While traveling for work the last two weeks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, wasn’t exactly the most thrilling and exciting trip ever, it wasn’t the worst. There were some real gems in the surrounding area (especially Ridgewood) and here were my best of Northern New Jersey!
Best List / Must Eats
Fire & Oak – come Monday night and you can get $1 oysters and I’m talking about BIG, good oysters. However, skip the sushi and the seafood entrees. The sushi was terrible and the entrees were so bland that my coworker were passing the salt between us throughout the meal. So after you down as many oysters as you can, order yourself a slab of their chocolate peanut butter pie. It comes ala mode (but you can’t see it due to the mountain of whipped cream) and it is ridiculous how rich this dessert was. I had to pull myself away because it was just that good, yet I knew I shouldn’t polish it off on my own.
Sushi Village – Do NOT be alarmed by the fact this restaurant is in a strip mall, nor it’s exterior outlooks. Once inside, you’ll be completely transported to a modern, fresh feeling restaurant. The reason this place made it on my list is not because it was the best sushi I’ve ever had. The sushi was good (far, far better than Fire & Oak’s), but there were two things that got me:
- All you can eat sushi dinner for $19.99! It is a freaking deal no matter how you swing it.
- The “Spicy Seaweed Salad” – this concoction is pure genius! Take the usual seaweed salad, but add spicy krab and mix it in with some tempura crunchies…it becomes a mouth of happiness. So simple, yet so addicting and delicious.
Brooklyn’s Pizzeria – straight up good, wood burning oven, pizza in the area. I personally enjoyed our pie and I know how strongly people feel about pizza in that state and it’s neighboring one too. However, I found it to be delicious and I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing. (Note: it’s cash only business)
Bricklane Curry House – my gawd…this place was the place that gave me one of those food-awe-haze moments. The Butter Masala was incredible to the point where I would say it comes close to my fave at Punjabi Tandoor’s Makhani. And their paneer pakora (which my friend has coined as “pan-pak”) was amazing too. I don’t know if I like Village Indian’s pan-pak or Bricklane’s more! AHHHHHH THE DILEMMA! (Oh! Don’t forget to order yourself a mango lassi – thick, creamy, and packed with mango goodness!)
Organic Tofu House – when I think of middle of nowhere cities in the woods…I don’t automatically think amazing Korean tofu stew. Who would?? However, this Korean tofu house was a real diamond in the rough. It’s in a strip mall and on the other side of the main street through Ridgewood. Complete unassuming and yet, for those who venture in, they are met with a quaint little restaurant that whips out a pot of bubbling, scathing hot, organic tofu stew! Man oh man…my coworker and I dove into our bubbly pots with little care for our tongues because we wanted the stew!!
Fire & Oak
2 locations in New Jersey
Westwood, NJ 07642
15 Oak St
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
Bricklane Curry House
Multiple Locations – NJ and NY
Organic Tofu House
88 Godwin Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
The past two weeks I have been on travel for training and have been getting as much as I could in every aspect: knowledge, networking, and most of all – FOOD.
Last week, I was back in the great city of Chicago and this time, I was actually in the city versus my first trip to the Second City where I was mostly there to sleep. Granted, it helped that my fellow colleagues all wanted to go out each night to get the most we could together.
However, when I first arrived in the city on Sunday night I was on my own since I had yet to know who was in town. I quickly checked in and headed straight out to take the metro to my first food destination: Blue 13.
I found this restaurant from researching online and had great ratings, along with fabulous raves from foodies like myself. When I arrived, it was quaint little restaurant with a warm overall feel to it in its minimalist interior design. As far as I could tell, there was only one server and one host who bus tables when it became busier through the night.
To begin the meal, I ordered a simple Mixed Green salad:
The salad of mixed greens, shaved carrots, and radish tossed with Dijon vinaigrette and topped with a generous amount of pecorino. A great, refreshing start to the meal. There is little for me to say about the salad other than it was a great salad. Plus, the fresh, hot bread that came out along with olive oil to dip in made a delish start to the meal.
