Located within Rutgers University’s Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Café Z’s chef and American Culinary Federation member Bruno Pascale crafts, stirs, and presses paninis, soups, and sandwiches for students and culinary connoisseurs alike. The restaurateur constantly crafts new paninis from recipes devised within the easy-bake oven of his mind, blending fresh ingredients such as ham and brie, or portobello, pepper, and mozzarella with thinly sliced bread for pleasing midday meals. Or embark on an epicurean expedition through Café Z’s menu of ever-changing entrees.
After a debilitating car accident left Elyissia Wassung’s mother, Barbara, unable to commute to work, she stayed busy in the kitchen, devising her own homemade chocolates. Nine-year-old Elyissia would then load her mother’s sweets into a shopping cart and sell them door-to-door around the neighborhood, learning entrepreneurial skills that would last a lifetime. After leaving a telecom job as an adult, Elyissia returned to selling chocolates by founding 2 Chicks with Chocolate (the other chick being her mom), teaming up with master chocolatier Patrick Coston and lead chocolatier Stephanie Vazquez. The dessert innovators create diverse flavors, such as spiced pear and caramel ganache, s’mores, and hazelnut praline, from scratch with spices and sea salt. Customers can also create their own bars online without venturing into the store, building on a selection of chocolate bases and toppings that range from pistachios to gummy bears. The store also hosts chocolate classes and enlivens parties with chocolate fountains and chocolate tastings.
Christopher and Melanie Romano’s kids have long loved the music, iPads loaded with games, and fun flavors of Let’s Yo! When they’d frequent their neighborhood outpost, they felt assured they were feeding their kids a healthier alternative to ice cream. "Even in the winter, my kids wanted to go," Christopher says. "They would have gone every day if I'd have let them."
When the couple decided they wanted to quit the corporate world and open a business, Let’s Yo! seemed like a natural fit. They soon opened up shop, where customers self-serve 18 all-natural, organic flavors brimming with live active cultures. The flavors rotate regularly, with varieties such as sea-salt-caramel pretzel, red velvet cupcake, and California tart. Next, guests pile on premium toppings such as Andes mints, mixed nuts, and Kashi cereal—as well as about 10 different types of syrups, including Reese's peanut-butter topping and mango syrup. The staff members get fresh-fruit deliveries daily, which they chop up or splice via laser vision.
Along with iPads loaded with the latest apps, Christopher outfitted the shop with a flat-screen TV and free WiFi. He chats regularly with the customers who swing by for a cup or stop in after the gym for a yogurt protein shake. And he says it's definitely a change of pace from his Wall Street job. "The hardest choice you have to make is what topping you want," he says.
Rockn' Joe Coffeehouse and Bistro fills diners' mouths with fresh-brewed coffee and deli fare, ears with classic rock, and eyes with walls covered in rock 'n' roll memorabilia, including electric guitars, vintage posters, and framed albums. Bellies can be treated to treats such as the oven-roasted turkey, brie, and tomato sandwich ($7.95), smoked-salmon-and-goat-cheese salad ($9.95), or the croissant french toast ($5.95). Rockn' Joe also has a coffee bar stocked with top-shelf lattes, hot teas, and coffee.
Realizing the neighborhood was already buzzing with great restaurants and a nearby community theater, owner Jun Yoon knew the only way to improve on it was to add a memorable dessert destination to the equation. With his desire to be part of an enlivened community, he opened his café’s doors to serve frozen yogurt, cakes, truffles, and organic, fair-trade Counter Culture coffee. Within the 26-seat sweets shop, Jun doles out dollops of the Italian ice-cream treat called tartufo, as well as belgian waffles, crepes, salads, and sandwiches. He specifically designed the menu to make it an ideal spot for stopping in before the theater, after dinner, during lunch, or on the way to a castle storming. Jun also welcomes the community to his friendly confines for parties and private events.