Hello all. I’m not doing my usual Friday Foodstuffs post this week. I have something special to post instead. Some time back, I got an idea: to come up with 100 food experiences one should try in South Jersey. In trying to come up with this list, I ran into a problem: 100 is a lot! I knew that I needed help, and help was on the way in the form of a group of fellow South Jersey food bloggers who were just as enthusiastic about the idea. After a couple of months, we have come up with our list. I hope you enjoy it! – John
Whatcha eatin’? In South Jersey, between the shore, the bay, the farms, the upscale restaurants in refurbished downtowns and glitzy casinos, and the mom-and-pop joints in quiet neighborhoods – you have a lot of choices. A group of food bloggers that call South Jersey home got together, and, with very little blood spilled, put together a list of 100 South Jersey food experiences that they think are worthy of your attention.
In reality, this list will never be ‘finished’, as if time were to just simply stop. It will be revisited, as newer experiences will eventually push some of these out of the way. This will also be an interactive list, and those who read it and wish to make suggestions will also influence the changes made. We don’t profess to be the ‘be-all, end-all’ experts here.
So…let’s get started, shall we?
For Your Dining (and Diner-ing) Pleasure
What restaurants and diners do we really enjoy? For a classic upscale meal, some places have withstood the test of time. In Cape May, 1) The Ebbitt Room and 2) 410 Bank Street continue to satisfy their guests. For fine French dining, 3) La Campagne in Cherry Hill is excellent. And for a night out where every detail is taken care of, 4) The Knife & Fork Inn in Atlantic City is just your kind of place. There are certainly a plethora of Italian restaurants in South Jersey, and two that stand out for us are 5) Catelli Ristorante in Voorhees and 6) Andrea’s Trattoria in Newfield. If you like your meal to be more eclectic, 7) Blue in Surf City is a real treat. Hankering for a good steak? Well, you certainly can’t go wrong with 8) The Library 2 in Voorhees, 9) The Pub in Pennsauken, or 10) The Chophouse, also located in Voorhees. 11) The Tortilla Press in Collingswood and 12) blueplate in Mullica Hill have been very much a part of the trend of using local ingredients, and 13) Farm to Fork Week, run by SJ Hot Chefs, is a week-long event celebrating food grown by local farms. And speaking of special restaurant events: brand new in 2009 was 14) Atlantic City’s Restaurant Week, the biggest of its kind in South Jersey with over 70 participating restaurants. A good restaurant that’s kid-friendly is not easy to find, but 15) Sweet Jenny’s in Barnegat fits the bill rather well. We love our diners here in Jersey; after all, where else can you order a plate of fries and gravy and a chocolate milkshake at 2AM? The two South Jersey diners that stand out for us are 16) Mastori’s Diner in Bordentown (especially their cheese and cinnamon bread) and 17) Ponzio’s Diner in Cherry Hill (especially their pancakes and chocolate mousse cheesecake).
Comfort Food, South Jersey-Style
You say hoagie, and I say sub. While the name debate rages on, our collective taste buds found three that we enjoyed the most: 18) Carmen’s Deli in Bellmawr, 19) White House Subs in Atlantic City and 20) Giovanni’s Italian American in Vineland. The cheesesteak is known far and wide here in South Jersey, and one name stands above all others in making a great cheesesteak: 21) Gaetano’s Steaks & Subs in Willingboro (and other locations). Other great sandwich places include 22) The Kibitz Room in Cherry Hill, 23) The Pop Shop in Collingswood (for their grilled cheese sandwiches) and 24) Kavanaugh’s Irish Pub & Grille in Malaga (try the broccoli rabe, roast pork and provolone sandwich). With the aforementioned plethora of Italian restaurants comes the multitude of accompanying pizza joints. We settled on four that we liked: 25) Panzone’s Pizza and Pasta in Beach Haven, 26) Pietro’s in Marlton, 27) Mack and Manco’s in Ocean City, and 28) Shady Rest Restaurant in Bayville. Buffalo wings may come from, well, Buffalo, but we enjoy them here as well. Two places that serve excellent wings are 29) Pic-A-Lilli Inn in Shamong and 30) The Jughandle Inn in Cinnaminson. Those of us who live in Ocean County have a special connection with 31) Surf Taco and their tacos and burritos. South Jersey has its share of roadside food, and we picked 32) Dewey’s Dogs in Forked River and 33) Uncle Dewey’s Outdoor BBQ in Mitzpah, which keeps up the great tradition of roadside barbecue stands in South Jersey. Speaking of ‘cue, 34) Ben’s eXtreme BBQ in Forked River is the real deal. If you enjoy your comfort food festival-style, check out the 35) Rock ‘n Roll ‘n Ribs ‘n Chili Cook-off in Vineland and the 36) New Jersey State Barbecue Championship in North Wildwood.
