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The EAT List

The 15 best restaurants in New Jersey

From old-school purists to the new guard, chefs at the best restaurants in New Jersey merge a local and global perspective

Written by
Jenn Hall

You can tell a lot about New Jersey by the polarity of its nicknames. The Garden State. Dirty Jerz. But want to know a little secret? Both are a badge of pride. Locals know that this densely packed state has a ton of great things to do, not least of which is gorging on amazing food. Sure, New York and Philly are in Jersey’s backyard, and locals are happy to take advantage of that. But there’s no need to cross a bridge to find incredible meals. Book a hotel—and some world-class dining experiences—right here in Jersey.

From affordable neighborhood joints to high-end temples recognized on the national scene, New Jersey’s restaurants reflect its ranking as one of the most culturally and socioeconomically diverse states in the nation. So, dust off any preconception that it’s all diners and pizza parlors—though they’re here, and amazing. In New Jersey, there are a million ways to feast.

Best restaurants in New Jersey

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kathleen D.

1. Zeppoli

Where: Collingswood

NJ is a red sauce and mozzarella kind of state, with Italian-American restaurants dotting every street corner. At Chef Joey Baldino’s Zeppoli, however, Sicily is the muse. With just 35 seats, this spare-yet-warm space skips white-tablecloths and pretense. All the better to savor the magic emerging from the open kitchen: panzanella with Sicilian anchovies, classic spaghetti vognole, stewed rabbit perfumed with oregano and rosemary. The Sicilian Fisherman’s stew is haunting.

The Red Store
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Joseph L.

2. The Red Store

Where: Cape May Point

As far south in Jersey as you can get, the Red Store can be summed up in a word: personal. Chef Lucas Manteca checks those local, seasonal boxes, but his true inspiration is his own: his Argentinean roots. By day, the space is a general store and brunch spot, albeit one with killer empanadas the in-the-know crowd packs for the beach. During weekend supper clubs, the lights are dimmed, and multi-course meals evoke Manteca’s journey.

Pancho’s Mexican Taqueria
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Diana S.

3. Pancho’s Mexican Taqueria

Where: Atlantic City

If hype from chefs David Chang and Michael Solomonov doesn’t get you to Pancho's Mexican Taqueria, let it be this: tender, melting lengua tacos that rival any in the state. If beef tongue’s not your jam, you’ll find pollo (chicken), saudero (brisket), chivo (goat) and the rest. Space is tight, and languages swirl amid the hum from a buzzing cooler of Jarritos and pops from the grill. The magic ingredient? A waiting bowl of masa harina—tortillas here are made to order.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lori L.

4. Mitsuwa Marketplace

Where: Edgewater

The only East Coast location of this chain of Japanese markets draws hungry shoppers. From sake to soba, the Mitsuwa Marketplace is legit, but the real draw is a food court with more than a dozen vendors. Start with eel or Spam onigiri (rice balls) from Omusubi Gonbei or slurp spicy miso ramen from Santouka. Save room for Matcha Love by Ito En soft serve. Lines thread on weekends but go fast. Bring cash.

Razza Pizza Artigianale
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jerry L.

5. Razza Pizza Artigianale

Where: Jersey City

Utter the phrase “best pizza” in Jersey and know this: those are fighting words. From thin, Trenton-style pies to foldable boardwalk pizza, everyone has their favorite. Yet talk to the rising guard in food, and Dan Richer’s name inevitably comes up. The Jersey native hones his craft in a 1,200-square-foot space dubbed Razza Pizza Artigianale, guided by a seasonal perspective that’s earned him multiple James Beard nominations. It may seem weird to order bread before pizza. Do it anyway.

Global Grace Café
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Farrah F.

6. Global Grace Café

Where: Highland Park

For the best international lunch in the state, head to church—or at least the converted sewing room of this interdenominational congregation. Each day, cooks from around the world serve dishes that evoke home at Global Grace Café, from Chef Najla’s Syrian shakshuka and fattoush to Indonesian chicken curry and Congolese beans and rice. Proceeds from the operation support immigrant and refugee initiatives in the local community.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kaitie R.

