Best of NJ: Food and Drink

NJ Monthly offers a roundup of the best places to find ice cream, coffee, cocktails, crumb cake, cupcakes and plenty of other delicious food items that don't start with a "C."

Beer Selection/North
At Andy’s Corner Bar in Bogota, beer lovers will hop for happiness at the constantly rotating kegs and more than 100 varieties of craft-brewed and imported beer. Try an Erie Drake crude oatmeal stout, a Troegs Dreamweaver, or a Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA. You can even take a chance with a Defiant Nugget Ale, freshly brewed and tapped straight from the cask (257 Queen Anne Rd, 201-342-9887).

Beer Selection/South
It might not be the flashiest casino bar, but Firewaters, tucked inside the Tropicana in Atlantic City, is the best bet for beer lovers, with 50 different drafts on tap plus 101 bottle selections. If you don’t know which you’ll like—they have a menu just for drinks—the bartender will help you decide (2831 Boardwalk, 609-344-6699,

Brownies/Dessert Bars
Dessert lovers can skip a bakery trip by picking up treats made by Teterboro-based Chris’s Cookies at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. The company, established in 2000 by Chris Gargiulo, makes a host of decadent dessert bars, brownies, Rice Krispies treats, and cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, and iced varieties). Even bakery buffs will cry Uncle! at the pecan dessert bar: a chocolate-dipped brownie layered with caramel and whole pecans, each ingredient in perfect proportion (

Delicious-looking slabs of meat surround you the moment you enter Esposito’s Meats and Deli in East Hanover. Cuts of beef, smoked hams, and sausage links hang everywhere, and when you order, the (exceedingly friendly and incredibly quick) butcher freshly trims your cut. You can pick up superb sandwiches, mozzarella, fresh bread, and other deli items, too (90 Ridgedale Ave, 973-884-0151).

For 35 years, Giorgio Pasticcerie Italian in Hoboken has won a loyal following with its better-than-textbook home-made Italian cannolis. Psst: Try the chocolate-dipped…Delizioso! (1112 Washington St, 201-792-3535).

Swanky yet casual digs, classic and inventive drinks, and a well-stocked raw bar make the Martini Bar at Copeland Restaurant in Morristown an inviting place to sit and sip. The libations (white mango sangria or lychee-and-lemongrass martinis, anyone?) are well composed and presented, and the menu—scaled down from the adjoining restaurant’s top-notch offerings—has plenty of satisfying options (2 Whippany Rd, 973-451-2619,

There’s no better spot to grab oceanfront cocktails than the Beach Bar. Wrapping around two sides of the historic Asbury Park Convention Hall, the BB is flush with comfy daybeds and wicker sofas, and features direct beach access. This upscale yet easygoing lounge will ease you into a relaxed vibe that resonates perfectly with its surroundings—of which you will have a commanding view (1300 Ocean Ave, 732-869-4370).

Drinks are always cool and creative at Swanky Bubbles in Cherry Hill. We recommend you head straight for the champagne and martini menu. The Fizzy Vampire—champagne, Bacardi Razz, and Chambord—is our fave (482 Evesham Rd, 856-428-4999,

Take refuge from the kerfuffles of daily life in the sedate atmosphere and ample seating of Cool Beans International Coffee and Teas in Oradell. Cool Beans also offers a bevy of teas, lattes, and desserts. The mood changes every other Sunday, with an open-mic night for beatboxing, music, prose, spoken-word, and poetry (304 Kinderkamack Rd, 201-634-1400).

