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NYC Foodies, Get Thee to New Jersey


Fat Guy
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Those are a few examples -- what we were able to eat in a day -- of culinary experiences that are categorically superior in New Jersey.

I wouldn't exactly reduce it to "a good Indian buffet," though. As the descriptions above provide, Edison is an Indian enclave in New Jersey that has no New York equivalent. We happened to eat a terrific meal at one exemplar, however as is painstakingly laid out in the posts above we also toured several other restaurants, a pastry shop, a catering facility and a large Indian supermarket. The point being, if you're interested in Indian cuisine and culture you're not going to find an Edison-level experience in any of New York's Little India neighborhoods. You have to go to Edison.

Likewise, we visited one example of a New Jersey hot dog place, but for someone who has an interest in hot dogs New Jersey has quite a few places that are superior to anything I've had in New York City. John's summary up-topic is comprehensive on this point. In general, in the road-food category (White Manna's burgers being another example), there's no comparison.

We also experienced ramen that I felt was superior to any available in New York City. In addition to the Indian supermarket in Edison, we visited two different Asian mega supermarkets and retail complexes, one Korean and the other Japanese: not just grocery stores but also dozens of other retail outlets and food concessions (Korean liquor store, etc.).

Moreover, it would be a simple matter to design additional day-long tours covering other categories such as Portuguese food and culture in Newark, all sorts of ethnic food shopping, etc. Indeed, I would be more than happy to repeat this challenge over and over again in different permutations.

So, one can get great Indian food, if one is so inclined, one likes Indian food buffets, and one wants to schlep to Edison -not exactly the easiest place to get to.

Hamburgers are great if one likes drive-in burgers, but let's face it, would you rather have a burger at JG Melon's, Landmarc, Corner Bistro, Back Forty, Stand, Goodburger, PJ Clarke's, BLT Burger, et. al. or drive to somewhere in the swamps of Jersey for that drive-in burger? And of course it's road food, but I like Avenue and Street food instead.

Hot dogs - here's what Fat Guy said about certain hot dogs in NYC...

And I think the juxtaposition of the gourmet New York cocktails against the rustic New Jersey hot dogs comes off brilliantly. The Chang Dog and the John John Deragon are delicious.

And the best ramen in the tri-state area, according to a select few...I guess I'll stick with the second and third best, and continue to do my Asian supermarket shopping right up the block. There's even a Chinese liquor store, whatever the hell that means.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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So, one can get great Indian food, if one is so inclined, one likes Indian food buffets, and one wants to schlep to Edison -not exactly the easiest place to get to.

One can get great Indian food, yes. One does not have to like buffets. We had the lunch buffet at one restaurant on this tour on this day but that restaurant serves a full menu that's far more extensive than the buffet and there are many other dining choices in Edison. In addition, as has been noted and ignored already, we visited a pastry shop, an Indian supermarket, etc. While I think Moksha as a restaurant alone justifies a trip to Edison, the larger point is that Edison is a comprehensive culinary and cultural experience that's well worth a trip for anybody who takes Indian food seriously. As for whether it's hard to get to, that's subjective, but the objective facts are that it took us 40 minutes do drive there from Raji's apartment in Midtown West (it would take less time for someone living near the Holland Tunnel) and it takes about 50 minutes on NJ Transit from Penn Station plus about a 15-minute walk.

Hamburgers are great if one likes drive-in burgers, but let's face it, would you rather have a burger at JG Melon's, Landmarc, Corner Bistro, Back Forty, Stand, Goodburger, PJ Clarke's, BLT Burger, et. al. or drive to somewhere in the swamps of Jersey for that drive-in burger?

I'd rather eat nothing than the burgers at several of the places on that list, but even with respect the good ones the point is that none of them does a burger in the White Manna style. So it's not a question of rather. It's a question of whether or not one interested enough in burgers to make a trip for a unique burger experience worthwhile.

