Though it may not be as internationally renowned as its neighbor the Big Apple, the Garden State is home to some of America's most unique and acclaimed restaurants, snagging many top chefs from New York City to open outposts and new concepts along its beautiful shoreline stretches. Celebrity chefs and James Beard Award honorees offer concept restaurants, while farm-to-table dining takes center stage at other destinations, including day trip favorites like Juniper Hill, known for its excellent children's menus. Global fusion fare also takes its cues from the East Coast's diverse populations, ranging from Ital-style Jamaican cuisine at Montclair spot Vital to Korean fusion barbecue at popular counter service eatery Kimchi Smoke.
Somos is a charming North Arlington restaurant opened in 2019 by executive chef Juan Placencia, best known for his work at Montclair's Peruvian-style joint Constanera. The airy, welcoming restaurant serves up a delicious blend of Latin culinary styles and traditions, offered at brunch and dinner service throughout the week. A full tapas menu is served, featuring favorites like braised beef empanadas, Cubano-style flatbreads, patatas bravas, and a full slate of creative ceviches. Large plates range from roasted cod escabeche and achiote-roasted chicken to the restaurant's signature Somos Burger, which pairs an Angus beef patty with avocado, pico de gallo, and chipotle mayo. Fine Spanish wines are available by the bottle or by the glass, complemented by a list of national and imported craft beers.
185 River Rd, North Arlington, NJ 07031, Phone: 201-621-0899
© Juniper Hill
Juniper Hill is an artisanal family-friendly restaurant and bar in Annandale, owned and operated by married duo Josh and Jennifer DeChellis since 2017. The restaurant is a popular day trip spot for East Coast diners, serving up excellent rotating menus of high-quality seasonal fare prepared with ingredients from top local bakers and producers. Menus change throughout the week, but often feature favorites like vegetable coconut curry bowls, miso-grilled salmon with spring parsnip puree, squid ink spaghetti with Calabrian chilis, and slow-roasted pork shoulder and fingerling potatoes. Casual fare takes center stage at lunch, including buttermilk-fried chicken sandwiches, banh mi-style burgers, and grilled market fish tacos. New Jersey craft beer offerings are available, along with an award-winning bourbon list and a global wine list highlighting biodynamic selections.
73 Beaver Ave, Annandale, NJ 08801, Phone: 908-335-8905
3.Le Malt Lounge
© Le Malt Lounge
Le Malt Lounge is a hip whiskey bar and cocktail lounge in Colonia that has been acclaimed by The New York Times for its extensive, carefully-cultivated liquor menus. The restaurant and bar, which was opened in 2014, is helmed by James Beard Award-nominated executive chef Duke Estime, serving up a full menu of globally-influenced tapas and gourmet entrees each evening. Diners can choose from selections like New Zealand lamb lollipops, Haitian fried pork belly, French bone-in chicken, or Scottish cheese boards, complemented by a selection of premium teas and coffees. More than 1,000 bottles of international wines and spirits are offered for diners to choose from, including New Jersey's largest selection of brown spirits. A thoughtfully-curated cocktail program features new takes on classic favorites, while a craft beer list focuses on reserve and bourbon barrel selections.
1021 St Georges Ave #2, Colonia, NJ 07067, Phone: 732-510-7700
4.100 Steps Kitchen and Raw Bar
© 100 Steps Kitchen + Raw Bar
100 Steps Kitchen + Raw Bar is a lovely raw bar and supper club in Cranford, overseen by executive chef Sean Carner and restaurateur Jack Tagmouti. Seasonally-driven New American dishes are served up at dinner each evening, including elegant selections highlighting the best daily seafood catches on the East Coast. Diners can choose from entrees like Barnegat scallops with duck fat potatoes, dayboat Nova Scotia halibut, roasted Amish chicken breast with hoisin sauce, or sfoglini trumpet pasta with Peekeytoe crab and pepper sofrito. A three-course prix fixe menu is available on Wednesdays and Thursdays, featuring selections like crab beignets, coconut curry broth mussel pots, and housemade ice cream served on biscotti. A full raw bar is also available, showcasing selections from Duxbury, Highbar Harbor, and Tucker's Island.
