Local eats in suburban New Jersey, NYC and Saratoga Springs

Like many of us living in Arizona, I too came from somewhere else. Across the river from New York City in suburban New Jersey I grew up on take-out pizza, diner food, and bagels. Despite many New York and New Jersey transplants opening restaurants serving food from our home state those foods just taste better back east. Whenever I head back for a visit I head for my favorite foods and I was back a couple of weeks ago.

Most people wouldn’t visit these family restaurants in suburban Bergen County unless you’re visiting family or friends in the area. But if you live there or happen to be traveling through the small towns that dot the metro area they’re easy to find.

Let’s eat

When you don’t know what you want or everybody wants something different a local diner is always a good call. So with family who flew into town we headed to to Matthews Colonial Diner in Waldwick. Wanting a char-broiled burger I opted to eat healthy knowing there would be plenty of food this week. The Beet & Goat Cheese Salad was a solid and out of the ordinary choice for me. My family knowing my eating habits gave me the “are you feeling ok” look when the word salad came out of my mouth.

Seems like Italian food reigned the week with 2 or 3 meals as we wound having pizza or pasta delivered. A favorite of my sister and her family is The Sicilian Sun in Ho-Ho-Kus. Whether we walk over to dine-in or have it delivered it rarely disappoints. Ordering take-out I went pasta free ordering Chicken Scarpello with sausage, pepperoncini, mushrooms, garlic and a touch of garlic. So good I may have to head back sooner than later to get it again.

New Jersey
Chicken Scarpello from The Sicilian Sun

Wednesday lunch had a group of 20 family and friends at the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern for a 4 course lunch. Lots of history at this place that was constructed in 1796. The entree course had your typical, beef, chicken and fish option along with Bolognese Tagliatelle. I had the latter, I told you there was a lot of Italian food.

In the city

A trip to New Jersey isn’t complete without a visit to New York City. Thursday I caught a ride to lower Manhattan’s Financial District to play tourist and walk off the calories I consumed.

Getting into the city early I grabbed a a quick lox, egg & tomato bagel from the Park Place location of Lenwich, a local chain of sandwich shops I’ve never experienced before. Not my typical bagel and lox combination but it gave me the fuel I needed to pound the pavement.

Meeting a friend for lunch who had little time we opted for “street meat” from a food truck nearby. The city is know for it’s food trucks and carts offering a quick and reasonably priced lunch. We went for Mediterranean food and I opted for a falafel sandwich and my friend with a chicken and rice. Filling portions for only $5 each. The weather was one of the nicer days so we opted for a park bench to eat and chat.

New Jersey
NYC Falafel

Back on the Jersey side

Thursday dinner had us ordering in…… pizza from Anthony Franco’s Pizzeria. A visit to Jersey wouldn’t be a visit to Jersey without a couple of pizza pies. Sausage, onions, mushrooms and more topping our pies a few slices for now and few left for later.

In between rain drops on Friday I decided to give in to my burger craving at Red Cedar Market Season Kitchen for their RCM Mushroom and Swiss burger. This busy cafe made the best burger I’ve had in a while. Made to order and cooked to my preferred medium rare and drizzled with truffle oil and served with delicious fries.

New Jersey
RCM Mushroom & Swiss burger

Dinner had heading to the State Line Diner, a couple of miles south of the New York state border on Route 17. So much to choose from I didn’t know what I was going with until the words “Roat Beef & Swiss Cheese Triple Decker sandwich with a side of Steak Cut Onion Rings” came out. The rare roast beef was good but I wish I hadn’t ordered the onion rings as I compared them to a hometown favorite pile from the defunct Louie’s Charcoal Pit.

A quick trip upstate to Saratoga Springs

Saturday afternoon I drove up the New York Thruway to visit a friend I met in Arizona who re-located back home to upstate New York.

Once arriving I made my way to Broadway, the main drag in Saratoga Springs, waiting for my friend to get off work. The best weather of my visit had people out & about on this late Saturday afternoon and I found Druthers Brewery for a cold Raspberry Nut Brown Ale. It hit the spot before I strolled the downtown to Congress Park to taste the spring water known for in the area.

Meeting my friend at Purdy’s Discount Wine & Liquors where she got off work but not before I tasted New York State made sangria and sparkling wine.

