Best New Restaurants in NJ of 2019

These rookie standouts bring variety and vivacity to a statewide scene that hits for power and average.

new restaurants nj

A dozen raw oysters at 100 Ocean in Long Branch, one of the best new restaurants in NJ. Photo courtesy of Long Branch

100 Ocean

Long Branch

Tucked inside the new Wave Resort in Pier Village, sleek 100 Ocean opens onto the bustling boardwalk. It operates year-round, but come summer, expect the restaurant and its outside tables to be packed solid with diners diving into decadent seafood towers, shareables like fava-bean hummus and whipped eggplant dip, housemade pastas, and well-executed fish dishes such as steamed black sea bass and roasted branzino. A largely seafood restaurant might be the last place you’d order eggplant parmigiana, but 100 Ocean’s is superb and big enough for two.—Shelby Vittek
110 Ocean Avenue; 732-795-6618



The western end of Montclair’s main drag gets a needed boost from the long-awaited MC Hotel and its ground-floor New American restaurant, Allegory. Framed by window walls facing the avenue, the dining room and bar are spacious and comfortable. There have been some knocks on the food and sometimes-disorganized service, but overall the savories, especially the small plates, are generous and pleasing. Take the elevator to the très-chic rooftop bar with indoor and outdoor seating.—Eric Levin
690 Bloomfield Avenue; 973-329-5600

Atlantic House

Atlantic Highlands

After a two-year renovation of the former Memphis Pig Out, Atlantic House opened just in time for Independence Day. Owners of the grand two-story space are Rich Crocker, a partner in Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten in Asbury Park, and his mother, sister and wife. Downstairs offers a more formal dining experience than the upstairs lounge, with sliding window panels that welcome a beachy breeze in season. In either space, enjoy signature cocktails along with chef Brendan Neville’s twists on classics like coq au vin, fish and chips, and seared local scallops on parsnip-pear purée.—SV
67 1st Avenue; 848-300-2408

Bamboo Village

Woodland Park

On busy weekends at this strip-mall Chinese, a team of six chefs divide the workload, each attending to his specialty. Among these are barbecued meats, Szechuan and Cantonese dishes, and noteworthy Peking duck. A Cantonese must is the seafood worba soup, unusually deep in seafood flavor and thick with bits of fish and shellfish. Equally good, and literally mouth-watering, is juicy, hand-shredded chicken in pickled-ginger sauce, a cold appetizer.—EL
997 McBride Avenue; 973-837-6201

Beachwood at the Dunes

Sea Isle City

Chef Lucas Manteca and designer Deanna Ebner, the husband-and-wife team behind Quahog’s in Stone Harbor, Red Store in Cape May Point and Taco Shop at Cape May Airport, added this upscale yet affordable spot to their roster. As ever, the food—from tandoori scallops to short rib pappardelle to shrimp taquitos—is instantly relatable, yet more than the sum of its parts. BYO.—EL
8609 Landis Avenue; 609-263-3627

Tandoori chicken at Benares. Photo by Neil Grabowsky



Perched on India’s sacred Ganges River, the city of Benares is the Hindu world’s holiest pilgrimage site. Pilgrims of another sort have made Benares in Wyckoff a destination for authentic, full-flavored Indian cuisine. The basmati-rice casseroles known as biryanis, available in meat or vegetable renditions, are particularly good. After a spicy meal here, pacify your palate with an Atom Bomb, a warm chocolate cake and ice cream number that, it’s safe to say, you can’t get in the original Benares. BYO. (Read our full review here.)—KT Harrison
327 Franklin Avenue; 201-904-2222

A comforting saffron-and-fennel broth completes the allure of the Bistro d’Azur bouillabaisse. Photos by James Worrell

Bistro d’Azur

South Orange

Even in the depths of winter, the vibe in this French and Mediterranean newcomer is as sunny as a beach day on its namesake Côte d’Azur. If you like butter and lobster, you will swoon over the lobster crêpe, which is up to its gunwales in both. Not everything is quite so magnifique, but better book well ahead if you want to dine on a weekend. BYO. (Read our full review here.)—Fran Schumer
14 Academy Street;  973-327-9725



