By Dane Feldman
This year saw some of the best dining experiences I have had in my life thus far. I can say proudly that many of these are in my home state of New Jersey, which is a testament to how much the tri-state area as a whole is truly dedicated to serving delicious and creative dishes.
All photos by Dane Feldman.
Red Knot is still a relatively new spot as it was when I first dined there earlier this year, but the chef is a veteran and you’ll know it by the food. The presentation is consistently beautiful, the service here is great, and if you plan it just right you can catch a sunset over Galloping Hill Golf Course as you dine.
As if a dollar oyster happy hour special isn’t enough to lure in customers, 100 Steps Supper Club + Raw Bar serves up some of the wildest dishes I’ve seen. The wait staff is extremely knowledgeable, which is great because the aforementioned wild dishes sometimes need a little extra explanation before patrons know what to order. The prices here can get to be a bit steep, but folks who say that price is worth it to taste so many different flavors are the ones who keep a spot like this thriving.
La Pergola boasts some of the absolute freshest and most delicious Northern Italian food in New Jersey. It can be sometimes hard to differentiate Italian restaurants in a state filled to the brim with them (especially because so many are actually owned by Italians), but La Pergola stands out for its exceptional service, beautiful space, perfect pastas, and wonderful seafood entrees.
This restaurant is consistently lauded as one of the best in New York City. I had the pleasure of dining at Fig & Olive’s Meatpacking District location for 2014’s Restaurant Week, which truly was an out of this world experience. The dishes served were fantastic, the portions sizeable, and the restaurant itself is truly beautiful inside. If you choose to dine al fresco, you certainly won’t be disappointed either considering the Meatpacking District is arguably one of the most charming neighborhoods in the entire city.
Unfortunately, I’ve heard some mixed reviews about the service since I last dined at Pairings Palate + Plate, but until I experience something of the sort on my own I will continue to praise this restaurant. The food is fantastic and, like its neighbor 100 Steps, Pairings’ menu is absolutely wild. The chefs here think of pairings (pun intended) that I couldn’t possibly dream up.
The funny thing about The Office is that it has a bunch of locations throughout New Jersey. For a long while, I just assumed it was an okay bar with an okay crowd, but after finally trying it I found I was completely wrong. This place has become a staple for my friends and I on a night where we’re looking to have a good time without needing to work too hard. It’s easy to get carried away attempting to taste all of the beers The Office has on offer—flights are so cool—and the wait staff are happy to let patrons hang out until closing time. If you get hungry, don’t worry. The Office has some serious pub grub.
Cape May boasts some of the best restaurants along the entire Jersey shore and draws vacationers from all over to check out its quaint surroundings. Tisha’s Fine Dining used to be located right on the water, but a surprising move to the colonial era mall downtown has proven rather smart. Now, the restaurant is as quaint as the town itself and serves up fresh fish and seasonal dishes. Seriously, those crab cakes were insane.
Speaking of insane, Xi’an Famous Foods is absolutely off the charts insane. This place was listed as one of the best noodle shops in the entire city of New York and after visiting it, I can certainly see why. Before setting foot inside Xi’an, I had no idea what fresh pulled noodles were. Now, I can’t imagine my world without them. There’s no other way to explain it; go see for yourself. Just remember, this spot has practically no ambience or breathing room. Eat your food and move on—you can bask in its glory later.
I list the follow-up post here because I spent a good portion of my time explaining why I love this restaurant so much. In fact, Serenade is one of just a small handful of restaurants that I have reviewed more than once. Dinner here will likely set you back a bit more than you’d like, but I can’t stress enough how much the entire experience is worth the money. The food, the service, the drinks, and the ambience are all top notch.
Roosterspin is located in the exact same spot as one of my favorite restaurants from when I was growing up. For that reason, silly or not, I was apprehensive when I first stepped inside. Truthfully, there’s no recognizing the space, but by the time I sat down and began ordering, I could barely remember what I was so anxious about. Roosterspin’s fried chicken is amongst the best I’ve tasted, the service is wonderful (not to mention excited thanks to the fact that this restaurant just launched), and the prices are surprisingly low. I’m sure this place is here to stay.
Tune in to Dish + Drink on Saturdays throughout 2015 to read more restaurant reviews.
For some of Dane’s personal favorites, check out yesterday’s post. For the best brunches of 2014, check back in with Dish + Drink tomorrow.