A Central Jersey Local’s Guide to Fantastic Ethnic Restaurants

A Central Jersey Local’s Guide to Fantastic Ethnic Restaurants

Sometimes we need a break from the classic American cheeseburger or diner-style pancakes. We crave a little heat, something more exotic, like a curry dish, fresh sashimi, or even a spiced chicken kabob. That’s why we decided to create a Central Jersey Local’s Guide to Ethnic Restaurants! This is a tough list to narrow down, as we know everyone has their favorite Japanese, Mexican, and even Italian spot around the corner from their own home. However, we were inspired by how this list has traveled through our Garden State and found some very unique, locally known spots, and we hope that this will give you a little encouragement to try something new!

New Jersey is the third most diverse state in the country, and it’s safe to say we can agree that a small break from pork roll is a good culinary refresher. This allows our palates to taste more unique, culturally distinctive cuisines and dishes that we may have never tried in the past. If you are looking for Italian cuisine on this list, please do not worry, we started putting together a bunch central Jersey Italian restaurants and eateries to check out. If you think we missed any world cuisine on this list, let us know and we will check them out!


The Greek on Main

Riding high from their Best of the Best Win for Greek restaurants and a Diners’ Choice award, The Greek on Main is all about fresh, local fare yet also versatile enough for a quick work lunch or a lavish, celebratory date night. Inspired by his own cultural roots, Chef Theodore Kappas transports you to Greece, not only with the ambiance, but also with dishes like the grilled octopus, head-on sautéed prawns, and other Greek inspired farm to table ingredients listed on the menu. No matter how perfectly content and full you may be from the meal, dessert is a must especially the fig ice cream! 419 Main Street, Metuchen (732)515-9457 http://thegreekonmain.com


A Little Bit of Cuba Dos

We can’t get enough of this cozy, Cuban cuisine and Latin ambiance inspired spot in downtown Freehold. While there is a wide array of vegetarian entrees, A Little Bit of Cuba Dos is for the carnivorous eater: Arroz con Pollo, Picadillo, and the classic Ropa Vieja with shredded beef brisket, olives, and peppers in a tomato wine sauce. Open daily for lunch and dinner, we like to sneak in Monday – Saturday for the lunch specials, where you can snag a classic Cubano sandwich and feel an instant teleportation to the Caribbean. 2 East Main Street, Freehold  (732)577-8506 http://www.alittlebitofcubados.com/



Nagoya Japanese Restaurant

The diversity of their sushi and sashimi dishes keeps us coming back for more. Nagoya Japanese Restaurant is our escape from the ordinary, and we love to call ahead to reserve a seat at the sushi bar to check out all the action! Classics that we crave like shrimp tempura or tuna tataki are always available, but the Two Stuart Roll with soft shell crab and spicy salmon topped with shrimp and jalapeno is a must try, along with sea urchin and eel sashimi that is beyond fresh. 278 North Avenue East, Westfield (908) 389-1131 http://www.nagoyawestfield.com

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Siam Inn

When we get a craving for authentic Thai recipes, we’re thankful that locals in Cranford told us about Siam Inn. Originally from Thailand, Korapong convinced his parents to open the restaurant with 15 years of previous restaurant experience under their belts. Korapong works the front of the house, and can recommend both his mother and father’s signature dishes as equally delicious as the next. Pad Thai is a classic, but the Yum Woon Sen salad with glass noodles, shrimp, and chicken is complex and incredibly flavorful. Lunch specials Monday through Friday are a steal and you can’t go wrong with BYOB for your next Thai cuisine date night! 110 North Avenue West, Cranford (908) 325- 6446 http://www.siaminn.us/#about


Tortuga’s Mexican Village

Founded in 1996 by a chef studying nutrition and culinary arts in El Paso, Texas, it’s safe to say that Tortuga’s Mexican Village is a trusted source for your enchilada and chile rellenos cravings. This Princeton spot was voted the 2nd best Mexican restaurant in all of New Jersey, and their local following has been devoted for decades. Important to remember that Tortuga’s is cash only and BYOB, but the portions are generous and if you prefer a little heat, ask for anything to be as spicy as you like! 41 Leigh Avenue, Princeton (609) 924-5143 http://www.tortugasmv.com


