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20 Restaurants That Define New Jersey Dining

From rolling farms to quaint seaside towns to dense suburbs, New Jersey is as varied geographically as it is demographically. As you’d expect from the “Garden State,” chefs here have a lot to work with, sourcing pristine vegetables from nearby farms and fresh fish from the state’s 130 miles of coastline. It all makes for a rich restaurant scene that rivals NJ's neighboring giant cities. These are the restaurants that define what it means to dine in New Jersey right now.

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Updated May 12, 2021
A photo of The Saddle River Inn restaurant

The Saddle River Inn

Price: Very Expensive
Saddle River
2746 reviews
Since its opening in 1981, The Saddle River Inn has always been a fine dining destination. Housed in a restored 18th century barn, chef and owner Jamie Knott ensures that the menu nods to the classic, pastoral setting while still feeling fresh. American fare regularly sees international influences, such as the maple-chipotle glaze on the precisely roasted chicken, or the addition of mint chimichurri to a plate of Colorado lamb chops. The restaurant is BYOB, so pick out a special bottle to bring with you to round out the meal.

A photo of Felina - Ridgewood restaurant

Felina - Ridgewood

Price: Very Expensive
Contemporary Italian
Ridgewood, New Jersey
634 reviews
Located in a former bank, Felina’s space is as rich in detail as the Italian dishes on the restaurant’s menu. The owners decided to use the bank’s soaring lobby as an event space, locating the restaurant where the offices used to be, in a cozy back area they warmed with clusters of globe lights and reclaimed wood. The menu changes with the seasons, with a few anchors like the rotating “pizzette,” a mini pizza that was recently topped with Brussels sprouts, provolone, crème fraîche, and Meyer lemon. Pair it with one of the restaurant’s five negroni variations, such as the cold brew negroni, where a splash of coffee liqueur is added to the typical triad of Italian liqueur, vermouth, and gin.

A photo of Fornos of Spain restaurant

Fornos of Spain

Price: Expensive
1677 reviews
Starting in the 1960s, Spanish and Portuguese immigrants began flocking to Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood for jobs at the neighborhood’s various factories. Several decades later, the neighborhood offers a portal where diners can access the cuisines of these countries without ever setting foot in Newark Airport. The neighborhood is full of bakeries, cafes, butchers, and barbecue spots making treats from the Iberian Peninsula, but for finer dining, locals head to Fornos of Spain. This longtime spot excels at seafood dishes, such as the wide variety of paellas and Spanish classics such as simply grilled octopus doused with olive oil and paprika, all served in an old-school dining room against a backdrop of white table cloths.

A photo of Serenade restaurant


Price: Very Expensive
French American
2432 reviews
Chatham fine dining destination Serenade has been topping best-of lists in New Jersey throughout the restaurant’s 20-plus years of existence. Run by husband-and-wife team Nancy and James Laird, the restaurant’s marriage of traditional dishes and modern techniques are the key to its longevity, serving updated American fare in a handsome grey dining room appointed with bright yellow chairs. Here, diners can find timeless dishes such as clams casino alongside creative preparations such as braised short ribs with an Asian-inspired glaze, roasted apples, and sticky rice.

A photo of The Frog and the Peach restaurant

The Frog and the Peach

Price: Expensive
New Brunswick
2978 reviews
The Frog & The Peach has been operating continuously since 1983, a legacy that the restaurant’s most recent owner, chef Bruce Lefebvre, takes very seriously: His first job out of culinary school was with the restaurant, and in 2012, he had the chance to buy it. He’s since doubled down on ingredient-driven American cuisine, with a penchant for wild game evident in dishes such as elk carpaccio, served with a preserved egg yolk and a dressing of cassis, juniper, and maple topped with pickled shallots. The restaurant also puts on special dinners and experiences, such as a recent five-course Portuguese tasting menu and wine pairing meal, designed by the restaurant’s Portuguese sous chef.

