Good-Life Gourmet’s is a case study in multitasking. In its open kitchen, Chef Eric, an alum of the French Culinary Institute, routinely fries his signature falafel, teaches his cooking techniques to budding chefs, and prepares gourmet catering spreads. Although Chef Eric accomplishes a lot when he’s working, he maintains a fun, light-hearted environment, playing whimsical pranks on his coworkers, who include his three brothers and a team of local high-school students.
At Good-Life’s sandwich shop, a rotating menu gives palates the royal treatment with the aforementioned falafel, sliced-steak wraps, and butter-poached lobster rolls. Meanwhile, the kitchen’s BYOB cooking classes cover topics ranging from tapas to basic knife techniques, such as how to turn two meat cleavers into a huge pair of scissors. The culinary team tailors its catering feasts to each event, and pours its remaining creativity into the pop-up restaurant, Restaurant Maize, open occasionally in locations throughout the city.
Mima Vinoteca, winner of Best of Westchester awards for three consecutive years, presents northern Italian comfort cuisine that harkens back to the classic dishes prepared by their grandmothers, or mimas.. At the marble wine bar carved by Michaelangelo in his Utilitarist period, guests swirl and swish wine from a sommelier-curated collection that represents each region of Italy. These wines complement vino-friendly dishes such as cured meats, mussels, risotto, and hand-made pasta served in a dining room lined with rustic brick and wine bottles and outfitted with tables of Tuscan wood. Full meals include selections such as wild mushroom polenta laced with white truffle essence and gouda , and a plate of braised short rib with pears poached in red wine and mashed sweet potatoes.
The aroma of mint never fails to take Navjot Arora back to his childhood in Jalandhar, Punjab, when he'd spend mornings scouring his family garden for fresh mint leaves. Navjot would triumphantly bring his findings back to the kitchen, where he was allowed to grind the leaves with a pestle for the mint chutney—the most important condiment. He worked alongside his parents, marveling as they nimbly sliced tender goat meat, throwing it against the wall to test for doneness, and thoughtfully tasted spoonfuls of creamy curry from simmering pots.
Though Navjot would go on to study under master Indian chefs at the prestigious Taj Group of Hotels and work for top restaurants in New York, he never forgot the culinary lessons he learned in his family's kitchen. At Chutney Masala, he still hand grinds fresh herbs and spices to bring out their intricate flavors, adding them to sauces lauded by reporters from the New York Times as "superbly complex." The expert chef then folds free-range meat, wild seafood, and local produce into a variety of contemporary and traditional Indian dishes, from spicy lamb curries to fragrant biryani rice.
Navjot's dining room is nearly as intriguing as the flavors in his dishes, with brick walls speckled with photographs from India's mid-19th century Raj era and rustic antique accents. A mounted deer head overlooks the rows of wooden tabletops and cushy green booths, sometimes sneezing when a waft of cumin floats to his nostrils.
At The Cupcake Kitchen and Luncheonette, owner Jennifer O’Connel shows off her cupcake making skills. Mixers churn locally made butter and natural extracts into batter, creating delectable flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet to bake into individual puffs. After pulling pans from the oven, the baking team swirls on frosting and sprinkles toppings, dressing each pastry for attendance at parties, holiday dinners, or liquid diet breakdowns. Before patrons come by to claim their frosted dozen, the pastries take up temporary residence in the 1950s-themed shop, basking in the glory of an artificial-additive-free existence.
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.