Okay all...just for foodie fun on a cold day...let's take an informal poll of the best places (high, middle of the road and cheap end) to eat in NJ, best locales to stroll to find ethnic food, and most overrated. I am a world traveler who loves to eat, and former NYC resident, so I was initially miserable when I came out to the burbs, thinking there would be no wonderful place to eat. I was wrong. While there certainly aren't as many places as NYC, there are many jewels. And, like someone else said on the blog earlier, it's the burbs---so everything is spread out. Add your thoughts, and I will put mine below (decidely Central and Northern end of the state, as that's where I am) to start off.
Mid to higher end restaurants:
***Stage Left in New Brunswick (higher end, unless you do the limited hrs for lunch, but fabulous food, service and wine...will help you with the wine too and not be rude...consistent too...I can never say enough about it...catch their podcasts...go for the special events...Paul Hobbs is coming...sad the wine shop is no more...remember tasting some special barrel bourbons there...yum
Stagehouse (Scotch Plains)...prix fixe great, lovely hangar steak and mushroom soup with truffle oil and a killer potato tarte...average desserts though
Boulevard Five72 in Kenilworth...yum, nuff said
A Toute Heure in Cranford...my shining star of the moment...pleeeeeez go! Fun, original, and on the slow food movement tip. Flavor is "in" again.
Frog and Peach...consistent and good
Catherine Lombardi's in New Brunswick (yum...owned by the Stage Left crew)...fab food...fab cocktails...
A little cheaper Middle of the road in price restaurants:
Makedas in New Brunswick (LOVE IT) or Mesob in Montclair for Ethiopian
Daimatsu Japanese Restaurant in Mountainside...consistent and yummy sushi...ignore the look of the place and go to eat...whatever is on the specials board, make sure you order it...and they know how to do lovely little fried oysters and more
Thailand Restaurant (yes, that is actually the name) in Clark, is consistent and authentic, with great seafood. They're in a converted silver metal diner, but ignore the looks and eat there. Packed on the weekend, for sure. Fast and friendly for takeout too.
Really cheap restaurants/and fab takeout places:
Udupi Village (Montclair)...horrible ambience but the super duper tasty and super inexpensive dosas and uthappams are so filling and yummy
European Provisions in East Brunswick...lovely sandwiches made from their own smoked hams...in the Polish tradition...order a ham here for the holidays, but make sure it has the bone in, as it is more flavorful
Mr. Tod's Pie Factory in Somerset..Chocolate cream, sweet potato, pumpkin, or key lime are my favorites, but all the berry and apple pies are really good, considering no one knows how to make pie anymore, or charges way too much. His price is right. The main locale in Somerset is only for takeout pie, though I heard he has a small place in a different location in Somerset to sit and eat pie too, I think. Do not order for the holidays, unless you are prepared to wait in a massive line snaking out the door. Go on some other random weekend and treat yourself.
Locales for cheap eats that I love:
1/Polish food shops in Linden (homemade hams and cold cuts to die for at fab prices for fresh meat)...and some prepared foods, like stuffed cabbage, pierogies, mushroom soups, mushroom salads, and more
2/Little India in Edison and Iselin...chaat shops, markets, cheap eats and more...pick up the Indian meal in a bag and some yogurt and mango pickle at a market and you have a cheap meal that's way more nutritious and inexpensive than fast food
4/AUTHENTIC Japanese and not for an arm and a leg, head over to Edgewater and go to Mitsuwa plaza mall for wonderful food stands with real Japanese broth soups (ramen), soba, rice bowls, sushi, udon, and more...there's wonderful Japanese food markets with tons of wonderful teas, cakes, confections, candies, and fish...don't forget to stop for green bubble tea!
Place I haven't gone to yet, but I am dying to go to, considering how many people I know love it:
Lorena's in Maplewood
Most overated and overpriced and wouldn't return:
David Drake (for the price and all the hype, I was expecting one of the more memorable meals of my life)...good but not great...though the place is romantic
Would love some more ideas from you or thoughts on my picks!