1. Monica Dec 29, 2012 05:36 PM

                                                                                                                I have lived in NJ for last 6 years and I still haven't been to my town diner and Chinese restaurants. We exclusively dine in Manhattan when we do.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: Monica
                                                                                                                  JustJake Dec 30, 2012 06:47 PM

                                                                                                                  M, just outta curiosity - what town do you now call home?

                                                                                                                2. b
                                                                                                                  BigGeorge Dec 29, 2012 05:31 PM

                                                                                                                  I agree that the high cost of liquor licenses is one big reason. Its very hard for an owner of a small restaurant to turn a profit. If he is not making money he will use cheaper food.

                                                                                                                  Also, this country thrives on mediocre restaurants. People are more interest in quantity, than quality.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: BigGeorge
                                                                                                                    f
                                                                                                                    fourunder Dec 29, 2012 06:33 PM

                                                                                                                    The high cost of a liquor license has very little to do with the success of any particular restaurant. BYOBs already enjoy a significant profit above their food costs....a better number than those with liquor licenses in fact. Every BYOB I have ever been too charges more, or equal to, for a comparable dish in a similar restaurant with a liquor license...so let's dispel that myth. Success comes from running an efficient operation and having reasonable costs associated with the operation and business plan developed to open the business. The cost of a brand new kitchen, new furniture and high rent will harder to maintain than a more modest one whose owners purchased their (good) furniture from someone like the former at auction and has less rent to pay.

                                                                                                                    Also, liquor and soft drink consumption is way down.....just read the comments on this site how liquor, wine and soda markups are offensive.

                                                                                                                    The bottom line is gross sales and cash flow keep a restaurant in business. The more sales, the more money. Three of the best restaurants in Bergen County are BYOB and each have been in business for over 10 years...probably closer to 20 or even more.

                                                                                                                    The Saddle River Inn
                                                                                                                    Cafe Panache
                                                                                                                    Cafe Matisse

                                                                                                                    All three have gone on record they have no desire to own a liquor license for their business.

                                                                                                                    I would agree though that many restaurants compromise on their quality and standards.....and failure is inevitable for those that do so.

                                                                                                                    1. re: fourunder
                                                                                                                      t
                                                                                                                      Tom34 Dec 30, 2012 05:47 AM

                                                                                                                      "Many restaurants compromise on their quality & standards.....and failure is inevitable for those that do so."

                                                                                                                      If there was a restaurant bible, the above quote would be chapter 1, page 1.

                                                                                                                  2. t
                                                                                                                    Tom34 Dec 29, 2012 03:08 PM

                                                                                                                    To consistently put out fantastic meals requires a tremendous amount of time, effort & knowledge and also using the best quality ingredients, all of which are very expensive and require a consistent customer base to support the menu prices. Places like NYC have a wealthy population and it is also a destination spot for wealthy out of state big spenders as well as high level corporate entertaining. Bottom line, different market.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Tom34
                                                                                                                      Curlz Dec 29, 2012 05:21 PM

                                                                                                                      I agree with most of what you've said, Tom--except for places like these requiring "a wealthy population that is also a destination spot"--some of the places I mentioned above meet the other criteria and they're certainly not pulling in a wealthy customer base to survive--just a consistent one!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Curlz
                                                                                                                        t
                                                                                                                        Tom34 Dec 30, 2012 01:33 PM

                                                                                                                        High expendable income / entertainment destination / corporate dining & big city lifestyle are not absolutely necessary for "Fine" dining but they sure help, especially during the M -TH period when many suburban fine dining restaurants sit empty. I do agree that these factors become less critical with middle of the road restaurants. Good / consistent / fair / L.L.L. seem to be key factors to success.

                                                                                                                    2. l
                                                                                                                      lemarais Dec 29, 2012 12:16 PM

                                                                                                                      Yes, there are a lot of terrible restaurants in NJ. The latest fad is burger joints, they are springing up like rats in the NY subways.

                                                                                                                      There are a few good restaurants out there that meet your criteria, but they are vastly outnumbered by the super-ordinary places.

                                                                                                                      Here's a nice list of some of the better choices in NJ for dining:

                                                                                                                      http://njmonthly.com/blogs/tablehopwi...

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: lemarais
                                                                                                                        RUK Dec 29, 2012 02:27 PM

                                                                                                                        Hmm, haven't seen any of those NY subway burger joints in my area here in NJ......scratching head.....

                                                                                                                        1. re: drongo
                                                                                                                          Chemicalkinetics Jan 2, 2013 05:56 PM

                                                                                                                          Except I am not yet able to find a burger joint I like in NJ.