Hot dogs - here's what Fat Guy said about certain hot dogs in NYC...
And I think the juxtaposition of the gourmet New York cocktails against the rustic New Jersey hot dogs comes off brilliantly. The Chang Dog and the John John Deragon are delicious.

The hot dogs at PDT are terrific. Almost as good as what you'd get at the eleventh best place in Northern New Jersey. But again it's more a question of categories. Nobody in New Jersey is serving a Chang Dog. Nobody in Manhattan is serving a Jimmy Buff's dog. To those who don't think hot dogs are worthy of serious consideration, that's a meaningless distinction. For those who are serious about hot-dogs, a visit to Jimmy Buff's is worthwhile. Hackensack, for its part, is quite close to the city and is hardly the swamps. The trip from Hackensack back to Raji's apartment in Midtown was about 35 minutes and it would have been more like 25 minutes to an uptown location.

And  the best ramen in the tri-state area, according to a select few...I guess I'll stick with the second and third best, and continue to do my Asian supermarket shopping right up the block. There's even a Chinese liquor store, whatever the hell that means.

I don't know what a Chinese liquor store means in that context, but what I mean by a Korean liquor store is a store with an extensive selection of shoju. Likewise, at Mitsuwa they have quite the selection of sake. This is one of Raji's photos of one side of the sake aisle at Mitsuwa:

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Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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FWIW, Chinese liquor stores sell Chinese liquor. If you're making, say, quality lop yuk, you want quality shaoxing. If you don't want quality shaoxing, well, that's just fine, but those of us who do ogle Chinese liquor stores. As I think Steven and Mitch's exchange points out, it's a question of relative value, and I'm growing convinced that NJ is indeed a place where some of my particular culinary values would be better served. Not to say you should have them, too, of course.

Chris Amirault

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You look at the train stations in Tokyo, much less the department stores, and it's unlike anything in the city.  Perhaps Mitsuwa comes closest but even that is a pale, pathetic comparison.

I'd argue that the Super H-Mart comes much closer than Mitsuwa Marketplace. The Super H-Mart feels to me a lot like a shopping center/mall in Singapore (except it's Korean). I'm not sure of the exact number of stores in that shopping center but I'd guess it's in the neighborhood of 30 in addition to the H-Mart supermarket and food court.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'll add a few notes on the places we visited, here and there. Let me start by saying more about Jimmy Buff's in West Orange. There are actually a few Jimmy Buff's locations, and the West Orange one is, I hear, not as extensive as the East Rutherford one. But the West Orange Jimmy Buff's is a seriously hardcore road-food experience. It's not for the faint of heart, not for the dabbler. As Mayur said, the place is downright scary, full of hardened characters. It has negative charm -- it's so un-charming as to be, to me, utterly delightful in its rejection of charm.

Anyway, Jim's grandmother invented the Jimmy Buff's hot dog sandwich in the 1920s. As Jim told the story, his grandparents hosted frequent card games at their house and this was what his grandmother served. Eventually, the food overshadowed the card games and people would come just for the sandwiches. So they started selling them for a nickel, then opened a restaurant, and now I believe they have four locations run by the third generation.

The sandwich is built on what nobody at Jimmy Buff's would ever call focaccia. I'm sure if you say the word focaccia anywhere within 500 feet of Jimmy Buff's you'll get your ass kicked. They call it "pizza bread," which of course is focaccia. Anyway they take a semi-circle (or, in the case of the small-size sandwiches we had, a quarter-circle) of this pizza bread stuff as the foundation of the sandwich. Added to that, if you get it in the configuration we had it in, is a hot dog, an Italian sausage, peppers, onions and potatoes. Those items are cooked all together in a large rectangular purpose-built deep fryer. These are Raji's photos:

