To warm you on a wintry night
Despite the blustery cold, winter in Newark can be a beautiful experience with the bright lights at Prudential Center and the festive concerts that fill the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Between exciting events and shopping in downtown Newark, fuel up on delicious comfort food at the city’s numerous restaurants and cafes. This list highlights our favorite comfort meals from some of Newark’s most notable eateries.
Sweet Potato Tots
Everything at this popular burger joint is great. The Indian-inspired menu has drool-worthy items such as juicy beef and lamb burgers made from premium Pat LaFrieda meat. There is a remarkable juicy chicken burger flecked with cilantro. The menu also has samosas, hot wings, other snacks and desserts such as cookies and sweet parathas filled with gooey Nutella and honey. But this writer’s favorite is the freshly fried sweet potato tots -- better than regular tater tots because of the sweet potato flavor. Eat with a burger or alone. Wash it down with a mango lassi. This side order is sure to please.
Pastel de Nata
There will inevitably be a long line when you show up at this Newark fixture, widely known as the best Portuguese bakery among locals. But the treats are worth the wait. Order a cup of espresso or a hot cocoa for those blustery cold days. The long glass cases display an array of delicious items, from fancy cookies to delicious chocolate croissants.
Back shelves hold freshly baked artisan bread. But you really come here for the bakery’s pastel de nata, sweet egg custards with a flaky pastry shell. The tops have been caramelized. The taste has the right touch of melt-in-your-mouth sweetness and a slight hint of saltiness. Order a dozen and a cup of coffee. The true danger is sitting at one of the bakery’s café tables and eating a whole box in one sitting.
Paella Casa d’Paco
This modest tavern/restaurant looks unassuming but the place, which specializes in tapas, packs a lot of flavor. From the menu, we recommend anything octopus, the acorn-fed Iberian jamon, the tuna empanadas, broiled scallops and the sirloin steak sliders with machego cheese. But the jewel of the menu is paella, the house special. More than enough for two, the cast iron pan brims with delicious flavors from the sea. Lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, chicken and chorizo are nestled in a bed of moist saffron rice. It’s addictive and yes, comforting! Finish the meal with dessert and the excellent cappuccino made at the bar.
Mo Chicken Please
Smitty and Mo's
Named after the chef-owner, Michael Vann's father and best friend, Smitty & Mo’s is located on the second floor of the Gateway Building in downtown Newark. Garnering around 5,000 visitors a month, the casual dining restaurant specializes in chicken on and off the bone. Chef Vann bought his tradition of southern food up to Newark from his Alabama roots. Try specialties like shrimp mac n cheese; crispy wings; veggie egg roll; and the jerk chicken bowl. Be sure to wash it down with their fresh Mango Lime Juice, made from mango chunks and limes.
Located near the campuses of New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University – Newark, this hip new eatery specializes in Venezuelan street food. Keeping it authentic, the burgers are piled high with juicy beef patties, ham, bacon, a fried egg, avocado, corn, cheddar slices, crunchy potato sticks, lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup. Phew! They have a wide selection of hot dogs, which also boast many toppings. There are empanadas and arepas too.
All are expertly cooked. Our favorite comfort meal is the eatery’s standout perico arepa: scrambled eggs, green onions, and tomatoes stuffed into a crunchy corn shell. It’s like a fancy morning breakfast sandwich but better. Round off the meal with fries and soda. Yum!
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Story & Photos By: Sharon Adarlo