Craig LaBan’s Best of the ’burbs

South Jersey’s Top Restaurants​

 
Collingswood
 
Cherry Hill
 
The bounty of South Jersey
 
Camden
Mapping where to eat and drink in South Jersey
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Superior
Rare, sets regional dining standards.
Excellent
Special, excels in most every category of the dining experience.
Very Good
Interesting, with above-average food.
Hit-or-miss
Too inconsistent for a strong recommendation.
Cherry Hill
There's more than the mall to Cherry Hill, where a handful of independents are striving to cook locally, share their stories through food, and uphold tradition.
Farm & Fisherman Tavern
1442 Marlton Pike E. (Route 70), Cherry Hill, 856-356-2282, visit website
Price: $-$$$
The Cherry Hill location was the launching pad for Josh Lawler and Todd Fuller’s quest to create a farm-to-table restaurant that can compete in the land of chains.
Lemongrass
2442 Route 38 #5, Cherry Hill, 856-321-1888, visit website
Price: $-$$
It would be easy to miss this tiny but charming BYOB, which is slipped into an innocuous little retail strip between the Moorestown and Cherry Hill Malls. But look for Lemongrass. Chef Danny Dang, who came from Vietnam as a refugee in the early 1980s, first had a rock career as a songwriter, then taught himself to cook, and now operates one of the area’s better Vietnamese kitchens. He pairs homespun renditions of traditional dishes such as spring rolls and pho steeped from oxtail broth with flavorful fusion creations.

Don’t miss the meaty crown of chops called “lambs on fire,” which come tinged with an east-west sauce of soy and smoky Worcestershire. The wok-charred flank steak and a spicy lemongrass stir-fry vivid with aromatics was also excellent. But one other dish I’ve not seen on other local Vietnamese menus is “mi quang,” a specialty of Dang’s native city Da Nang in Central Vietnam that brings a bowl of turmeric yellow rice noodles topped with intensely savory shavings of caramelized pork belly, sweet shallots, big shrimp, mint and peanuts that was impossible to stop eating. If you’re hanging out late, Dang may emerge from the kitchen, pick up his guitar, and play Pink Floyd to relive his rocker glory days.
Caffe Aldo Lamberti
2011 Marlton Pike W., Cherry Hill, 856-663-1747, visit website
Price: $$$
The spark of Roman candles erupts seemingly every few minutes in the sleek dining rooms of this upscale flagship to the ubiquitous Lamberti empire. It’s Celebration Central for a senior slice of South Jersey diners. And while it may not be the most personal setting, it is nonetheless a reliable — if expensive — destination for an upscale meal of high-quality seafood (expertly cooked whole fish, stone crabs, hard-to-find seppia “tagliatelle” salad), classic indulgences like Tuscan-spiced rack of lamb, plus a lively bar scene.
Chick’s Deli
906 Township Ln., Cherry Hill, 856-429-2022, visit website
Price: $
This local institution is hidden on an alley strip just off Route 70, but Chick’s has remained a cheesesteak destination for cops, high school kids, and locals of all stripes for 60 years. The chicken cheesesteaks are the big draw here, though the beef steaks are also solid — in a basic, squishy roll, American cheese kind of way. The Italian hoagies aren’t bad, either.
The Kibitz Room
100 Springdale Rd., Cherry Hill, 856-428-7878, visit website
Price: $-$$
It’s a good thing the Katz JCC gym is just down the road, because I could eat my weight’s worth of creamy blintzes and steamy corned beef at this South Jersey standby. For my money, nobody (outside of Famous 4th Street Deli) brings the New York-style deli savor quite like Kibitz, from the comfort soups, to the grilled rye bread sandwiches piled high with pepper-edged pastrami, hot roast beef platters and homey entrées (stuffed cabbage, chicken pot pie) to the bottomless pickle bar. The counter service-only setup is my biggest complaint.
Han Dynasty
404 NJ-70, Cherry Hill, (856) 428-0088, visit website
Price: $-$$
Han Chiang gave Center City Philly a thrilling wake-up to true Sichuan spice at his original Old City spot-and helped spark the trend towards more authentic regional Chinese cooking in the region. Now that he's expanded to eight locations, including two in New York, it's easy to forget it all began in the Philly suburbs, in particular in Exton, where Han's mom still runs the show (and the Lions Head meatballs are always on the menu. The overall experiences vary a bit too much to universally maintain the original 3-bell rating. But with a menu that allows patrons to customize the proteins and spice levels for 14 classic styles, Han Dynasty remains the region's standard for exciting Sichuan flavors, from the ultimate dandan noodles to fiery wings and cumin lamb dialed up to a "10.
