When Eugene Gillespie left Ireland to visit his brother in New York in 1972, he didn't know that he would be inspired to stay. The Irish economy was down, so Eugene decided to pursue the American dream by moving to the Mid-Atlantic region. He didn't leave Ireland entirely behind him though, and Eugene proceeded to spend the next several decades opening traditional Irish pubs and restaurants throughout New York and New Jersey.
With two locations, Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub demonstrates a commitment to the flavors of Ireland. The menus feature familiar comfort foods—certified Angus burgers and thin-crust pizzas—including a number of Irish favorites, such as beer-battered fish and chips and stews filled with Guinness-braised beef. To achieve an even more authentic taste, the chefs occasionally import ingredients such as Irish cheddar cheese, Irish sausages, and Irish rainbows.
The menu's iconic dishes contribute to the pubs' cozy, inviting ambiance almost as much as accents such as the stone fireplaces or the bar made of imported red mahogany. Spirits remain lively and the mood stays festive thanks to the live entertainment hosted throughout the week. Live bands perform contemporary hits as well as traditional Irish songs.
The chefs at Garam Masala season halal-certified meats and fresh vegetables with the spices and flavors of Southeast Asia, preparing each dish to diners’ requests. Lamb, goat, chicken, and shrimp form the basis of dozens of entrees that swim in spicy curries or nest on skewers, and a litany of vegetarian dishes highlights ingredients such as peppers and cottage cheese. Crimson tablecloths bear the weight of buffet plates and unmannered elbows during lunch, and dinner gives way to à la carte dishes served between bold red walls decorated with artwork. Garam Masala’s catering services transport the eatery’s authentic chow to special events and corporate gatherings, supplying diners with a robust menu of Indian eats as well as tablecloths, tableware, cutlery, and food warmers.
Bensi co-owner Genci Previzi helms an immense menu of classic Italian cuisine, including hearty homestyle dishes with roots in Calabria, Italy. Entrees, joined by a house salad or cup of comforting housemade soup, range from spaghetti and meatballs to gluten-free grilled chicken in a lemon-garlic marinade served over a veggie medley. The chefs also prepare an array of specials such as pignoli-crusted goat cheese and arugula salad, barolo-braised veal osso buco, pan-seared Chilean sea bass with eggplant caponata, and nutella chocolate pizza with fresh strawberries. The dishes are served in a modern dining atmosphere where minimal table settings and simple dark-wood furniture keep the focus on the vibrant cuisine.
Homemade meatballs nestle into piles of spaghetti under a blanket of fresh red sauce. Local produce tops crisp pizzas, and hot and cold sandwiches embrace fillings with locally procured bread. Here at Macchu Pizza & Tomato Pies, one wide window permits lots of light into the room, whose simple, spare decor allows the food to remain the centerpiece.
Muscle Maker Grill appeases appetites with a high-protein-based menu of nutritious fare, including wraps, whole-wheat pastas, and salads. Start with steamy bowls of salt-dusted edamame ($3.75) before flexing fingers around scores of Muscle Maker wraps ($8.25), such as the Rocky Balboa, which delivers jabs of grilled chicken, turkey meatballs, reduced-fat cheeses, and its own meat locker for athletes in training. The Mardi Gras salad gathers cajun-seasoned grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, turkey bacon, tomatoes and onions, all tossed in the tantalizing technics of a low-carb salsetta dressing (salads range from $7.25–$9.65). Health-minded patrons fuse layers of 100% whole-wheat penne pasta with lean cuts of chicken, and the reduced-fat vodka sauce congenially works the bowl in style ($9.75).