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There are some pizzeria-type places in New York City that serve a sandwich that's related to this. Interestingly, I've not found a New York City pizzeria that serves it on pizza bread. Rather, the pizzerias all seem to use inferior hero rolls. This probably has to do with inventory issues. The other issues with the pizzeria equivalent of one of these sandwiches are that: first, they tend to use regular fries (usually frozen ones) as opposed to the fried potato slices that crown the Jimmy Buff's sandwich; second, they don't generally deep fry all the ingredients (they us a griddle, which produces inferior results); third, Jimmy Buff's is using exceptional hot dogs and sausages (though apparently the larger East Hanover location has a higher level of hot dog available as a choice); and fourth, the pizzerias don't have the volume/turnover to do the sandwich in a way that brings every element of it to you at its peak of edibleness.

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Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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i'd urge any new yorker, who actually decides that it's worth it to come to jersey for a hot dog, and i don't think many are convinced, to skip the ketchup, or else we'll make fun of you. for coming all the way to NJ for a hot dog, and for putting ketchup on it once you get here.

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Tommy, we were there with Jim the owner and John the world's leading authority on New Jersey hot dogs. We specifically asked them what was the correct way to have a Jimmy Buff's hot dog and ketchup was prescribed. The way Jim advised us to eat it, the ketchup barely operated as a hot-dog condiment. We started by eating, with a fork, a few of the potato slices from the top of the pile. Needless to say ketchup is the appropriate condiment there. Then, when the sandwich was more manageable and almost ketchup free, we picked it up and ate it like a sandwich. Ketchup seemed to be the standard order of the New Jersey-ites at the shop -- we were assuredly the only non-New Jersey people there.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Tommy, we were there with Jim the owner and John the world's leading authority on New Jersey hot dogs. We specifically asked them what was the correct way to have a Jimmy Buff's hot dog and ketchup was prescribed. The way Jim advised us to eat it, the ketchup barely operated as a hot-dog condiment. We started by eating, with a fork, a few of the potato slices from the top of the pile. Needless to say ketchup is the appropriate condiment there. Then, when the sandwich was more manageable and almost ketchup free, we picked it up and ate it like a sandwich. Ketchup seemed to be the standard order of the New Jersey-ites at the shop -- we were assuredly the only non-New Jersey people there.

yes, the potatoes are usually eaten on their own before one ever gets to the hot dog, and ketchup is good on them. i just don't want outsiders to think that new jerseyites put ketchup on their hot dogs. ketchup on your rutt's hut dog, for example, is unthinkable.

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I'm the last person and Manhattanite that would schlep to NJ for much of ANYTHING, but Fat Guy is right. The tour he arranged of New Jersey was a revelation to say the least. I have to be a bit brief because I'm rather busy, but

The schlep to Edison, which was by far further out than anywhere else we went, was like a great homecoming for myself. When I was young, we'd go into the city, be it Manhattan or Queens, to get authentic Indian food and groceries. But what is in Edison makes the grocery shopping look ghetto. Clearly, like many things Italian, well-off Indians have long since fled to the suburbs, and Edison has grown by leaps and bounds since the 80s.

And Moksha. Moksha!! Wow. Basically, you are getting a full tour of a top South Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian kitchen. I called it Chola in a buffet. They make fresh dosais for you and have all manner of house-made chutneys and pickles. The flavors and spicing are divine. And it's $13. You really, really can't beat that. Combine that with the supermarkets, and it's well worth a 35 minute drive. If not Moksha, then one of the others of the Mehtani empire, North Indian, Singaporan/panasian, etc. You probably have a friend or relative with a car or who regularly rents one with their wife. Have them drive you and they'll thank you for the trip -

My first go at the buffet

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sick selection of house-made Indian sweets. Doesn't get much better than this

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The supermarket makes Jackson Heights look like a 3rd world country, not to mention vintage rice!