Joann Chae and Woo Sung Cho, Korean immigrants who became fast friends in culinary school, have created a bright, modern, friendly space that dovetails with their menu—a contemporary take on French cuisine, incorporating flashes of Korean flavor in ways that range from subtle to thrilling. Brunch is special, too. You will meet your match in the bulgogi cheese sandwich, a hulking Korean cheese steak laden with Gruyère, onions, horseradish aioli and french fries. BYO. (Read our full review here.)—Michael Aharon
648 Bloomfield Avenue; 973-433-7256

Brasserie Mémère


Bouncing back from the closure of Chakra in Paramus, chef Thomas Ciszak has transformed an enormous space in a huge shopping mall into a mini-arrondissement of Paris, minus jet lag. Classic cocktails, French and otherwise, ease you into Ciszak’s contention that the likes of boeuf bourguignon and mousse au chocolat, when done well, have no expiration date.—EL
107 Vervalen Street; 201-660-8822

Bread and Salt

Jersey City

No website and no phone are no problem for this garage-like storefront and its stream of locals gabbing as they wait on line for their turn at the counter. The prize is ultra-thin, ultra-crisp, rectangular slices of Roman-style pizza in whatever varieties chef/owner Rick Easton feels like baking on any given day. Don’t overlook the tender meatballs in luscious red sauce or the dish simply called beans, which isn’t so simple and changes often. BYO.—EL
435 Palisade Avenue

The Butcher’s Block

Long Branch

Thomas D’Ambrisi pays homage to his family’s decades in meat distribution with this combination butcher shop and restaurant. From the display case, diners select cuts from Double Brook Farm and other sources to send to the wood-fired oven. While they wait, they might savor marrow bones and munch fries cooked in beef tallow. For veggie relief, try the cheeky fried–brussels sprout salad dressed in spicy honey and Cap’n Crunch cereal. BYO.—Jenn Hall
235 West Avenue; 732-795-3903

Cafe Chameleon


Experienced in construction and real estate, the Civitano family opened this, their first restaurant, in February. In July, they brought in veteran chef Bryan Gregg, who first made his mark at Escape in Montclair. There may not be a protein Gregg doesn’t cook exceedingly well. Moreover, he embellishes them well, serving scallops with cabbage and smoked apples, pork tenderloin with parsnips and spiced cranberries, and tender venison au poivre with red cabbage and figs. Thanks to Gregg, this Passaic County borough near Butler and Wayne boasts a chameleon that stands out rather than blends in.—EL
60 Main Street; 973-850-6969

Canal House Station


Opened in July in an abandoned railroad station built in 1870, Canal House is the latest from Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer, Saveur magazine veterans and James Beard Award–winning cookbook authors. The pair do all the cooking together in a charming open kitchen, making the dining experience casual and intimate. Rotating dishes might include a slow-cooked porchetta on polenta with gremolata; roasted duck legs over parsnip-apple purée; or a perfectly executed BLT. Canal House is open for à la carte breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Saturday. On Sunday afternoons, a prix fixe, four-course supper is served. BYO.—SV
2 Bridge Street; 908-995-7200


East Brunswick

Eager to showcase the cuisine of his homeland, Morocco native Moussa Aitmoussa and his wife, Catherine, opened Casablanca two doors from the pizzeria they also own. The dining room has Moroccan flair: blue and white ceramic tiles, Moorish lighting, arabesque pottery hanging on the walls. Dishes like harira (spiced lentil soup) and lamb-shank tajine are enticingly laden with aromatic spices like cumin, ginger and saffron. Conclude with fresh mint tea, poured tableside, and a bite of baklava. Belly-dancing shows enhance the experience on weekends. BYO.—SV
318 Rues Lane; 732-390-1111

David Burke at Orange Lawn

South Orange

Since the 2015 closure of his then only New Jersey restaurant, the Fromagerie in Rumson, chef David Burke has mounted an emphatic statewide comeback. His Drifthouse in Sea Bright made last year’s list, and this year he earns two spots with two very different concepts. (See also, Ventanas.) In the genteel clubhouse of the venerable Orange Lawn Tennis club, Burke presents an upscale American menu with Italian accents, his patented, salt-aged cuts of beef and some terrific cocktails. The catch is, you have to pay a one-time dining-club membership fee, but it’s just $10 and provides a 10 percent discount on all meals at David Burke restaurants in Manhattan and New Jersey, except Orange Lawn.—EL
305 N. Ridgewood Road; 973-552-2280

