A Local’s Guide to Finding Those Middlesex County Hidden Gem Restaurants (and Beyond!)

A Local’s Guide to Finding Those Middlesex County Hidden Gem Restaurants (and Beyond!)


What makes up a hidden gem? It could be its location (strip malls are quite popular), an unlikely cuisine, or maybe its been around forever and locals have kept it to themselves (no judgement there!) Well, it’s time we got the word out on some of our favorite dining spots, from Middlesex County hidden gems to Hunterdon County, we’re divulging Central Jersey’s best kept culinary secrets.

So get ready to get out the GPS and take a tour of some of these hidden hot spots. We’ve done all the work tracking them down, now it’s your turn to put them to the test. Happy eating!

A Not So Secret Guide to Central Jersey Hidden Gems

middlesex county hidden gem

Aarzu Modern Indian Bistro, Freehold
Whether you’re an Indian food aficionado or a newbie, Aarzu will hit the spot in all the right places. From the presentation to the taste, there are plenty of dishes on the menu that will shock your senses. It’s also a BYOB. Just another reason why this five star restaurant won’t be staying under the radar for too much longer. 30 E. Main Street, Freehold 732-333-0933 https://www.aarzu.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
Buenos Tacos and The Jersey Juice Guy, South Amboy

When you’re feeling the urge to splurge but want to still fit into your pants, it’s time to become acquainted with the menu at the new Buenos Tacos. This Middlesex County hidden gem offers a large selection of “fast” food from tacos to soups. Pair it with a fresh juice or smoothie and it’s healthy dining at its quickest. 978 Route 9, South Amboy 732-952-5885 https://www.facebook.com/BuenosTacosNj/?fref=ts

middlesex county hidden gem
Butcher Burgers, Westfield

Westfield locals may know about the burger bar that has lured many a meat eater inside, but head a few towns over and they may not be so lucky. We’re here to let the burger lovers of New Jersey know – Butcher Burgers has endless juicy burger options from lamb burgers to truffle fries. You supply the bottles (they’re a BYOB) and they’ll supply the burgers. 39 Elm Street, Westfield 908-317-2640 http://butcherburgers.net/

middlesex county hidden gem
Café seventy-two, Ewing Twp.

Breakfast, lunch, and oh yes, brunch, Café seventy-two does not disappoint on the savory or sweet side of our two favorite meals. Have you ever heard of Tiramisu Pancakes? What about Birthday Cake Pancakes (yes, it’s ok to lick the batter!) Oh and then there’s the Cheesesteak Omelette featuring shaved rib-eye. We really could go on and on, but we won’t out of respect for our growling stomach. 72 W. Upper Ferry Road, Ewing Twp. 609-882-0087 http://www.cafe72ewing.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
Casa d’Paco, Newark
If you haven’t been to the Ironbound district of Newark, it’s time to go and start your journey at Casa d’Paco. This neighborhood restaurant treats everyone like they’re a local and serves up tapas that will not make you care that you parked blocks away. Try the Las Paellas de Paco Son La Ostia – it’s out of this world. 73 Warwick Street, Newark 862-307-9466 http://www.casadepaconj.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
Cebbelini, Elizabeth

Just a few minutes from Newark airport, Cebbelini has been exceeding expectations every since they opened. Serving homemade Peruvian family recipes in a homey atmosphere, it’s must visit thanks to the array of fresh seafood dishes – the mixed cebiche (yes, it’s spelled with a b) is stellar – as well as the chicken… oh the chicken. 860 Newark Avenue, Elizabeth 908-469-8851 http://www.cebbellini.net/

middlesex county hidden gem
Civile Cucina Italiana, Metuchen

Located on Main Street, this Italian restaurant is not your typical run of the mill place. Try out the family style dinner for just $35 a person. It comes with five appetizers, five entrees, and then if you still have space in your stomach, a dessert and coffee platter that will bust your buttons. 154 Main Street, Metuchen 732-662-9982 civilecucina.com

middlesex county hidden gem
Comfi, Old Bridge
It’s pretty easy to get comfortable at this neighborhood go to. Yes, it’s unassuming strip mall storefront probably won’t get your worked up, but one taste of the homemade pierogis and the “eggcelent” egg dishes – they’re always creating new ones to “delight your sense” will turn you into a regular for breakfast, lunch, and everything in between. 2638 County Rd 516, Old Bridge 732-588-5385 https://www.facebook.com/Comfi.OldBridge/

