Start your summer with the perfect bite as Susan Bloom takes a look at some key openings around the Garden State. Have a restaurant/food outlet opening, closing, or other key development to share? Email your news to [email protected].
Ani Ramen House
On April 24, Ani Ramen House followed up on the success of its flagship outlet in Montclair (opened in 2014) with the launch of a second location, situated in the heart of downtown Jersey City’s restaurant row. The restaurant features the chain’s six signature Japanese ramen noodle soups (including yuzu shio, miso, spicy miso, vegetarian, mazemen, and Ani ramen, all incorporating custom noodles by Sun Noodle), as well as “light bites” including crisp gyoza, pork and shrimp buns, chicken wings two ways, and chilled charred edamame; a full bar offers cocktails created in collaboration with master New York City-based mixologist Kenta Goto, owner of Bar GOTO, and features such authentic Japanese ingredients as yuzu, plum, shiso, and calpico. The 2,000-square-foot space seats 110 people, serves lunch and dinner daily, features mural artwork by artist Rich Tu, and also includes an attractive courtyard for outdoor seating.
150 Bay Street
On June 22, the recently revitalized Powerhouse Arts District of Jersey City welcomed the official opening of Beat Street, a 100-seat restaurant, bar, lounge, and performance space located inside two-year-old nightlife destination Transmission. Owned by promoter KC Macias and celebrated chef Darryl Harmon (the former executive chef at Water Works Restaurant in Philadelphia), the new restaurant at Beat Street features a 15-seat bar where guests can sample locally brewed craft beers, international wines, and artisan craft cocktails utilizing regionally-sourced spirits, as well as a dining room that features vintage flooring, suede-clad light halos, antique gilt-edged table tops, ’80s-themed accents, and an expansive outdoor seating area. The menu includes such signature items as Harmon’s Rocka Falafel Waffle, a sweet and savory dish featuring a house-made falafel mix pressed in a waffle iron for crispness and topped with mint frozen yogurt, Harissa infused syrup, raita (an Indian condiment made primarily with yogurt, cucumber and mint), and micro borage. Harmon’s sloppy joe is nostalgically presented in a custom-designed lunchbox filled with sour cream and onion kettle chips, a house-cured pickle, and a liquid nitrogen-powered root beer float, while Harmon’s native bison tostadas—honoring his part-Lenape heritage—feature Native American fry bread topped with seared bison meat, smashed black bean pudding, gem lettuce, Jersey heirloom tomatoes, cotija cheese, and lime-infused crema. With his selection of Macias and Harmon to drive Beat Street, Transmission owner Howard Brunner is excited to transform the space into “an incredible multi-sensory experience—a gathering spot for locals where they can dine on delicious food and enjoy a variety of genres of live music in a visually stimulating and welcoming environment.”
Chopt Creative Salad Company
176 Columbia Turnpike
On May 26, fast-casual chain Chopt Creative Salad Company officially opened the doors of its newest location, in Florham Park, its first outlet in New Jersey. Launched in New York City in 2001, the chain’s 40+ restaurants, currently located throughout New York, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., are known for combining seasonal ingredients from local purveyors with authentic flavors from around the world. In addition to an ongoing series of Destination Salads, which feature fresh and innovative flavors from different regions globally, signature menu items at the 48-seat restaurant include the Mexican Caesar salad (featuring FreeBird grilled chicken, cotija cheese, jalapeño peppers, tortilla chips, and romaine lettuce with Mexican Caesar dressing) and the kebab cobb (featuring FreeBird grilled chicken, locally-sourced feta cheese, charred red onion, Mama Lil’s spicy peppers, pita chips, and romaine lettuce with Greek yogurt tzatziki dressing) as well as freshly-brewed iced teas and lemonades. “We’re so fortunate to have fans in New Jersey who know and love Chopt through their trips to New York,” says Colin McCabe, cofounder of Chopt with friend and business partner, Tony Shure. McCabe says, “To those fans, we’re happy to finally say we’re here! We’re thrilled to be opening our first New Jersey location in Florham Park, a community that’s active, health conscious, and which we know will love Chopt’s flavorful, healthy salads.” Chopt celebrated the opening of its new location by offering customers complimentary salads in exchange for a donation to the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, in partnership with the Madison Area YMCA.
The Halal Guys
4 Teterboro Landing Drive
On June 17, food truck and popular franchise The Halal Guys continued its expansion into brick-and-mortar outlets with the official launch of its newest restaurant in Teterboro, which represents the franchise’s fourth New Jersey outlet (following the opening of locations in East Brunswick in May 2016, Newark in December 2016, and Union in April 2017). The new location is within the new Teterboro Landing retail center near Teterboro Airport. Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony that day, franchise owners/partners Khattab Abuettieh and Mouhammed Abuettieh welcomed guests to the new restaurant, which is renowned for its Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, large portions, reasonable prices, and signature chicken, beef, falafel, and hummus platters served with their now-well-known white or red sauce and prepared to Halal standards. In addition to their New Jersey locations, The Halal Guys also sports locations in Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, and New Orleans.
