Nowhere is Newark’s cultural diversity more evident than in its food. The 300+ restaurants in the city—be they delis, take-out spots, or sit-down establishments—reflect the ethnic mix of its more than 280,000 residents.
When Newark was being established and throughout its growth, different sections of the city were characterized by the ethnic group that settled there. According to riseupnewark.com, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, the Jewish population began to grow in the Central Ward, while Portuguese and Spanish immigrants began to arrive in the Ironbound section. The West Ward was primarily occupied by Polish, Italian, Irish, and German immigrants, and later transitioned into an area comprised of Caribbean Americans. As such, the eateries in the Ironbound/East Ward were mainly Portuguese and Spanish, while Jewish delis proliferated throughout the Central and South Wards. Italian restaurants sprang up in the North Ward and Caribbean establishments became popular in the West Ward.
But in recent years, Newark has undergone massive economic, social and residential development, and the ethnic and cultural lines throughout the wards are becoming a bit more blurred. This, too, has been reflected in the city’s eating establishments.
While certain parts of Newark have become traditionally associated with certain foods, non-traditional eateries and establishments have moved into many neighborhoods, only enhances the city’s culinary diversity.
Here are our Traditional and Non-traditional picks:
East Ward Traditional Pick
Fornos of Spain
47 Ferry Street
(973) 589-4767 | fornosrestaurant.com
An award-winning restaurant specializing in Spanish cuisine and seafood, Fornos is always packed whether you are looking for lunch or dinner. If you’ve got a taste for some authentic paella or mariscada, you won’t be disappointed here.
East Ward Non-Traditional Pick
118 Wilson Ave
(973) 465-9795 | facebook.com/KrugsTavern
Newarkers rave about the burgers at Krug’s Tavern—and they’re not the only ones. In 2015, Krug’s Tavern won “New Jersey’s Best Burger” contest over nine other contenders, and their reputation is holding strong. Krug’s has an extensive list of heavy appetizers and a selection of oversized hot and cold sandwiches that, of course, pair deliciously with your favorite brew.
West Ward Traditional Pick
People’s Choice Lounge
105 Hartford St
This intimate little lounge serves up delicious West Indian food and good times. Stop in for lunch and come back for the popular Happy Hour. Stay for dinner or even later for the music and vibes. This family-owned establishment stays involved in the community, supporting local events and even hosting post-event brunches.
West Ward Non-Traditional Pick
Blueberry Café Juice Bar and Vegan Grille
547 Central Avenue
(973) 732-1711 | iloveblueberrycafe.com
With a mission to promote healthy eating in urban communities, Blueberry Café serves fresh smoothies, soups, salads, herbal teas and more. Try the fried zucchini patties or the mushroom pie when you need a snack. Blueberry Café also provides vegan meal planning as a service.
Central Ward Traditional Pick
Hobby’s Delicatessen and Restaurant
32 Branford Place
(973) 623-0410 | hobbysdeli.com
The Brummer family has run this Old-World Jewish deli since the 1960s. Offering top quality Eastern European delicacies, Hobby’s still pickles its own corned beef and all of its soups are homemade. The deli caters food for occasions large and small, including sandwich and dessert platters, hot buffets and appetizers, and breakfast buffets.
Central Ward Non-Traditional Pick
The Halal Guys Gyro and Chicken
72 Halsey Street
(973) 877-3759 | halseystnewarknj.thehalalguys.com
Starting out with a food truck in New York City, The Halal Guys grew their business into a franchise that has expanded throughout the U.S. and internationally. In Newark, they serve Middle Eastern/Mediterranean style cuisine. Their specialty is the combo platter, a combination of chicken and gyro.
North Ward Traditional Pick
Luigi’s Italian Restaurant
561 Bloomfield Avenue
(973) 481-9696 | luigisitaliantradition.com
This family-owned Italian restaurant is open seven days a week and hosts intimate gatherings as well as large parties of up to 45 people. With fresh pasta and homemade sauces, Luigi’s serves everything from small plates to family-sized meals. The restaurant’s authentic Italian experience goes beyond food with its décor and ambience, and its catering menu is just as robust as its in-restaurant menu.
North Ward Non-Traditional Pick
(973) 485-5333 | facebook.com/EL.CRIOLLO.RESTAURANT/
With the large influx of Latinos in the north ward since the early 1900s, its hard to believe that a Spanish cuisine restaurant would classify as non-traditional. But El Criollo, which opened in 1986 is a full-service Latin American Restaurant. Popular on the menu is the veal meatballs and the mariscos (shellfish/seafood). Customers can sit down and eat, get take-out, and have food catered. Just as much a gathering place as a restaurant, El Criollo has a popular happy hour and is a lounge and a sports bar.
South Ward Traditional Pick
Bragman’s Delicatessen and Restaurant
393 Hawthorne Avenue
(973) 375-9868 | bragmansdeli.com
Family-owned since the 1950s, Bragman’s deli is known for its oversized hot and cold sandwiches made with extra meat served between two slices of Jewish rye bread. It has also been praised for its brisket and roast beef in gravy. The deli’s catering menu includes regular sandwich platters as well as smaller tea sandwich platters, and its combination sandwiches are served with homemade Russian dressing and coleslaw.
South Ward Non-Traditional Pick
Kings Family Restaurant & Catering
557 Clinton Avenue
(973) 396-2963 | kingsfamilyrestaurant.net
327 Lyons Avenue
(973) 926-2177 | kingsrestaurant1.com
Kings opened in the early 1990s as a neighborhood restaurant and now boasts two locations in the South ward and has a robust catering division. A Halal restaurant specializing in Southern food like fish and grits, meatloaf and baked mac and cheese, Kings prides itself on providing big portions at an affordable price. Come for breakfast, which is served all day, as well as lunch and dinner.