Just returned back to Maryland from my visit to Northern NJ last week. During the holiday, got to try a few places recommended here in both NJ and Manhattan. Thanks to all who responded with suggestions.
Molly's Pub at 22nd and 3rd - Can't say enough about the cheeseburger recommended by Jim. It was an awesome display of 10 oz of ground sirloin with lettuce, tomato and cucumber. They cooked it just right with a pink center so it was moist and extremely flavorful. I went hungry and was glad I did afterwards. I thought the fries were also delicious. My dad had the fish and chips which I tried after the burger. I thought they were commendable as well. We ate at the bar opposite the fireplace. The Irish bartender was very pleasant. The bar was smaller than I imagined, but it was very cozy. The holiday lighting inside (throughout the bar) made it appear even more charming. Highly recommend it for the burger-lover. If anyone can recommend a clone in the DC area, please do so.
El Artesano Restaurant at Bergenline and 41st St in Union City, NJ - This was quite an experience with Cuban dining. As was described to me, this area is filled different Latino establishments. If not for the weather last week, it would be quite easy to imagine yourself somewhere in Miami. I went with two other persons. I had the Lechon Asado Al Horno. This is roast pork with black beans and rice and it was excellent. The pork was grilled, very moist and could be cut with the fork. At $5.95, I thought this was outstanding value as the portion was fairly generous. Another had the Ropa Vieja (Shredded beef) which was also very good, but not quite on par with the pork. I wouldn't recommend the third dish, the Pollo Asado. Our experience with that dish in DC has been a moist chicken supplemented with the marinade, or juices. Here, it was served dry, with no juices and not as tasty. However, no quibble with the desserts - they were flat out outstanding. I had the flan with coconut and another had the leche (the "breadcrumbs" dessert). We intended to order the dulce tres leche, but the waitress made a mistake, probably due to the fact we were speaking different languages and doing the "point and order". Anyway, to our good fortune, this dessert was also very sweet, very tasty and we ended up switching back and forth. The Spanish Hot Chocolate was tops. I'm so glad that was suggested. We all ended up getting that and then getting more to go. Both the sit-in and take-out business seemed to be flourishing and the Hot Chocolates (in particular) were in demand with the cold weather. I think it helps if you have some understanding of Spanish here, or a better familiarity with the Cuban menu. Other dishes I saw looked very appealing. Parking also was not a problem as there is a municipal lot directly behind the restaurant with ample spots. The restaurant is more casual than I imagined, but this was not a problem. It has a nice neighborhood-type ambiance to it. Despite the language barrier, the service is attentive and the personnel are all very friendly. I definitely plan to return.
Lombardi's Pizza on Spring St near Mulberry St in Little Italy - Went solo for lunch. Got their at 11:20 and they open at 11:30, but they let me come in from that frigid weather to get a seat early and scan the menu. Didn't have to as I knew I would be getting the standard pizza. I would really like to have tried the salad also, but its built for two and the pizza would be challenge enough. I thought the pizza was outstanding - very simple, but very tasty. I especially enjoyed the thin crust covered with the San Marzano tomato sauce and the fresh mozzarella and basil. Will definitely return..
Grimaldi's Pizza in Hoboken, NJ - This was not a specific recommendation, but I had been to the one under the Brooklyn Bridge once before and wanted to try this one as a quick and recent comparison against the Lombardi's pie. My taste isn't discriminating enough to cite the specific differences here, but I would give the edge to the Lombardi's on flavor. However, I thought the Grimaldi's pie at the Brooklyn establishment the last time was superior to the Hoboken restaurant. Anyway, in it's favor, Grimaldi's Hoboken is larger than Lombardi's and the staff was very helpful in directing me to an area with parking potential, no small task by any means in downtown Hoboken.
Also intended to try Lupa as my Italian restaurant, but was prevented by the weather last Saturday. The snowstorm shut down the PATH train service between Newark and the World Trade Center for part of the day. Maybe next time. Hope this wasn't too long.