The best food we ate in North Jersey this week: Nov. 17


Good morning, North Jersey eaters! It may be cold outside, but it’s hot and happening inside of our local restaurants.

Oh, wait — you guys wouldn’t know; because you’re not going to them.

That’s right, according to the top restaurateurs from Morris to Bergen, it’s officially slow season. And they (nor I) know why. Here are a couple guesses:

  1. It’s cold.
  2. It’s dark early now, but the Christmas lights aren’t out yet, so you’re depressed (those feelings snuck in slowly, though, so you’re not aware of them).
  3. You can’t stand the smell of winter truffles.

Here are my responses:

  1. Your body burns more calories while shivering, so here’s your excuse to eat more. As a matter of fact — forget inside seating. Just stand in the Rutt’s Hut parking lot in a tank top and let the Rippers run through you like anti-freeze in a 2000 Chevy Suburban.
  2. Seasonal sadness? No problem. Good food releases endorphins. AKA; The Pasta Shop can cure your winter depression.
  3. This sounds like a you problem (@ my dad).

So, in other words, go out and show your favorite neighborhood restaurants some love.

And, if you still need a little more convincing? Here are the five best dishes I ate in Jersey this week.

‘Peanut Butter and Jelly’ Foie Gras, Restaurant Serenade

Out loud, this may sound like one of the strangest concepts I’ve featured on my “Best Things” lists yet. But, on the plate? It was one of the most unique, luxurious and delectable delicacies I’ve found to date. Allow me to elaborate.

The appetizer is made up of all the classic components of a PB&J sandwich, starting with a grilled piece of brioche bread and ending with alternating swirls of house-made peanut butter and concord grape coulis. In between those components, however, are two tender pieces of foie gras, which, when heated, drip their delicious fats into the bread underneath them — like butter on toast.

When you bite into that peanut butter and fat-soaked brioche, juices and sauces squish from to your mouth like soft serve from a wafer cone. The nut butter and meat make the richest flavor combination imaginable, and the grape coulis cuts through them with a bright sweetness vaguely reminiscent of Welch’s classic jam.

Putting Uncrustables to shame (and I really do love Uncrustables), the dish is a local showstopper.

Go: 6 Roosevelt Ave., Chatham; 973-701-0303,

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cinnamon Bun Egg Roll, Uncle Sal’s Egg Rolls

Last time I met with Sal Graci of Uncle Sal’s Egg Rolls, I asked him to invent me a Thanksgiving-themed hors d’oeuvres platter. This past week, the junk food entrepreneur delivered, with a tray of crispy rolls in varieties from Turkey Gobbler to Sweet Potato Casserole. I knew we were onto a winner, however, when he lifted the plastic lid and revealed his Pumpkin Cheesecake Cinnamon Bun creation.

Stuffed with pumpkin purée, cheesecake filling, and chopped cinnamon bun pieces, there was really no way the roll was going to fail, but when I bit into it, it was even tastier than I expected.

I mean, the deep-fried thing even came with a side of melty cinnamon icing. I just don’t know how it could possibly get better than that.

Go: Verona-based food truck, delivers through Jersey;, @unclesalseggrolls.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pork Belly, Pop Supper Club

Simple in concept, but dynamite to the taste buds, Brussels with bacon are a classic restaurant side dish. Pop Supper Club — the twice-per-week dinner club hosted by That Pasta Club and Pop Empanada — however, took them to the next level when they served them to me last Friday.

Doused in sriracha and honey, and topped with a massive strip of crunchy pork belly, the sprouts were loaded with sweet, salty and spicy flavors. Of particular note was the texture of their leaves, which, even under two layers of marination, was exceptionally crispy.

Even though the appetizer was followed by four courses that were significantly more complex than it (think fish crudos in sesame oil and hand-rolled pastas), I thought about the crunchy little vegetables for the rest of the night.

Go: Pop-up supper club (Thurs. through Sat.) by That Pasta Club inside of Pop Empanada; 7 Hawthorne Ave., Park Ridge; 201-746-0000. Learn more here:

Chicken Rama, Kai Yang

A Kai Yang classic, this dish featured tender, bite-sized pieces of hand-breaded chicken in a thick, decadent Thai peanut sauce.

So, in other words, it was fried chicken in peanut butter.

(And it was awesome).

Go: 345 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair; 973-509-2110,

Mole Poblano Quesotaco, Chofi Taco y Birria

I’ve tried many of the different tacos at Union City’s best Mexican joint Chofi Taco before, but this week was my first time tasting the Mole Poblano. Just like the others, though, it was exceptional. Featuring roasted chicken and sesame seeds (and cheese, as I opted for queso) under a sweet and smoky mole sauce, the sloppy handheld was as good, if not better, than the spot’s iconic Birria Taco. I especially enjoyed its warm, earthy spices, as they were notably comforting at a chilly time of year.

At this point, I feel like I could throw a dart — blind — at Chef Kim Flammia’s menu and end up with something delicious. From the outside, her humble little hole-in-the-wall isn’t anything to write home about (if you even notice it at all), but, on the inside? It’s a powerhouse.

Go: 1706 Summit Ave., Union City; 201-430-6515,

Hungry for more?

Want more on this week’s latest food news? Check out some of my (and others’) best articles at, or keep up with me @northjerseyeats.

Oh, and if any of you have suggestions for local dishes that could potentially make this list? Send me some tips; @northjerseyeats.

(PS: I would love a good panini-pressed wrap, or a truffle mushroom pizza).

Kara VanDooijeweert is a food writer for and The Record. If you can’t find her in Jersey’s best restaurants, she’s probably off running a race course in the mountains. Catch her on Instagram: @karanicolev & @northjerseyeats, and sign up for her North Jersey Eats newsletter.

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