7. Elements

Where: Princeton

For one blow-out meal, head to Elements. Chef Scott Anderson’s food is modernist and technical, yet sensitive, too. Evolving seasonally, dishes emerge synchronized from an open kitchen. This is a game of focus and skill, with surf clam, black cod and smoked quail eggs cooked to evoke something essential about them—and about the chef. If laid-back yet refined is more your style, head downstairs to sister restaurant Mistral, which serves small plates and killer cocktails.

Heirloom Kitchen
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Neilly R.

8. Heirloom Kitchen

Where: Old Bridge

David Viana is a rising star, and a frequent featured chef at Manhattan’s James Beard House of late. Here’s why: for as artistic as his food is, flavor is paramount. During weekend supper clubs, Viana feeds eyes and bellies with dishes like spring pea tart with mascarpone and steak tartare with chimichurri. Weekdays, Heirloom Kitchen converts into an indie cooking school. It says something when a kitchen is willing to share its secrets.

Ada’s Latin Flavor
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Muller G.

9. Ada’s Latin Flavor

Where: Long Branch

If food is love, Ada's Latin Flavor proves it. When cooking has heart, it doesn’t matter where it comes from. But if you want the backstory: Ethiopian immigrant Adanech (Ada) Asghedom purchased a Dominican restaurant at the Jersey shore. Rather than overhauling the menu, she embraced it, while introducing Ethiopian cuisine. The result is a friendly, unique spot where you can savor a side order of mofongo or pastelon with your doro wat and injera.

The Old Causeway
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Monika D.

10. The Old Causeway

Where: Manahawkin

Situated alongside a salt marsh, where sunlight glints off the water and reeds sway, the Old Causeway evokes the landscape it celebrates. Here, the seafood is local, and the craft beer game is strong without getting overly esoteric. Perhaps that’s why people flock here. Order a dozen local oysters, sip a Jetty Hop Rock IPA and gaze out the windows as the light changes; then get the oyster po’ boy as your main.

White Manna
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Rachel L.

11. White Manna

Where: Hackensack

One could spend an eternity exploring Jersey’s diners—but they’re not the only old-school game in town. At White Manna, the menu is as diminutive as the red-and-chrome shoebox of a space, circa 1939. Fair warning: there may be a line out the door, but who cares? Caramelized onions smashed into fresh beef on a slider-sized potato roll with cheese is as classic as it gets. Ask for extra pickles.

Corinne’s Place
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Trap S.

12. Corinne’s Place

Where: Camden

If there’s one thing Jersey, it’s soul. And when it comes to soul food, a beloved spot in Camden draws raves for its loving homecooked renditions of collard greens, smothered pork chops, fried catfish and southern veggies. In a pastel-hued dining room with banquet chairs, Chef Corinne Bradley-Powers creates a come-one, come-all vibe. Though if you come to Corrine's Place on Sunday, prepare to wait.

MOGO Korean Fusion Tacos
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jazz F.

13. MOGO Korean Fusion Tacos

Where: Asbury Park

At MOGO, Sam Chung and Jason Devino offer a choose-your-own-adventure taco situation. You can order to-go from the converted shipping container on the Asbury Park boardwalk or sit down at their sister space on Cookman Avenue. Whatever you do, order the spicy Jae Yook Bokkeum (pork) and bulgogi tacos with a side of kimchi fried rice. For extra spice, ask for the Asian pear hot sauce.

Casa D’Paco
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sonia C.

14. Casa D’Paco

Where: Newark

In Newark’s Ironbound, Iberian food sings. This family-run spot located off the main drag specializes in the cuisine of Galicia, a fishing village in the north of Spain. Casa D'Paco is a regular’s kind of place, where easy sophistication meets a deep menu of hot and cold tapas. Come with friends, order the house sangria and let the team guide you. The pulpo a Galega (octopus) arrives tender and bright with peppery olive oil.

Baguette Delite
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Max W.

15. Baguette Delite

Where: Edison

It’s all counter service at this strip-mall destination for bánh mì. No matter; when the sandwiches are this good, there’s no need for distraction. Whether you go traditional, with ham and Vietnamese bologna, or opt for lemongrass beef, the sandwiches satisfy. If you’re still hungry, some of the state’s best South Asian food can be found on nearby Oak Tree Lane.

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