A Local’s Guide to Fantastic Central Jersey Comfort Food Spots!

A Local’s Guide to Fantastic Central Jersey Comfort Food Spots!

Okay, it’s February, that means our New Year’s resolutions of exercising and eating healthy are going by the wayside…and we are craving comfort food! Everyone has a different interpretation or go-to meal when it comes to comfort foods, and the wintertime is the best time of year to indulge in these Central Jersey comfort food dishes.

We’re wearing layers, no bathing suits by the beach, so we feel it is important to indulge on macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, pot pies, fried chicken, and any other cozy dish this time of year. This is a tough list to narrow down, but here are some of our favorite Central Jersey comfort food spots. If you have a favorite spot and dont mind letting the world know about it, drop us a line!


Central Jersey Comfort Food

618, Freehold

Creative and seasonal dishes courtesy of Chef Christopher Dutka, who has his own catering kitchen in Morganville and most recently launched his own restaurant, 618, a few months ago! From the small plates of Cajun shrimp and grits with aged cheddar, to the Cabernet braised beef short ribs with whipped potatoes, his comfort food dishes come with the coziest, yet most sleek ambiance around. 618 Park Avenue, Freehold, 07728 (732)577-0001 http://618nj.com

Best Comfort Food Central Jersey

Butcher Burgers, Westfield

Casual and gourmet all rolled into one downtown Westfield burger joint, Butcher Burgers comes from award winning Chef C.J. Reycraft Jr. that tackles comfort food in all the right ways. Not your typical burger spot, the menu features elevated burgers made with the most indulgent, high quality ingredients, like the lamb burger with feta cheese on an onion roll, and even a Kobe burger topped with foie gras! Specialty milkshakes are served in Ball jars, we are addicted to the Nutella milkshake with toasted hazelnuts. We see this burger bar around for years to come and want to make it a weekly tradition. 39 Elm Street, Westfield 908-317-2640 http://butcherburgers.net


Jersey Freeze, Freehold

Is it just us, or does everyone crave homemade ice cream and milkshakes year round? Bruce Springsteen’s favorite ice cream shop, Jersey Freeze, has been a landmark for over half a century. Burgers (especially the breakfast burger with pork roll and a fried egg, wow), hot dogs, and sandwiches too are all diner-style pricing and generous portions! Even more comforting to hit the sweet tooth craving, ice cream cupcakes, which are mini versions of their ice cream cakes sold in six packs What has always been a legendary ice cream joint has fast become a comfort food hot spot.! 120 Manalapan Avenue, Freehold, 07728 (732)462-3008 http://jerseyfreeze1952.com


Best Comfort Food Central NJ

Aarzu Modern Indian Bistro,Freehold

Some may not immediately think Indian cuisine directly translates to comfort food, but warm pillow-like, buttery naan bread, chicken tikka masala in a simmering smoky tomato sauce, how could you not crave those comforts in the winter? Aarzu Modern Indian Bistro continues to impress by delivering on classic Indian flavors in an elevated, contemporary setting. If you’re not familiar with Indian cuisine or their classic dishes, ask the staff for a recommendation, like the Lasooni Desi Dal, a comforting (and gluten free!) lentil stew-like dish. Complex, cozy, and comforting, but with an exotic flavorful twist! 30 East Main Street, Freehold (732) 333-0933 http://www.aarzu.com

Best Comfort Food Central NJ

Urban Griddle, Elizabeth

Who says that you can’t indulge in a lavish brunch any day of the week? We know this spot is a bit further north than Central Jersey, but Urban Griddle is an early morning riser’s comfort food dream! The menu reads pretty classic at the start, omelets, pancakes, waffles, but then you read on to the unique offerings: Jerzy Egg Rolls stuffed with pork roll, egg, and cheese, Waffle Sliders, and Cake Batter Pancakes! If only it were appropriate to roll out of bed and drive over in our pajamas, we could easily make this menu a daily habit. They also have some ridiculously good lunch specials! 460 Maple Avenue, Elizabeth (908) 289-2465 http://www.urbangriddle.com/


 Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, Asbury Park

 Two words: schnitzel+beer. Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten is our winter hideaway to gorge ourselves on copious amounts of pretzels! Communal tables are a German tradition at most breweries, and all beers are served in their brew style-appropriate glassware. The menu variety is mostly comprised of comfort food: classic schnitzels, bratwursts, and the kaesespaetzle is one of the best riffs on “mac and cheese” that we have ever devoured. It’s the best spot to gather a group and watch the snowfall. If you want to give them a try, check out this $5 special on Sunday nights! 527 Lake Avenue, Asbury Park 07712 (732) 997-8767 http://www.asburybiergarten.com