The pernil osso buco at De Martino. Photo by Patty Oswald

De Martino


Martino Linares grew up in his father’s traditional Cuban restaurant. When it closed after 30 years, Linares decided to open his own place, with a modernized menu. Debuting in April, De Martino delivers a more elegant experience than the old Martino’s Cuban, with its weighty buffet. The strength of chef Ryan Corbin’s cooking lies in his memorable sauces, elevating everything from cod fritters to churrasco and empanadas. BYO. (Read our full review of the best new restaurant here.)—SV
9 Davenport Street; 908-722-8602


Jersey City

In a sleek space paneled in blonde wood, this branch of a Manhattan sushi restaurant features panoramic views across the Hudson River. Offerings include a hand roll stuffed with smoked eel in a chocolatey sauce and squid-ink pasta bedecked with dollops of uni. Brothers-in-law Brian Kim and Jae Park aim to hit the heights that won them multiyear New York Michelin Guide awards for “affordable and remarkable dining experience.”—SFG
200 Greene Street; 201-267-0222

El Nopalito


“I want people to know our culture, not just American Mexican food,” says Roasalba Palillero. “I want people to know what is authentic in my family.” While Palillero and her sister Maria run the dining room, their mom, Estella, cooks. The recipe for the complex, nutty, cacao-enriched chicken in poblano-pepper mole sauce comes from Palillero’s abuela (grandma), who runs a mole festival in the state of Puebla. Weekends mean tamales, well worth showing up for. BYO.—JH
47 Kings Highway East; 856-651-7041

new restaurants nj

Faubourg’s linguini and red shrimp with artichokes, olives, saffron and lemon, makes a fine starter or main. Photo by Paul Bartholomew



After distinguished careers with the famed Daniel Boulud, chef Olivier Muller and manager Dominique Paulin set out to create their own palace of modern Mediterranean cuisine with French accents. Transforming a long-ago bank from empty shell to stunning showcase, complete with outdoor bar and multilevel patio, might be their greatest achievement. Which is not to dis’ the food, which ranges from adept and endearing (hey there, coq au vin, old pal) to the fricassée of snails and chicken “oysters,” which hits like a slot machine jackpot. (Read our full review of the best new restaurant here.)—EL
544 Bloomfield Avenue; 973-543-7700

Il Nido


In a shot across the bow to the many Italian restaurants already in Marlboro, Joseph Folgore and chef Joseph Voller opened Il Nido last March with a cheeky hashtag: #nochickenparm. Mining the niches of contemporary regional cooking in Italy, the partners have won a following, as much for Il Nido’s comfortable, capacious setting as for compelling dishes such as crabmeat and lobster salad with peeled grapefruit and their cappellacci with lamb ragù. BYO. (Read our full review here.)—SV
184 Route 9 North; 732-851-6347

new restaurants nj

Clockwise from left: Little Hen’s mille feuille, pot de crème and hazelnut pear tart. Courtesy of Little Hen’s Facebook page

Little Hen


Chef Mike Stollenwerk was known as a seafood savant even before he opened Two Fish in Haddonfield. Grabbing a small corner space down the block, he has expanded his range. Little Hen is country French and meat focused. Duck-liver mousse and frogs’ legs are musts, and chef de cuisine Alan Lichtenstein’s chocolate pot de crème is as stirring as the “Marseillaise” in Casablanca. (Read our full review here.)—Jill P. Capuzzo
220 Kings Highway East; 856-528-2282

Lotsa Balls


You’ll either smile or roll your eyes at the name, but the food and the retro sports setting will help you put on a happy face. The signature is Sicilian meatballs, made with beef, pignoli nuts, raisins, Parmesan and ricotta. There are also crab, veggie, sausage–broccoli rabe and mac-and-cheese balls. All are served individually or family style. Each type comes with a generous helping of a specifically paired sauce, which is the real star. Pastas, salads and sandwiches round out the theme. BYO.—John Holl
25 New Street; 732-662-5999