215 Centennial Ave, Cranford, NJ 07016, Phone: 908-276-0153
Gayeon is a sophisticated Fort Lee restaurant opened in 2017 by restaurateur Andrew Sung, serving up a full menu of Korean classics at lunch and dinner. The restaurant is named for a Korean word meaning "beautiful encounter," a philosophy reflected in its understated decor, which highlights industrial-chic design elements and Korean artwork. Four-course prix fixe barbecue dinners are served at dinnertime, showcasing entrees like galbi marinated short ribs, Canadian pork belly, and chicken gui thighs. Three-course tasting menus favor classics like sea squirt bibimbap, yuk-hwe bowls, and black cod jorim. Barbecue service is also available for the table, along with appetizers like japchae glass noodles, mushroom tangsoo, and mung bean jeon. All barbecue entrees are cooked at sleek tabletop grills, served with creative house cocktails.
2020 Hudson St, Fort Lee, NJ 07024, Phone: 201-944-2056
© 618 Restaurant
618 Restaurant is an award-winning modern American restaurant in Freehold, helmed by Chef Christopher Dutka. The restaurant, which was opened in 2016, is known for its engaging scratch-made entrees, which are minimally prepared to highlight the freshness of locally-sourced ingredients. Diners can enjoy elegant selections like lobster and saffron ravioli with jumbo Gulf shrimp, Mongolian cod with edamame dumplings, Cajun barbecue shrimp and grits, or espresso-rubbed filet mignon with poblano corn gravy. Casual fare includes Southern-fried chicken breast sandwiches, vegan sweet potato and quinoa tacos, and house burgers with maple bacon and Dijon aioli. Half-price wine bottles are offered on Wednesdays, along with an extensive lounge happy hour menu.
618 Park Ave, Freehold, NJ 07728, Phone: 732-577-0001
7.Two Fish BYOB
© Two Fish BYOB
Two Fish BYOB is a quaint, laid-back BYOB bistro in Haddonfield, known for its rotating menus of delicious seafood fare. The restaurant opened in 2016 to rave reviews, helmed by executive chef Michael Stollenwerk, a winner of major awards from Bon Appètit for his Philadelphia restaurant Little Fish. A small 26-seat dining space showcases constantly rotating menus, which frequently showcase selections like Spanish mackerel with roasted corn barlotto or harissa vinaigrette tuna with sumac and raisin agrodolce. Clever seafood-focused appetizers include salmon belly crudo, little neck clams, Sicilian calamari, and chargrilled octopus with buttered beans and pickled poblano pepper.
6 S Haddon Ave, Haddonfield, NJ 08033, Phone: 856-428-3474
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8.Porcini Italian Trattoria
© Porcini Italian Trattoria
Porcini Italian Trattoria is an intimate Highlands restaurant helmed by executive chefs Chris and Alexandria Atamian, recreating the atmosphere of lovely authentic bistros in Florence. Delicious, hearty Italian and global fusion pasta entrees are served up throughout the evening, including sweet Italian sausage cavatelli, rigatoni and meatballs with Sunday gravy, white clam broth seafood linguine, and Cajun shrimp fettuccine in creamy garlic tomato sauce. Main courses include pork osso buco, pan-seared sea scallops in mushroom sherry sauce, housemade crab cakes, and grilled hanger steak prepared with orange chipotle honey butter. BYOB service is offered for all guests, available alongside delicious dessert offerings like creamsicle macarons, chocolate pots de crème, and homemade gelato flavors.
168 Bay Ave, Highlands, NJ 07732, Phone: 732-291-3080
© Cafe Loret
Cafe Loret is an elegant modern American brasserie opened in 2018 by restaurateurs Dennis Foy and Estella Quinones-Foy, known for their work at the eponymous Dennis Foy restaurant in TriBeCa, named as one of Esquire's best new restaurants of 2007. The gorgeous Red Bank restaurant showcases the French, Mediterranean, and American culinary influences that are signature to Foy's restaurants, including the farm-to-table movement influences he is known as a founder of. Seasonally-changing menus include options like slow-roasted halibut with asparagus and chanterelles, veal Bolognese with parmigiano reggiano, dry-aged sirloin steaks with fingerling pomme puree, and whole-roasted Amish chicken service for two. The restaurant also showcases Foy's own fine artwork in its lovely midcentury dining space, which features decor from renowned architect Richard Neutra.