Putting the Garden in The Garden State
There’s a reason why New Jersey is called The Garden State, and we have the proof right here in South Jersey! Let’s count the ways: 37) Jersey corn (and cook it the same day it’s picked!), 38) Jersey tomatoes, 39) Jersey strawberries, 40) Jersey blueberries (from Hammonton, of course), and 41) Jersey peaches, for starters. But why stop there? You can also find 42) wild broccoli rabe as well as 43) asparagus from the well-known Walker Brothers in Pittsgrove. With all this wonderful produce, you can be sure that there are plenty of good farmers markets and stands as well. Those that we like include 44) the Collingswood Farmers Market, 45) Brassie’s Farm Stand in Vineland, 46) Levari Farm Stand in Richland, 47) Happy Valley Berry Farm in Bridgeton, 48) Silverton Farms in Toms River, 49) Emery’s Organic Berry Farm in New Egypt, and 50) Mood’s Farm in Mullica Hill. And we like to celebrate our produce with festivals! In Hammonton, the 51) Red, White and Blueberry Festival is a big event. At the Gloucester County Fair, you have the 52) NJ Peach Festival. And let’s not forget another famous Jersey crop – the cranberry! Enjoy the 53) Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth.
South Jersey is surrounded by water, so it makes sense that seafood would be enjoyed here. Some favorite local treasures of the sea include 54) Cape May salt oysters and 55) blue crab. If you like catching your own, 56) doing your fishing and crabbing at Turkey Point is one way to go. If you’re not into catching the seafood, you can go buy some at 57) the seafood market at The Lobster House in Cape May or 58) Gregory’s Seafood in Manchester. Need a way to prepare your crabs? How about 59) a crab and spaghetti dinner cooked Jersey-style, by cleaning the crabs with beer and garlic. Or maybe you just want to go out and have someone else prepare your seafood, like maybe some 60) she crab soup from Busch’s Seafood in Sea Isle City or the 61) garlic clams from Mud City Crab House in Manahawkin. Care for a seafood festival? 62) Chowderfest on Long Beach Island and the 63) Festival of the Sea in Point Pleasant are very good and popular events. Newer to the scene is the 64) Seafood Festival in Vineland.
Need Something Sweet?
All this talk of food, and no dessert? Don’t worry – we got you covered. If it’s a bakery you want, we like 65) The Sweet Life Bakery in Vineland, 66) McMillan’s Bakery in Westmont (try the cream donuts!), 67) Cacia’s Bakery in Cherry Hill (their bread and pizza are also excellent), and 68) Penza’s Pies at The Red Barn Café in Hammonton. Even our farm markets make yummy treats, like the 69) cider donuts from Springdale Farms in Cherry Hill. Summertime brings folks down to the shore, and all that time out in the sun makes one crave an ice cream cone. Satisfy that craving at 70) Rich’s Ice Cream in Toms River, 71) Hoffman’s Ice Cream & Yogurt in Point Pleasant and 72) Kohr’s frozen custard on the boardwalk. Summer also brings out that classic neighborhood ice cream treat – 73) Mister Softee! Who hasn’t jumped up and down, waving their arms and yelling “over here, over here” at the ice cream truck – even if it’s March 1st and snowing outside? So…do you have to get to the shore for good ice cream? Puh-lease. 74) Sundaes homemade ice cream and water ice in Berlin doesn’t need any sand to taste good. Want something else at the boardwalk? There’s always the classic treat of 75) salt water taffy. At the Ocean City boardwalk, you can enjoy 76) Johnson’s Caramel popcorn. And you can wash all of this down with 77) a root beer float from Weber’s Famous Root Beer.