For my entrée, as I was dining for one, I ordered the highly recommended “3 Birds” Lobster Pizza:
I know what you’re thinking already. Yes, I did know I was ordering a thin crust pizza in the city known for deep dish. However, if you come here, I am going to echo what I had found during my online research – this is a must have dish.
The crust was charred perfectly and thin so that you would have to do the fold right down the middle to make sure everything stayed on. This is a white pie with a roasted garlic puree base, caramelized onions, chunks of lobster, and manchego cheese to hold it all together with a sprinkling of herbs. This pizza has the sweetness that reminds you of a cheesy, yummy, lobster bisque. It all balances so well together that I couldn’t stop eating it. I pushed myself beyond the point of bursting because it was that delicious. However, I sadly left behind two slices that were stripped of their lobster pieces because my stomach said, “Please…no more!!”
Despite my comatose state at that moment, I still ordered a dessert because how can I call this meal completed until I did?! So of the 3 dessert choices, this was the one that perked my interest: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Waffle.
Understand that I had no more intention of stuffing myself, but when I saw “candied bacon” I knew I had to try it. What came out was a waffle, drizzled with chocolate sauce, topped with candied bacon and hazelnut, and paired with butter pecan ice cream.
First off – the candied bacon was the best part of the dessert. You’re wondering what did it taste like right? Just imagine breakfast, where you have a side of bacon with your pancake/waffle, and the maple syrup drips over to the bacon. It was sticky, sweet, crispy, and salty. The waffle did not have chocolate chips and needed more peanut butter. Overall, I would suggest you skip this dessert, try a different one, or just order yourself another lobster pizza.
This is the type of restaurant you go to with friends to just catch up, share some good food, and enjoy the evening. The two servers were great and attentive, but when it got a little busier by the time I had finished my meal, the lack of staff was apparent. Still, friendly service and great food is the equation for a satisfied customer who will return.
416 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60654-5714
The following night, after our first day of training, a group of us went out to grab dinner at The Publican where if it oinks, it will end up cooked at this restaurant. I loved the open space design which was to resemble a barn. To add to that, their booth seating had little doors to encapsulate diners as if they were in a pig stall. The rest of the restaurant was set up with communal tables where you could be sitting next to a complete stranger on one side and your friend on the other.
We went family style and ordered various dishes off the menu to share. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, with a few inserts by me, so enough grazing through the pictures!
Beets with Clementine segments and yogurt – this was my favorite side that we had ordered that night. Sweet and tart, great palate cleanser.
Charcuterie plate: pork pie, trotter-foie gras terrine, head cheese, milano, morteau sausage, pickles & mustards
Turnips with rosemary
Cajun Shrimp with Grits – the grits had soaked up all the Cajun spices and shrimp juices.
Fried Smelt with mustard greens and raw onions
Country Ribs with mustard greens & grilled red onions
Sweetbread with sweet potatoes, black trumpets & green garlic-watercress pesto
Pork Belly with fresh chickpeas and stuffing – decadent and you feel so guilty for eating this fatty yet delicious piece of the pig. (*gurgling sound*)
Lamb Sausage with lentils, mint, meyer lemon & yogurt – I love lamb…I love sausage…I loved, LOVED this dish. The mint and yogurt balanced out the gamey flavor of the sausage and the casing had a great snap to the bite.
Apple & Rhubarb Crumble with crème – heaven in one’s mouth.
Waffle with pear butter & plum marmalade – highly suggest that you do not waste your time with this one. It was nothing special at all.
Dark chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream – a darker heaven in one’s mouth. Then again I am the biggest fan of dark chocolate, so if you don’t like dark chocolate (WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!) then this is definitely not for you.