128 Broad St, Red Bank, NJ 07701, Phone: 732-430-2250
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10.Breakers Kitchen and Tap
© Breakers Kitchen and Tap
Breakers Kitchen and Tap is a lively watering hole in Waretown, owned by sisters Katie Davis and Kelly Ford since 2018. The laid-back neighborhood restaurant and bar is known for its focus on taps from local breweries, including Cypress Brewing Company, Backward Flag Brewing Company, and Ship Bottom Brewery. Signature martinis, sangrias, and craft cocktails are also served up throughout the day, including concoctions like the Fandango, which is named for the former celebration at the city's Waretown Railroad Station and pairs Stoli Ohranj, triple secondary, cranberry, and lime. Rustic flatbreads are served up throughout the day, along with half-pound flame-grilled artisanal burgers, hearty pasta entrees, and appetizers such as fried crab balls, Tex Mex fish tacos, and half-price loaded tater tots on Tuesdays.
537 U.S. 9, Waretown, NJ 08758, Phone: 609-312-7874
11.Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen
© Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen
Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen is a unique dining destination within Morristown's historic 1917 Vail Mansion, opened in 2014 by restaurateur Chris Cannon. The restaurant actually houses four dining concepts in one, including the fine seafood dining destination daPesca, which serves up four-course prix fixe experiences crafted by executive chef Craig Polignano. The complex's Oyster Bar is housed within a gorgeously renovated room that used to house the mansion's art gallery, showcasing original marble columns and a wide menu of raw bar, charcuterie, and tapas selections. Excellent brasserie fare and craft cocktails are served up at the Vail Bar, housed within the mansion's former library space. In the mansion's basement, the Rathskeller beer hall features a sizeable brew list and live music performances on Friday evenings.
110 South St, Morristown, NJ 07960, Phone: 973-644-3180
12.Brickwall Tavern and Dining Room
Brickwall Tavern and Dining Room was opened in 2006 as the first restaurant overseen by the Smith restaurant collective, which also helms popular area dining destinations Pascal & Sabine, Little Buddy Hideaway, and Porta. The restaurant strives to serve as an homage to the American working-class hero, serving up unpretentious comfort food paired with 24 regional and national craft brews. Diners can choose from delicious entrees like Southern-fried catfish, pan-roasted tri-tip steaks, and seared salmon with dill cream sauce. Clever tavern fare includes fried chicken thigh sandwiches, cumin line shrimp tacos, and gourmet aged three-cheese mac and cheese, paired with artisanal meat and vegan burger selections. Specials throughout the week include New England favorites like clam chowder and lobster cocktail, paired with vegan specialties like mock sausage and peppers.
522 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712, Phone: 732-774-1264
© Cavé Bistro
Cavé Bistro is a lovely gluten-free and Paleo restaurant in Avon-By-The-Sea, owned and operated by executive chef Douglas Stehle. All entrees are crafted farm-to-table using organic free-range meats, wild-caught seafood, and locally-sourced produce. Creative large plates served up at dinner include bone-in ribeyes with chimichurri butter, pan-roasted king salmon with citrus ginger beet puree, and beef and pork Bolognese prepared with zucchini noodles and pumpkin seed basil pesto. Delicious burger options are also offered, including a roasted marrow burger with bacon onion jam and a bison and duck fat burger with sweet potato hash browns, avocado, and fried egg. Prepared meals are also available for takeout catering, helping diners continue their healthy eating habits at home throughout the week.
515 Sylvania Ave, Avon-By-The-Sea, NJ 07717, Phone: 732-776-8556
© Restaurant Serenade
Restaurant Serenade has been named as one of New Jersey's top 30 restaurants by NJ Monthly Magazine, known for its inventive, upscale French-American cuisine offerings. The Chatham restaurant is helmed by renowned executive chef James Laird, acclaimed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters for his unique twists on contemporary French fare. Delicious entree options served up throughout the week at dinner include vegetable panache with quinoa pilaf, Nova Scotia lobster with roasted snow peas, and calf's liver with bacon onion tartlets and haricots verts. Diners can pair elegant appetizers like jumbo lump crab cakes and kaffir lime lobster chowder with a carefully-assembled wine list, prepared in collaboration with sommelier John Jansma. Private dining experiences are available for groups of 15 to 30 at the restaurant's loft, featuring specially-crafted menus.
