Local blues musicians and other artists generate a suitably warming and varied aural backdrop on which executive chef Patrick Pierre-Jerome swirls together flavors from New Orleans, Europe, and further afield. Hat City Kitchen's menu fills plates with inventive takes on comfort food such as shrimp and grits, jambalaya, bread pudding, and baby back ribs. The ribs don a combination of plum sauce, hoisin sauce, ketchup, and cocoa, which the New York Times says "sounds like a mouthful and, happily, is."
In front of a blocky quilted curtain, a rotating roster of live performers strums guitars and charms snakes back into drum kits beneath the exposed ductwork that runs above the cabaret-style seating. Hands Inc., a local nonprofit, presides over the eatery and works with a variety of artists to raise funds for projects designed to improve the Valley area.
Mention the Cryan family to South Orange locals and they'll probably tell you stories. They'll talk about the sons who've worked as chiefs of the local police and fire departments, the father who emigrated from Ireland in the '40s, and the lively parties held at Cryan's Beef & Ale House. Captained by the youngest son, Jimmy, the 30-year-old local landmark is the last of the 30 pubs and eateries the family owned throughout Jersey.
An Irish flag waves outside the cheerful Celtic storefront, beckoning passersby in for some beer and Irish pub classics. Inside, a St. Patrick statue smiles down on rows of cushy green booths, where diners wrap their hands around corned beef sandwiches and hearty Angus beef burgers. Among regular patrons are students from the nearby Seton Hall University and a woman named Carol, who has eaten there every night since 1982. Throughout the week, the restaurant plays host to lively events, from spirited DJ college nights to traditional Irish music shows.
Nestled in an eatery near the South Orange Performing Arts Center, Cafe Arugula's chefs curate lunch and dinner menus packed with savory Italian eats doled out in a dining room that seats up to 60. Afternoon eaters can sidle up to a plating of penne toscana, nested in a bologense-based sauce swimming with mushrooms, peas, and onions ($10.95), or chomp into a protein-packed italian hero sandwich layered in ham, salami, and provolone cheese ($7.95). The restaurant's rack of baby lambs ($29.95) tantalizes evening eaters' taste buds with an entourage of sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. Instead of hailing the next food truck headed toward the coast, guests can settle for the seafood sampler ($18.95), which serves up a school of ocean delicacies, including shrimp, oysters, and clams. Round out a savory dinner with Cafe Arugula's traditional Italian desserts, such as house-made gelato sundaes ($6.95+) and rich chocolate velvet ($5.95) oozing with enough ganache to keep mouths from screaming out the lyrics to "On The Good Ship Lollipop."
You’ve got to love a restaurant that doesn’t try to be all things to all people, that takes a stand, picks just a few things, and cooks them really, really well. That, in a nutshell, is what Stony’s does for burgers and hot dogs—and boy is South Orange all the better for it.
Though the idea of shared plates most often conjures up images of dainty Spanish tapas, the communal meals at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant are hardly suitable for passing. Instead, everyone sits around and digs right into a giant platter called a beyainatu, which translates to “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.” Diners tear off pieces of flat, spongy bread known as injera and scoop up dollops of rich stews. Ethiopia’s signature dish, doro wat, is a mouth-warming union of chicken, traditional berbere spices, and hard-boiled egg. Each entree comes paired with two vegan sides, such as the curried vegetables of tikil gomen or the slow-cooked chickpeas and herbs of shiro. The chefs work particularly well with lamb and seafood, which best show off delicate hints of sautéed herbs and chilis.