In Princeton, Starbucks is so yesterday. Small World Coffee has taken over the town with two locations, plus outposts on the Princeton University campus and at the Princeton Garden Theatre. This funky indie specializes in locally roasted artisanal blends and fair-trade imports. Enjoy your joe (and free live music on weekends) in the roomy space decorated with works by local artists. We adore the spicy chai (made with fresh organic ginger) and the rich hot chocolate, not to mention the yummy pastries. (14 Witherspoon St and 254 Nassau St, 609-924-4377,

Superior java is just the start of Stir It Up Coffee House’s charms. The Mullica Hill mainstay also serves some of the best homemade treats around. Several different rooms and cozy corners provide space for working or hanging out. Kids are welcome: Stir it Up even comes with board games (48 North Main St, 856-478-0024,

Crumb Cake
The crowded foyer of tiny B&W Bakery in Hackensack tells the tale. The crumb cake is baked fresh throughout the day with careful attention to the perfect ratio of cake-to-crumb topping. This cake is “heavy” in more ways than one (614 Main St, 201-342-5577,

While it’s easy to pass right by Brownie Points Bakery in Summit, the shop’s three varieties of cupcakes—vanilla or chocolate with buttercream frosting, and red velvet with cream cheese frosting—are worth the hunt. If cupcakes put you off, sour cream coffee cake, lemon-vanilla bundt cake, or whoopie pie filled with marshmallow buttercream should hit the spot  (3 Beechwood Rd, 908-464-2253).

The Baker Boys opened in Ocean Grove in early 2007 to a tidal wave of hosannas. Vanilla or chocolate cupcakes can be crowned with buttercream, German chocolate, chocolate ganache, or espresso icing. Feeling adventurous? Try banana cupcakes with mascarpone cream cheese icing. Baker Boys has the perfect psych-out for calorie counters: mini cupcakes! Just 75 cents each on the Baker Boys’ porch or at their newer location in Asbury Park (69 Main Ave, 732-775-0052).

You can’t go wrong with any goodies from McMillan’s Bakery in Westmont. Still, the cupcakes stand out. They come in just about any flavor you might want and have just the right balance of moist cake and rich icing (15 Haddon Ave, 856-854-3094).

Adnan Kwara crossed the Hudson from Greenwich Village to Jersey City in 1996 to open Ibby’s Falafel. We’re glad he did. Ibby’s chickpea patties are crispy outside, moist and delicious inside. It’s inexpensive and addicting—and also available at a second location in Freehold (303 Grove St, Jersey City, 201-432-2400; 4 W Main St, Freehold, 732-409-1234).

Grilled Cheese
When Bobby Flay challenged the Pop Shop in Collingswood to a grilled-cheese cook-off for his TV series Throwdown with Bobby Flay, you knew this restaurant felt it had serious mojo. But what else would you expect from a joint with 31 varieties of grilled cheese sandwich on the menu? Did you know that April is National Grilled Cheese Month? Neither did we. But the Pop Shop is all over it, with a new creation every day. Whether you like a classic grilled cheese or something gourmet, the Pop Shop’s got plenty of options. Don’t forget to order the terrific tomato soup (729 Haddon Ave, 856-869-0111,

Ice Cream/North
Long before Tony Soprano turned Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery into a tourist attraction, North Jerseyans flocked to this old-fashioned, family-owned Bloomfield sweet shop to gobble ice cream concoctions, grilled sandwiches, and luscious house-made chocolates. The menu lists just fifteen flavors of ice cream, but you don’t need an armada when your flagship flavors are this good. Best hot fudge around, too. Seasonal treats include pumpkin ice cream in the fall. First-timers still line up for booth B-3, where Tony famously ordered the onion rings and awaited his fate (1063 Broad St, 973 338-7091).

Ice Cream/Central
Winter, spring, summer, fall—it makes no difference at the Bent Spoon in Princeton, where there is always a line out the door. Co-owners Gabrielle Carbone and Matthew Errico have created more than 425 flavors of artisanal ice cream and sorbet, made in-store using local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. With New Jersey organic strawberries from Muth Family Farm in Williamstown, herbs from the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative program, or pears and rhubarb from Terhune Orchards in Princeton, there is no end to the unique flavors that will play reveille on your tastebuds (35 Palmer Sq W, 609-924-2368,

Ice Cream/South
Every scoop of the more than 50 flavors at Springer’s in Stone Harbor is handmade, and has been for almost 80 years. Expect to wait in line, especially in summer. Don’t dawdle: The family-owned shop closes the day after Labor Day (9420 3rd Ave, 609-368-4631,

