The Best Hidden Gem Restaurants NJ Has To Offer

Have you been searching for the best restaurants in NJ to try amazing food? Here’s my list of the top New Jersey restaurants worth your money!

by Kimberly Pangaro | Kimberly is a proud mom of four daughters, devoted wife, and the owner of Atomic Mommy – a media company dedicated to empowering parents. When she’s not running her company or momming all day, she’s writing about family life. She’s been featured in Parents magazine and Voyage Savannah magazine. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @atomic_mommy.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This is an honest review and I have not been paid for my review of the products/places mentioned. To learn more about how affiliate links work, please read my affiliate disclaimer here.

My husband and I are true foodies and we aim to eat at some of the best hidden gems, local eateries, holes in the wall, and other great restaurants as often as we can! Some months we do this 5 or 6 times, and other months we go once or twice. And when we do go, we always order multiple items from each category on the menu to see how good their food really is. When the dishes are superior and amazing, I hop on here and write the review.

It’s been a while since I posted a restaurant review (don’t get me wrong, we didn’t stop eating out), so I’m going to combine our favorite New Jersey restaurants that we have really enjoyed in 2022!

Now, I’ll do my best to tell you what I ate at each of these places because what’s the point of a restaurant review if I don’t share that as well. Just a heads up, I have eaten more than once at each of these locations and most, not all, of their menus are seasonal, so any dish I mention may not be on the menu when you visit. With that said, I hope you enjoy the guide.

How To Read This Guide

To help you understand this guide, I will rank them by cost ( $ – not expensive, $$ – moderately priced, $$$ – expensive, $$$$ – food is heavenly and worth the exorbitant price). Plus, I’ll give you a swift review of each place. And I’ll rate the foods I’ve tried using a 0-10 scale, 0 being terrible and 10 being amazing. The ratings will be based one on ambience, menu options, and deliciousness. By the way, the list is not in any order of preference.

So without further adieu, here are the best restaurants to try amazing foods in NJ!

#1 Satis Bistro – Jersey City, NJ

colorful table and chairs set
Photo by Riccardo Lucon on

This place feels more like a street cafe in Spain than a high-end restaurant, and the food is deliciously decadent! But don’t be fooled, when you visit here, be sure you’re dressed in your best casual business or casual cocktail attire. In case you’re not into that kind of wear, I did see plenty of people wearing jeans dressed up with nice shoes and polo tops/really nice blouses. However, be forewarned… it is a small restaurant, with limited seating and only street parking. So if you come here, be sure to have a reservation, and plan to do a bit of walking from your car to the restaurant. Oh and because it’s so tight-spaced, strollers is not something I would recommend.

And now let’s talk about the food. The food here is of a European background and the menu does occasionally change with the seasons, though I am not sure how often it does or whether it changes for every season. If you’re lucky enough to visit here during one of the menu’s that includes it, be sure to order the bacon wrapped dates! The explosive flavors in your mouth from this dish are worth the headache of finding parking. Overall, I’d rate the restaurant and it’s food as an 8 out of 10.

Cost: $$$
Rating: 8

#2 Ninety Acres at Natirar, Peapack, NJ

modern interior of restaurant in dark tones
Photo by wewe yang on

If you enjoy farm table fresh food, then you will definitely enjoy this restaurant. Each meal is a passionate love affair for your tastebuds. And just like other restaurants on this list, their menu changes with the season and the chef is impeccable at his job.

The vibe here is one of luxury with a modern feel and because of its location, also feels like you’re on a farm. The restaurant itself is rather quite large, almost feels like you’re in a chain restaurant, but it’s also offers a glimmer of whispered privacy, which I can’t explain how the restaurant has this feel. Of course, they also offer private dining here as well. You have the option to rent their cellar for a small group- this is great for birthdays and small celebrations. Lastly, there is plenty of parking here though in the colder months, I would recommend using their full-time valet services.

Now to the food- this restaurant is one of mine and my husband’s favorite! Each food dish we’ve eaten here has never disappointed. As a matter of fact, most of the foods we were lucky enough to try here could be rated as high as a 9.5 out of 10. Our top dish was the duck foie gras, which was to die for! Though, I should warn you. While the food is exquisite, the prices are explosively much higher than most other restaurants on this list. Yet, in my personal opinion, their food was worth every single cent!

Bonus tip: this restaurant also offers cooking classes, and they are fun!

