10 Places to Dine This Summer

From Asbury Park to Union City, these restaurants offered the most enjoyable dishes during the first half of 2018.

Summer starts next week and, for many, it’s a time not only to shed jackets and socks, school schedules and even a week or more at the office, but kitchen duties.

It’s time to go out to eat. At least once. And possibly once a week, if the budget allows.

Want some suggestions? It was easy to recall some of the dishes I most enjoyed eating during the first half of 2018. What follows is a list that I don’t want to call “best” or “top” but, rather, simply ideas for where to go when you feel like going out to eat this summer. From Union City to Pleasantville, from Frenchtown to Asbury Park, there’s a lot to take in. Go for it!

In alphabetical order, here’s a Dine Card for Summer 2018:

El Artesano. Once you experience the oxtails at this old guard Cuban in the heart of Havana on the Hudson, they will call to you on a rainy summer’s evening. As will the ropa vieja sandwich and the classic Cubano. 4101 Bergenline Avenue in Union City. 201-867-7341; www.elartesanorestaurant.com.

The Farmer & the Chickpea. Inspired by chickpeas, focusing on from-the-farm produce, and going all-out for hearty comfort fare, this rustic-chic roadhouse is where you can gobble pot pies, roasted Parmesan chickpeas with kale, and gluten-free orange-ricotta cupcakes. 3523 Route 22 in Whitehouse. 908-635-1684; www.farmerandthechickpea.com.

Hu Tien Mien Tay. A mainstay of the Vietnamese restaurant scene in and around Atlantic City is this humble appendage to an Asian market where pho is king—and the shimp and pork papaya salad is a royal treat. 700 Black Horse Pike in Pleasantville. 609-646-8977.

Kuay Tiew Noodles & More. Thai goes swanky at this newbie in the downtown district of Somerset’s county seat, where the food’s prepared with extra care and the summer rolls are a true tribute to their name. 42 West Main Street in Somerville. 908-393-9555; www.ktsomerville.com.

Modine. This newcomer is cooler-than-cool, thanks to its red-hot buttermilk-bathed fried chicken and uber-flaky biscuits that’ll transport you to the Deep South. Thank you, m’am. 601 Mattison Avenue in Asbury Park. 732-893-5300; www.modineasbury.com.

Old Bukhara. Uzbek cuisine is melting-pot food from another continent, and you should experience at least once this season the manti (pumpkin dumplings), ararat (cold, rolled, stuffed eggplant) and the “complete chaos” salad. 4239 Route 9 in Freehold Township. 732-683-1400; www.theoldbukhara.com.

Platform Cookhouse. In and around the Bridge Cafe is this seasonal pop-up where the smashed fingerlings with garlic sauce prove that a dish of spuds could be no small potatoes. Coconut fish cakes are big doings, too. 8 Bridge Street in Frenchtown. 908-996-6040; www.bridgecafe.net.

Red Onion. Try the Taiwanese specialties at this merry Chinese restaurant, starting with the housemade Taiwanese sausage. Don’t leave without scooping up the Sakura shrimp fried rice, either. 260 Talmadge Road in Edison. 732-287-0202; www.redonionedison.com.

Spice Isle. Can one woman – this serene and joyful restaurant’s owner, Joyce Joseph – ignite a passion for Island Cuisine in the Garden State? It’s possible, if we all try her Jamaican festival bread and cod fritters. 41 Mountain Boulevard in Warren. 908-834-8864; www.spiceislenj.com.

Tornandez Restaurante. Mexican dishes replicated with heart and soul, or sometimes riffed on with pure passion, result in terrific renditions of tinga de pollo or avocado stuffed with shrimp. 2401 Bridge Avenue in Point Pleasant Borough. 732-899-3939; www.tornandezmexicano.com.

Happy summer—and happy eating!

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