Collingswood
There's a reason Collingswood is the envy aspiring suburban dining scene - a growing roster of exciting food destinations has driven its downtown revival.
618 W. Collings Ave., Collingswood, 856-854-2670, visit website
Price: $$$
Yes, Joey Baldino’s 32-seat Sicilian BYOB is still noisy, cramped, and predictable. But I’ve long gotten over the rustic room’s boisterous tendencies and try to avoid the crowds with midweek reservations. And when I say “predictable,” I mean in the very best way possible. As in reliably great, and even exciting, despite the fact his printed menu never changes. Few chefs these days manage to draw the kind of powerful flavors from traditional cooking that Baldino does nightly in his detail-driven tribute to classic Sicilian flavors. I dream of his tender rabbit cacciatore, the dusky taste of oregano in his velvety Ragusa tripe, the lemony savor of a juicy grilled swordfish steak, and the oceanic whiff of salty bottarga roe shaved over silky tagliatelle twirled in lemony olive oil.

At a recent revisit, I was reminded of just how well Zeppoli satisfies the simple pleasures as we devoured a crackly crisp breast of a perfectly juicy chicken breast lit with rosemary oil, a bountiful antipasti platter topped with roasted cauliflower and tangy caponata, then a rigatoni alla Dizgraziata whose toothy tubes snapped against melty chunks of eggplant. And then there was the marvelous Sicilian fisherman’s stew, whose dark broth was deeply steeped with fennel and crustaceans (and just a whisper of cinnamon), then piled high with head-on shrimp, tender calamari, clams and saffron-stained beads of Tunisian couscous. By the time we were done, I didn’t think I could eat anymore. But then came the creamy nondairy almond milk panna cotta called biancomangiare, a vivid scoop of pistachio semi-freddo, and the most airy sugar-dusted fritters ever. Yes, I’ve had them many times before. But these zeppoli, like their namesake restaurant, never really get old.
Hearthside
801 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, 856-240-1164, visit website
Price: $$$
It’s only been a few weeks since chef Dominic and Lindsay Piperno opened their wood-fired American BYOB in a built-from-scratch corner space across from the Collingswood library, so it’s too soon for an official review or rating. But suffice to say from my very early visit, this wood-trimmed 45-seater is aiming for a level of modern sophistication Collingswood has yet to see. The parallels in style and format to Vernick, where Piperno (also ex-Zeppoli) and co-chef Aaron Gottesman (Fat Ham) met, are obvious in a good way. Early hits include the beef carpaccio, smoked celery root agnolotti, and large-format entrées for sharing.
Indeblue
619 W. Collings Ave., Collingswood, 856-854-4633, visit website
Price: $$
While the 13th Street Indeblue downtown has gotten most of the attention recently, Collingswood’s BYOB scene is where Heather and chef Rakesh Ramola began their quest to serve modern Indian cuisine in an upscale ambience. This handsomely converted home is the second Jersey location for their BYOB, and it remains a pleasant destination for polished renditions of classics like crispy spinach chaat, lamb biryani, seafood moilee, rogan josh, and baingan barta. More creative fusion dishes, though, are where Ramola makes his mark, with Chicken 65 tacos, paneer-stuffed long hots, lollipop lamb chops, and chicken tikka pizza.
Sagami Japanese Restaurant
37 Crescent Blvd., Collingswood, 856-854-9773, visit website
Price: $$
After an astounding four decades of unwavering craftsmanship, Shigeru Fukuyoshi’s low-lit, dark-wood destination in South Jersey remains a gold standard for pristine sushi cut right. There’s nothing particularly trendy or flashy about the menu compared with some of the upscale modern izakayas that have opened in Center City in recent years. None of the colorful sauce-splattered mix-and-match maki roll nonsense you’ll see in lesser sushi emporiums. This cozy, tavern-like BYOB is a destination for fish purists and classic Japanese standards cooked right. I love the hearty chirashi bowl of sashimi arranged like a bouquet over seasoned rice, and can never resist the broiled eggplant appetizer topped with miso-chicken gravy. One caveat: Best to avoid on major eating nights, like Valentine’s Day, when Sagami overbooks to the point that its usually charming service becomes frazzled, and meals can become disjointed.
