A true “Jersey Foodie”, Deborah Smith has plenty of experience both professionally as well as personally. The owner of Foxtrot Media has consulted many restaurants from the Jersey shore to right up here in Northern New Jersey. She is also frequently “dining out” (pun intended) and reports her findings on her Instagram feed @jerseybites. Deborah has also been a contributing writer for Dining Out Jersey (read her article, “New Jersey’s Delicious Melting Pot” on page 28 in this issue). We recently sat down with Deb and chatted about life as an influencer.

Where are you based?

I grew up and spent my early 20s in Monmouth County. I’m Mom to two grown boys and the owner of Foxtrot Media, a restaurant marketing agency located in Point Pleasant Beach. I am also the author of The Jersey Shore Cookbook: Fresh Summer Flavors from the Boardwalk and Beyond. In my spare time, I travel the Garden State looking for memorable meals, judge food competitions, and work, when I can, on my next cookbook.

How did you begin documenting what you eat?

I started my blog JerseyBites.com in 2007 to share my recipes. I am an avid home cook and thought it would be easier to just share a link with someone when they asked me for a recipe. Shortly after launching, I decided I wanted to also include my restaurant recommendations. Eventually this turned out to be the main focus of the blog. When social media started to take off, first with Twitter in 2008, I jumped on board and the rest is history.

What do you believe makes a great dining experience?

I’m a firm believer that the experience encompasses everything from how the restaurant makes me feel when I come through the front door, to the friendliness of the staff, the competence of the servers, and, of course, the execution of the meal. This translates to any type of restaurant. While people remember the food, they also remember how you made them feel at your restaurant.

What are some of your favorite places?

Favorite places in these categories:

Breakfast / Brunch – If I’m in the mood for a hearty breakfast, I’m headed to Toast. They have three locations in New Jersey. Their carrot cake pancakes are to die for and you can’t go wrong with any of their excellent egg dishes.

ItalianThe Blu Grotto in Oceanport is one of my favorite places for Italian. Chef Corona’s branzino is the best I’ve ever had and in the winter months they prepare their Cacio e Pepe tableside in a giant wheel of Parmesan. It’s amazing.

Unique Vibe Heart & Tap Co in Montvale is such a cool place. The whole restaurant is built from architectural finds, which the owners brought over in shipping containers from Ireland. Their cigar bar really makes you feel like you’re hanging out in an Irish Pub and their Herder’s Pie is the best.

Mexican El Chingon in Union is my favorite Mexican restaurant. The cocktails are outrageous, and the menu is expansive and really creative. And if you like to belt out a tune now and then they have karaoke almost every night.

Fine Dining1776 in Morristown. I was just there for the first time in September and was blown away by the atmosphere, service, and menu. The cocktails are outstanding too.

Diner – If I’m in the mood for diner food, I head to State Line Diner in Mahwah and I’m probably ordering a club sandwich. It is a classic diner with a huge menu, tons of homemade baked goods and pastries, and open 24/7. You can’t go wrong.

Vegetarian – For healthy food with a twist, worldFLATS is a new favorite. The dishes are unique and flavorful. You never miss the meat. I wish I had one closer to where I live.

Dive PlaceThe Linwood Inn is such a fun place with so much history. My fiance’s family is from Linden and he remembers being sent by his grandmother to go fetch the men from the bar for dinner. I love sitting at that old bar and having some pizza or any of their delicious offerings, and listening to the locals’ friendly banter.

What are some places you’d like to try?

There are really too many to list here. I wish I had the time and a helicopter to get everywhere I’d like to be. I’ve never been to Ninety Acres and I have heard they offer cooking classes. I need to make that happen.

What are some cuisines you have not yet tried, but would like to?

As far as cuisines I would like to try, I’d say I’d like to learn more about Indian cuisine and Korean cuisine. I’ve tried both but I feel out of my league with both right now. I’d like to be led through what I’m actually ordering.

You can follow Deb @Jerseybites everywhere you hang out in social land. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

By Paul Turpanjian