6 Roosevelt Ave, Chatham, NJ 07928, Phone: 973-701-0303
© Rat's Restaurant
Rat's Restaurant is a European-style dining destination in Hamilton Township, inspired by the delicious French countryside cafes of Giverny. The restaurant, which is named in honor of the childhood storybook character of the same name from The Wind in the Willows, served up lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch cuisine options throughout the week, located on the campus of the beautiful Grounds for Sculpture international sculpture garden. Diners can enjoy excellent entree options like pork schnitzel, Cabernet-braised short ribs, coq au vin, and potato leek ravioli with white wine sauce. Daily specials range from duck confit with beluga lentil aigre to classic bouillabaisse prepared with locally-caught mussels, clams, and calamari.
16 Fairgrounds Rd, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619, Phone: 609-584-7800
© 17 Summer
17 Summer is housed within one of Lodi's oldest historic buildings, originally constructed as a butcher shop at the turn of the 20th century by a local family of Italian immigrants. The restaurant, which is helmed by executive chefs and siblings Jenna and Joseph Cuccia, opened in 2012 and is known for its elegant modern European cuisine offerings, which are served up at dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. Delicious land and sea entree options include pork schnitzel, duck-infused DLT sandwiches, braised beef cheek with cauliflower puree, and prime Kansas City steak or pan-roasted chicken service for two. Excellent pasta entrees include squid ink cavatelli and chitarra carbonara with coffee and egg, while vegetarian selections include stuffed roasted fennel with house-preserved citrus and breadcrumbs.
17 Summer St, Lodi, NJ 07644, Phone: 973-928-4780
© Brian Jackson/stock.adobe.com
Vital is a vibrant Jamaican-style restaurant in Montclair, helmed by the Williams siblings Nataki, Kwame, and Kanika since 2016. The restaurant specializes in cuisine adhering to the Ital diet of the Rastafari movement, which plays a major part in Jamaica's culinary scene and emphasizes serving food in its most natural state. Vegan entree options are a focus on the restaurant's menus, including curried cauliflower with coconut rice, jerk portabella, cassava dumplings, and signature Ital pasta with creamy coconut alfredo sauce. Classic Jerk chicken is also served up, along with curried shrimp, escovitched fish, and pineapple ginger salmon. Shareable plates include callaloo dip, tamarind-glazed or sorrel-barbecue chicken wings, and pholourie split pea fritters.
387 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, NJ 07042, Phone: 973-655-9500
© Cargot Brasserie
Cargot Brasserie was opened in 2017 by restaurateur Jim Nawn, known for his work at neighboring dining destination Dinky Bar and Kitchen. The restaurant's name is both a play on the classic French dish escargots and a reference to its century-old building's history as a train cargo station throughout the 20th century. All-day French brasserie fare is served throughout the week, focusing on contemporary twists on dishes like poulet basquaise, steak frites, and bean and grain cassoulet. A raw bar highlights East and West Coast oyster selections, along with middleneck clams, scallop ceviche, and impressive seafood towers. At breakfast, diners can choose from a selection of housemade pastries paired with selections like croque madame, eggs Benedict, and avocado toast.
98 University Pl, Princeton, NJ 08540, Phone: 609-772-4934
Farmly is a unique build-your-own dining destination in Sea Girt, opened in 2018 by executive chef James Avery. The restaurant crafts home-cooked farm-to-table selections such as deli sandwiches and rotisserie favorites throughout the day, available for quick-casual and sit-down service. Diners can enjoy artisanal sandwiches on sourdough or gluten-free baguettes, prepared with their choice of roasted pork, roast beef, classic chicken salad, or butternut squash. Rotisserie dishes highlight organic Shenandoah Valley chicken, herb-roasted pulled pork, grass-fed roast beef, or seasonal vegetarian selections prepared with diners' choice of chimichurri, gravy, honey mustard, or atomic horseradish and chive sauces. A wide selection of baked goods are also served up throughout the day, including honey lavender cornbread and lemon blueberry or salted caramel cookies.
2100 NJ-35 #9, Sea Girt, NJ 08750, Phone: 732-359-6936
20.Summit House Restaurant and Bar
© Summit House Restaurant + Bar
Summit House Restaurant + Bar emphasizes community through cuisine, opened in 2017 by married duos Melissa and Dylan Baker and Sara and Tyler Reeder within Summit's historic 1894 YMCA building. The casual cafe and restaurant is known for its inventive New American fare, which is crafted with locally-sourced ingredients meant to highlight the seasonal bounty of the Garden State. Land and sea fare served up at dinner includes rock shrimp strozzaperetti, roast duck with mole cilantro sauce and masa fritters, lamb chop and belly platters with eggplant puree and espelette, and signature Riverbend Farms burgers topped with cherry peppers and caesar aioli. An extensive seasonal cocktail program is paired with a selection of biodynamic New World wines and locally-brewed craft beers.