Best Comfort Food Central NJ

What’s The Scoop, Metuchen

Homemade ice cream can be the best dessert anytime of year, but when you have to choose from 80 different flavors including classics and specialty combinations, that’s a deliciously difficult decision! They are no longer known for just having amazing ice cream as they are the recent winners of a the Pizza Throwndown contest. What’s The Scoop in Metuchen has been family owned and operated since 2001, and it’s the perfect spot to host a pizza and ice cream party.  You can get a simple scoop with sprinkles on top, but why not try the ScoopShakes, like the Peanut Butter on Main: a peanut butter rimmed glass with Reese’s pieces, peanut butter cups, chocolate covered pretzel rod, peanut butter drizzle, and what else but a cherry on top! Need a cake for a special occassion? They have you covered here too! 410 Main Street, Metuchen (732) 548-5900 http://www.whatsthescoopmetuchen.com

Best Comfort Food NJ

Sweet Waters Steak House, Westfield

For your upscale comfort food date night, and when you’re craving a 20oz. bone-in ribeye, Sweet Waters Steak House in Westfield is the spot to visit. Celebrating 15 years of high quality steaks and seafood, all cooked to order, we’re still longing for another bowl of French onion soup and their signature shrimp appetizer with chorizo. On Sunday’s, they feature a bottomless brunch with dishes like steak and eggs, challah French toast, and did we mention the unlimited mimosa, margarita, and Bloody Mary’s for an hour and a half? They also have a killer Happy Hour! 43 Elm St, Westfield (908) 317-2599 http://sweetwatersnj.com


Civile Cucina Italiana, Metuchen

When the portions are generous and it’s a BYOB Italian restaurant, that is a restaurant the whole family can agree upon! Civile Cucina Italiana features an entire menu focused on Italian comfort food staples, like the Sicilian meatballs, campanelle pasta with homemade Bolognese sauce, or a rib-sticking veal parmigiana. With hearty dishes and decadent desserts like their homemade cannoli and peanut butter mousse cake, it’s one of our favorites for a treat any day of the week. For details on their Family Style menu options, check this out. Mangia! 154 Main Street, Metuchen (732) 662-9982 http://www.civilecucina.com

hansel Red Bank

Hansel ‘n Griddle, New Brunswick and Red Bank

 Slowly taking over the entire Garden State with four locations and counting, Hansel ‘n Griddle is that neighborhood restaurant that lures you back in for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even late night comfort food treats! First and foremost, serving breakfast all day means pork roll and eggs anytime we want, but you’ll want to check out “The Hit List” with their quesadilla crisps, sandwiches, and wraps too. They cook everything to order and if you happen to live nearby the New Brunswick spot, Hansel ‘n Griddle even delivers up to closing at 3AM! 130 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick (732) 846-7090 http://www.hanselngriddle.com


Central Jersey Comfort Food

La Cipollina, Freehold

Italian food classics like lasagna and chicken parmigiana are warm and comforting, but La Cipollina is our elevated version of Italian comforts. Think pappardelle pasta with duck ragu or linguine carbonara with a soft egg on top, and Chef Matt Higgins will create distinctive, delicious dishes that we could never develop in our own home kitchen. 16 West Main Street, Freehold (732) 308-3830 http://www.lacipollina.com/

Central Jersey Comfort Food

über bistro, Westfield

“American Comfort Food” is their slogan, and with over 30 years of restaurant industry experience, the owners of über bistro create an American style menu focusing on burgers, sandwiches, and signature milkshakes. With housemade brioche buns, the create your own burger menu lists toppings like cilantro aioli, shrimp, and our favorite, a fried egg! They offer delivery if you live close by this Westfield spot, and don’t miss out on the fried Oreos too. 261 South Avenue East, Westfield (908) 317-8454 http://www.uberbistro.us

Best Central Jersey Comfort Food

Alycia’s Bistro, Freehold

Truffled bacon mac and cheese, Sicilian rigatoni with vodka cream sauce, chicken and waffles!! Yes, that’s two exclamation points listed on the dinner menu at Alycia’s Bistro, and we couldn’t be more excited to savor Executive Chef and Owner Alycia’s from scratch, from the heart cooking. It’s advised to save room for desserts, especially “The Most Addicting” Carrot Cake and her housemade ice creams…when can we move in or at least to downtown Freehold? 52 West Main Street, Freehold (732) 462-2305 http://www.alyciasbistro.com/home.html

Best Comfort Food Central NJ

A Toute Heure, Cranford

Normally one builds a restaurant and figures out the food from there, but not at A Toute Heure. The owners crafted this bistro-style restaurant around their seasonally changing menu and daily specials that highlight local produce, meats, and seafood. All the menus will be a tough decision for what dish to choose, but every last Sunday of each month is Brunch: deep fried deviled eggs and brisket toast with a sunny-side up egg are some favorites. You’ll now know where to find us every last Sunday! 232 Centennial Avenue, Cranford (908) 276-6600 http://www.atouteheure.com

Best Comfort Food Central NJ

Kilkenny House, Cranford

How could we not discuss the classic comfort food favorites of an Irish Pub? Husband and wife duo, Barry and Peggy, opened Kilkenny House in 2008 seeing a need in the Cranford area for an Irish restaurant and pub. Think shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and beef curry pies are the Irish comfort food classics, and wash it all down with a pint of their Kilkenny Irish cream ale. 112 South Avenue East, Cranford (908) 276-3414 http://www.kilkennyhouse.com