                                                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/864933

                                                                                                                      2. b
                                                                                                                        bropaul Dec 29, 2012 11:04 AM

                                                                                                                        I wasn't going to reply, but this is a question that has plagued me too for a long time.I think it's based on the assumption that living in a major metropolitan area where people have fairly sophisticated palates and ready access to good ingredients that the overall level of dining should be better than it is. I tend to agree on that point. However, I wouldn't use the word "terrible" to describe most of the places we are talking about, but a large number of the restaurants are truly indifferent or uninspired.

                                                                                                                        Here's the OP's quote "Is a a decent, medium priced restaurant with a limited menu and emphasis on fresh food rather than the mind-numbing variations on reheated Italian too much to ask for?" This is exactly the kind of place I am always hoping for, but rarely find. Even though it's Italian, Via 45 in Red Bank stands out as an example of what I and I think the OP is talking about - limited menu that changes daily based on market availability. Clearly the owner and the chef care both about the food and the diner.

                                                                                                                        I find myself eating at more and more ethnic eateries simply because the food seems generally to be prepared with a greater degree of care and commitment.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: bropaul
                                                                                                                          ttoommyy Dec 29, 2012 02:58 PM

                                                                                                                          Nicely said, bropaul. You eloquently put into words what I have been stumbling about trying to say. Thank you.

                                                                                                                        2. JustJake Dec 29, 2012 07:06 AM

                                                                                                                          AJ, I'm sure that there are just as many if not many more bad restaurants in the SUBURBS of most any state in the Lower 48. NJ, in fact, is probably one of the better states for restaurant quality, etc. One also cannot use nearby NYC or Philly as benchmarks for your little diatribe (controlled, but nevertheless, a diatribe). It's neither fair nor objective.

                                                                                                                          I do feel for you as well - as I am equally frustrated by the lack of fresh food, especially produce. While we don't have a locally sourced pipeline as Cali does, there is NYC/Philly and that begets another hurdle in of itself. There's an inherent cost to traveling there for a buyer/delivery guy, which would tend to put upward cost pressure on that medium priced restaurant you and I so desire. I've occasionally read of small local folks growing their own herbs on a scale allowing for many restauranteurs to have these ingredients. Beans, root vegetables, etc., come December, well, the ground freezes and we're all SOL as we view menu offerings.

                                                                                                                          As for your Italian harangue, I'm right there with you buddy, though as a local, decent to good southern and northern Italian can be had very readily. My continued complaint is the lack of more diverse and quality ethnic restaurants (don't need linen, just great indigenous food). That's changing for the better.

                                                                                                                          In closing, things should and could be better. There's a huge expense in getting a restaurant going and many who are opening up are restauranteurs(who are expanding because the price is right for those properties who have failed - is it a continuum of an already pedestrian original? or is it a place that we truly look forward in checking out?) and let's face it - we all know of those others, that tried to get started because they have money, a crazy sense that they can make tons of money at it (oftentimes by cutting corners, or without a true vision) or just plain idiotic EGO. Thankfully, I've never set foot in a place like that - as I'll continue to use the fine recommendations of fellow CH'ers here and minimize that potential disappointment.

                                                                                                                          Let's hope for a better 2013. While I'm able to write this post tells me it was a good 2012, I'm also ready to write this year off - culinary wise and life wise.
                                                                                                                          Hang in there

                                                                                                                          1. Curlz Dec 29, 2012 06:56 AM

                                                                                                                            Viking (and be nice--Hagar is rather important in my family!), I'm wondering where you are in NJ. Maybe that's part of the issue? I live in NNJ but in a town full of completely mediocre restaurants. BUT. I have a running list of regular places that I love, specificially because they do have the emphasis on great food/ingredients while being moderately-priced AND creative. A few examples:
                                                                                                                            -Next Door in Montclair (and of course, its upscale sister, Blu)
                                                                                                                            -Arturo's in Maplewood
                                                                                                                            -Brick Lane Curry House in Montclair
                                                                                                                            -Fiesta Hut in E. Rutherford (don't let the name scare you)
                                                                                                                            -A Mano in Ridgewood (in its heyday)
                                                                                                                            -As mentioned above, there are interesting Portuguese and Spanish options in the Ironbound (e.g. Marisqueria and Casa Vasca)

                                                                                                                            The bonus? ALL of these happen to be BYO, something people in other states don't usually have as an option. In general, I agree with you--MOST states' consumers are unsophisticated when it comes to eating (in or out), but I also believe that we're far luckier than people in many other states because we have so many options for ethnic food!

