What restaurants in NEWARK proper - not Bloomfield or Montclair or some place else in the 'burbs - are worth a look? Even for one particular signature dish that's original/authentic/plain old good. We know of the standards in the Portuguese realm, but it seems there are more and more interesting new places in the city and we'd like to support the positive things going on there now. Thanks for any guidance anyone out there can offer.
I worked in downtown Newark for a while, and there really is not. As you mention, there are a variety of the Portuguese/Brazilian places, everyone has their own favorite.
Other than that, of all the places I ate at, the only place I ate at more than once was Dinosaur Barbecue. Sure, they can be criticized for this or that, but I thought the brisket was good, the sauces were fine, and the baked beans quite good.
I have two go to places within Newark aside from those in the Ironbound section, one is Hobby's Deli located just a couple of blocks from the Pru Center and the other is House of Thai, on New Street. House of Thai is a bit of a hole in the wall type place but the food is quite good, and good vegetarian selections, something hard to find in Newark.
I haven't been to Nico's @ NJPAC, supposed to be good. I haven't been to Maize at the Robert Treat Hotel, supposed to be good. I used to go to 27 MIx on Halsey, then it stopped being good. I used to go to Je's on Halsey, but then they closed. There is a Joe's Crabhouse opening on Broad, but it's a chain. Hell's Kitchen is worth a visit I suppose, as is Assaggini de Roma for Italian, but I've come to grips with the fact that the Adega Grill, Seabras, and Fernandes are going to be my Newark destinations for the foreseeable future.
Hobby's and DinoBBQ are solid choices, as is Mompou. Scully's and Bello's also have really great food and drinks (just be careful not to go on a game/event night). For something fancy, Forno's never disappoints and it is always someone's birthday (you get free flan and singing waiters). Most of the other places right next to the Rock (I.e: Edison Ale House) are not worth the money.