The best things we ate in NJ in 2021

We spent a lot of time traveling around the Garden State in 2021, eating and sipping at local restaurants along the way. New Jersey has a diverse food landscape, with cuisines from around the world represented, often in unassuming strip mall shops and small restaurants. Here are a few of our favorites:

Lobster Roll @ Atlantic Offshore Fishery in Point Pleasant. A pint of butter-poached lobster meat—fresh, buttery, succulent, insanely good— served with a bun and some fries that if it weren’t for the shine of the lobster would get more accolades.

Sisig @ Amer-Fil Foodmart in New Brunswick. A phenomenal scramble of pork parts (typically face and belly), chicken liver, onion, chili and vinegar. The meat used in the sisig carries intense umami flavor, and the final step of the preparation—crisping it all on the skillet—makes for a great texture on each bite.

Fried Cassava with Pork Crackling @ Main Street Cafe in Hackettstown. Meaty spears of cassava are topped with abundant chunks of crisped, unctuous pork belly. It’s all smothered in a mild, slightly sweet pink sauce, crunchy cabbage and queso fresco. The balance of sweet and savory is perfect, and the fattiness of the pork balances out all the acidic notes in the dish.

Palm Tree Bowl @ Planted Plate in Princeton. The Palm Bowl is made of grilled jerk tofu, bell peppers, onions, pineapple, broccoli, kale, black beans, brown rice and a mango-coconut drizzle. It’s so damn satisfying—the sweetness of the pineapple and mango-coconut drizzle balanced with the bitterness of the kale and broccoli. Each bite feels substantial with abundant jerk tofu squares and black beans.

Maple Oat Pancakes @ Lovin’ Oven in Frenchtown. Three thick oat pancakes are piled high and topped with powdered sugar, fresh fruit and organic maple syrup. The double maple flavor from the pancakes and syrup is a delicious seasonal treat, and the thick, oaty pancakes are substantial, with a pleasant chew and a deep, nearly savory flavor. 

Pork Chop @ Latin American Deli in New Providence. It’s got a sizable pork chop lightly fried so it’s crispy on the outside, fall-apart tender on the inside, with crunchy morsels of fat on the ends that melt in your mouth. A fried egg adds a silky coating to the plate, which also include black beans, a tangy cucumber salad, rice and pico de gallo.

Eat it: Kimchi Fried Rice @ Brick Farm Market in Hopewell. Fried rice and kimchi are loaded with sesame, scallions, and your choice of shredded smoked beef or local tofu (we chose the former). And it’s topped with a fried farm egg over easy to amplify the umami. The kimchi is well-apportioned; not overpowering, instead providing its trademark crunch and subtle tang. The egg coats everything in a velvety, all-encompassing, binding blanket of flavor, and the smokiness of the shredded beef is irresistible.

Spicy Ramen @ Terakawa Ramen in Princeton Junction. It’s got a pork, chicken and seafood broth that is 100% irresistible. The perfect level of spice and salt, sweet and sour, savory and umami, it feels good for the soul to slurp it between grabs of noodles. And the noodles, by the way, are a good companion to the broth—thick, a little chewy, a little eggy, they feel substantial to munch on.