Best Central NJ comfort food

Gus’ Diner, Manalapan

The menu at this diner may appear to be a classic omelette and waffle pit stop. However, hidden throughout the menu and on their daily specials’ lists, Gus’ Diner offers unique, fresh dishes of Greek and Mediterranean origins. While it may not seem like typical comfort food, calves livers with fried onions and bacon or sautéed salmon with pine nuts, sundried tomatoes, and a white wine basil sauce provide comfort in a way that transports us to the warmth of the Mediterranean. 135 Route 33, Manalapan, 07726 (732)294-0006 http://gusdiner.com

Best Comfort Food in Central NJ

Battleview Orchards, Freehold

Pumpkin and apple picking, hayrides, and other farm excursion activities are often thought of in the late summer and early fall. If you get the craving for these baked treats and other Garden State based gourmet delicacies, the Country Market and Bakery at Battleview Orchards is open year round! Only closed on Tuesdays, they have a rotating soup and pie of the week, check out the broccoli cheese soup and pineapple upside down pie, along with pumpkin loaf and other seasonal pastries that we are happy to indulge on through the winter! There is a big reason this family farm can pull in families from all over the tri-state area on a regular basis. Check them out! 91 Wemrock Road, Freehold, 07728 (732)462-0756 http://www.battlevieworchards.com

Best Comfort Food Central NJ

The Old Bay Restaurant, New Brunswick

Creole and Southern-style cuisine out of New Orleans can include the most hearty, comforting dishes in our country, and fortunately all we have to do is drive to The Old Bay Restaurant in New Brunswick! Also known for its nightlight and bar scene, the menu features staples like chicken and biscuits, crawfish etouffee pictured above, and a stressful decision between the bananas foster for two and the southern bread pudding with bourbon sauce. Warm comfort food and perfect amount of decadence! 61 Church Street, New Brunswick (732) 246-3111 http://www.oldbayrest.com/index.asp

Best Central Jersey Comfort Food

Urban Burger, Cranford

We’ve teased you with this spot in Cranford before, but have you taken a closer look at the Urban Burger menu offerings in the past couple of months? One would like to think they’re creative with burger toppings, like a fried egg, maybe a unique cheese, pickled onions, but Urban Burger goes above and beyond. How about a “hefer smothered in onions” burger with caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, potato sticks, and onion dip? Or a “spicy chcikita” grilled cheese with Dorito crusted chicken, chipotle maple ketchup, Colby jack, on waffles! This is not a typo, it’s our dream come true, and this is not the average burger joint. 13 Eastman Street, Cranford (908) 272-7790 http://www.urbanburgercranford.com/


Destination Dogs, New Brunswick

A hot dog can be a grill addict’s classic comfort food go-to in the summer: a simple wiener in a bun with a few condiments. Destination Dogs in New Brunswick elevates their hot dogs by creating internationally inspired hand-made sausages with a global portfolio of flavors. With over 30 options to choose from like beef hot dogs, duck sausages, wild boar sausages, and more, which doesn’t include the appetizers or create your own dog options, you can top these dogs with chicharrones, mashed potatoes, cheese sauce, and any other rib-sticking topping you can dream about. 101 Paterson Street, New Brunswick  (732) 993-1016 http://www.destinationdogs.com/


La Tavola Cucina, South River

When we heard rumors about Italian comfort food like risotto balls and mozzarella rollatini just outside of New Brunswick, we had to visit La Tavola Cucina immediately. Located in a South River strip mall, do not be fooled by the unassuming exterior of this intimate restaurant. The pasta dishes are stellar, like the shrimp pappardelle with roasted Brussels sprouts and crispy prosciutto, and their desserts are made in house, from classic tiramisu to the Belgian chocolate mousse cake, it is a local’s spot that we especially crave in the wintertime. 700 Old Bridge Turnpike, South River (732) 238-2111 http://www.latavolacucinanj.com/

Best Central Jersey Comfort Food

Scala Bakery, North Brunswick

If you live near this family-owned bakery that creates cookies, breads, cakes, pastries, and many more Italian inspired sweets, we are more than slightly jealous! For over 25 years, Scala Bakery is open daily and creating beautiful baked goods for any occasion. The classic rainbow cookies are easy to devour, along with the cheesecakes and specialty custom cakes that come in a wide array of options: red velvet, cannoli, chocolate mousse, and with six different icing choices. Try not to visit these confectionary dream each and every day. 1896 US Highway 30, North Brunswick (732)398-9808 http://www.scalabakery.com/


Buenos Tacos, South Amboy

Football season might be over, but who doesn’t crave wings and Mexican food year round? Buenos Tacos creates the perfect balance of fresh and healthy fare, but in the style of a fast food concept. Using only non-GMO, organic, and grass-fed meats, the menu features classic tacos and burritos, and an amazing variety of party platters with the highest quality ingredients. Buenos Tacos is the comfort food spot you can indulge in and feel less guilty about, so definitely a gem on our list! 978 Route 9, South Amboy (732) 952-5885 http://blog.centraljerseyinmotion.com/Event/BuenosTacos/10254