Paterson is home to a large range of family run establishments offering authentic fare from across the globe, from classic American hotdogs and milkshakes, to the lahmacan and pide of the Middle East. While these restaurants are located on the busy streets of New Jersey, once inside, diners encounter little pockets of culinary heritage, served up by passionate and experienced locals. The following updated listing showcases the very best of Paterson’s diverse cultural restaurants.
Located in a beautiful setting by the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park along the Passaic River, Libby’s Lunch remains a true American favourite after eight decades. A local classic, it delivers a piece of New Jersey’s heritage with every hotdog and milkshake ordered. Ask for your hotdog ‘all the way’ for the full culinary experience – a top-quality hotdog sausage with chilli sauce, mustard and onions. You can’t say you’ve truly seen the Falls without a trip to Libby’s.
Originally the Faddoul family’s Middle Eastern grocery store, Al Raouche restaurant began life on East Railway Avenue by popular demand of the store’s regulars. Focusing on Middle Eastern cuisine made with fresh local ingredients, Al Raouche quickly became a familiar name in the region and has remained so for 20 years. Fadil Faddoul and Elias Amireh now run the restaurant in its current location on Crooks Avenue, but with the same emphasis on providing an authentic dining experience, embracing Mediterranean influences. The restaurant’s homemade lemonade, falafel and shawarma are definitely worth a try.
Al-Basha is a family-run restaurant offering a menu that showcases the culinary experiences of the owners’ own childhoods, serving a mixture of Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian fare. Everything about Al-Basha is authentic, from the food it serves, to the artwork that covers its walls and the knowledge of its staff, transporting its diners to the countries of Middle East. All this has earned the restaurant the description of one of the finest Middle Eastern dining experiences in the the States It is especially renowned for its Al-Basha Platter, a carefully selected combination of the restaurant’s speciality dishes – kofta, shish kebab and chicken kebab, shawarma and lamb chops.
E&V Restaurant, a family-run establishment that has been headed up by the same brothers for the past 46 years, offers diners a taste of Europe. E&V has a no-frills, home-style environment, serving dishes with generations of heritage and experience behind them. Favourites of regular visitors include: the house salad special – roasted peppers, mozzarella and prosciutto, tomatoes, lettuce, and artichoke hearts in an oil and vinegar dressing; the calamari; and traditional Italian cheesecake for dessert. If you’re lucky enough to get Herman as your waiter, he comes as highly recommended as the food. E&V is a cash-only establishment, however there is an ATM machine on site.
Offering Dominican fare, El Sabor Tropical is a relatively new restaurant in western Paterson that is quickly making a name for itself as a diner and take-out. The menu is a fusion of Caribbean, Spanish and Basque culinary influences – the bistec encebolado (steak with onions) comes highly recommended, along with the pollo rotisado and carne guisada (beef stew).
A favourite in the area for Mexican food, La Hacienda captures the very essence of Central America with its bright, warm decor and the flavours of a Mexican local. Start your dining experience with one of the speciality frozen margaritas to accompany the complimentary tortilla chips and homemade salsa, whilst you try to choose from their vast and tempting menu. For the full Mexican experience, try the Todo Mexicano appetizer, which consists of chicken quesadilla, empanadas, grilled shrimp, fried wings and calamari. Enjoy an entrée of cheese enchilada, beef taco and chicken tostada which come in the Haciendao Combo. The restaurant is typically Latin with its vibrant and bustling atmosphere, so service may not be as quick as other restaurants during peak hours – La Hacienda is better enjoyed when you have time to dine at your leisure.
Ozkaradeniz, meaning ‘Real Black Sea’, is a family-oriented Turkish restaurant offering a relaxed, small-town ambience with friendly staff and authentic decor. The focus of the menu is on their lahmacun and pide – the Turkish equivalent of pizza, with a beautifully doughy base topped with meats and spices. The combination pide comes highly recommended – an Ozkaradeniz original served with an egg on top. For the complete Turkish experience, sample a glass of aryan, a refreshing traditional yoghurt-based drink.
Be it a romantic meal for two, a relaxed Sunday brunch, or a glass of wine with friends in the bar, Riverside Manor brings a touch of Italy to Paterson’s Fair Lawn, with an elegant and refined polish that can be enjoyed by all. The special three-course set menu can be sampled on Wednesdays and Sundays, and includes dishes such as arancini; broiled cod with bacon and mussels; and an indulgent chocolate brioche pudding. A Sunday buffet can also be enjoyed between 11am and 3pm every week, and in the evenings in the summer months, diners are treated to live bands performing on their outdoor terrace.
Immerse yourself in a Turkish community with Star Pide Salonu, whether watching Turkish football on the restaurant’s television screens, enjoying tea with locals or observing fresh bread being expertly made in front of you. The shepherd’s salad comes with great recommendations – using only fresh vegetables and with a kick of zesty lemon, it balances the doughy pide perfectly. Star Pide Salonu has been described as a jewel in Paterson’s dining scene, so it is definitely one to try if you want to experiment with Middle Eastern fare.
For reasonably priced Turkish and Middle Eastern fare, Toros Restaurant offers a fresh and flavoursome menu. Named after the Toros Mountains of the western Himalayas, the restaurant seeks to recreate some of the spectacular cuisine which finds its origins in this region, using breads made of wheat flour – ekmek, pide, simit and manti – as an elemental ingredient and foundation to many of the dishes. Bulgur and pilav grains are another staple of the Toros kitchen, along with traditional kebabs, dating back to when Turks learnt to cook over open campfires. The lunch specials are particularly good value, offering a choice of soup or salad, an appetizer, entrée and drink all for $11.99.