                                                                                                                            Would I love an Otto-like Italian place within reach? You bet. But it doesn't seem to exist in NNJ! For me, Italian is rarely on my radar screen, which isn't what you expect from someone who has spent most of her life in NJ--but there it is.

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                                                                              j
                                                                                                                              jmoryl Mar 22, 2013 09:42 AM

                                                                                                                              Nice summary!

                                                                                                                              1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                                                                                MGZ Mar 22, 2013 10:08 AM

                                                                                                                                My only disagreements to your comments are: (a) Nicholas is in Middletown, (b) you failed to mention the Bagel Oven as a gem, and (c) North of the Border offers some pretty solid chow.

                                                                                                                              2. creamfinger Dec 28, 2012 05:50 PM

                                                                                                                                I'm not sure what you mean when you say there is a lot of good food "nearby", but I'm guessing you mean New York City, or maybe Philadelphia. If that's the case, I don't really think it's fair to compare major cosmopolitan urban centers to suburbia. I've lived all over the U.S. and the restaurants in NJ fair no worse than the restaurants in other largely suburban states, and in some NJ communities the dining is much better than you'll find elsewhere. There are hidden gems to be found everywhere, if you just take the time to look for them.

                                                                                                                                1. l
                                                                                                                                  LED Dec 28, 2012 03:18 PM

                                                                                                                                  I would say amen to the OP. I was just looking for somewhere to go out in our bland, bland, blah corner of Union County tonight and gave up. I'd rather eat leftovers at home than shell out money for indifferent service and boring food.

                                                                                                                                  Yes, you can find gems in NJ but you have travel far and wide.

                                                                                                                                  I blame the crappy food choices in our area on the restrictive liquor laws. It must be tough to be a restaurant owner and not be able to capture the markup on booze. I'd happily give up BYOB if it could mean better food.

                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: LED
                                                                                                                                    h
                                                                                                                                    HillJ Dec 28, 2012 05:30 PM

                                                                                                                                    http://www.ursinorestaurant.com/
                                                                                                                                    LED, you didn't care for Ursino?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: LED
                                                                                                                                      JustJake Dec 31, 2012 07:15 AM

                                                                                                                                      Spoken like a true NYC expat (sorry, but when I read a post such as yours, I look at your posting history to get an idea as to the poster's mindset, likes, dislikes, etc (and what I see are posts revolving around the boroughs of NYC and there's nothing wrong with that - btw, you're welcomed to view mine as well ;-).

                                                                                                                                      Us clamshuckers affectionately ascribe the term Bennies for folks such as you (lmao) - and for good reason. Sorry if the food doesn't measure up to NYC standards - how does your mortgage/rent? how about crime? how's your school system? how's the air? the noise, the pollution? how's your quality of life since moving here?

                                                                                                                                      And being a shore guy, or make that a native Jerseyan, you sell Union County way short when you overlook very good restaurants in Westfield, Cranford, Kenilworth, Watchung or even nearby Maplewood which you can spit and hit from the Union Co line

                                                                                                                                      Imagine that - a clam digger who's not supposed to go beyond his own little world having dined in Union County, in Bergen County, in Essex County, Cape May County and Burlington and Mercer Counties to name but a few -- and good ones too.

                                                                                                                                      Fiercely proud of the OLD NJ and what little of it that remains & the vg restaurants, both the 'given and known gems' along with the new ones that continue to spring up - that they continue to prosper and be "THERE" for our collective enjoyment in 2013.
                                                                                                                                      .

                                                                                                                                      1. re: JustJake
                                                                                                                                        vikingkaj Jan 3, 2013 08:59 AM

                                                                                                                                        "Fiercely proud of the OLD NJ and what little of it that remains & the vg restaurants, both the 'given and known gems' along with the new ones that continue to spring up - that they continue to prosper and be "THERE" for our collective enjoyment in 2013."

                                                                                                                                        Name a few...

                                                                                                                                        1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                                                                                          JustJake Jan 3, 2013 10:51 AM

                                                                                                                                          these are personal favorites of mine that I have dined at, some a lot more than others. Not a PerSe nor a Daniel equivalent to be found, and that's ok with me.