Cost: $$$$
Rating: 9.5

#3 Ivy Inn, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ

Ivy Inn exterior front
Photo Taken of Ivy Inn By Kimberly Pangaro

This little vintage location makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to the 1890’s. A former stagecoach inn, it is stunningly filled with glowing ambience, small tables, twinkle lights, and good music. Once a barely-noticeable restaurant, the chef’s menu has completely reinvigorated the quality and mood of the restaurant. Most locals know about this gem, while others only remember not that great food. I’m here to tell you that the food has completely changed and for the better! If you enjoy dining by fireside, with romantic candlelight, this is definitely one of the places I’d recommend to visit on date night or V-Day! As for parking, the building is quite quaint from the outside, it even feels like you’re visiting a historical location. Don’t be deceived by the smallness on the outside, it’s quite larger on the inside and the parking here is also plenty.

While dining here, be sure to order their Filet Mignon- topped with a portobello mushroom, blue cheese crumbles, and Hollandaise sauce, served with crispy vegetables and a bacon-potato-onion, quiche. Depending on how you eat your meat, I would add that having it cooked Medium-Well will provide the perfect amount of pink and juicy flavor as Medium would. I’ve also had the roasted rack of lamb and the stuffed oven-roasted chicken breast. The entire restaurant experience deserves a 7 out of 10.

Cost: $$
Rating: 7

#4 Lunello, Cedar Grove, NJ

dining area in house interior
Photo by Curtis Adams on

On our most recent dinner date, my husband and I ventured over to this hidden gem! It doesn’t look like anything special on the outside, but the inside is absolutely luxurious and chic! It screams high-end dining and whispers in your ear, “I am expensive, but you’ll love it here anyway!” During the day, it is beautifully bright and airy, while at night, it is even more gorgeous and offers the perfect atmosphere for swooning over your lover and food. Don’t worry about parking, because this gem is located in the heart of Cedar Grove, the restaurant is situated on a large enough lot that it offers valet parking and plenty of self-parking, too.

There’s not much to say about the staff because they were great and quite frankly, I couldn’t experience their service properly once the two delectable appetizers arrived: Hen Egg Ravioli & Foie Gras Lunello. Let’s just say that each bite caused multiple mouth-gasms! And once the perfectly cooked Filet Mignon showed up, my brain was in heaven. But it wasn’t until I placed the Duck Berlet in my mouth that I realized I was floating above the other patrons! It was totally and completely a heavenly experience! If there is one place on this list that I tell you is a must, it’s this restaurant! Because of so many delicious dishes here and the ambience, I give this my highest rating- 10 out of 10!

Cost: $$$$
Rating: 10

#5 Zeugma Grill, Montclair, NJ

Zeugma Grill dining exterior front sidewalk view
Photo Credit: Taken by Kimberly Pangaro at Zeugma Grill

Yum! This restaurant has top notch food and is in the heart of Montclair, where you can get some great shopping done before eating. It’s quite casual, you can literally walk-in off the street in snow boots and a snow jacket, and still get to sit here to eat dinner. I wouldn’t recommend doing that as other patrons are normally dressed in casual dressy wear, but technically, you could do that because that’s how welcoming it feels inside. The vibe at this restaurant also has an air of country-lux.

Now, not every restaurant in Montclair is absolutely worth their prices or rave reviews, but the dishes here are worth a conversation. One of the best things that we enjoyed was being able to purchase a wine bottle, in-restaurant, without having to bring our own. We were able to ask questions about which wines would go best with what. Though you may be thinking, “Duh, shouldn’t they be able to do that anywhere?,” I can tell you that the answer is most certainly a big fat NO.

We enjoyed the lamb chops and lemon potatoes, both of which will inspire your tastebuds to try more food here. Oh, be sure to grab a bite of their pistachio dessert and ask to add vanilla ice cream. The flavors together are both shocking and superiorly amazing! Since this restaurant offers a welcoming casual vibe and great dishes, I gave it a rating of 6.5- it would’ve been higher if they offered a more unique menu with options you can’t find anywhere else.

Cost: $$
Rating: 6.5

#6 Oceano’s, Fairlawn, NJ

chairs and tables in hotel
Photo by Quark Studio on

Have I ever told you how much I hate eating seafood! I sincerely despise it. The smell is enough to exacerbate my asthma and the smell always gets in my hair and clothes! In short, we only ate here because my husband loves seafood. So, I caved and gave in to his request.

