Food Culture America - DiningOut NJ Summer 2018

Though American food is not quite as easy to categorize as the traditional foods of other nations, there is a distinctly American fusion of cultures which creates an authentic ambience and cuisine that is unequivocally American.

When we envision classic American dining, we might picture a meal taking place in an old tavern with dim lighting, wooden booths, and a robust bar. The atmosphere is cozy and the food is comfortable–think oversized burgers, fried fish from local waters, hearty steaks and perhaps some chicken pot pie paired with a draught beer or a whiskey-based cocktail. Fortunately, classic American dining is not a thing of the past, as a multitude of these tavern-style American restaurants still exist and very much appeal to present-day diners seeking comfort food, strong drinks, and a casual environment.

Contemporary American dining focuses more on the fusion of American culture with the many others that have and continue to inspire our palettes. A modern American diner might take in a meal in a bistro or cafe with stylish decor and expertly coordinated colors while enjoying a menu with items that might range from sushi, to rice bowls, to pasta, to good old-fashioned Southern barbeque. Conscious of the changing climate, the collective carbon footprint, and the importance of a clean diet, modern American diners appreciate restaurants that source local, sustainable, and organic foods whenever possible.

Something we know for sure is that in America, there are A LOT of restaurants to choose from. To keep customers coming back, American restaurants have to be unique, consistent, and appetizing, and these northern New Jersey restaurants certainly are.

City Perch
{2023 Hudson Street, Fort Lee; 201.582.7101;}
Modern American dining with daily happy hours and live DJ’s on the weekends are only part of the appeal at this stylish kitchen and bar where the head chef is the recipient of multiple James Beard awards. Sherry Yard has established a menu with only the freshest local ingredients, decadent drinks, and unforgettable socialization, making City Perch a win for the foodie looking for a farm to table experience easily shared with friends. With a multitude of menus, including those for Brunch, Dinner, Dessert, Early Birdies, Night Owls, and Happy Hour, City Perch didn’t miss a beat from the pulse of northern New Jersey diners. Come in for a creative cocktail such as the Homemade Ginger Beer Fizz or Applejack Margarita. Pair it with a dish from the always fresh seasonal menu such as the Gulf Shrimp and Grits, Braised Beef Short Ribs, or the Roasted Long Island Duck, and you will definitely be back.

Fire and Oak American Grill

Fire and Oak American Grill

Fire and Oak American Grill
{485 Washington Boulevard, Jersey City; 201.610.9610;}
This American eatery prides itself on having a little something for everyone. With a vast menu covering everything from sushi to burgers, Fire and Oak takes American comfort food to the next level. When asked what makes Fire and Oak so unique, owner Errick Paragioudakis points to his menu: “I believe we have a menu that identifies with a lot of people. We use high-quality ingredients to produce recognizable comfort food that is executed at a high level.” What are some of Errick’s favorite menu items? He suggests trying the local calamari, grilled and served with chickpea salad with a lemon vinaigrette and the signature F&O thrice cooked potatoes that boast a crisp exterior complemented by a soft, airy inside.

{225 River Street, Hoboken; 201. 253.2500;}
The seafood, the meats, and even the beverage program was curated using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients at Halifax restaurant, located inside the impossibly chic W Hotel. Chef Seadon Shouse puts his magic touch on all the menu items, but if he had to narrow down a few favorites he lets us in on what he’d choose: “My favorite food and beverage items on the menu are the house-made Smoked Fish and Charcuterie boards, and the Smoked Chicken. My favorite beverage is the Americano. It is a classic, but ours is made with our House Made Sweet Vermouth and Campari.” This American restaurant is easy on the eyes as well as the palate.

Kimchi Smoke - Westwood NJ

Kimchi Smoke – Westwood NJ

Kimchi Smoke Barbeque
{301 Center Avenue, Westwood; 201.497.6333;}
What happens when you combine traditional, Southern barbeque with Korean flavors? You will have to try out Kimchi Smoke Barbecue for yourself to experience this deliciously unique taste combination. Owner and Pitmaster Robert Austin Cho recommends trying his favorite item on the menu–the Chonut 2.1. It incorporates smoked brisket, smoked kimchi, bourbon chipotle sauce, cheese, and bacon on a glazed donut. How’s that for Korean infused American food!