Sabrina’s Cafe
714 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, 856-214-0723, visit website
Philadelphia's fast-growing funky brunch chainlet has brought its updated diner fare and over-stuffed French toast to the historic tin roof bones of the former Woolworths store, which, if you can stand the noise, is a fun spot to bridge the breakfast-lunch divide. I generally resist Sabrina's fondness for goofy pile-it-on combo specials, and lean more towards reliable classics like the Mel's chicken cutlet sandwich, Islander grilled tuna sandwich, Southwest Buffalo chicken cobb salad, big omelets, and breakfast items with a Mexican twist, like the Barking Chihuahua and huevos Rancheros.
Severino Pasta Co.
110 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, 856-854-7666, visit website
Who knew the pasta capital of Philadelphia was … in Westmont? Indeed. That is where the Severino Pasta Co., established in 1971, has become the source of both fresh and dried artisan pastas for many of the best restaurants in the region.

Their products can be found widely in local retail stores, including Whole Foods, but the Westmont headquarters where the pastas are made is a prime source for hard-to-find specialty shapes, as well as prepared foods, cheeses, and almost all other imported Italian products.
The bounty of South Jersey
From BYOBs to barbecue, steaks and international cuisine, the best kitchens inspire with a personal touch.
FAVORITE PICK Henri’s Hotts Barbeque
1003 E Black Horse Pike, Hammonton, 609-270-7268, visit website
Price: $-$$
Doug Henri’s big iron smokers are so powerful, they once stopped me in my tracks as I was driving home from the Shore on the Black Horse Pike. I turned my car around, went for lunch — and have been returning every year since. The fact is that Henri, a retired corrections officer who can often be seen tending his pit in polished shoes, turns out some of the best barbecue in the region, from the slow-cooked brisket to halo-pink ribs, pulled pork and tender chicken.

But it’s his weekend buffet that can’t be missed, even if you’re not a buffet person. This is one epic all-you-can-eat display of soul food — amazing fried chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, jerk chicken (which I may prefer to the barbecue version), tangy collards, spicy crab pasta, corn pudding and fresh peach cobbler — for just $15.95 (!) — that is absolutely one of the region’s greatest bargains. If that’s not enough, follow my lead for what may also be the best fried chicken wings anywhere.
FAVORITE PICK Park Place Café & Restaurant
7 E Park Ave., Merchantville, 856-662-2200, visit website
Price: $$$
Phil Manganaro bakes the bread and makes the pasta at tiny Park Place Café. He sometimes forages the wild mushrooms for his buttery rabbit agnolotti. He gathers tupelo berries from neighboring trees to make the sweet-and-sour juice that swirls through spicy oil around the luscious pink toro sashimi. The chef even boils down ocean water from his surfing jaunts to the Jersey Shore to make sea salt to scatter over top. If ever the case could be made for the BYOB movement as the single most effective way for one or two talented people to create a special dining experience despite a lack resources, this cozy 32-seat bistro with slanted walls, limited hours, and an old vinyl record player spinning vintage jazz in charming downtown Merchantville is the latest great example.

Manganaro, a largely unknown line cook until this ownership debut, worked a host of Starr restaurants under Chris Painter (Parc, the Dandelion, Butcher & Singer, El Vez, Il Pittore) and has stockpiled a versatile tool kit of culinary skills, from exceptional pastas (like the towering mound of fettuccine tangled with clams and house sausage, to charcuterie and a love of black truffles that were shaved like earthy checkers into an absolutely perfect French omelet for brunch. But the dinner is where Manganaro struts his most sophisticated moves, from a snapper over radishes ringed with bittersweet amaro reduction to a suckling pig special of sublimely tender meat sheathed in a crackle of crispy skin. With Manganaro’s girlfriend and manager, Francesca Venti, running the dining room with a soft-spoken grace, it seems normal that this unexpected bistro is serving edgy dishes like calf’s tongue tortellini and “crispy pig face” terrine with octopus to local wine aficionado clubs who have quietly discovered this gastronomic haven as yet another hidden BYO retreat since it opened in January. The sophisticated secret of Park Place Café, however, could only last so long.
