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.
Some might say that Brewed Awakening Coffeehouse is a caf? of the old guard, comfortable and intimate, a place someone might want to relax all day with a drink and a book. A mural of a lush mountainside and valley is painted behind the stage where acoustic musicians and billy goat trios are known to play. A glass-enclosed fireplace warms noses as bellies gain heat from steaming cups of specialty coffee or espresso drinks. Guests can also nosh on breakfast and lunch, with both hearty and lighthearted dishes such as eggs with chorizo, housemade chicken soup, and salads.
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.
The bakers at DOCO take the old-fashioned approach with their donuts. Each of the 13 light, cake-like styles are hand-dipped and dressed in an array of traditional—and nontraditional—toppings. There's the strawberry-glazed and graham-cracker-topped Cherrygraham, for example, as well as the strawberry glaze and granola-dipped Strawberry Fields and the oreo-topped Cookie Monster. Additionally, specialty donuts are stuffed with fillings ranging from fruit to cannoli and boston cremes made from fresh ingredients. The café doesn't just offer baked goods, though—sweet treats can be paired with mugs of robust, locally made Ward Coffee.
Mara's Cafe & Bakery began as a humble mom-and-pop operation in 1984, the shared vision of Mara Magley and her husband, Glenn. Mara developed many of the café's proprietary dessert recipes, which are rooted in family traditions and feature fresh ingredients such as pure bourbon vanilla and Philadelphia cream cheese. Glenn, on the other hand, set about creating a signature line of coffee products. A java aficionado, Glenn chose state-of-the-art equipment—Fresh Roast Systems technology—to roast blends and single-origin beans from Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Guatemala. The advanced machine elicits the optimal flavor from each batch of beans by allowing baristas to adjust the roasting time, temperature, and volume of the "It's Time for the Percolator" remix playing in the background.
In 2004, sons Ian and Devan joined the family business and helped expand the menu to include items such as sandwiches, salads, and wraps. The team's hard work and commitment to quality ingredients has earned the restaurant numerous awards: in 2012 alone, it was named the Best Coffee Shop in Morris/Essex Health & Life magazine's Readers' Choice Awards, one of the Best Coffeehouses in New Jersey by readers of New Jersey Monthly magazine, and one of the Best Bakeries in the Daily Record's Best of Morris County Readers’ Choice Awards.