Let it be known that this was by far the best choice I ever made because I actually enjoyed eating seafood. I ordered the Surf and Turf and was surprised. The South African Lobster Tail tasted like nothing except warm butter. It had not a single hint of a fishy smell or rubbery taste like lobsters from other restaurants. Oh and their grilled octopus and coconut shrimp were a shockingly delicious set of appetizers! I cannot express enough how seafood should taste fresh and like you fished it out of the ocean merely moments ago- this restaurant was able to provide this mouth-watering sensation!

Needless to say, I officially made the switch from eating zero seafood to eating lobster, and only at Oceano’s! That’s how amazing it was. Now let’s chat about the ambience inside. This restaurant is very luxurious, with warm, dimly-lit lighting, and offers extremely comfortable seating. In addition to the lux inside, they also offer stunning garden-like oases in their courtyard and they’ll make you feel like you’re at a spa instead of a restaurant. Clearly, one can feel how every penny was strategically spent on the decorating.

Here’s a tip for fellow parents. Not that this location is not kid-friendly, but loud little ones may ruin the overall experience of this restaurant.

When you visit here, be sure you are in your best Sunday church clothes or at minimum, in cocktail attire. Lastly, a little warning to my fellow dislikers of seafood. If you dine here you will end up falling in love and expecting the best seafood everywhere else. And now to my rating. The seafood here gets an 8.5 out of 10, while the steak dishes get a 6.5 out of 10, which averages out to an overall 7.5 rating. This rating resulted because each steak had a small tasted of seafood to them. Personally, when I order a steak, I want it to taste like a steak and not like it came from the ocean.

Cost: $$$
Rating: 7.5

#7 Gopchang Story BBQ, Fort Lee, NJ

This trendy hidden gem happens to be a franchise location, and its sister branch is in Manhattan. So if you like Korean BBQ and don’t feel like traveling into the city, the Fort Lee location is worth your attention. Be mindful of the fact that this restaurant has no parking. You need to park in a public parking area. It is only a few blocks away, and you will need to pay for it. Don’t worry, there is so much to do in this area that paying for parking is not a waste.

The vibe here is casual dining, and less like a traditional Korean restaurant. It’s overall feel when you walk in is modern but cold, so don’t expect a huge welcome. As a matter of fact, when I arrived, there wasn’t even a host/hostess. My family and I literally had to wait around for 15 minutes to be noticed and offered a table. Needless to say, I did not let that deter me from trying this restaurant. Why? Because every time I had ever walked by here, I was always got a strong whiff of delicious BBQ meat and I have been dying to try it. Last month, I finally did!

Just like other BBQ spots, you can have food cooked in front of you at this location. However, we found that their regular dishes on the menu were just as pleasing as the BBQ options. To start off on our BBQ cravings, my husband and I ordered the Marinated Pork and Small Intestine BBQ. While these foods were not part of our normal repertoire, we were curious as to how these meats would taste BBQ style. Of course, we were blown away by the quality of the meats and the flavors. I’m not normally a big fan of BBQ, mainly because the seasonings tend to be too strong for my tummy, but this was definitely worth the stomach-ache later.

We also tried their over rice dishes- Brisket Over Rice to be exact, and this was pretty darn good. Then I wandered over to their soup and stew section of the menu, and decided to try the Pork Kimchi Jjigae. A decision I padded myself on the back for because the flavors in this dish were atomic! Out of the 4 dishes we tried, all 4 were delicious. Since the food definitely saved the ambience of this restaurant, I give this place a rating of 7 out of 10- it would’ve received an 8, but no one wants to enter a restaurant and have to guess as to when or how seating happens.

Bonus Tip: Go here with an open mind, try new things, even if you don’t understand what it is. Ask your server for help and they’ll gladly give you recommendations.

Cost: $$
Rating: 7

#8 Mesob, Montclair, NJ

Photo Credit: Kimberly Pangaro

Once upon a time, there was this girl (me) who met a boy (my husband) and he taught me how to fall in love with trying new foods. I taught him how to watch romantic movies. On one of our romantic movie dates, I made him watch Sabrina- the one with Harrison Ford. In that film, him and his love interest sat in a restaurant, on the floor, and ate with their hands. I immediately loved this and searched for years to find that restaurant. I never did, but I found something similar and quite an experience.