FAVORITE PICK Fischer’s Pelican Restaurant
508 Hurffville Crosskeys Rd., Sewell, 856-589-6969, visit website
Price: $$$
Owner Bill Fischer was a commercial fisherman before becoming a longtime executive chef at Caffé Aldo Lamberti, so it’s no wonder his own restaurant, a warm BYOB with simple white linen elegance across from Washington Township High School, is one of the most reliable places in the region for Italian seafood specialties. Fischer’s menu cruises familiar waters with the classics, but with pristine ingredients, bountiful portions, and personal twists. Meaty crab cakes come laced with snappy green laces of zucchini. Tender coins of octopus tangle with shaved arugula and fennel. Crisp sheets of pancetta hide moist clams casino. Huge seared scallops crown truffled risotto studded with mushrooms. And flounder française, so fresh and moist, bends over buttery angel hair pasta beneath fistfuls of sweet lump crab.

In past meals, I’ve had outstanding whole branzino (filleted by Fischer tableside), silvery orata with orzo, creamy crab Imperial, and Chilean sea bass with frizzled leeks in citrus butter. I’ve enjoyed the non-seafood items here, too, from the seriously spicy long hots stuffed with prosciutto and Gorgonzola to an expert paccheri all’Amatriciana. But when there’s an option to order your dish with crabmeat — like the simple backfin sauté over angel hair in bright tomato basil sauce — the right answer is to always let Sewell’s fisherman-chef pile the ocean’s bounty on.
Star Manti
4000 US-130 #6, Delran, 856-461-0024, visit website
Price: $$
Come for the signature dish of tiny handmade manti beef dumplings in yogurt sauce dusted with mint and spoonfuls of chile-steeped butter at this humble strip-mall Turkish delight. But stay to discover what is certainly one of the best overall Turkish restaurants in the region, started 11 years ago by chef Serife “Sherry” Ayakta and her husband Refa, who left Istanbul after an earthquake destroyed their home. I loved the Iskender kebab of shaved doner meat over crispy pita bits doused in tomato sauce and yogurt, but also the earthy lentil soup, and crispy borek cigar pastries stuffed with feta cheese. The highlight of the meal, though, was the murky sweet Turkish coffee to finish the meal, delivered on a red velvet pillow beneath a tasseled brass bell with a pomp befitting a Sultan.
Amma’s South Indian Cuisine
700 Eagle Plaza #14, Voorhees, 856-784-1100, visit website
Price: $
“Amma” means mother, and South Jersey’s growing Indian community — in particular those from South India — will find the authentic flavors of home at this surprising strip mall BYOB, where fresh banana leaves, halal meats, aromatic spice, and an ambitious young chef-owner committed to quality add up to some of the best dosas and thali platters (10 items for $8.95!?) this side of Exton. From the all-natural Chicken 65 (none of that artificial pink) to the earthy spinach pakoras, fluffy idli cakes, sour lemon rice, onion rava dosas and dum biryani were spot-on. Also, mutton meatballs are a thing. I’d go back for them.
El Mariachi Loco
101 Bellevue Ave., Hammonton, 609-270-7224, visit website
Price: $
The “blueberry capital of the world” also happens to be one of the best places for authentic Mexican food in the region, thanks to generations of migrant agricultural workers who’ve settled here and opened restaurants. The highlights are many, from a great food truck (Tacos al Carbon) to the biggest retail selection of tequila I’ve ever seen (600) labels at West Side Discount Liquors, 730 12th St., Hammonton, 609-704-7660). But Robert Diaz’s El Mariachi Loco, which relocated into a grand gingerbread Victorian storefront beside the train tracks of Hammonton’s main strip is the single best reason to visit. The enchiladas in mole poblano is a standout dish, but so are the addictive made-to-order guacamole, hand-pressed “super grandes” huaraches al pastor, quesadillas stuffed with huitlacoche, Coke-braised carnitas served with housemate tortillas, and the soulful bowl of pozole hominy stew.