                                                                                                                                          Bay Ave. Trattoria - Highlands
                                                                                                                                          Nicholas - Middletown
                                                                                                                                          Whispers - Spring Lake
                                                                                                                                          Piccolal Italia - Oakhurst
                                                                                                                                          Belford Bistro - New Monmouth (Middletown)
                                                                                                                                          Drew's Bayshore Bistro (Keyport)
                                                                                                                                          Stage Left - New Brunswick
                                                                                                                                          Du Pesce Marie - New Brunswick
                                                                                                                                          Sophie's Bistro - North Brunswick
                                                                                                                                          Four Seasons - Piscataway
                                                                                                                                          Water & Wine - Watchung
                                                                                                                                          Theresa's - Westfield
                                                                                                                                          Scalini Fedeli - Chatham
                                                                                                                                          Lorena's - Maplewood
                                                                                                                                          Casa Vasca - Newark
                                                                                                                                          River Palm Terrace - Edgewater
                                                                                                                                          Bacari Grill - Washington Twp.
                                                                                                                                          Blackbird - Collingswood
                                                                                                                                          Ebbit Room - Cape May
                                                                                                                                          410 Bank St. - Cape May

                                                                                                                                          Still yet to get over to the Blue Bottle in Hopewell.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: LED
                                                                                                                                        a
                                                                                                                                        angelopat Mar 28, 2014 01:45 PM

                                                                                                                                        I respectfully disagree with you.I know someone that owned a BYO Italian restaurant and made money.He sold that and bought another with a liquor license and is not doing as well.
                                                                                                                                        There are many places BYO that make money

                                                                                                                                      3. g
                                                                                                                                        gumpycat Dec 28, 2012 03:15 PM

                                                                                                                                        Well, I would think that any real good chef would look to make it in a larger city-----New York or Philadelphia come to mind. So wouldn't it be logical that any real good chef in New Jersey would look to make it in one of those cities? JMHO....

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: gumpycat
                                                                                                                                          ttoommyy Dec 28, 2012 04:32 PM

                                                                                                                                          I agree. Plus good wait staff will go to NYC where they can make much better tips. I waited tables years ago in NJ and so many tips were pathetic. And yes, I was a very good waiter, so it was not me.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: gumpycat
                                                                                                                                            h
                                                                                                                                            Herm Jan 3, 2013 08:18 PM

                                                                                                                                            gumpycat - it would only be logical if said 'real good chef' wanted to live in, or commute to a larger city. If one lived in NJ, and worked both lunch and dinner in NYC, it would most likely mean an 8 AM train in. Combine that with later than suburbia dinner hours, and the same chef is facing a possible 12 or 1 AM train ride home - 5-6 days a week.

                                                                                                                                          2. f
                                                                                                                                            foodieX2 Dec 28, 2012 12:36 PM

                                                                                                                                            Couldn't this be said for any state or that matter any country or provence? I am sure there are just as many bad (terrible) places in New York as there are good..

                                                                                                                                            And honestly there are plenty of terrible places in any big foodie city-NYC, Boston, San Fran.

                                                                                                                                            Questions like these always stump me.

                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: foodieX2
                                                                                                                                              ttoommyy Dec 28, 2012 12:46 PM

                                                                                                                                              "Couldn't this be said for any state or that matter any country or provence?"

                                                                                                                                              Of course it can, but why can't one place have more mediocre to bad restaurants than another? As I mentioned earlier, I live in Hoboken and there are probably 5 restaurants that I will go to on a regular basis. That's it. When you think about how many restaurants are in Hoboken alone (there are 306 listed on Urban Spoon), that is a pretty bad ratio.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy
                                                                                                                                                f
                                                                                                                                                foodieX2 Dec 28, 2012 01:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                Meh- that's like comparing my town to downtown Boston. While Boston has significantly more "good/great" restaurants than mine they also have significantly more "bad/mediocre" ones.

                                                                                                                                                I am sure (ok guessing) that statistically there is a higher percentage of one/no star places in the entire city of Boston than there are in my town. And that's not talking big chains.

                                                                                                                                                You also have to take into consideration your personal taste. There are 5 places that *you* will go to, and possibly they are the same places that your family and circle of friends will go to. Whose to say that they are the same 5 places I (or anyone else) would find the "best".

                                                                                                                                                My town has aprox 30-40 locally owned/operate places (so not counting fast food or national chains) and I only eat at a very few of them on regular basis. However many of them have been in business the entire time I have lived here (14 years) so someone is eating at the others even though I don't like them.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: foodieX2
                                                                                                                                                  ttoommyy Dec 28, 2012 01:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                  I am replying as a CH poster. If I wanted run of the mill food, then I would have more restaurants to choose from; there are many successful restaurants in Hoboken, just not CH worthy. That's the difference.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy
                                                                                                                                                    f
                                                                                                                                                    foodieX2 Dec 28, 2012 06:31 PM

                                                                                                                                                    ah, so you determine what is "chow worthy"and the rest are….what?