395 Springfield Ave, Summit, NJ 07901, Phone: 908-273-6000
© Kimchi Smoke
Kimchi Smoke is a delicious counter-service eatery in Westwood, fusing Korean cuisine flavors into classic Texas pit barbecue offerings. The award-winning restaurant, which is helmed by restaurateur Robert Austin Cho, is known for its unique concoctions like the Chonut 2.1, which serves up beef brisket, smoked kimchi, and the restaurant's signature Fatboy bourbon-chipotle sauce inside a glazed donut bun. Meat offerings include Texas-style brisket, championship St. Louis-style ribs, smoked pork shoulder, and reverse-seared pork belly bacon, available in platters or in excellent sandwich options like the Austin Cho Boy or the Fat Gangnam Boy. Shareable appetizers include barbecue empanadas, taco boxes, and signature cholander fries with pulled pork, smoked kimchi, and bulgogi.
301 Center Ave, Westwood, NJ 07675, Phone: 201-497-6333
© La Isla
La Isla has served up Hoboken's most authentic Cuban cuisine since 1970, known as a cult favorite for its excellent Sunday brunch specials and budget Cuban-style classics. The intimate restaurant serves up traditional Cuban plates such as bistek de pollo, salmon a la parrilla, tasajo con boniato, and camarones enchilado throughout lunch and dinner hours, complemented by traditional sides like fried plantains and pigeon pea rice. Pressed Cuban sandwich options include churrasco sandwiches, croqueta preparadas, and Havana triple decker clubs, complemented by a menu of shareable appetizers like empanadas and yuca fritas. Brunch delicacies range from chorizo omelettes to guava-stuffed French toast. While the restaurant does not have a liquor license, diners are welcome to bring their own beverages to enjoy with all meals.
104 Washington St, Hoboken, NJ 07030, Phone: 201-659-8197
© Satis Bistro
Satis Bistro was opened in 2012 by Geza Gulas and Michael Garcia of Lucky 7 Tavern, offering two Jersey City locations today in Paulus Hook and Bloomfield. The chic European eatery is known for its seasonal outdoor bluestone terrace, which offers excellent views of the Manhattan skyline, and vintage interior decor. Rustic entrees on display at lunch and dinner include housemade ricotta gnocchi, Chatham cod bouillabaisse, breaded zucchini parmigiana, and black Angus hanger steaks served with pommes frites. Diners can also share gourmet appetizers with European flair, ranging from patatas bravas to bacon-wrapped cabrales-stuffed dates. A terrific wine list is served up from the restaurant's elegant wine bar, featuring more than 45 selections by the bottle or by the glass.
212 Washington St, Jersey City, NJ 07302, Phone: 201-435-5151
22 Must-Try New Jersey Restaurants
- Somos, Photo: Somos
- Juniper Hill, Photo: Juniper Hill
- Le Malt Lounge, Photo: Le Malt Lounge
- 100 Steps Kitchen and Raw Bar, Photo: 100 Steps Kitchen + Raw Bar
- Gayeon, Photo: Gayeon
- 618 Restaurant, Photo: 618 Restaurant
- Two Fish BYOB, Photo: Two Fish BYOB
- Porcini Italian Trattoria, Photo: Porcini Italian Trattoria
- Cafe Loret, Photo: Cafe Loret
- Breakers Kitchen and Tap, Photo: Breakers Kitchen and Tap
- Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen, Photo: Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen
- Brickwall Tavern and Dining Room, Photo: kichigin19/stock.adobe.com
- Cave Bistro, Photo: Cavé Bistro
- Restaurant Serenade, Photo: Restaurant Serenade
- Rat's Restaurant, Photo: Rat's Restaurant
- 17 Summer, Photo: 17 Summer
- Vital, Photo: Brian Jackson/stock.adobe.com
- Cargot Brasserie, Photo: Cargot Brasserie
- Farmly, Photo: Farmly
- Summit House Restaurant and Bar, Photo: Summit House Restaurant + Bar
- Kimchi Smoke, Photo: Kimchi Smoke
- La Isla, Photo: La Isla
- Satis Bistro, Photo: Satis Bistro
- Cover Photo: araraadt/stock.adobe.com