Kimchi Smoke House II
345 Bloomfield Avenue
Following the popularity of Kimchi Smoke’s flagship location in Westwood, the restaurant celebrated the grand opening of its second location, Kimchi Smoke House II in Montclair, the weekend of June 14 to 18. The restaurant’s southern Texas/Korean barbeque-themed menu features such signature items as Chef Robert Cho’s Cholander fries (featuring crispy fries loaded with pulled pork, bourbon chipotle sauce, smoked kimchi, cheddar cheese, and scallions), Bad-as-Texas brisket (featuring Creekstone brisket, smoked for 12 hours), bourbon vanilla pudding with Cap’n Crunch, and the unique Chonut (featuring a choice of meat topped with bourbon chipotle sauce, smoked kimchi, cheese, bacon, and scallions on a glazed donut), the pork belly version of which won Best Bacon Dish at Beer BBQ Bacon Fest ’17 in Morristown last month. New additions to the menu at the Montclair restaurant include Korean Redneck Tacos 2.0, with a house-made salsa verde as well as a summer salad, which includes romaine lettuce, grilled corn, grilled cherry tomatoes, and Korean BBQ cauliflower. Catering and takeout at the 40-seat BYOB restaurant are both available.
Luke’s Lobster (pictured at top)
2 Chelsea Avenue, Unit #4-3
Opened in Long Branch on May 25, Luke’s Lobster—a chain whose flagship location in New York’s East Village was founded in 2009—is excited to bring sustainably sourced lobster, shrimp, crab rolls, and other classic seafood offerings to the Jersey Shore just in time for summer. Founded by one-time lobsterman Luke Holden and now boasting locations in 10 states, Luke’s Lobster is known for hand-picking their catch directly from lobstermen at the dock and immediately cleaning and steaming it at their own processing facility in order to preserve freshness and quality. According to a spokesperson for the restaurant, all of Luke’s Lobster shacks have a cozy nautical theme and a “seaside Maine”-style ambiance featuring comfortable aesthetics, reclaimed wood, and tables and chairs crafted by Luke’s brother Brian, from his wood shop in Maine. To enable a more targeted focus on their new location in Long Branch, the chain closed its Hoboken location (207 Washington Street) in late April, though it will still make its menu and catering services available to Hoboken-area fans by way of its fleet of food trucks.
Choc.O.Pain Bakery & Café
330-332 Palisade Avenue
Jersey City Heights
This July, following the success of its other locations in Hoboken and Jersey City, popular Hudson County bakery and café Choc.O.Pain will open a third location in the popular Jersey City Heights area. The new 3,900-square-foot space will serve as baking and food preparation headquarters for all locations as it offers guests a birds-eye view of bakery operations via a large picture window into the bread room. “It’s an exciting time for Choc.O.Pain,” shares Owner Clemence Danko. “Due to the rapid growth we’ve experienced since opening our first location in Hoboken in 2012, we found ourselves in need of a central location where we can produce our daily fresh-baked breads, pastries, and café items to supply our own locations as well as support the growing demand from area businesses to carry our products.” At the new 12-16-seat café, guests will be able to enjoy the eatery’s signature house-made French breads, pastries, and café dishes, including croissants, chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat), and individualized petit kouign pastry inspired by a cake from Brittany which features caramelized layers of dough filled with raspberry, apple, or chocolate chips—or take them to go. The space will also feature a 600-square-foot retail boutique offering a curated collection of French specialty food items such as macarons, honey, and Alain Milliat jams, making the new location “another little slice of France this side of the Atlantic.”
Marcel Bakery & Kitchen
631 Valley Road
You may know him from his Mediterranean-themed MishMish Café in Montclair, which opened in December 2014. Now Chef Meny Vaknin is set to open a new eatery: Marcel Bakery & Kitchen, located in the Upper Montclair space formerly occupied by The Cozy End, this August/September. “We’re excited to bring food and drink options such as fresh breads, savory baked goods, dishes with Turkish, Greek, and Middle Eastern influences, and organic coffee to guests in a quick, counter-service, café-style setting,” says Vaknin, of the new outlet. “Montclair has been incredibly loyal to us and we’re looking forward to sharing the love and bringing our approach to food and culture to the community,” he says. “We hope to bring freshness and quality to Upper Montclair and to make Marcel Bakery & Kitchen feel like a second home to our guests.”