Ketosis. It might sound more like a state of mind than the fat-burning physiological goal of this year’s buzziest diet— a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. Ketogenic dieters are going to dietary extremes to burn fat, basically getting almost all daily caloric intake from good fats, filling in the gaps with protein, and—almost—nixing carbs. (Remember the Atkins craze? This is its hip young stepchild.)
And while it has its detractors, and modifications, the ketogenic diet is kind of everywhere these days. Maybe you’ve seen packages of bacon rebranded as “keto-friendly,” or maybe a friend began posting photos of butter-soaked-steak and avocado-on-everything to social media. But whether you’re a keto dieter or just love one, there’s good news if you like dining out: it’s pretty easy to dine out in New Jersey and stay keto-friendly. In fact, with a bit of research—and a bit of restraint—you can chow down, completely keto, on a variety of cuisines within the Garden State.
Here’s a short sampling of some stand-out options for keto-friendly dining in New Jersey.
A lot of keto-friendly recipes pile fat on fat (they kind of have to). One staple you’ll find on a lot of keto diet plans: omelettes. Lucky for Jersey, Amy’s Omelette House has locations in Burlington, Cherry Hill, and Long Branch, so keto-seekers have three places to mull Amy’s 200-plus omelette options (222 at last count). Yes, a few contain carbs (clearly avoid the “Baked Potato” omelette), but an overwhelming majority of Amy’s omelettes are ideal keto fuel. Look no further than the “Super Belly Buster,” with ham, sausage, bacon, two pieces of pork roll, and cheddar. Amy’s Omelette House, 637 High Street, Burlington; 609-386-4800
Steak on a Stone
With the keto diet’s focus on meat and butter, you can look no further than Valenca’s in Elizabeth, where they do suckling pig, “steak on a stone,” and finish fatty meats with yet more fatty butter. The Portuguese restaurant has been operating for just about 30 years, well before paleo and keto made hardcore carnivorism cool again, but their menu holds up beautifully: you can get anything from 21-day-aged, butter-drenched steak to incidentally keto-friendly Portuguese specialties like pork and clams or a mini sirloin topped with a fried egg. When in doubt, keep it simple: they offer a variety of fatty proteins on a hot stone. Valenca’s, 665 Monroe Avenue, Elizabeth; 908-354-2525
For the Foodie Dieter (or Dieter Foodie)
Turtle + The Wolf in Upper Montclair makes their own morcilla, so dedication to dietary ruggedness seems solid. Not that keto dieters should chow down on blood sausage—more often than not it contains rice. But creative, ingredient-driven restaurants like Turtle + the Wolf have plenty to offer the discerning keto dieter in need of calories. Start with things like Shaved Fennel with Pecorino, Chicken Liver Mousse, or Smoked Pork Rillette (just leave the toast on the plate for those last two and spoon up the hearty, fatty goodness). Even the mains are navigable: no Parisian Gnocchi with the Roasted Half Chicken, avoid the crust on the Duck Confit Pie, you get it. In general, Keto foodies should look for bold modern restaurants where product like well-marbled meat and local cheese shines (and carb-heavy fillers like rice and pasta are used sparingly, and thoughtfully). Turtle + The Wolf, 622 Valley Road, Upper Montclair; 973-783-9800
The Double Trend
Subtract the rice part and poke can easily be translated into keto-friendly (most of Jersey’s plethora of poke places offer greens as a base). But keto isn’t just about weeping while other people enjoy rice, and at seasoned spots like Raw Poke Bar in Point Pleasant, you can fortify your greens-based poke with hefty amounts of fatty tuna, creamy avocado slices, even add-ons like spicy mayo-drenched kani salad. Definitely an option to keep in mind as you juggle keto diet hunger and that summer craving for lighter, fresher flavors. Raw Poke Bar, 516 Bay Avenue #3, Point Pleasant; 732-451-7720
The Melting Pot is finally having a moment—who knew a restaurant concept built around a 70s apres ski dining vibe would ever sync with a modern dieting trend? But truly, there might be nothing more keto-friendly than a bowl of hot, melted cheese and cubes of steak and mushrooms on sticks? Before you put on your beige-est turtleneck and head over, bear in mind that a few fondues on the menu are made with beer. You can’t go wrong with the Quattro Formaggio, which includes insanely rich German Butterkase cheese, or the Classic Alpine, with everyone’s favorite melter, Raclette. The Melting Pot, 584 Route 38, Maple Shade; 856-793-7033
Cuban food is and isn’t keto-friendly. Think ultra-starchy (but also ultra-garlickly-and-porky) Mofongo versus fatty, juicy Vaca Frita with massive hunks of avocado. As long as you’re paying attention, you can do pretty well navigating the menu at 1958 Cuban Cuisine in Westfield. Built on traditional Cuban recipes from Luis and Sofi Perez, it’s got Cuban keto dishes like Lechon Asado, Salmon a la Plancha, shrimp wrapped in bacon, Ensalada de Aguacate, the list goes on. Just don’t finish dinner with flan. 1958 Cuban Cuisine, 301 South Avenue West, Westfield; 908-232-3187
It’s not necessarily ideal, or super classy, to divorce your sushi fish from its accompaning rice (they’re prepared and paired for a reason). But if you can discreetly ditch the rice, sleek sushi den Shumi in Ridgewood will reward you with delicious, luscious pieces of fish and meat, delicately seasoned and seared or perfectly raw and all very keto-friendly. If you’re a few weeks into keto-monotony and miss your sushi fix, stop by for stuff like Galbi (marinated beef rib), Fluke with Citrus Ponzu Sauce, cucumber-wrapped Salmon Naruto roll, or (of course) Sashimi Deluxe for $40. Not a staple so much as another option for sublime eating within keto confines (witness: uni with wagyu beef). Shumi, 70 East Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood; 201-345-0808