Two Fish
26 S. Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, 856-428-3474, visit website
Price: $$$
I’ve always looked forward to an excellent display of modern seafood when chef Mike Stollenwerk is behind the stove — even as the peripatetic poissonnier has changed restaurant gigs at a concerning pace, from multiple versions of Little Fish to Fish to Fathom and the maddeningly short-lived 26 North. He’s exceeded a year, however, at his latest perch, an intimate 26-seat dark wood BYOB in Haddonfield called Two Fish, opened with girlfriend Felice Leibowitz. Based on the outstanding plates at a recent dinner, from char-grilled octo over pesto white beans, to exotic seafood soup in spiced coconut broth and his signature pan-crisped skate over parsley-greened spaetzle with little cubes of celery root in a clam-scented cream, the chef is cooking as well as ever. I can only hope for Haddonfielders he stays for a while.
ITA101
20 S. Main St., Medford, 609-654-0101, visit website
Price: $$$
Medford’s native son Kevin Maher returned from a 14-year cooking tour of Italy (followed by a stint at Il Pittore) to bring authentic Italian flavors dosed with seasonal tasting menus, deft seafood, and fresh pastas to an ambitious BYOB on this quaint South Jersey Main Street. The food is fresh, handmade, and filled with a genuine personal passion, from the pappardelle with wild boar rage to an eggplant timballo and a memorable swordfish with almond puree followed by a tiramisu constructed tableside for dessert. ITA101 deserves an audience — even if prices sometimes trend a little high and the exposed-brick dining room can become terribly noisy.
Phu Khang
5201 NJ-38, Merchantville, 856-324-0276, visit website
Price: $
This sprawling but pleasantly updated dining room is Route 38’s answer to the pho halls of Washington Avenue. The vast menu does a nice job covering all the Vietnamese classics, from crispy spring rolls and soft-wrapper summer rolls, steaming bowls of pho and spicier bún bò hue, as well as excellent banh mi hoagies.
Camden
From soul food to authentic Mexican and serious cheesesteaks
Donkey’s Place
1223 Haddon Ave., Camden, 856-966-2616, visit website
Price: $
The wider world of national food TV celebs has lately discovered what locals have known for decades: this old-school Camden tavern serves one of the most irreplaceable cheesesteak variations in the region: a Kaiser roll piled high with tender griddled meat, cheese, and a juicy mop of saucy onions that’s actually almost more onion than beef. It’s a deliciously sloppy mess, even more intense when amped with one of the house-fermented hot sauces. Donkey’s recent embrace of craft beer also is encouraging, as a cold draft of Tonewood Fuego IPA, brewed just minutes away in Oaklyn makes the food taste all the better.
Corinne’s Place
1254 Haddon Ave., Camden, 856-541-4894, visit website
Price: $
It always seems so festive in this birthday pink dining room because Corinne’s is ready for a crowd (and especially the post-church Sunday rush) as it remains one of this region’s enduring touchstones for home-style soul food cooking. They no longer cook the chicken in cast-iron pans, unfortunately. But my recent chicken platter lunch was as good as ever: a juicy half bird sealed inside a delicately seasoned thin crust, with black-eyed peas over rice, standout mac and cheese, a moist hunk of corn bread and, of course, a slice of sweet potato pie.
San Lucas Mexican Restaurant
2600 Federal St., Camden, 856-966-3556, visit website
Price: $
Camden’s Federal Street corridor has a strong Mexican tradition, and San Lucas is one of the mainstays, a cheery corner space brightened by an evocative wall mural and colorful paper fringe that flutters from the ceiling. More importantly, this Puebla-rooted kitchen delivers a handmade touch, from the fresh-pressed warm tortillas to thick mole sauce edgy with spice to counter the sweet notes of chocolate, cinnamon and nuts. The menu is particularly strong with a variety of combo platillos. “El Mariachi” featured six big butterflied shrimps with just the lightest savor of garlic, a cheese-stuffed chile relleno covered in mild tomato and a mound moist rice topped with a thin pad of flavorful grilled beef. A crisp tostada round brought even more good shrimp tossed like a chilled seafood salad with chipotle crema, pico de gallo and avocado.
Cooper River Distillers
34 N. Fourth St., Camden, 856-295-1273, visit website
James Yoakum's garage distillery (the second in New Jersey since Prohibition) is turning out excellent Petty's Island rum (love the Driftwood Dream spiced rum!), as well as a richly colored rye and single-run whiskeys distilled from mash produced by various local breweries.
