I don't go to New Jersey a lot, but there's a good reason: I'm from there. When I do go back, it's for a handful of great restaurants every bit as special as the best ones in New York City. And these are the ones I'm thinking of when I say that.
Maricel Presilla's landmark Latin-American restaurant has taken its knocks over the years -- Hurricane Sandy was especially rough on the place -- but the food is striking and original as ever, and more than makes up for what can sometimes be a bumpy ride.
Kneel before Zod! Eccentric genius chef Zod Arifai cooks nearly every dish at the this small, brilliant, one-of-a-kind modern restaurant, the best in North Jersey by far.
Oceanfront views are the great draw at this Longbranch date Mecca, but the food is much better than it has to be, especially if you stick to the impeccably fresh seafood.
Steve Kalt's brilliant hybrid of Italian-American standards and classic Italian regional food is a triumph, only obscured by the fact that it's in a hotel-casino. But if you are looking for a getaway to AC, Fornelletto is a great reason to choose the Borgata.
Virgin millionaire Richard Branson founded this oasis of gastronomy in the New Jersey wilderness -- a kind of Garden State version of Blue Hill Stone Barns. And extraordinary experience both in terms of location and food.
Everything you could want from a restaurant, minus the formality, The Orange Squirrel is a masterpiece factory: one great American dish after another, all from the plainest ingredients. A case in point is the justly famous pot pie, a truly transcendant dish.
The pride of Princeton -- and, really, South Jersey as a whole -- Elements is modernist food at its best: precise, original, and starkly deconstructed, and yet never prissy or weird. A remarkable restaurant.
A big, traditional, grand country restaurant of the kind usually associated with wedding receptions, the Ryland Inn is now in the care of a talented young chef doing much more modern and seasonal food than you would expect from such a place.
A talented and charismatic young chef (think a Jersey version of Rocco DiSpirto) Palladino proved too much for the Borgata to handle, but he now has own eponymous restauant where he can truly spread his wings. It's worth leaving the hotel for.
Everyone has to have a favorite Italian restaurant in New Jersey, and mine is this genius eatery in Collingswood. You'd have to go very far to find a place so effortlessly conversant in Italian-American vernacular food and yet also so accomplished in high-end Sicilian regional cooking.