With other friends taking the train from Boston for an overnight visit the plan was for a festive Paella dinner. After wine, a generous portion of charcuterie and realizing it was late our Paella dinner was tabled until Sunday brunch. Made from scratch with each the chicken, shrimp and chorizo cooked separately we all watched and helped prepare as we sipped on our cups of Spot Coffee, an upstate coffee roaster.

New Jersey
The Cortile at Solevo

Dinner on Sunday night in Saratoga had us paying a visit to get this, a new Italian restaurant Solevo Kitchen & Social. For an appetizer we ordered the tasty Eggplant Chips drizzled with Calabrian Chili Honey and basil. My friends ordered the Sunday Sauce, rigatoni and meatballs in a San Marzano plum tomato sauce and Gnochhi with wild mushrooms, arugula, rosemary in a brown butter sauce.

After seeing several Items I’d already had that week I went with The Cortile, a mix of prosciutto, sweet peas, ground veal in a plum tomato & cream sauce with tagliatelle. Red wine and my Pinky Ring cocktail accompanied our meal and all were satisfied for our walk home.

Back to Jersey then back to Arizona

After a fun visit upstate I made my trip back down to New Jersey Monday morning. Deciding to raid my sisters cabinets and refrigerator for late lunch and early dinner I opted not to order….Italian food for dinner. Despite my best efforts to taste my niece and nephews Chicken Parmigna their like me very protective of their food. Early Tuesday I was on a plane back to my current home, Scottsdale.

More New Jersey and New York eats on my next visit east. See my Instagram for pictures of my visit @SandyWass

 

After the storm in NYC & NJ Sept. 2011

Timing is everything in life and I timed my annual visit back east very well going after earthquakes, a hurricane and the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11th. Not to mention the evening of my arrival brought cooler temps to the area which caught some people off guard, but I was loving the 50 & 60 degree nights and days.

As always there’s some regular visits to favorite eateries and plenty of time to find more. Here is what I saw, tasted and heard on my visit…..

Lunch on day of arrival was with a college friend in NJ at the Cornerstone in Hillsdale. A neighborhood bar and grill in center of town across for RR station. Good bar food and atmosphere. Returned on Sun. with the guys for beers and football. Big and lots of old wood decor.

Dinner in the city was down in the Bowery at Great Jones Cafe, where they make delicious Cajun dishes. Jambalaya and wings were spicy and good. Small spot w/ cool, grungy atmosphere. On the way to meet up with friend at his Gramercy Park apartment I bar hopped, stopping and having sangria at Green Square Tavern on 21st St. then a pricey pint at the Jade Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Stopped in to Astor Wine & Spirits after dinner to help my friend pick up a few bottles for the weekend. Good selection and attentive staff, plus a John Legend sighting made for a good 1st time visit.

After catching up on some sleep, I made an early lunch visit to White Manna Hamburgers on the other side of the Hackensack river. A local institution that is home to some of the best sliders in the northern hemisphere. Cooked on a flat top right in front of you the sliders are juicy, yummy and made to order. Always a must when in northern NJ.

Catching a ride with a friend who dropped me at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where another friend was staying, I embarked on my journey downtown and across to the Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass(DUMBO) neighborhood of Brooklyn. Walking through Grand Central Terminal and seeing the architecture and the hustle and bustle of people coming and going is always good. Southbound on 3rd. Ave. I retrace some of my steps from the night before in a daylight perspective. Around Gramercy Park and into Union Square Park I find myself during there Fri. afternoon farmers market. It is here I get my 1st taste of NY State Pinot Noir from Tickle Hill Vineyards. A good, 5 year old that tasted like Pinot Noir.

After stopping to recharge with a coffee in the village I found myself waiting to cross Houston St. realizing that the 1 and only Katz Deli was a few blocks away. A family favorite for 4 generations, it’s been a long while since I last made a visit. Nothing seems to change here as you are still presented a ticket on your way in that gets punched to be totaled by cashier on your way out. Deli sandwiches and other deli delicacies are available. Not wanting to ruin my dinner, I went simply with a hot dog covered with sauerkraut and a potato knish. Just the way I had remembered it, but no moaning from this guy.

