Food & Drink in Middlesex

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As the major riverine port of a nation that's home to more than a billion people, Calcutta hardly lacks for culture. The city's cuisine—a multicultural mishmash of Indian, British, Jewish, Chinese, and other culinary traditions—is but one example of its stunning diversity. A Calcutta Affair's menu captures this diversity in dishes such as the fish fry and the Calcutta Chow, the latter a mixture of noodles, veggies, and meat that's reminiscent of stir-fry.

Despite the competing influences, Indian traditions still hold the greatest weight in the Calcuttan kitchen. This explains why many of A Calcutta Affair's dishes are prepared with Bengali flavors such as five-spice (a mixture of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, kalonji, and mustard seed) and freshly ground mustard paste. The tandoori dishes are billed as the restaurant's specialties, and one taste of the chicken marinated in sour cream and spices will tell you why. An exotic selection of beverages includes mango lassi and litchi juice with rosewater, though guests can also bring their own beers, wines, and nonalcoholic bathtub gin.

53 Mountain Blvd
Warren,
NJ
US

Behind the understated green awning of L&D’s Sapore Ravioli & Cheese's storefront, owner Domenick F. Discenza and his team churn out nearly 100 kinds of pasta fresh daily. Domenick's love affair with pasta began during his childhood in Baranello, Italy, and has lasted 40 years, more than two decades of which have been spent at L&D's. He creates authentic Italian pastas and innovative interpretations including champagne-dough ravioli with lobster and sweet-potato gnocchi. The restaurant also makes use of imported delicacies, featuring 15 sauces including walnut pesto and honeycomb tripe on its dinner menu. The lighter lunch menu offers hot and cold sandwiches and wraps. In addition, L&D's savory cold-cut platters and à la carte items can be ordered for birthdays, anniversaries, and parties in honor of that time you hiccupped for three hours straight.

429 Lincoln Boulevard
Middlesex,
NJ
US

When Jon Lidz left his career as an army officer some 25 years ago, he had dreams of opening a restaurant. Although he took a few detours—working everywhere from Wall Street to the button-making business—he still daydreamed about a place where friends and neighbors could enjoy fresh food in a casual, comfortable setting. So with the encouragement of friends and family, he opened Little Shanty, where he created a menu starting with his grandmother’s Southern-style, hand-cut french fries, plus burgers, Chicago-style hotdogs, and shakes.

Little Shanty’s casual interior brings to mind an auto repair shop—complete with aluminum siding, exposed brick walls, and booths sidled next to windowed garage doors. The kitchen resides on the other side of these doors, allowing diners to avidly watch as cooks assemble burgers or drag race pickles.

14 Mount Bethel Rd
Warren,
NJ
US

Muscle Maker Grill grew out of a small smoothie shop, where owner Rod Silva prepared health-conscious alternatives to fast food. The restaurant has since expanded with a menu tailored to accommodate diners with vegetarian, carb-free, and gluten-free diets. The crew prides themselves in creating healthy versions of popular foods, and continues to serve the shop’s original protein shakes with favorites such as chocolate peanut butter and strawberry banana. Additionally, Muscle Maker Grill displays the calorie count for each dish on the menu.

720 Union Ave
Middlesex,
NJ
US

The quaint bakery of Il Sogno Dolce caters to sweet teeth with brownies, cookies, cakes, biscotti, and other treats crafted on site. Each dessert is made in small batches to capture a homemade taste without setting bear traps under welcome mats. Cake pops ($8 for six) combine the decadence of cake with the convenience of a lollipop and are available in combinations such as carrot cake and cream-cheese frosting, german chocolate cake and chocolate frosting, and yellow cake with lemon frosting. Crunch into house-made cranberry and white chocolate biscotti ($6.99/bag), or softly sink chompers into Earl Grey fudge ($8.99/half lb.), which was infused with the namesake leaves after cracked eggs revolted against oppressive electric mixers by dumping tea bags into batter.

619 Bound Brook Rd
Middlesex,
NJ
US

At Shogun Wok, chefs whip up delectable treats from a menu of more than 200 different Chinese dishes, from spicy sichuan chicken to savory scallion pancakes. Diners chow down on plates of tofu and black-bean sauce, savory beef and mushrooms, zesty lemon chicken, and rich morsels of war shu and almond duck. Japanese dishes also abound, including a wide selection of sushi, sashimi, and bento boxes.

570 Union Ave
Middlesex,
NJ
US

Middlesex Scene