middlesex county hidden gem
Gusto Grill, East Brunswick
If you’ve ever been on Route 18 near New Brunswick, you’ve most likely seen Gusto Grill from the outside. It’s hard to miss, but have you ever stopped? Maybe you did when it was Stuff Yer Face. It’s changed a bit since then, but if you have stopped, you know why this place is on our list. It’s a hidden gem, hidden in plain site. The beatuiful interior, the weekly specials, the tasty cocktails, and the dishes that range from fancy (see the snapper special?) to classic (the burgers are a downright delight). 1050 NJ-18, East Brunswick 732-651-2737 gustogrill.com

middlesex county hidden gem
Hailey’s Harp-cade, Metuchen
Are you (or someone you know) suffering from Ms. Pacman withdrawal? If so, are you looking for somewhere to go to not only eat those high level fruits, but some beer and snacks? Yes, yes, and yes? Well then Hailey’s Harp-cade is the answer you’ve been waiting for. Seriously, can it get any better than chicken and waffles, a game of Pacman, and a bottle of craft beer? 15 Station Place, Metuchen 732-515-9767 http://harp-cade.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
Metuchen Inn, Metuchen
This inn is a local establishment (and a Middlesex County hidden gem). Opening in 1843, locals have long been coming here for fine food, a world-class wine list, and five star service. Whether you’re enjoying an intimate dinner among one of three working fireplaces with that special someone or celebrating with a group, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Metuchen Inn will impress even the most jaded of guests. 424 Middlesex Avenue, Metuchen 732-494-6444 www.metucheninn.net

middlesex county hidden gem
Just, Old Bridge
This Middlesex County hidden gem offers a dining experience filled with Asian fusion cuisine, American favorites, and countless gluten free that’s consistently raved about. When you go, ordering the Spicy Tuna Cones is a must. Sushi-grade tuna, tossed in a spicy sauce that’s presented in a delicate “cone” of sesame miso tuile and topped with wasabi tobiko. It’s the savory version of your favorite sweet treat. 2280 U.S. 9, Old Bridge 732-707-4800 www.justrestaurantnj.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
La Campagnola, Kenilworth

Who knew that you would find outstanding Italian food in an industrial park? Only in New Jersey (we say that proudly!) La Campagnola is known by locals (reservations are recommended if you’re headed there on the weekend) for good reason. The food is outstanding… and we’re talking about every, single dish. 520 S. 31st Street, Kenilworth 908-241-9200 http://www.lacampagnolanj.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
Luca’s Ristorante, Somerset
Tucked away in a strip mall, this BYOB Italian joint is a converted pizza joint where not only can you get some great pizza, but you can also get ginormous size dishes that include everything from pan seared scallops to carpaccio and all the pasta dishes in between. 2019 NJ-27, Somerset 732-297-7676 lucasristorante.com

middlesex county hidden gem
Marie’s Italian Specialties, Chatham
Ok, the whole world knows about Marie’s from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t call it a hidden gem for the locals. A visit to Marie’s is all about taking a very (very) big bite into overstuffed sandwiches (aka hoagies) and digging into a big bowl of housemade pasta. There’s no food crime in having both either. 641 Shunpike Rd., Chatham Twp. 973-377-7878 mariesdeli.com
middlesex county hidden gem
Naturale Cucina, Englishtown
In the small town of Englishtown you’ll find Naturale Cucina, an enclave for those looking to feast on organic pizzas, paninis, and salads. They’re currently undergoing some renovations, so put it on your list for the upcoming months. We’re pretty sure with a newly renovated interior and the same hunger inducing menu, the word on this joint will be out pretty quickly. 34 Main Street, Englishtown 732-792-3968 http://www.naturalecucina.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
Old City Cafe & Grill, Cranford
In downtown Cranford, you’ll find a number of tasty options, but it’s hard to beat this hidden gem that sits right on the corner. It’s cozy interior, warm service, and the easy combination of light and hearty Middle Eastern dishes have kept us coming back for me. As they say, once you have the Shawarma, you never go back. 20 N. Union Avenue, Cranford 908-276-2701 oldcitycafeandgrill.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
Ravioli Fair, Old Bridge
A true Italian Salumeria right here in Old Bridge. They’ve got everything you could possibly want from pre-made dishes to desserts, meats, cheeses, and yes desserts. It’s a one stop shop that will transport you to a small Italian town, without leaving the country. 3135 U.S. 9, Old Bridge 732-679-5006 http://www.i8at.com/sites/home.php?site_id=10726

middlesex county hidden gem
Red Knot, Kenilworth
Set in the middle of a golf course, it’s easy to see why you may not think about dining here, especially if you’re not a golfer. We’re here to change that. Located within Galloping Hill Golf Course, your dinner will be served with a view. Featuring an all new menu, this(large and not so hidden) gem is a hole in one. 3 Golf Drive, Kenilworth 908-241-2211 https://www.facebook.com/pg/Red-Knot-at-Galloping-Hill