When it comes to “mutz,” Vito of Vito’s Deli in Hoboken is a regular Pavarotti. Vito has been making mozzarella since he was 14. He refuses to use anything but the finest ingredients. He insists on using purified water. The result: Vito’s prize-winning mutz is a must carry for many Hoboken eateries and at restaurants as far away as San Francisco and Seattle (806 Washington St, 201-792-4944,

The family-owned Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory in Jersey City has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network for good reason. They whip up more than 30 different pancakes, including fruity ones, nutty ones, meaty ones (bits of bacon, ham, or sausage inside), and good old buttermilk ones—all served 24/7. But hurry! Brownstone will close this fall for a major expansion (426 Jersey Ave, 201-433-0471,

Rice Ball
To make its ever-popular rice ball, Joe Leone’s in Point Pleasant uses a special technique learned from a vendor in Italy. “It’s a touch of cinnamon in the Bolognese sauce,” says owner-chef Joseph Leone, revealing just part of the secret. He must be doing something right: Leone’s rolls rice balls out the door at the rate of about 800 per week (400 Rte 35 South, 732-701-0001,

The pride of Jersey’s five fishing ports, Long Beach Island’s Viking Village landed more than 2 million pounds of sea scallops last year, including its prized Viking Fresh sushi-grade scallops. Scallops account for about half the total catch of Village boats, each independently owned and sharing Village facilities for packing, marketing, and selling. Viking Village also reels in another important species—visitors to its immaculate quarters and lineup of Nantucket-cute shops and boutiques (

Sticky Buns/North
If you think grown-up sticky bun is an oxymoron, venture to Balthazar Bakery in Englewood. Chief baker Paula Oland uses a rich brioche dough packed with walnuts and rolled tight. Not gooey, not treacly. Firm, with a crisp, barely sticky surface. Adult entertainment (214 South Dean St, 201-503-9717).

Sticky Buns/South
Don’t be fooled by the name of this tiny Stone Harbor bakery; Bread and Cheese Cupboard is known for its sticky buns. Gooey and lush, they are a sweet tooth’s dream. Have them topped with raisins or walnuts, or plain. Whichever, you are in for a decadent treat. Alas, Bread and Cheese Cupboard is only open in summer. Cheer up—Memorial Day is but a month away (246 96th St, 609-368-1135).

Vegan Bakery
With a professed dedication to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of cupcakes,” Sweet Avenue Bake Shop makes everything from scratch daily using dairy- and egg-free ingredients and no packaged mixes or frostings. Former bankers Danielle and Jake Vance opened the Rutherford “cupcakery” (which also sells cookies) in 2007, and the shop features a different cupcake menu every day. Each creation is animal-friendly and delicious, with ingredients such as Madagascar bourbon vanilla and Belgian chocolate. We recommend the Hummingbird: spice cake with bananas, pecans, pineapple, and coconut, topped and filled with cream cheese frosting and pecans (153 Park Ave, 201-935-2253).

Click on any of the following for more Best of Jersey articles:

Best of NJ: Retail

Best of NJ: People

Best of NJ: Places

Best of NJ: Recreation

Click on the links below to read more detailed profiles of fellow Jerseyans who have exceeded expectations, acted heroically, realized their ambitions and accomplished feats worthy of our reverence and esteem; as well as some hidden treasure destination spots more than worth a day trip to visit:

The Phenom: 16-year-old tennis phenom Kristie Ahn, from Upper Saddle River, is poised to take the world of professional tennis by storm.

Heroes of the Hudson: When Flight 1549 hit the water, New Jersey’s well-trained ferryboat captains prevented tragedy.

These Buds Are For You: Cherry Blossoms aboun in Branch Brook Park in Essex County.

Sister of Invention: Georgetown University sophomore Catherine Cook created a yearbook for the digital generation.

Heavy Medalists: NJ’s Olympic and Paralymic stars are winners in every way.

On the Fly: Ken Lockwood Gorge offers rustic trout fishing not too far off the beaten path.

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