Elsewhere
Tacconelli’s Pizzeria
7 W. Main St., Maple Shade, 856-667-4992, visit website
Price: $
It can be hard to keep track of who’s who in the legendary Tacconelli’s Pizza Universe, spread between now squabbling family factions in Port Richmond, the Navy Yard, and South Jersey. They all have virtues. But it’s the outpost in Maple Shade from fourth-generation pizza scion Vince Tacconelli, 54, that has been my preference for a destination pie. No one has to reserve dough in advance. The spacious dining room is comfortable for a big group. And the pizzas still have that trademark Tacconelli’s well-done crunch — despite the fact they’re cooked in modern hearths rather than the 13-foot-deep brick oven cave of Port Richmond. The signature white pies and spicy marinara-sauced pizzas (try it with sausage and sweet peppers) still have that special something — boosted lately with cloud spots of house mozzarella.

What’s really begun to distinguish this location, though, is the growth of its once-limited menu. That’s due in part to the emergence of the next Tacconelli’s generation, Vince’s 25-year-old son, Vince Jr., who’s put his C.I.A. training to good use and created a series of affordable but excellent housemade pastas, like the gnocchi with tender pork ragu and a snappy bucatini with pesto. So now this renowned destination for special-occasion pizza has grown-up into neighborhood Italian restaurant I could visit every week.
Kelly Green Brewery
154 S. Broadway, Pitman, 856-270-2876, visit website
Can breweries revive a downtown strip? Yes. But how about a town that's been dry for over a century? Tiny Pitman, which is anchored by a 19th century Methodist camp, is now home to not just one, but two little breweries. And this postage stamp-sized storefront tasting room (also the first in Gloucester County) is an intimate place to meet some friendly beer-loving locals and sip a small range of well-made core brews at their freshest. The Endgrain Coffee Porter, infused on draft with a Randall device packed with fresh oranges, was unexpectedly memorable.
Pizzeria Mannino’s
170 S. Broadway, Pitman, 856-716-6366, visit website
Price: $
This casual branch of upscale Mannino’s Cucina Italiano brings a gorgeously tiled wood-fired Neapolitan pizza oven to Pitman’s reviving South Broadway strip. The sweetness of house-made mozzarella distinguishes these pies, but the crispy crust and toppings were bold, too. Try the short rib-long hot combo. Big salads and the wood-roasted seafood antipasti — ours brought huge scallops tangled-up in greens — make for a satisfying starter.
Angelo’s Pizzeria
122 N. Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, 856-429-3423, visit website
Price: $
It’s all about the crust — chewy, well-developed, tangy with a touch of sourdough — at this pizza shop in Haddonfield, so it’s no surprise owner Danny DiGiampietro got his start as a South Philly bread guy who owned a bakery and married into the Sarcone family. I love the homey, heat-roasted edges of the breadier pan pizzas here, where fresh ingredients — house-made mozzarella, house-roasted peppers — elevate many of flavors on the crispy American-style round-pies, too, along with a finishing ping of Pecorino. Turns out DiGiampietro is also a great hot-sandwich guy. The “Tony Head,” a cheesesteak named after a South Philly pal, stuffs quality rib-eye into an aromatic garlic bread roll that is now one of my favorite new fancy brigade steaks.
Double Nickel
1585 NJ-73, Pennsauken Township, 856-356-2499, visit website
South Jersey has been on a tear of impressive new breweries since state laws were tweaked, though strict license regulations dictate that most are still tasting rooms rather than full-service brewpubs. Double Nickel in nearby Pennsauken has been one of the most successful, scoring multiple Inquirer Brewvitational awards for its Vienna lager (the thinking man's Yuengling), which opens an accessible door to DN's big tasting room, where bigger beers - including many barrel-aged specials - are available.
Estia Taverna
140 NJ-70, Marlton, 856-596-5500, visit website
Price: $$$
The soaring vaulted ceiling, stone masonry and ice bank decked with Mediterranean seafood at this mini-chain evokes a Greek vacation, even if they are a slightly more casual, ever-so-slightly-less-expensive version of Estia downtown. They are still some of the best destinations anywhere for whole Greek fish-lavraki (branzino), tsipoura (dorado), fagri (snapper)-butterflied cooked over the coals to minimalist perfection, glossed with lemony olive oil, oregano and capers. Other Greek classics are also well-wrought, from flakey spinach pie to tender octopus, lamb chops and moussaka, plus tomatoey shrimp Saganaki. Also, don't miss the addictive Estia chips or halibut souvlaki, which is not available in Center City.