Experiences available
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A photo of Mistral restaurant


Price: Expensive
Contemporary American
2962 reviews
Taking inspiration from all of the world, Mistral’s menu is hard to categorize — and it’s that variety that keeps diners coming back to the restaurant’s bright, wood-filled dining room. In fact, the restaurant has appeared on New Jersey Monthly’s annual best restaurant list every year since it opened in 2013. Mistral’s small plates give tables the opportunity to try a large selection of dishes before digging into the mains, and since the menu changes all the time, there’s always an excuse for return visits. Recently, appetizers included dishes such as smoked cod beignets with a side of horseradish crème fraîche, and mains such as crispy whole black bass smothered in mapo mushroom sauce.

A photo of Semolina Restaurant restaurant

Semolina Restaurant

Price: Expensive
Red Bank
2702 reviews
Don’t let the casual vibe of this BYO-spot in downtown Red Bank fool you — brothers Chuck and Tylar Lesbirel are churning out very serious food. Leaning heavily on New Jersey’s farms and fisheries, the menu at Semolina has a distinct sense of place. And while vegetable dishes and proteins all come with creative flourishes, the stars of the menu are the perfectly al dente handmade pastas, appearing in dishes such as the chitarra “carbonara,” a riff on the classic Italian preparation that adds a touch of heavy cream in the sauce, and comes topped with crumbled applewood bacon, a duck yolk, and a shower of cracked pepper.

A photo of The Grand Tavern restaurant

The Grand Tavern

Price: Expensive
823 reviews
Grand Tavern’s slogan says it all: “Beef, fat, butter and cream. Isn’t life grand?” In other words, come hungry. It’s the quintessential neighborhood American restaurant — the menu is succinct, but it changes frequently and offers enough variety to please most. Always ask about the daily specials, which have recently included fried artichokes served in a pool of briny bottarga cream, or a grilled pork chop on top of a stew of escarole and beans that’s packed with garlic and preserved lemon. A favorite hangout among local bartenders and sommeliers, the restaurant also runs a top-notch drink program, cranking out original cocktails such as the Flip Your Lid with bourbon, grapefruit, lemon, cinnamon, and bitters.

A photo of La Cita restaurant

La Cita

Price: Moderate
Cherry Hill
503 reviews
Owners Olivia and Regulo Reyes set La Cita apart from other area Mexican spots through the restaurant’s diverse menu of regional specialties. Diners can sample cochinita pibil, a spicy pork dish from the Yucatan, or Veracruz-style red snapper cooked with onions, tomatoes, capers, olives, and chiles. Kick off your meal with an order of queso fundido, a satisfying cheese dip packed with poblano peppers and chorizo that begs to be scooped up by warm flour tortillas and paired with your favorite beverage — this is another BYOB spot.

A photo of Peter Shields Inn restaurant

Peter Shields Inn

Price: Expensive
Cape May
6256 reviews
Located in a Georgian mansion overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Peter Shields Inn is a favorite among South Jersey residents and visitors alike for the atmosphere, attentive service, and seasonal American fare. The sprawling house has five different dining rooms where diners can enjoy oysters topped with Champagne ice and caviar, Hudson Valley foie gras, or the restaurant’s large selection of dry-aged beef. In warmer weather, be sure to snag one of the front porch tables to pair your meal with ocean breezes and a great view — and bring your favorite seaside beverage, as the restaurant is BYOB.

A photo of Capriccio at Resorts Atlantic City restaurant

Capriccio at Resorts Atlantic City

Price: Expensive
Atlantic City
2362 reviews
Winner of the 2020 USA Today 10Best Readers Poll for best casino restaurant, Capriccio has long been an elegant place for Resorts casino-goers to fuel up on red-sauce favorites on a trip to Atlantic City. Choice reigns supreme here; diners can begin a meal by building their own antipasti platter, and the entrées start with a protein (chicken or veal, for instance) with a choice of preparation: parmigiana, francese, picatta, marsala, or milanese. The luxe dining room is full of frescos and chandeliers, while the patio offers sweeping views of Atlantic City.

A photo of Tre Famiglia restaurant

Tre Famiglia

Price: Moderate
3931 reviews
The Cipollone family is no stranger to the restaurant world — before opening Tre Famiglia in Haddonfield, they had operated a restaurant in Philadelphia’s Italian Market since 1903. Now located just over the border, Jersey and Pennsylvania residents alike flock to this family-owned BYOB spot for the super fresh calamari, handmade pasta, and slow-simmered “gravy;” many of which are cooked directly from long-standing family recipes.

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