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MJ’s, Spotswood
The latest location for MJ’s, Spotswood is now home to one of New Jersey’s most talked about restaurants, not just because of their menu, but also because of their bar menu – becoming many local’s watering hole of choice. Check out their daily specials and don’t forget to try the wings, they’re colossal and oh so yummy. 19 Summerhill Rd., Spotswood 732-251-7400 http://www.mjsrestaurant.com/Spotswood/menu/

middlesex county hidden gem
Sweet Waters Steak House, Westfield
A good steakhouse is hard to come by, a great steakhouse is like finding a needle in a haystack. Sweet Waters is one of those steakhouses that is like finding the proverbial needle. It’s an old school steakhouse too, dark wood panels, strong cocktails, and large cuts of juicy meat are the main attractions. 43 Elm Street, Westfield 908-317-2599 sweetwatersnj.com

middlesex county hidden gem
Talk of the Town, Iselin
Yet another strip mall find, this Middlesex County hidden gem is one that has the town talking. Featuring authentic “Indian Quick Bite” dishes hailing from North and South Indian cuisine, Talk of the Town has wowed Indian loving foodies who want good food, fast. 14 Marconi Avenue, Iselin 732-855-1500 talkofthetown.restaurant/

middlesex county hidden gem
The Greek On Main, Metuchen
Right on Main Street, The Greek On Main offers traditional Greek dishes in a fun atmosphere. It’s all about the oompah when it comes to the flavors and the service! Popular dishes include the drunken clams and mussels as well as the moussaka. But, we always have our eyes on the Lemon and Olive Oil cake. 419 Main Street, Metuchen 732-515-9457 thegreekonmain.com

middlesex county hidden gem
The Smoke-N-Grill, Hamilton Twp.
We may be living in New Jersey, but that doesn’t stop The Smoke-N-Grill in cooking up some BBQ that rivals all of our southern counterparts. Check out the platter of North Carolina Pulled Pork and the Baltimore Pit Beef. There’s a reason they call them pit “masters.” 2611 Whitehorse Hamilton Square Rd., Hamilton Twp. 609-838-9114 http://www.thesmokengrill.com/

middlesex county hidden gem
Tiny Elephant, Montclair
Recipes that are made from scratch with fresh ingredients equal dishes that are full of flavor. That’s what Tiny Elephant is all about. Stop in for breakfast, lunch, or even just to grab a baked goodie. They even have a number of gluten free options like their peanut butter cookie dough bars (droolworthy picture above). 54 Fairfield Street, Montclair 973-774-7252 https://www.tinyelephantmontclair.com/

tonysfreeholdgrill
Tony’s Freehold Grill, Freehold
You’ve driven by it a thousand times and always thought, that’s a cool place, I wonder if the food is good? Well, it is! Stop by for all of your breakfast and lunch favorites served up in an old school diner. Sit at the counter and watch your burger being made or cozy up in a booth while you attempt to choose one of this diner’s many, many, many menu items. 59 E. Main Street, Freehold 732-431-8607. https://www.facebook.com/Tonys-Freehold-Grill-149506311863902/

middlesex county hidden gem
Urban Griddle, Elizabeth
This place is THE hidden brunch spot. Not only are the menu items the epitome of simple comfort food, but they really have anything and everything to get your day going, whether you’re starting at 7am or not rolling in till 1pm. Not only does the food cure your hunger pains, but the cocktail menu that features a number of champagne cocktails (try the MS Charlotte with gin, pomegranate syrup, and lots of bubbly), but there’s a long list of craft beers. It’s kind of like heaven on Earth. 460 Maple Avenue, Elizabeth 908-289-2465 urbangriddle.com

middlesex county hidden gem
Veganized, New Brunswick
Popular with the Scarlett Knights, Veganized is a vegan joint that even carnivores could appreciate. A little off the beaten path you’ll find a interesting façade, do not deter from the path. Continue inside, admire the colors, and order your meal. The place is small, but you’ll be happy with your choice once you start noshing on the Mackin Cheese made with sweet potato truffle cashew cream or any of the specials, which are always on point. Bye, bye freshman 15! 9 Spring Street, New Brunswick 732-342-7412 http://veganizednewbrunswicknj.com/32124

middlesex county hidden gem
Woody’s Roadside Tavern, Farmingdale
This place has been around for quite some time. For those that are in the know, they’re always here. It’s Woody’s Roadside Tavern and they’re motto says it all, “once you find us, you’ll never leave us.” And why would we? They have a great beer collection, all your favorite bar foods, and an atmosphere that’s reminiscent of Cheers, if Cheers had a beautiful outdoor patio. 105 Academy Street, Farmingdale 732-938-6404 https://woodysroadside.com/