Light Horse Tavern
{199 Washington Street, Jersey City; 201.946.2028;}
Rich in history as well as flavor, this American tavern is named after Henry Lee III, or “Light Horse Harry.” There’s something special about dining on American fare in an environment that harkens back to the revolutionary days when our country’s roots were established. Thoughts of our forefathers may cross your mind as you enjoy cultural classics such as oysters and calamari pulled straight from the water, pumpkin gnocchi, aged ribeye steak, baked meatloaf, fish and chips, or a traditional burger. Check the menu for daily specials.

Mighty Quinn’s
{One Garden State Plaza Boulevard, Paramus; 201. 843.1490;}
At Mighty Quinn’s, barbeque lovers don’t have to sacrifice taste for quality–all of the delicious smoked meats served here are naturally raised. Not only is the meat thoughtfully sourced, but the entire interior of the restaurant, from the tables and bars to the wall surfaces, utilize local, reclaimed wood wherever possible. The newest addition to the MQ menu is the Mighty Bowl. Comprised of jasmine rice, fresh spinach, Ancho roasted sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, hand-pulled smoked chicken, chili flakes, and sherry vinaigrette, this bowl will satisfy all of your flavor cravings.

MK Valencia Pork Chop

MK Valencia – Ridgefield Park NJ

MK Valencia
{228 Main Street, Ridgefield Park; 201. 373.0228;}
Your meal will always be fresh at MK Valencia, where they take pride in their seasonal menu choices. Owner Monica Fung attests that the seasonal menu comprised of homemade selections ensures customers dine on only the freshest ingredients: “All dishes, from appetizers to entrees to desserts are homemade. We believe that every dish that comes out is not only delicious but looks beautiful.” While it is hard to go wrong with a menu of entirely homemade choices, Ms. Fung does have some recommendations as to her personal favorites on the food and drink menus. When asked for her favorite food selection she responded: “Our Grilled Skirt Steak. Served all seasons due to its popularity. And it never gets boring because the side that comes with it changes seasonally. Beautiful flavors all year round.” Her drink choice is the Lychee Martini for its simple deliciousness.

Steel Wheel Tavern
{51 North Broad Street, Ridgewood; 201.882.1800;}
This contemporary American restaurant, located in a richly historic part of town, keeps customers coming back to their favorite neighborhood bar with happy hours, weekend brunch, live music nights, and of course, a spectacular head chef! With New Jersey native Bryan Tortorella heading the kitchen, customers can expect the quality of food only an experienced, career chef can deliver. Some impressive menu items at the Steel Wheel include duck and poultry locally sourced from nearby Goffle Farms, signature angus beef sliders, and a wide variety of creative salads, pastas, burgers, and seafood. The best part? You can bring the kids. Enjoy your craft beer, cocktail, or glass of wine as the kids get excited about the hefty menu just for them!

White Maple Cafe Pan Roasted Half Chicken

White Maple Cafe – Ridgewood NJ

White Maple Cafe
{47 East Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood; 201. 447.1953;}
Owner and creator of White Maple Cafe, Ryan Brining, feels that his restaurant stands out for its commitment to change: “White Maple Café is committed to environmental and social change, and seeks to make an impact in the world through its unwavering dedication to sustainable sourcing, including sourcing only ocean-friendly seafood recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, as well as only grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, and free-range poultry.” This knowledge should be more than enough to help you feel good about enjoying some chef favorites at this contemporary American bistro, such as the panko-crusted Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, paired with asparagus, fingerling potatoes, and a dijon mustard sauce.


Avo’s Grill
{720 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park; 201.945.9038;}
Mediterranean-influenced American cuisine in a friendly atmosphere with killer ribs and a newly opened bar!

Hiram’s Roadstand
{1345 Palisade Avenue, Fort Lee; 201.592.9602}
Nothing says America quite like a roadside hot dog joint! Hiram’s has outlived its competitors and become a local institution in northern New Jersey. Don’t miss their famous deep fried hot dogs, burgers, beer, and birch beer on tap.

Mortgage Apple Cakes
{740 Chestnut Avenue,Teaneck; 201.371.3121;}
What began as an attempt to earn money to save the owner’s home has turned into a well-loved cake line.

By Melissa Sorge