Choice of Cuisine


Anyone exploring the Garden State's Latino cuisines is in not just for a wonderful experience, but for many wonderful experiences. That's because the variety of Latino cuisine avail- able in New Jersey is astounding—there is no such thing as generic "Hispanic food." Each Spanish-speaking country has its own traditional dishes and offers diners a unique combination of flavors and ingredients. Best of all, just about every type can be found in New Jersey.

Newark's Ironbound is famous throughout the state for its restaurants specializing in the cuisines of Spain and Portugal. One taste of a seafood paella or a slice of chorizo (a Spanish sausage made with paprika) will tell you why visitors pour in nights and weekends to Ferry Street, where there are so many Spanish-Portuguese restaurants serving such huge portions it's almost hard to imagine how they all manage to stay in business. When visiting the Ironbound, be sure to visit restaurants including Fornos, Spain, Iberia and Spanish Pavillion. The neighborhood is also home to shops specializing in products from the Iberian peninsula.

Many Latino restaurants in the state reflect the cooking of the Caribbean nations; countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic created a fusion between the traditional dishes of Spain and delicacies from Africa such as yuca and malanga. While cooking differs from one Caribbean country to the next, there remains an air of family—the national dish of Cuba is arroz con frijoles negros (rice and black beans) while the national dish of Puerto Rico is arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). Hudson County has dozens of restaurants offering such fare, especially on and around Bergenline Avenue in Union City and West New York.

A very different cuisine is that of Mexico and parts of Central America, where the food is based on pre-Columbian traditions such as the tortilla (to Mexicans a "tortilla" is a flat pancake, while to most other Hispanics it is an omelet) filled with spicy vegetables and meats. Yet another kind of cuisine is that of Argentina, well represented in the state. The food centers around grilled beef and sausages, Argentinean steaks in particular being famous the world over for their quality. There is also Colombian cuisine, difficult to find in New Jersey a few years ago, yet easily found today in most Latino neighborhoods. Typical dishes include sancocho de gallina, chicken stew and arepas, which are thick, bread like cornmeal pancakes topped with butter, Colombian white cheese and a restaurant's house specialty, such as tuna salad, chicken, ham, sautéed tomatoes, or beef stew.

Then there is "Nuevo Latino" cuisine, which mixes the best traditions from various Hispanic countries and adds a modern twist. Try Azucar or Rebecca's in Englewood, as well as La Isla in Hoboken.

Restaurants serving authentic Latino cuisine are scattered like jewels throughout New Jersey's Latino neighborhoods, ready to be discovered by the wandering visitor. If you would prefer to zero in on a perfect spot for lunch or dinner, local chambers of commerce can be helpful in your search, as can several Internet services.

These include: 

NJ Online's Dining Guide

The Zagat Restaurant Guide

The New Jersey Dining Guide

New Jersey Internet Restaurant Directory

New Jersey Restaurant Association Website

And of course, those who like to prepare Hispanic cuisine at home will have no trouble finding ingredients in New Jersey's Latino neighborhoods. Some bodegas specialize in the products of one particular country, and larger supermarkets will carry a more diverse international selection.


Copyright © 2001- , Terry Muse 
Revised: November 6, 2001
Contact: Terry Muse