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Jimmy Buff's (FG posted pictures) I would say was the only debateable stop on the tour. Not debateable, yes, we should stop there, and YOU should stop there if you're ever in Jersey, but debateable if it's worth a foodie shipping to West Orange NJ for. That said, take 3 dishes you know and love - a hot dog, a sausage and peppers, and home fries - put it on tasty focaccia, up the grease and meat quality quotient, and holy shit, that was a tasty sandwich.... I called it a garbage plate on bread. BTW mayur and FG are pussies cuz I did not feel intimidated by the crowd there! No worse than any old place in Yonkers or the bronx

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don't forget your C&C Music Factory Orange Soda...

Super H-Mart, for Mitsuwa shoppers, is totally worth hitting up before hand for pretty much anything Northeast Asian you might need... we bought a bunch of stuff like daikon, tofu, and their huge-ass selection of korean bbq meats, which would be a lot cheaper than Mitsuwa, but Mitsawa you want to go to for the authentic Japanese goods which does make a big difference.

this place is a Korean mitsuwa on super steroids. Did we mention the kimchi bar? Another revelation from the trip - it's so close to the GWB, I'll be back DEFO

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We were chuckling like idiots because the roman letter "H" means sex in Japan, so, yeah, Super H Mart, sounds like a great place, wonder why they didn't open in Japan....

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"Select few" my ass weinoo! This is the king of ramens. Man, I read about setagaya and it's broth, or this place and it's toppings, blah blah. Santouka's ramen is so damn good because it hits on ALL points. It's broth is downright intoxicating. It's noodles are FAR more edible than Setagayas. And it's toroniku (pork) is delicious and better than any in the city. Don't ask IF it's worth it to go to Mitsuwa for the ramen - I already do....

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And someone on here insisted that Landmark has a better sake selection than Mitsuwa. Bullshit. I count 120 in this picture alone. Plus they have another 30-40 shochu selection, and all sorts of Japanese wine and beer. BUY BOOZ @ MITSUWA

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White Manna - described by FG as White Castle's if they actually did everything correctly. Truer words have never been spoken. I don't even LIKE White Castle, and I love these burgers, and I will return in an instant if I'm every in northern NJ in a car. Or even if I'm not.

Edited by raji (log)
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The way Jim advised us to eat it, the ketchup barely operated as a hot-dog condiment. We started by eating, with a fork, a few of the potato slices from the top of the pile. Needless to say ketchup is the appropriate condiment there.

Yes - what he said. The Ketchup was merely in service of the potatoes. the Mustard and accumulated rendered beef and pork fat were in service of the hotdog. I will make fun of your mother if you put ketchup on your hot dog. This is not one of those cases

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I don't have a ton of context for judging ramen, so my views are more impressionistic. I come at this from the perspective of someone who doesn't particularly like the fishy broth at Setagaya. I'm also not a ramen fanatic and have never had what I consider to be revelatory ramen. What I liked about the ramen at Mitsuwa was that everything about it was straightforward, done well, and harmonious. Ramen was not a scheduled food item on the tour. The idea was just to go to Mitsuwa, which I think is worthwhile as a shopping destination. We inserted the ramen because Raji insisted, and I thought it was as good as he said. It may be that the quality of the pork itself is better at Setagaya (as well as, of course, at Momofuku), but everything else about this ramen I liked better. It's nothing fancy. They just make a very rich pork broth, and then they load it up with good examples of the other components of ramen. I wouldn't say go to New Jersey just to eat it, but rather I'd say it's a nice bonus if you're going to Mitsuwa anyway. You can get Japanese groceries in Manhattan but there's nothing that compares to Mitsuwa's scale, selection and quality.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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White Manna: I believe White Manna is one of those rare examples of a restaurant that cannot be improved. Every component of a White Manna slider is just exactly what it needs to be in order to contribute to the whole. As I've said before, it's as if somebody took a White Castle burger and said "Here's everything that's wrong with the White Castle burger, and here's how to make it great."