                                                                                                                                                    Look at any one of the regional boards and while the there are some places that get a universal nod there are many more that are debated and debated again. "Chow Worthy" is just another name for personal taste. What makes one place chow worthy to one makes it drek for another.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: foodieX2
                                                                                                                                                      ttoommyy Dec 29, 2012 07:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                      Exactly. Everyone on this board determines what is chow worthy. I'm not the only one. But there is a certain standard we all like to achieve.
                                                                                                                                                      Seriously though, for people who like good food, hoboken is notorious for having an over abundance of really mediocre to bad restaurants for the amount of restaurants we have.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy
                                                                                                                                                        r
                                                                                                                                                        roro1831 Dec 30, 2012 05:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                        Agreed about Hoboken

                                                                                                                                            2. c
                                                                                                                                              coachrbc Dec 28, 2012 11:56 AM

                                                                                                                                              Other than Italian not to much. Ridgewood has Brick Street Curry, Latours is good. if you are comparing it to NYC you're right. Good Porteguese in the Ironbound district.Problem is you have to travel far and wide. You just can't walk up the block or pick a neighborhood like in NY. Actually Chicken Galore in Maywood has good peruvian chicken with green sauce and Seafood Gourmet has really fresh fish. I really don't know what your looking for

                                                                                                                                              1. g
                                                                                                                                                Gastronomic Dec 28, 2012 11:36 AM

                                                                                                                                                A Toute Heure?
                                                                                                                                                Loerna's?
                                                                                                                                                Blue Bottle Cafe?
                                                                                                                                                new Ryland Inn?

                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gastronomic
                                                                                                                                                  n
                                                                                                                                                  NYCPA Dec 31, 2012 08:31 AM

                                                                                                                                                  I had dinner at the Ryland Inn last night. I was extremely disappointed. I had the grouper, which was overcooked. My husband had the tuna, asked for it rare, it was also overcooked. The sweet potato soup was too thick and had a weird smokey taste about it. The tab for the dinner was, in my opinion, ridiculously overpriced. We ate at L'Apicio in NYC the night before for half the price, and both the food and the service were twice as good.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: NYCPA
                                                                                                                                                    The Professor Jan 1, 2013 03:34 PM

                                                                                                                                                    Ryland Inn is a mere shadow of what it once was.

                                                                                                                                                    A friend of mine went so far as to call it a parody of what it once was.

                                                                                                                                                2. The Professor Dec 28, 2012 11:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Guess you don't get out much...there are plenty of good restaurants in NJ. Of course, the judgement of what is "good" or "bad" will always be up to the individual.

                                                                                                                                                  Besides...there's good and bad ones in every state. And the proliferation of "chain" restaurants sure doesn't help matters any.

                                                                                                                                                  I will agree, though, that NJ does seem to have an overabundance of rather mediocre Italian restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Professor
                                                                                                                                                    njmarshall55 Mar 15, 2013 09:59 AM

                                                                                                                                                    Amen. When one can quantify what they mean by good and bad (number of minutes before each course is served, number times the wait staff checks on you per hour, etc.) then maybe we'll have a good scale to go by. Until then, it's ALL relative.

                                                                                                                                                  2. equal_Mark Dec 28, 2012 10:02 AM

                                                                                                                                                    Try eating out in Maryland...

                                                                                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: equal_Mark
                                                                                                                                                      c
                                                                                                                                                      cantkick Dec 28, 2012 11:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                      =Mark, you are so right. I'm spending a lot of time in central MD, Howard County to be exact. There is a lot of good ethnic Asian food to be had, but otherwise it's a joke. More chains than what people complain of in NJ. No good delis, no good Mom&Pop places, no seafood other than crab cakes (but they are far better than NJ). Only one worthwhile pizza place. A true wasteland.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cantkick
                                                                                                                                                        Curlz Dec 31, 2012 09:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                        Not sure how far it is from you, but the new Volt restaurant Family Meal in Fredericksburg MD was VERY good...