Meeting House


Opened by New York transplants and restaurant veterans Amanda Maher and Amar Gautam, Meeting House fills the location, about 10 blocks off the Princeton University campus, formerly occupied by Two Sevens Eatery & Cantina. The reimagined space exudes a relaxed but upscale vibe. The menu offers a wide range of New American favorites: short ribs with cheesy polenta; smoky grilled cauliflower; sweet-pea guacamole; Wester Ross Scottish salmon over lentil stew; fried chicken with fresh flaky biscuits and honey; and a braised Berkshire pork shank. There’s also a well-rounded wine list.—SV
277 Witherspoon Street; 609-436-7891


Mount Laurel

Seafood boils are a tradition from Maine to the Carolinas, but not so much in Jersey. Steve Lin just may change that. Choose from an array of fresh shellfish and add sauces, spices, potatoes, corn on the cob and much more. The boil comes to your table in a plastic bag cradled in a bowl. Slice open the bag and bask in the steamy aromas. Then dig in. Wet-Naps provided. (Read our full review here.)—JPC
1134 Route 73 South; 856-372-2829

Osteria Crescendo


In 2016, when Robbie Felice opened his first restaurant, Viaggio, in Wayne—he set himself a goal of opening a second one before he turned 30. With Osteria Crescendo last April, he achieved that goal at age 28. In August, both restaurants won a place on NJM’s annual Top 30 list. Aside from its grander, more modern space and its liquor license (with worthy cocktails), Crescendo differs from Viaggio in its large-format, made-to-share entrées, such as whole fried octopus, and its bar menu of cicchetti (Italian for snacks) from which one can fashion a meal. (Read our full review here.)—EL
36 Jefferson Avenue; 201-722-1900


Cherry Hill

As you move down the steam-table line at Mark Reyta’s bustling Filipino eatery, you turo-turo, meaning point-point, to what you want. Mains—such as pork stew with shrimp paste or bright vinegar chicken—come with rice or fried noodles. Soothe the stimulated palate with halo-halo, shaved ice saturated with condensed milk and topped with tropical fruit and ice cream. BYO.—JH
1490 Haddonfield-Berlin Road; 856-651-7470

Sandi’s Soul Bites


In 2010, Sandi Rogers won the New Jersey Lottery. Nearly a decade later, she fulfilled her dream of opening her own soul food restaurant—a dream that had been simmering since her Grandma Eula taught her to cook when Rogers was 14. Now her customers relish her fried chicken, barbecued ribs, fried whiting and catfish, collard greens, hush puppies, and mac and cheese while contemplating framed silhouettes of Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, Harriet Tubman and Michelle Obama on one wall of the home-style dining room. BYO.—SV
82 Speedwell Avenue; 862-242-8088

Stern & Bow


The nautical decor is understated and enjoyable, and so is browsing through owner Russell Stern’s old books and vinyl albums. The American menu is, ironically, most compelling in steaks, with the exception of oyster expert Kevin Joseph’s spangling selection of bivalves. Have him do a tasting for you, either at the oyster bar or brought to your table.—EL
171 Schraalenburgh Road; 201-750-3350

new restaurants nj

The New York strip steak at Ventanas. Photo by James Worrell


Fort Lee

Longtime Fort Lee resident David Burke has said the town’s diverse dining scene lacks just one thing: scintillating nightlife. Teaming up with Alex Duran, owner of West New York’s nightclubby Son Cubano, he has erased that deficit. The two menus, sushi and modern Latin, complement each other in a grand space that has attracted a young, energetic, well-dressed crowd. The vibe is sexy, and so are the signature cocktails. (Read our full review here.)—KTH
200 Park Avenue; 201-583-4777

Viggiano’s on Sunset

West Cape May

The seventh of 11 children, Mark Viggiano grew up surrounded by family and food. “Mom cooked for us, put everything in the middle of the table, and we passed it,” he says. Add servers, seating for 100, and Viggiano in the kitchen, and today you have Viggiano’s on Sunset. It’s not as frantic as it sounds. The home-style Italian cooking was an immediate hit when the restaurant opened last May, even before printed menus were available. Portions of tasty chicken parm, veal with shrimp and other favorites come in two sizes, and the grande easily feeds four.—Lynn Martenstein
109 Sunset Boulevard, 609-435-5026

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