The burgers start as fresh-ground beef, not pre-made patties. The griddle cook takes a ball (the size of a Swedish meatball) of the ground beef and throws it on the griddle, then taps it with the back of the spatula to press it into a small burger patty. The process starts on the left end of the griddle. Sliced raw onions are placed on top of the burger patty and pressed in. Eventually the rows of burgers migrate across the griddle like advancing soldiers, they're flipped, cheese is added, then the buns are placed on top to steam. The buns are Martin's potato rolls in a miniature size that I haven't seen in stores. Each bun is split and then the top half in inverted so both halves face the same direction. This stack is placed on top of its burger on the griddle. The aromas and moisture waft up from the burgers, warming and seasoning the buns. Then, with a flick of the wrist and a twist of the spatula, the burger is lifted, the bottom half of the bun comes around to where it's supposed to be, and the sandwich is completed. The beef, onions and cheese have by then integrated with one another such that one can't really view them as separate components. The sliders are served on paper plates with good sliced pickles on the side.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I can't believe that I lived in Hackensack for two years and never went to White Manna. My fiance's food allergies aside, I should have made a point to go there. I knew nothing of its wild popularity, except the long lines I always saw while driving by, but I could tell it was the kind of drive-by dive I would enjoy. Crap. :sad:

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I'll add a few notes on the places we visited, here and there. Let me start by saying more about Jimmy Buff's in West Orange. There are actually a few Jimmy Buff's locations, and the West Orange one is, I hear, not as extensive as the East Rutherford one.

Just for accuracy, I believe you mean East Hanover, not East Rutherford -- don't want to see a bunch of egulleters driving around the Meadowlands looking for Jimmy Buff's.

FYI, anyone interested in seeing White Manna burgers in action, can do so on a current ep of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_dv/ep...6_55174,00.html

The New Jersey Diner Tour

Guy Fieri takes a New Jersey diner-intensive road trip.

He checks out the Cyclops pancake with a fried egg in the middle at Mustache Bill's Diner on Long Beach Island; homemade hash at the Hightstown Diner; legendary burgers at White Manna in Hackensack; homemade moussaka at Jefferson Diner in Lake Hopatcong; scratch-made pie at Ritz Diner in Livingston; and nightcaps with an Orange Martini made with Tang at the Skylark Diner in Edison.

Upcoming Air Times:

AIR TIMES:

January 28, 2008 10:00 PM ET/PT

January 29, 2008 1:00 AM ET/PT

February 03, 2008 11:30 PM ET/PT

February 04, 2008 2:30 AM ET/PT

February 15, 2008 9:00 PM ET/PT

February 16, 2008 12:00 AM ET/PT

February 16, 2008 10:30 PM ET/PT

February 17, 2008 1:30 AM ET/PT

March 10, 2008 10:30 PM ET/PT

March 11, 2008 1:30 AM ET/PT

March 16, 2008 4:30 PM ET/PT

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The burgers start as fresh-ground beef, not pre-made patties.

Just to clarify a bit...

This sentence might be interpreted to imply that White Manna grinds their own beef, and potentially to order. To the best of my knowledge -- and I would be shocked if it weren't true -- White Manna gets its beef pre-ground. I suspect that it's not pre-formed in any way when they get it , although I couldn't say for sure that this is the case. What you see is the burger cook reaching down into a refrigerated compartment and bringing out what seem to be pre-formed hunks of ground beef that are already portioned. There does sometimes seem to be some brief balling of the meat before taking it to the grill, which has sometimes made me wonder whether they were simply balling up beef that had been pre-made into slider-sized patties. regardless, there is no indication of the digging around, measuring and forming that would indicate that the beef is being taken out of a larger store of undivided ground beef -- and the balls of ground beef are absolutely equal in size. Whether this forming/portioning is done at White Manna or perhaps by their supplier, I don't know.

It's a fun place with great sliders either way. And I like the excentricity of the ordering system (don't ask the burger cook for fries!).

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I'm a fan of down-and-dirty roadside places, but I have to say that Jimmy Buff stretched the definition for me in some ways...