Mesob is an Ethiopian food-serving restaurant, with only street parking offered, and limited seating. You don’t sit on the floor, but you do eat with your hands. And it’s uniquely served differently than anywhere else you’ve ever been. It’s hard to explain just how great this place was, but to start, when you order ask for the Taste of Mesob. It’s their sampler dish and comes with starters, beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, and vegetable. The best part of this dish- you get to use a sponge-like bread, cold with a hint of lemony flavor- as your spoon/fork. It’s the best bang for your buck so you can experience multiple dishes here.

We then tried their Bunna – Ethiopian coffee- it was aromatic and pungent, with a powerful strength we haven’t tasted in other coffees. The restaurant itself does not offer seating on the floor, but eating with our hands was a new experience and honestly, felt freeing. The overall experience gets a 7.5 out of 10- a rating that is well deserved.

Cost: $$
Rating: 7.5

#8 Elysian Cafe, Hoboken, NJ

This place is great for lunch, dinner, and brunch! Their food is French-based, with great little add-ons, plus their menu offers a children’s section. I tend to visit here during lunch and it’s always a sweet treat- great lighting, vintage vibes, and not a big crowd (at least not on a weekday).

Because this location is located in Hoboken, there is no parking at the building itself, but there is street parking. I’d say that there is plenty of street parking, but that’s simply not true as parking on the street is usually full almost anywhere near Washington Street. You will need to drive around quite a bit to find street-parking or you can opt to pay at one of the parking garages. I’d try to find street parking to avoid the high priced parking garages. But if you absolutely have to park in a garage, opt to stay in Hoboken to do other stuff so it’s worth the parking fee.

Now let’s talk about this restaurant. One of the best parts about this restaurant is its vibe. It has an old world vibe that evokes a sense of classy drinking in a restored saloon from 1895. This is because of several factors: the glorious artsy ceiling, the wooden bar, and the velvet-like curtains upon entering the restaurant. And f course there is cafe seating, which offers outdoor and indoor seating at smaller tables, and is a reminder of that cool, chic Parisian life. This is a great place to sit and dine at whether you’re with someone or on your own. Plus, the staff is always super friendly.

My husband and I like to dine here in the summer, fall, and spring months. We tend to order a glass of wine with our roasted prime rib sandwiches. When I opt to read one of my latest books alone, I order the aged cheddar grilled cheese and French onion soup. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I order from the menu. I am always pleasantly pleased with the food that enters my mouth. Each dish here is curated with all the TLC anyone can expect. It’s for this reason Elysian Cafe is receiving a rating of 8.5 out of 10. They really get how food and ambience can make a restaurant!

Cost: $$
Rating: 8.5

#9 Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, Fort Lee, NJ

This restaurant is truly a gem. It’s tucked away in Fort Lee and unless you’re from the area, you wouldn’t know it exists. Last year, I decided to go the Paris Baguette bakery over there and on my way home, I happen to find this little spot. It’s in the same complex as other stores, in particular an amazing dollar store (I’ll talk more about that in another post). Because it’s in a complex, there’s plenty of parking.

When we entered the restaurant, let’s just say that I felt like I was in an episode of The Jetsons! There are no servers, there are no clean up people- everything is automated and there are robots! It’s a real fun experience to go alone, on a date, or with the kids! The tables are small and only fit about 3-4 people, so keep that in mind when you head there. Secondly, it’s super popular amongst locals and they don’t take reservations, so plan accordingly.

When you want to order, you’ll be welcomed by a tablet screen. Most of the menu items will come flying down a conveyor belt once ordered. There is also another conveyor belt, a turn-style method of offering different dishes pre-made, you can just pull it off the belt yourself. Your drinks will be brought to you by the robot server, and yes, it talks and plays music. When you’re done eating, place the color-designated plates in their automatic plate taker. The whole process is robotic and futuristic, and very cool.

Each dish is technically a tiny bite, and is priced accordingly. All sushi, beverages, and desserts on the menu are priced below $4. There are some other items on the menu that are priced between $10 and $20. We’ve tried literally everything on this menu so I can tell you right now that we loved it all and we tend to frequent this location on the regular. Even my kids love the food and the experience, which just makes this place a great restaurant! Overall, the experience, food, and cost are what resulted in me giving it a 9 out of 10.

Cost: $
Rating: 9

Final Thoughts

While the restaurants above are some of the best I’ve visited in Northeast New Jersey, there are many more I have yet to visit. As 2023 continues, I will be making surprise visits to many restaurants: chains, hidden gems, local eateries, and more, to experience, taste, and review what they offer. Stay tuned for some more great reviews!

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