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: equal_Mark
                                                                                                                                                        JustJake Dec 31, 2012 05:31 AM

                                                                                                                                                        So true =Mark. I have a client in Harford County (??), in the Joppa/Forest Hill area and it has been the worst ever experience trying to find even sub par dining options. Chain city - I cringe just thinking about it.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: JustJake
                                                                                                                                                          c
                                                                                                                                                          cantkick Dec 31, 2012 06:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                          Well, there's a decent sub shop in Aberdeen just outside the APG gate, and a decent Italian place in the boonies (don't ask me where, I wasn't driving). But most of the people I've talked to who moved there from central NJ (and I concur based on my few trips there) would agree with you.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cantkick
                                                                                                                                                            MGZ Dec 31, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                                                                                                                            There's a solid place for crabs in Harve de Grace, as well. Easy on and off from 95 when your passing through: http://www.pricesseafood.com/ Us cranky ol' 'hounds know where to find good chow wherever we go. "The nose, it always knows . . . ."

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: JustJake
                                                                                                                                                            equal_Mark Dec 31, 2012 08:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                            When deciding not to relocate to Aberdeen when my position was transferred there, the lack of decent private, ethnic and Mon & Pop eateries was a big consideration. Given that the area is pretty much a suburb between Baltimore and Philly this lack of diversity is puzzling.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: equal_Mark
                                                                                                                                                              JustJake Dec 31, 2012 11:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                              = Mark. I have a close friend who opted NOT to move to Aberdeen as it's just as bad from a global 'happiness' perspective as he's not a foodie.

                                                                                                                                                              He commutes and hangs his hat at a fellow RU grad's apt (who's single) and books Thursday back up to Tinton Falls. Will do so till he can retire in 2 years.

                                                                                                                                                              My experience culinarily mirror that of your own. It's beyond terribly vapid. A big black hole if you will.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: JustJake
                                                                                                                                                                equal_Mark Dec 31, 2012 12:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                When reading a question such as the one that began this thread I now reflexively think to myself "Try Aberdeen,Md." I have family out in Western Pa, which I used to refer to as "The Gateway to the Culinary Wasteland," but in recent years the scene out there has experienced a bit of a blooming and trips to the area are now pretty enjoyable.

                                                                                                                                                        2. RUK Dec 28, 2012 05:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                          Questions like this tend to leave me speechless.

                                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: RUK
                                                                                                                                                            ttoommyy Dec 28, 2012 06:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                            "Questions like this tend to leave me speechless."

                                                                                                                                                            I thought that also at first, but you know, I live in Hoboken and pretty much always eat at restaurants in NYC. When we do go to a restaurant in NJ, more times than not, I find the service extremely lacking as compared to even the most basic service received in NYC. Call me a snob or what you will, but I've thought this for many, many years...and I have lived in NJ all my 51 years.

                                                                                                                                                            And as for "any place that seems decent at the start usually slides downhill fast" I agree this happens a lot in NJ, but it also happens in NYC as well.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: RUK
                                                                                                                                                              vikingkaj Dec 28, 2012 06:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                              RUK, obviously you have not been to out to dinner in Jersey lately...

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                                                                                                                RUK Dec 28, 2012 07:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                                Very true! We rarely go out to Dinner.
                                                                                                                                                                But when we do, we might look for food I don't usually make. We might be inclined to go to a Vietnamese or Malaysian restaurant or go for a decent Sushi place. No problem there for us, we are not disappointed.
                                                                                                                                                                I could not see myself eating out just to get something I can taylor exactly to our liking at home.
                                                                                                                                                                Still, looking around in my area, eateries in Ridgewood and surrounding for instance always look very busy, how bad can they be?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: vikingkaj
                                                                                                                                                                  JustJake Dec 31, 2012 05:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  When I dine at my favorite NJ restaurant, Bay Ave., I'm treated like family - not a reserved, nose up air of elitism, and stiff robotics but one that's commensurate with the food (real, great quality, friendly yet professional) at this wonderful restaurant that's been around for 20 some years (2 locations) and has continued to find a Top 25 slot in Zagat's year in and year out. It's gotten better, like a fine Crue or Cab.

                                                                                                                                                                  For what it's worth, a trip to SF this fall had me come across this, which is what everyone's been trying to tell you Viking. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/778725

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JustJake
                                                                                                                                                                    vikingkaj Mar 22, 2013 07:44 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    I've been to Palo Alto. It may be a ritzy college town, but it is still a college town. Run-n-Gun burritos and the Soup Factory seem to be the mid-point that sells.

                                                                                                                                                                    Lots of good food further south in the Silicon Valley and up north in Napa, not to mention East Bay and San Fran.

                                                                                                                                                                    By the way, the Asian food market in San Jose is worth a trip on its own. Yum.

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