In any event, Jimmy Buff wasn't the sort of thing I'd travel again to NJ for

Mitsuwa's primary problem is that it is buried deep in the most heavily built up old riverfront suburbs in North Jersey.  The parking lot is a mad house, the road it is on is windy, two-laned, and packed to the gills with condos.  I'd go 20 or 30 miles out of my way if there was someplace with a comparable selection of stuff in a not-quite-so-claustrophobic-traffic-nightmare locale.

I'm the last person and Manhattanite that would schlep to NJ for much of ANYTHING, but Fat Guy is right. The tour he arranged of New Jersey was a revelation to say the least.

Jimmy Buff's (FG posted pictures) I would say was the only debatable stop on the tour. Not debatable, yes, we should stop there, and YOU should stop there if you're ever in Jersey, but debatable if it's worth a foodie shipping to West Orange NJ for.

White Manna - described by FG as White Castle's if they actually did everything correctly. Truer words have never been spoken. I don't even LIKE White Castle, and I love these burgers, and I will return in an instant if I'm every in northern NJ in a car. Or even if I'm not.

We inserted the ramen because Raji insisted, and I thought it was as good as he said. It may be that the quality of the pork itself is better at Setagaya (as well as, of course, at Momofuku), but everything else about this ramen I liked better. It's nothing fancy. They just make a very rich pork broth, and then they load it up with good examples of the other components of ramen. I wouldn't say go to New Jersey just to eat it, but rather I'd say it's a nice bonus if you're going to Mitsuwa anyway. You can get Japanese groceries in Manhattan but there's nothing that compares to Mitsuwa's scale, selection and quality.

So, what I can gather from everyone who made this trip, is that if Fat Guy ever offers to drive to NJ and organize a "foodie" trip, you'd all sign up again.

And there were things that some of you thought were the greatest ever (e.g. white manna=raji), and other things that even Fat Guy wouldn't make the special trip to Jersey for.

What I'm interested in knowing is which Manhattanites are undertaking that special trip, by either taking mass transit or renting a car, to NJ for a foodie day. And those of us who aren't, is it because you're lazy?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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Mitch, only you can answer what level of experience justifies a 40-minute drive or a day-trip for you, however as posted above the question the trip was designed around was: "Are these places unique and/or superior to the comparable New York City experiences." I believe in the case of every place we visited the answer is yes, and I'm pretty sure that's what the folks who came along for the ride would say too -- possibly in 100% of the cases and certainly in most of the cases. The rest is up to the individual.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That's a good opener to this dialogue. Let me add in the final part for this (I've been laid up with a bad back and unable to type the last couple of days):

So, in between hot dogs (Jimmy Buff) and hamburgers (White Manna), we took a trip to northern NJ, a few minutes across the Hudson from NY, to do some supermarket shopping at the area's premier Korean and Japanese stores, respectively: Super H Mart and Mitsuwa.

Plenty has been posted about Mitsuwa already, and I think that raji probably will have more valuable things to say about it than I will. Though I've been there numerous times, I went on this visit with an eye to the really impressive and/or unique elements.

First off would be the ramen. Santouka is (as I've agreed in the past) far and away the best available in the NYC area. I would hop the Mitsuwa bus just for some noodles and charsiu.

Second is the tremendous sake/shochu selection. Coming from NY, it's always refreshing to see wine available alongside grocery items, but Mitsuwa's two enormous aisles of sake really take the cake. The selection at certain liquor places in NY may be more carefully made and better "curated" by the store staff, but the sheer variety and some of the middle-tier prices really can't be beaten.

Now, for Super H Mart: I have been here before, but not for long enough to really take a look around, and on this trip, I was impressed. The mall in which this store is located is pretty much exactly like a Seoul-sprawl shopping center, down to the slightly weird dead-ends, random golf tech and clothing stores, and the heavy-on-Christian-tracts bookstore.