Sharrott Winery
370 S. Egg Harbor Rd., Hammonton, 609-567-9463, visit website
The Sharrott family's Blue Anchor winery has become one of the most visible and award-winning labels in South Jersey's Outer Coastal Plain AVA, earning multiple "Best Of" nods for its Wicked port-style sweet made from Chambourcin, as well as consistent kudos for its chadonnay, merlot, cab franc and petit verdot.
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
13107 Town Center Blvd, Voorhees Township, , visit website
Price: $$-$$$
With 13 locations in three states (including one in the works for Center City), America's seventh-largest brewpub chain has earned national kudos for its polished dark wood decor and ability to balance well-crafted core beers with creative specials from talented individual brewers. They're comfortable and accessible, with food that's generally better than at most chains, even if the huge menu sometimes panders to trends (pumpkin sriracha wings; dandan noodles) and falls back on too much sweetness (ahi tuna salad) for my taste. I've enjoyed the fish tacos and jaegerschnitzel. And service is reliably informative about the beers, which always offer edgier offerings to balance reliable classics like Pig Iron Porter.
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
124 E Kings Hwy, Maple Shade Township, , visit website
Price: $$-$$$
With 13 locations in three states (including one in the works for Center City), America's seventh-largest brewpub chain has earned national kudos for its polished dark wood decor and ability to balance well-crafted core beers with creative specials from talented individual brewers. They're comfortable and accessible, with food that's generally better than at most chains, even if the huge menu sometimes panders to trends (pumpkin sriracha wings; dandan noodles) and falls back on too much sweetness (ahi tuna salad) for my taste. I've enjoyed the fish tacos and jaegerschnitzel. And service is reliably informative about the beers, which always offer edgier offerings to balance reliable classics like Pig Iron Porter.
Mistral
66 Witherspoon St., Princeton, (609) 688-8808, visit website
Price: $$$
Can a serious restaurant survive and thrive at the mall? Princeton’s star Scott Anderson is giving it a compelling effort with this airy King of Prussia sibling to his Central Jersey original, where a flexible menu of gorgeous plates in various sizes and diverse international influences finds a delicate balance between accessibility and modern culinary craft. Chef Craig Polignano riffs on tartare, with warm lamb and raw tuna, as well as a Thai-spiced grilled calamari show Mistral’s edgy side, while a standout burger with bacon jam, pineapple-chili-glazed chicken wings and a flatiron steak with potato pave suit more traditional tastes. Great cocktails, a focused but outstanding wine list (with a genuine somm to point out that Corsican rosé), a breezy dining room and an expansive patio view of the high-rent valet lot add to this ambitious new project’s potential as a post-shopping oasis to dine.
TONEWOOD BREWING
215 W. Clinton Ave., Oaklyn, 856-833-1500, visit website
With the garage doors rolled-up to reveal community tables inside its lively corner space, Jimi Hendrix blues jamming on the stereo, and the light strung sidewalk packed with picnic table beer drinkers and their families, some excitement has come to Oaklyn’s mini-downtown strip in the form of one of my favorite new breweries. Tonewood’s big hit is undoubtedly the Fuego, South Jersey’s dank and juicy answer to the hazy IPA trend (available in cans). But I was also impressed with their handle on classic maltier styles like the deep amber Dreadnaught Dunkel, a nutty Munich lager, and the creamy dark Barrel Bound stout full of roasty bittersweet baker’s chocolate notes that should booze-up nicely once a portion is done aging in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels.
RESTAURANT CRITIC: CRAIG LABAN FOOD EDITOR: MAUREEN FITZGERALD PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID SWANSON PRODUCTION & DESIGN: GARLAND POTTS VISUALS EDITOR: FRANK WIESE COPY CHIEF: ALISON SMITH INTERNS: ASHLEY GRAEF, THEA APPLEBAUM LICHT PHOTO EDITOR: MICHAEL MERCANTI
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