Named for the Spanish word for nostalgia, Añoranzas Colombianas helps diners to understand Columbia’s culinary history with traditional recipes. As the restaurant's televisions play salsa and cumbia dance videos, affable waiters ferry plates of shrimp in lemon sauce and chicken fajitas. The Bandeja Paisa, or country platter, mingles chorizo and fried pork belly with marinated steak, sunny-side-up eggs, avocado, and rice and beans served atop a 4-H manual. Not to be outdone by the main courses, cups of strong Colombian coffee and plates of flan add their own complex flavors each meal.
Atomic Wings specializes in crafting authentic buffalo-style wings, delicious sandwiches and soups, and much more for hungry hippos tired of an all-marble diet. After perusing the menu, start with a single serving of 10 wings ($8.99), 11 chicken fingers ($8.49), or a half-and-half combo ($8.49) before selecting a sauce. Most individuals will be content with mild, medium, hot, honey mustard, barbecue (regular or jerk), or teriyaki flavors, but daredevilish diners may turn toward the abusive, nuclear, and suicidal variations of wing lacquer, each suitable for restarting the breathy fires of broken dragons. Those preferring less-saucy bites can grab a Philly cheese wrap with grilled steak, onions, peppers, melted cheese, and barbecue sauce in a tortilla ($5.99) or can skip straight to a double chocolate layer cake ($6) accompanied by a bottled soda ($1.75), vitamin water ($2.25), or pint of carbonated barbecue sauce.
Captain Al's cooks plate a menu of casual American fare as servers decant 16 draft beers. Hands dig into hearty appetizers, kick-starting palates with options such as four La Frieda sliders—miniature hamburger patties topped with american cheese originally concocted for lilliputian barbecues ($10)—or loaded cheese fries coated in cheddar and applewood bacon bits, which are ripe for dipping into buttermilk ranch ($8). Knives carve into entrees, slicing through the stuffed chicken breast to reveal a savory filling of goat cheese and spinach ($13), and fingers run up and down the rack of ribs ($19), which doubles as a spongy xylophone. In between chews, diners wash down meals with sips of eclectic draft brews such as Delirium Tremens, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, and Smithwicks, or more common standbys such as Blue Moon, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Coors Light.
Though Mantra Head Chef Purvesh Patel is known for his creative takes on Indian cuisine—including chaat, or snack food, garnished with tender lobster meat—his careful, French-inspired cooking also leaves its mark on the menu’s traditional entrees. "Each ingredient seemed to have bathed for just the right number of hours in its yogurt marinade; each was precisely cooked; and each carried a heady overtone of spices," a New York Times food writer recalled of a tandoori dish in 2008. In contrast to these subtle flavors, Mantra’s presentation often has theatrical flair; chefs chop chaat dishes tableside and set a banana flambé dessert ablaze with rum.
Both locations’ sleek dining rooms also go for drama with bold, modern decor. In Jersey City, red accents simmer against warm-toned walls. Next to the Paramus spot's mosaic-tiled bar, live flames dance on the low wall between the dining room and lounge, upping the “amazement factor” for Cody Kendall of the Star-Ledger.
Capital of one of the five largest states in India, Hyderabad is something of a melting pot. Its streets contain both ancient temples and modern sky scrapers, while its cuisine combines Turkish, Arabic, and Indian flavors. The chefs at Deccan Spice attempt the same feat at their new Worth Street location, which invites guests to step inside for a taste of Hyderabad's unique culture.
The cooks in the newly-opened location at 214 Worth Street in Iselin as well as the established Jersey City location specialize in some of the city of Hyderabad's most celebrated dishes. They whip up a wide variety of dishes, including sizzling liver fry and Bheja fry, Gongura mutton, goat paya, and Hyderabadi-style dum biryanis such as natu kodi biryani, which are enriched with the herbs and spices of Hyderabad's local Telugu and Marathwada cuisines. They invite every visitor to bring their own favorite beverage, and don't charge a corkage fee for opening a bottle or dislodging a popped cork from a friend's nose.
With its sloped roof and grand clock tower, Orale Mexican Bistro's facade doesn't fit the bill for a typical Mexican restaurant. But beyond its front doors, chefs cook open-faced chipotle shrimp quesadillas by the heat of a wood-fired brick oven, and they stuff tacos with slow-cooked carnitas. Servers shuttle these south of the border entrees to candlelit tables in the dining room or to an outdoor patio perched beneath the clock tower, which transforms back into a lowly wristwatch at the stroke of midnight. On select evenings, DJs spin house and latinbeat tunes while patrons enjoy specials on margaritas and mixed drinks.