Continuing my stroll threw the Lower East Side and in to ChinaTown I make my way across the Manhattan Bridge, amongst the cars, trains and bicyclists I play tourist taking pictures of lower Manhattan views. After working my way off the bridge and threw the DUMBO neighborhood back towards the East River, where there is a great park and trail system. Popping in to the Water St. Restaurant and Lounge for a thirst quencher before

I made my way around the Brooklyn Bridge Park with views up and down the East River, New York Harbor and Manhattan. Great views usually reserved for movie and TV back drops. Also came across Jane’s Carousel, that had been dedicated the night before and opened to the public that day. In a glass enclosed structure only feet from the river is a carousel, built in the early 1900s, that has been in restoration and storage since 1984 by Jane and her artists.

With the dinner hour finally arriving I make my way to Bubby’s, just off the park. Meeting up with out of town family and guests we dine on a cross between BBQ and Jewish deli food that I heard a lot of good things about. My house cured bacon wrapped meatloaf was good and so were the sides off mac n cheese and cole slaw. Our server was a bit overwhelmed w/ the off the menu ordering of about 25-30 people and it was a while before she got some help, a bit of a downer for some. Too tired to make that trek back uptown I made my only visit to the subway, to the bus terminal for a bus back to NJ.

Feeling just as tired now reliving last week as I was at the end of my day I will continue with my weekend adventures on the next post. Let me know what you can relate too and your adventures in NYC.

Where I’ve been, what I’ve seen & what I’ve heard…….

Where I’ve been
– Seasons 52, new at Biltmore Fashion Park featuring a seasonal menu of nothing over 425 calories. Great wine list.
– The River Palm Steakhouse in Edgewater N.J. great steaks and seafood frequented by many VIPs in NY/NJ area. Considered one of the best in the area.
-The Local in Saratoga Springs N.Y. some tasty English pub grub in small town upstate N.Y. They do a great Sunday brunch too!
– Amura Sushi in Orlando Fla.(Sand Lake Rd.) surrounded by chain restaurants this place is a favorite among locals. go next door for a pre or post meal cigar.
– Sushi & Thai Cafe in Boca Raton Fla. 1 of 4 locations in area w/ extensive menu for Thai and sushi. great for the vegans in your life. always a must for me when in the area.
– Via Della Pace in NYC’s east Village. Homemade pasta is the specialty.
-Maialino in NYC’s in Gramercy Park Hotel. Authentic Italian restaurant that was hoping on a Mon. in Sept. interesting Italian wine list too.
-The Upper Deck @ Boston’s on the beach in Delray Beach Fla. Good lobstah bisque and broiled lobstah. Sports bar downstairs do good bar food.
-La Grande Orange’s Cubano sandwich is really good.
– Bobby’ Burger Palace in Paramus N.J. Bobby Flay’s quick casual burger joint. Only a few out there so far. Good burgers at reasonable prices. Please come to Phx.
-Ronnie’s Hot Bagels & Cafe in Hillsdale N.J. one of the best Italian sandwiches I’ve had in a while.
-Wandering Horse Buffet @ Casino Az.’s Talking Stick Resort. One of the best deals around for lunch buffet($12.95)
– Tweetups at Switch located on Central & Virginia in Phx. and the new location of Los Taquitos, a family owned Mexican taco’s, burritos and margaritas featured on The Food Networks “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” Original location at 48th st& Elliot in Phx. and the new one at 16th st. & Glendale in Phx.
– To many burgers to mention. See reviews. https://www.examiner.com/burgers-in-scottsdale

What I’ve seen
-R.E.D w/ Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman & John Malkovich. Retired CIA agents coming out of retirement who are up to some old tricks to catch some bad guys. Entertaining.
-Harrison Montgomery w/ Martin Landau about the goings on in apartment building in SF’s Tenderloin district. Very limited release. Gotta search for this one.
– Stone w/ Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton & Milla Jovonovich. retiring prison counselor(DeNiro) debating to parole prisoner(Norton) and being influenced by prisoners wife(Jovonovich). Good performances, a tad bit slow drama.

What I hear…..
-Justin Becketts new Becketts Table opened last night and the Twitteratti seems to like it.
-Oregano’s relocating old town Scottsdale location to the old SugarDaddy’s down the street in near future.
-As Tweeted a while back Patsy Grimaldis’s is opening a burger joint called “Coal Burger” at Scottsdale Quarter.