Best Dining Towns – Voorhees

Best Dining Towns NJ Voorhees - NJ Monthly - The Best of Jersey

People eat out frequently in Voorhees, whether they live in modest townhouses or multimillion-dollar McMansions, whether they are stay-at-home moms who wear diamond tennis bracelets, working parents with kids, or seniors sporting designer sweat suits—“Voorhees tuxedos” in local parlance.

Nearby Haddonfield and Cherry Hill are also full of folks who cross municipal lines for dinner in this township in the heart of South Jersey. Not surprisingly, among the housing developments and shopping centers here, restaurants are flourishing.

Since Voorhees doesn’t really have a town center, just about every restaurant is located in a strip mall. But don’t let the modest locales fool you: There is sophisticated and interesting cooking going on here.

The Ritz Center (910 Haddonfield Berlin Rd) draws loyal diners to its eateries even when they’re not catching a flick at the region’s best multiplex movie theater also located there (nobody under age 18 is allowed in without an adult, so there are no hordes of unsupervised teenagers to ruin your evening). Ritz Seafood, a charming 42-seat BYO, offers first-rate cuisine by chef Dan Hover, who turns out a Pan-Asian menu that stretches across the globe for inspiration. Highlights include the tuna tartare—a stunning appetizer served in a martini glass—the crisp Hawaiian butterfish, and the Kobe beef, which patrons cook themselves at their table on a stone heated to 900 degrees. Not to be missed is the unforgettable coconut cream pie, sprinkled with strips of fresh, toasted coconut. One complaint: The restaurant is often overbooked, causing waits, especially on weekends.

If you think there would be no room for another Asian restaurant in the same strip mall, think again, because Chez Elena Wu, with its French-Asian menu, reasonable prices, and beautifully presented dishes, is among the town’s most popular. The spicy lobster salad with mango and tobiko (flying fish roe), the rosemary rack of lamb, and the honey-walnut shrimp are standouts on the menu. For dessert, the puff-pastry apple tart with ice cream provides a lovely, if not at all Asian, conclusion.

Another favorite at the Ritz Center is Coriander: An Indian Bistro, with food that reflects the mission of its owners, Vipul Bhasin and Amalesh Maitra: to introduce Americans to modern Indian cuisine. From the appetizers of crisp vegetable Samosas and spicy chili-ginger tilapia to the tender tandoori leg of lamb and the cardamom-infused chicken kebob, the fresh, light cooking represents many regions of India. The creamy rice pudding, made with pistachios and a hint of saffron, will have you fighting with your dining companions for the last bite.

In the same strip is an independent coffeehouse, Coffee Works Roastery & Café, where many folks stop for a cup of joe, a BLT, or a slice of owner Priscilla Cohen’s carrot cake. Cohen and her husband, Wade, roast their own beans, bake their own cookies and cakes, and make a mean breakfast sandwich. The café offers live, mellow rock on weekends.

Anchoring Plaza Shoppe, another shopping center in town, is A Little Café, the cozy, 40-seat boîte owned by Marianne Cuneo-Powell. You won’t go home hungry after enjoying her bountiful creations, such as sesame-crusted ahi tuna over soba noodles with cucumber slaw and mango salsa, and melt-in-your-mouth tender filet mignon topped with bacon, blue cheese, and a roasted-garlic cream sauce. Don’t miss the Crab Cigarettes appetizer, jumbo lump crabmeat rolled inside a long, thin crepe and served with an Asian ginger sauce. Beware of large parties, which can dominate the dining room and turn an intimate dinner into a struggle to hear the conversation at your table.

A newcomer on the block is Arnie’s Gourmet Steakhouse, owned by longtime Cherry Hill butcher Arnie Madrigale. For an appetizer, the Argentinian short ribs are outstanding, the crab cakes are respectably tasty and stocked with jumbo lump crabmeat, and the dry-aged New York strip steak lives up to its “peak of flavor” billing.

Across from Arnie’s is the residential/office/retail development called Main Street, which never really succeeded as a central gathering place for the town. There you’ll find the Main Street Pub, a popular hangout for locals, decorated with the jerseys of professional athletes—especially hockey players, such as John LeClair of the Pittsburgh Penguins—who live or once lived in town. There are lots of TVs and choices of beer, but the food is ordinary; even the house special, the Pub Dip, a hot roast beef sandwich with a tangy dipping sauce, does not impress.

For Italian fare, nothing in town beats the simple, sophisticated cooking at Laceno, located humbly enough in a supermarket shopping center. The specialty of the house is whole grilled fish, expertly filleted tableside by a top-notch waitstaff. Light and crisp calamari is a lovely starter, as is the grilled shrimp with cannelloni beans and chopped asparagus. Follow these with the whole grilled Dover sole, prepared with a lemon juice, olive oil and balsamic sauce, or the incredibly tender grilled rosemary veal chop.

For those times when you’re eating on the run, try Masso’s Deli, where the cheese steak takes the prize. Sandwiches, salads, fresh lunch meats, and pizza are other alternatives there. For bagels, it’s the Bagel Bin, and for after practice or just after dinner, the place to go is Diane’s Italian Water Ices (2999 Evesham Road, 856-751-9704), for homemade frozen heaven. Try the red raspberry ice, which tastes like just-picked fruit; the tart lemon peel, with strips of zest throughout; or my favorite, cherry Bordeaux, packed with black cherries.

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