One of the best kept secrets in South Jersey is 78) our many wineries. One style we like very much is the 79) viognier from Bellview Winery in Landisville. When Thanksgiving rolls around, you might want to serve 80) a cranberry wine from one of our wineries. You can celebrate many of our wine varieties at the 81) Cape May Food and Wine Festival. Although not a hotbed for microbreweries, South Jersey does have a good one with 82) Flying Fish in Cherry Hill. Looking for a nice place to have a drink? For wine, try the great wine list at 83) Annata Wine Bar in Hammonton. If you want to step back in time, go to 84) The Brown Room at Congress Hall in Cape May with its art deco feel.
Shops With That Special Something
Sometimes, you need to go somewhere outside of a grocery store to get what you need. For hand-made sausages, we like 85) The German Butcher in Forked River and 86) Serra Sausage in Vineland. Italian specialty shops are all around, and the ones that we found to be the best are 87) Severino Pasta Company in Westmont, 88) Conte’s Pasta in Vineland and 89) Bagliani’s Italian Market in Hammonton (and ask for Joe the cheese guy). Want something more in your morning cup o’ joe? South Jersey has two world-class coffee roasters in 90) Kaffe Magnum Opus in Millville and 91) Crescent Moon in Mullica Hill.
Uniquely South Jersey
And then there are some things that can only be found right here. First off, only in South Jersey can you get 92) a real panzarotti, not just a generic pizza turnover. Have you ever considered eating…muskrat? Well, they have a special 93) Muskrat Dinner in Salem County every year. Love them or hate them, lima beans do elicit a reaction. If you’re a fan, come celebrate at the 94) Lima Bean Festival in West Cape May. And if you’re ever driving around the shore and want to hear something fun on the radio, check out 95) Ed Hitzel’s ‘Table for One’ radio show on Saturday mornings. If anyone knows their culinary way around South Jersey, it’s Ed.
What? You say that’s only 95? Where’s the other five? This is where YOU, the reader, come into play. We know you have your own ideas, and we’d like you to express them. Leave your comments and suggestions of places that we might have missed, and the five that get the most passionate votes will complete the list. So…give us an earful!
The South Jersey Food Bloggers United
This list was created by these fabulous South Jersey food bloggers and can also be found on their blogs:
Melissa Gaffney is a writer and a foodie in her own right. She blogs here and writes here, and currently is eating her way through New Jersey, one cupcake-bagel-steak-salad-sandwich-general dish at a time.
Lisa Grant loves to cook and write about it in her blog, Jersey Girl Cooks. She is a stay at home mom of two children and enjoys doing some part time freelancing as well as entering various recipe contests.
John and Lisa Howard-Fusco started John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey to share about their food experiences. Both grew up in South Jersey and after spending some time in North Jersey (Lisa in the publishing world and John in the financial industry), they have come back as freelance writers and bloggers to rediscover what they have missed and spread the word about the great food here.
Robin Shreeves is the founder of the South Jersey Locavore blog where she writes about where to find all the delicious food and beverages our region produces. She’s a freelance writer, the eco-friendly food blogger for the Mother Nature Network, and a 98lifelong resident of South Jersey.
Mike Staff writes about eateries and other locations he visits around South Jersey in his blog South Jersey Places.
Stephen Wilson owns The Sweet Life Bakery in downtown Vineland with his wife Jill McClennen. They are committed to using fresh local foods at the bakery whenever possible. Stephen writes a weekly column for a newspaper, The Grapevine, and gets the opportunity to share his food philosophy and experiences with every household in Vineland (~23,000 copies printed). He republishes these articles on his blog.