Temple Gourmet Chinese

People may think that Chinese food and wearing pajamas on the couch while watching movies go hand-in-hand. However, Temple Gourmet Chinese is changing that typecast by crafting traditional Chinese cuisine in an elegant, fine dining atmosphere. From classic take-out staples like beef with broccoli and sesame chicken, to more elevated dishes of lobster fried rice and filet mignon egg rolls, Temple Gourmet is the place to class up your date night and not break the bank (hint hint, BYOB too!). 91 Broad Street, Red Bank  (732) 212-8858 http://templegourmet.com


Siam Garden

Restaurants often throw around the phrase “authentic” without being true to their style of cuisine. Named one of the 50 Best Restaurants in NJ by The New York Times, Siam Garden is a true, genuine Thai dining experience with their Chefs even hailing from Bangkok. We love how you can pick your level of heat for most dishes on the menu, and they offer daily changing seafood dinner specials with your choice of Thai sauces. The soups warm us up with heat and depth of flavor, especially in the wintertime, like the Tom Kha Gai with coconut milk and sliced chicken. Do not miss this spot tucked inside The Galleria! 2 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank (732) 224-1233  http://siamgardenrestaurant.com



When we found out Taka in Asbury Park has been operating for 16 years, we were embarrassed we haven’t been dining here more often! A blend of Japanese cuisine with a full sushi bar, the menu is more innovative, vibrant, and seasonal by offering a more contemporary approach to their dishes. Dayboat local sea scallops invigorated by a miso mustard sauce, braised short rib kicked up with wasabi mashed potatoes, and a sashimi menu that displays the highest quality seafood and amazing technique. New Year’s resolution: eat more sushi! 660 Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park (732) 775-1020 http://www.takaasbury.com


Terras Ceviche

Did you know there are numerous neighborhoods in New Jersey where there are first generation Peruvian-Americans? Lucky for the locals in Middlesex, Terras Ceviche serves up classic Peruvian dishes that highlight the most fresh seafood and produce. Of course ceviche is one of the most popular offerings, but the Leche de Tigre is complex in flavor and considered a “National Hangover” dish. They offer 20% off on Wednesdays, and are open every day for lunch and dinner along with TV’s for all your soccer viewing needs. 559 Bound Brook Road, Middlesex (732) 752-3700 http://terrasceviche.com/


Mediterranean Chateau

Now that we are craving all the seafood, it’s time to divulge the details about Mediterranean Chateau in Matawan. Family owned by Jose and his sons, the menu is focused on authentic Portuguese and Spanish fare with daily changing specials. Utilizing tripe in a traditional Dobrada stew can be a rare treat, but if that’s not what you are craving, there are plenty of signature classics like the stuffed piquillo peppers and the three varieties of paella. A great spot for larger groups, they even have a catering menu for your next Iberian Peninsula themed feast. 27 Freneau Avenue Rte. 79, Matawan (732) 696-8900 http://mediterraneanchateau.com/index.html


Ricky’s Thai

“Delicious, authentic, and appropriate spiciness” is how Zagat reviewed this modest Thai restaurant in Hillsborough. Ricky’s Thai, now with a second location, has an extensive menu that includes some of the most complex curries and soups. Everything is made to order, so depending on your preference of one chili pepper in heat level to five chili peppers, one can control the spice level of almost every dish. It’s a BYOB that is open daily and perfect for visiting in the winter to heat you up on a chilly night. 649 US-206, Hillsborough Township (908) 904- 8038 http://www.rickysthai.com/Index.html


Vietnam Bistro

As we get deeper into wintertime, all we can think about is hugging a bowl of pho from Vietnam Bistro! With a modern approach to classic dishes, the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup comes in almost thirteen different styles, from jumbo shrimp to grilled pork to tender, rare steak…deliciously tough decision! The staff is incredibly attentive and thorough with the menu, which helps to differentiate and narrow down the extensive list of entrees. Closed on Mondays in the winter, one can usually decide to dine here on a whim and be seated immediately. 2221 Rte. 9 North, Howell (732) 414-6664 http://www.vietnambistrohowell.com

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Afghan Kabob and Grill

The modest, unassuming façade of this Afghan and Indian inspired restaurant does not compare to the exceptional display of spices and tastes through0ut their entire menu. Afghan Kabob and Grill is one of the few Afghan restaurants in New Jersey, and locals agree that this is the only spot you need. The marinated salmon kabob is a standout, along with the Aash soup, composed of vegetables, beans, and noodles…only available in the winter. If you happen to get a craving a few miles south, you can find their second location in Trenton that is also open late and daily! 468 Renaissance Blvd E, North Brunswick (732) 543-1100 http://afghankabobandgrill.com


Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten

A true beer lover’s playground, where the tap handles endlessly flow and bounties of pretzels and brats compliment those authentic German brews. We aren’t dreaming. We are at the Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten in Asbury Park! Communal tables are a German tradition at most breweries, which is the feel and approach that the owner, Mr. Ivanov, was going for here. All beers are served in their appropriate glassware depending on style, and the variety of classic schnitzels, bratwursts, and the kaesespaetzle is one of the best riffs on “mac and cheese” that we have ever devoured. Check their events page for endless live music offerings, 5k races with beer tents, and plenty more festivities! 527 Lake Avenue, Asbury Park (732) 997-8767 http://www.asburybiergarten.com


Lentil Tree

Tucked away on the most unassuming side street between Main and Memorial in Asbury Park, our go-to favorite for the freshest, Mediterranean fare along the Jersey Shore. Lentil Tree is owned by David Ades, who truly cares about the quality and authenticity of his Middle Eastern inspired recipes: the tehini sauce with falafel has the perfect consistency and garlicky kick, and don’t leave without a few Borekas which are a pillow-like pastry stuffed with a savory potato filling….of course with more tehini sauce on the side! Bonus points for their heated outdoor patio and wide variety of Hookah flavors to choose from! Lentil Tree is a fun casual spot to relax and have a great meal with friends that’s a few blocks from the downtown area. 808 Fifth Avenue, Asbury Park (732)455-5066 http://www.lentiltree.com


Sebastian’s Schnitzelhaus

If we had a German grandmother, this is how we would envision her home to be. Sebastian’s Schnitzelhaus offers up authentic German fare in a very Bavarian setting accented with art, ornamental figures, and beer steins. Schnitzel platters are a requirement, but don’t miss out on the potato pancakes or soups! The owner, Krystyna, recommends Sunday brunch for first timers to her restaurant, as the buffet style meal allows you to try a wide array of the menu all in one experience. A little over 20 years in business, it’s a BYOB so be sure to bring your own growler of your favorite local brew to compliment the genuine German fare. 43 Fort Dix Street, Wrightstown 08562 (609)742-9609 http://www.enjoysebastians.com


Old City Cafe and Grill

Named the best Mediterranean restaurant within it’s first year of opening in 2013, Old City Cafe and Grill prepares their entire Middle Eastern-inspired menu from scratch with the freshest ingredients possible. The owner, Rafi, finds that the mix of Lebanese, Israeli, and Syrian flavors compliment one another on the menu. Staple dishes of tabbouleh, baba ghannouj dip, and falafel are perfection. However, stepping out of your comfort zone rewards with complex palates like the kibbeh nayeh made with raw beef, spices, onion and garlic. The authenticity and the hospitality keeps everyone coming back for more. 20 North Avenue, Cranford 07016 (908)276-2701 http://oldcitycafeandgrill.com

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Aarzu Modern Indian Bistro

Often times, traditional can be a bore. Aarzu Modern Indian Bistro continues to impress by delivering on classic Indian flavors in an elevated, contemporary setting. The fish curry highlights an uncommon species of cobia with roasted coconut and fennel, and one must always order the staple naan bread: garlic is our favorite but the cheese chilli naan is an American twist. Don’t worry, purists can order their chicken tikka and butter chicken. Arora Hospitality Group succeeds in delivering an Indian culinary experience that blends both new and old. 30 East Main Street, Freehold, 07728 (732)333-0933 http://www.aarzu.com


Chez Catherine

Not only local diners fall in love with Chez Catherine. Many diners travel great distances to experience one of New Jersey’s best French restaurants! Chez Catherine creates classic French fare in an intimate, romantic setting. The owners are originally from France and decide to source as local as possible for their entire menu, which constantly changes with the seasons. Like the cozy cassoulet or foie gras brûlée, locals all agree that these indulgences are absolutely worth it. 431 N Ave W, Westfield (908) 654-4011 http://www.chezcatherine.com



Locals in Asbury Park know that now is the time of year to support the normally-overcrowded summer spots along the boardwalk, which is why we love warming up at the tropical-inspired restaurant, Cubacán. The mejillones appetizer has a lively kick of jalapeño, and the local scallop ceviche is incredibly refreshing even during the cold winter months. From a girls night out to a fun date night, Cubacán is an energetic dining spot that appeals to everyone and acts as a Cuban escape from the mundane. 800 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, 07712 (732)774-3007 https://www.facebook.com/CubacanAP/