7 NJ Eateries That Have Opened Despite the Pandemic

Being restricted to takeout, delivery and outdoor dining didn't stop these restaurants in Maplewood, Jersey City, Cape May and beyond.

Hazel's Country Kitchen's Barn Box. Photo courtesy of Gail PR

Opening a restaurant during a pandemic is certainly a challenge, but these New Jersey restaurants and shops have managed to do so in the last few months.

—For anyone who thinks there’s just too much savory stuff coming between sweet breakfast and sweeter dessert, Milk and Cream in Jersey City is here to save the day. The ice cream shop blends ice cream and popular cereal brands (Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks). As if that wasn’t enough, you can also get a “Cereal Bowl,” which is almost normal except it’s two kinds of cereal, whole milk, plus one topping and one “drizzle.” Wheaties, it ain’t, but that’s also the point. They’re open Wednesday through Sunday, 1–9pm (with no online ordering currently, given the whole melting issue, so show up early and plan for a brief wait—but don’t worry, you can pass the time scrolling their gorgeous ice creamy Instagram). Milk and Cream Cereal Bar, 175 Newark Avenue, Jersey City;

Futomaki Sushi in Audobon opened before Phase 2 even kicked in, around mid-May. They’re open six days a week (closed on Mondays), doing Hibachi, Teriyaki, and (mostly) an impressive sushi menu, with several house specials. Order online. 130 East Black Horse Pike, Audobon; 862-342-2662

Taco Caballito Tequileria opened in Cape May for outdoor dining on June 15 (they have a sister location in Logan Township in Gloucester County). It’s modern-meets-ultra-authentic, so there are Mexican classics—Mexican Street Corn, Tingas Tostadas, Carne Asada—but they’re also doing some funky style fusion, with Short Rib Banh Mi on the menu alongside Guajillo Smoked Wings. Lest we forget the Tequlieria in the name, they’ve got a short but powerful drinks menu—the Caballito Margarita (which you can also get in “kit” form), a Smokey, and a Blood Orange variant, among others. You can order online or call. Taco Caballito Tequileria, 429 Beach Avenue, Cape May; 609-884-4800

Darke Pines Downtowner may have an ominous-sounding name (maybe something out of David Lynch) but it’s actually the friendly, deliciously affordable to-go sandwich shop from the owners of sustainable Jersey City butcher shop Darke Pines. Darke Pines Downtowner is their satellite hyper-creative sandwich spot where you can get everything from a hulking Roast Beef sandwich to a classic Muffuletta to a Rice Krispy Treat with sprouted brown rice, marshmallow, and brown butter, because Darke Pines owners Will and Erica Messmer are not messing around. They’re open Friday and Saturday from 11:30am to 6pm and plan on expanding the menu over the next few weeks via social media. Darke Pines Downtowner, 9 Erie Street, Jersey City; no phone yet.

—Just in time to deliver summery southern flavors—from the culinary team behind Sprout in Maplewood comes Hazel’s Country Kitchen, which is actually located inside the Sprout space in Maplewood. The concept is old-school-sublime, “meat-plus-three,” except of course sophistication is dialed up, e.g. you can do Country Fried Chicken and sides, sure, but also Homestyle Meat Loaf and, for vegans, Cauliflower Steak. Sides range from things like Mac n’ Cheese and Mashed Potatoes to lesser-known classics like Butter Bean Salad and Fried Apples. At the moment they’re sticking with pick-up and delivery only (though there’s a chance that evolves), open Tuesday through Saturday, 5pm to 8pm. Hazel’s Country Kitchen, 181A Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood; 973-761-1549

—The other two of four dining options at Wave Resort in Long Branch are now open: Branch Cantina and LBK Grill join modern American restaurant 100 Ocean and BuzzBait, a funky on-brand resort coffee shop. LBK is a creative ocean-front grill with stuff like Pastrami Tacos with slow-cooked pastrami and chipotle aioli, Crispy BBQ Short Rib Spring Rolls, and (because why not) Corn Dogs with Honey Mustard. Branch Cantina is a relaxed, flip-flop friendly type place with a surprisingly ample tequila and mezcal list (with lots of Margarita possibilities therein). You can order online or, if you need some outdoors time, eat on their patio. (The shrimp tacos look worth the visit.) LBK Grill, 110 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch; 732-335-6633. Branch Cantina, 110 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch; 732-795-6619

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