The Publican also has a wide beer and wine selection, as well as servers who are willing to mix you up a great cocktail if you desire it. The restaurant has a fun atmosphere especially for big groups. Just make sure you don’t have any vegetarians in the group otherwise they will most likely go hungry.
837 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
On our last night in the city, our dining group only grew to an even larger number than the previous night. This time around, upon my insistence on move to more ethnic flavors, we decided upon a restaurant that has several locations throughout the country, but still supposedly made great food. That night…we our taste buds did the samba at SUSHISAMBA!
Once again, we ate family style and tried a little bit of everything.
This dish was the sunshine of my night (wait…um…yea, I’ll still stand by my description)! It was fresh, bright, sweet, spicy, turns your life around because it was just that amazing. It would even put a smile to the worst Debby Downer that you know! (Unless he/she doesn’t like fish…but even then! This dish may convert him/her!)
Of the 3 seviches we ordered that night, this was the most disappointing for me. It didn’t have the vibrant flavors of the salmon nor yellowtail seviches. 😦 However, our fish adventures had just started because out came our platter of various sushi rolls:
Unfortunately, the mussels did not taste fresh (consistently) and so we asked for them to return it and traded for:
Spicy Popcorn Shrimp – sweet and spicy, fried tempura shrimp.
We also ordered the churrasco “supreme” (aka meatfest) with: rio grande grilled hanger steak, ribeye, pork tenderloin, chorizo and linguica. This was served with sides of white rice, black beans, collard greens, and farofa. Additionally, various dipping sauces including malagueta pepper oil and chimichurri:
The Miso-marinated Chilean sea bass roasted organic vegetables is one of those dishes that I still think about. This is the perfect example of a perfectly cooked fish that is so smooth, so fresh, so buttery, so fracking delish that I gurgle as I giggle with giddy.
Whole crispy red snapper spicy red curry sauce, scallion, ginger, coconut rice – the rice was good! The fish staring at me…not so much.
Side of Peruvian corn – it’s like hominy; I wasn’t much of a fan.
And of course, we had to have desserts. Note the plural form of that: desserts. We really went all out for dessert and there were no regrets what-so-ever afterwards because they were all delicioso!
Carmen Miranda: seasonal fresh fruit, pop rocks, lemon sorvete…sorry, no pictures for this one :(. I can describe to you what it was: a bowl of fresh berries that included strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, with a sprinkle of pink pop rocks (not enough apparently since the tasters didn’t feel the effects of it) and a scoop of lemon sorbet.
I don’t know which one I liked more, but I did know I had a taste of everything and there wasn’t one that I didn’t like! Even though it is not a local restaurant, this place has a fun atmosphere and serves stellar food with great service. SUSHISAMBA…I think you will have to be part of my favorite small, national chain! One note though: of all the food we ate, it unanimous that the “sushi” part of the restaurant was something that fell short on with the exception of the “seviche.”
Several locations in the US
Thank you Chicago for showing me yet another good time! 🙂
I was thinking back on my last trip overseas with CP during the summer 2009 and tried to pinpoint which was my favorite, and most memorable meal. In the end, hands down, it was the simple and delicious pizza while in Rome:
This was a little pizza vendor in a narrow corridor by the Pantheon. They have the a variety you can pick from and pay for it by its weight. Once you make your selection, the “nice” man will help heat it up in the oven for a little bit, before handing it to you on parchment paper.
I helped myself to 2 types: prosciutto (top) and spicy sausage and broccoli (bottom). Ok, if you haven’t noticed already – neither type has tomato sauce and both have just enough cheese to hold everything together. The simplicity of the slices were amazing.
It tastes nothing like the pizza you know in the States (regardless of which ever style you eat). And of the two, hands down the spicy sausage with broccoli was the best. I love my food spicy and this baby had the right amount of kick without me needing to add my usual crushed red peppers. To date – I have yet to come across another slice that could mimic this taste.
Oh Italia…you are a land of beauty – in your cities, country side, museums, and on my plate. 🙂