Located some 40 miles from New York City, Bridgewater in New Jersey might not boast quite the dining reputation of its metropolitan neighbor, but here foodies will find diverse cuisines, homey diners and surprisingly scrumptious hole-in-the-wall locales. We’ve rounded up Bridgewater’s very best fare, from deliciously authentic Thai cuisine to traditional American pub grub.
Don’t let that strip mall exterior fool you, inside, Thai Kitchen is just as casually elegant as its delicious cuisine. The popular restaurant’s skilled chefs artfully blend the typically hot, sweet, salty and bitter flavor profiles of Thai cuisine to craft a mix of dishes that range from the familiar – think pad Thai and green curry – to the inventive, with chef specials like ped chiangmai (roasted duck with bell peppers, cashew nuts, onions, scallions and pineapple in hoisin sauce). Luckily for Morris County diners, there’s a sister restaurant in neighboring Chester.
Booker & Zinc’s creative American cuisine crafted from seasonal, locally sourced produce is putting the restaurant – which opened inside the Bridgewater Marriott hotel in early 2015 – on the local dining map. Shareable plates like the sizzling shellfish pot with littleneck clams, garlic, lemon, thyme and a beer broth featuring Kane Head Brewing’s Head High IPA compete with entrées like baby back ribs with bourbon barbecue sauce. Booker & Zinc’s resident team of mixologists concoct inventive, hand-crafted cocktails like The Sphinx (Farmer’s Gin, Lillet, cinnamon syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters) and the Woodland Bird (Aylesbury Duck Vodka, dry vermouth, orange bitters, mole bitters).
Serving classic diner fare since 1994, Time to Eat Diner harks back to the traditional New Jersey restaurants of yesteryear and, voted Somerset County’s best diner in the 2015 Courier News Readers Choice Awards, it comes with a local seal of approval too. Tasty breakfast fare like pancakes, four egg omelets and Belgian waffles are served all day alongside a huge menu featuring burgers, sandwiches, Italian and Greek inspired dishes, seafood, and house specialties like homemade chicken in a basket with French fries and coleslaw. Dessert options include the likes of chocolate cheesecake and coconut custard pie.
Get your taste buds tingling with a trip to Bombay Spice – Bridgewater’s local standby for deliciously authentic Indian and Indo-Chinese cuisine. Crowd-pleasing dishes like the popular chicken tikka masala and lamb korma are cooked up alongside house specials like the spicy Gobi Manchurian curry (with crisp cauliflower florets, onions and peppers) and vegetarian options including saag paneer (spinach with homemade cottage cheese). It’s a BYOB restaurant, but plenty of authentic non-alcoholic beverages are served like mango lassi and masala chai tea.
Traditional Italian fare served in modern-rustic, trattoria-inspired surrounds is the focus at Café Emilia. A cozy dining room decked out in warm, earthy tones, filed floors and Tuscan-inspired murals welcomes guests to sample classic dishes. Try the linguine with sautéed sweet peppers, mushrooms and shrimp in pink vodka sauce, or the prosciutto and fontina stuffed veal cutlet with rosemary and mustard sauce. Café Emilia’s dessert cart features indulgent options like tiramisu and cheesecake – all perfectly complemented by a hand-picked wine list with a focus on Italian, Californian and French varieties.
Long-standing local pub and restaurant Top O Th Hill Tavern is the place to head for homey, comfort food classics. Hearty, homemade American staples like mac ‘n’ cheese, wild bison chipotle burgers and pulled pork sandwiches are served all served here, but Top O Th Hill Tavern’s most popular dish is probably its meatloaf dinner special, available with sides including potato pancakes, mashed potato and baked beans. There’s a number of craft beers on tap from the likes of Vermont’s Long Trail Brewing Company alongside plenty of domestic beers and live music on weekends.
It’s been open less than a year, but Pho Main Street is already one of the area’s most talked about restaurants, attracting a loyal clientele for its authentic Vietnamese fare and modern, stylish surrounds. As its name suggests, the classic Vietnamese noodle soup is their focus and guests can choose from over 20 different types of pho with options including filet mignon, oxtail and vegetarian, but there are plenty of other traditional dishes offered too. Try a banh mi sandwich stuffed with grilled beef, or the classic rice dish com tam.
Another popular local neighborhood joint, Bridgewater Diner boasts one of the biggest menus in town, featuring a smorgasbord of classic American dishes. Go for breakfast and start your day right, with options like chocolate chip pancakes, three egg omelets or specialty dishes like the Jersey Border (potato pancakes topped with country ham, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce with a side of fresh fruit). If you’re visiting for lunch, go for one of Bridgewater Diner’s hearty sandwiches. Dinner-friendly dishes include burgers, steaks and fried seafood dishes, but don’t miss out on the diner’s desserts – the strawberry cheesecake and Boston cream pie are just two tempting options.
Guests have two options when dining at Sushi House – Bridgewater’s favorite Japanese restaurant. Split into two, its regular dining room serves a menu featuring traditional Japanese cuisine – think chicken teriyaki, shrimp tempura and nabemono – alongside an extensive sushi and sashimi menu and chef specials like una jyu (broiled eel on a bed of rice with sweet eel sauce). The other side of the restaurant features a grill where Sushi House’s talented chefs cook up hibachi-style pork, scallops and filet mignon. Dessert is just as authentic – choose from classic Japanese sweet treats like mochi and banana tempura.
Family owned and operated for over 25 years, La Catena is an upscale neighborhood favorite focusing on casual fine dining and delicious northern Italian cuisine. Start with tempting appetizers like crab cakes with arugula and apple-orange dressing, or broccoli rabe with Italian hot peppers, truffle oil and garlic. For the mains, options like gnocchi with four cheese sauce or the scaloppine santaelena (veal with sundried tomato, asparagus and shrimp in a brandy sauce) are must-tries. Sumptuous desserts are also served here, alongside an extensive wine list and a range of cocktails.