The store itself is amazing. Aisles upon aisles of fresh seafood, meat, seaweed and kelp, hot pepper paste, etc. A huge kimchi station at which two women work rapid-fire bagging pickled vegetables of all sorts. A rice-cake press that looks like something out of Willy Wonka's factory. And masses more stuff; plus some seriously good prices. Nor, AFAIK, is there anything approaching this level in Flushing, at least not under one roof. I'll certainly never go to the 32nd St Han Ah Reum again.

In terms of price, quality, and uniqueness, Super H definitely meets the "get thee to Jersey" criteria *except* that I couldn't imagine going without a car. (And unlike Mitsuwa, there's no real way to travel there otherwise.)

Along with the Edison experience, Super H was definitely the sort of thing that I'd say is worth a road trip, and it shares with Edison the same distinguishing factor: Uniqueness of experience and environment, specifically the setting of a self-contained, suburban, aspirational and robust immigrant community that is very different from New York's immigrant enclaves. Super H, as with the restaurants and stores in Edison, makes more of a stab at being truly upscale (much of the (often organic) produce and dairy items wouldn't be out of place in a Wholefoods) in Queens or Manhattan, but more to the point, it's simultaneously more "American" and more Korean than its Manhattan/Queens counterparts.

So, in summary, I'd say that the NJ experience overall was definitely worth it. I wouldn't necessarily push people to go for the "unique eats," but I *would* heavily endorse going for the sheer immersion in communities and community resources like the Mehtani restaurants or Super H Mart. Those are experiences that you can't get in NYC, and for me, they reach beyond the scale of a tasty fast-food burger or hot dog and into the "worth a day and distance to explore" category.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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So, one can get great Indian food, if one is so inclined, one likes Indian food buffets, and one wants to schlep to Edison -not exactly the easiest place to get to.
The buffet is not required at all; it's just notable for how absurdly cheap is for food at that level. (As raji said, it's a full-on blowout at Chola for a $15 buffet!) In fact, based on what I saw of the menus at the different restaurants, and what I imagine the crowd at a place like Mithaas would be like in the evenings, the sheer cultural experience might be far more interesting (if a bit pricier) in the evenings.

As I noted above, what you're really getting IMO by traveling to Edison is a cultural experience as much as (or more than) a foodie one. I can make pretty much any great, authentic, Indian food experience I'd like by combining Kababish, Tangra, Dimple, Rajbhog, Saraavanas, Chola, Devi, and Tabla; and only about half of those are more than 15 minutes away by public transportation from my place. However, the overall impact of being in Edison's malls, shops, and restaurants is unique enough to be worth the trip.

No, Edison's not all that easy to get to, and in fact my earlier debate with FG on this still holds. It's fine for me, but difficult for anyone without a car. However, is the experience worth it on the level of traveling to Maryland for a proper crab feast, or Tennessee for great barbecue? Yes, and it is considerably less distance.

And  the best ramen in the tri-state area, according to a select few...I guess I'll stick with the second and third best, and continue to do my Asian supermarket shopping right up the block. There's even a Chinese liquor store, whatever the hell that means.

Having just eaten there, I will say that the best ramen is a heck of a lot better than the second best (if by the second best we're talking Setagaya). Plus Mitsuwa isn't exactly that much of a schlep. I wouldn't go every weekend, but I'd definitely consider getting there once a month.
Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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So, what I can gather from everyone who made this trip, is that if Fat Guy ever offers to drive to NJ and organize a "foodie" trip, you'd all sign up again.

And there were things that some of you thought were the greatest ever (e.g. white manna=raji), and other things that even Fat Guy wouldn't make the special trip to Jersey for.

What I'm interested in knowing is which Manhattanites are undertaking that special trip, by either taking mass transit or renting a car, to NJ for a foodie day.  And those of us who aren't, is it because you're lazy?

Well you're just cherrypicking quotes to try to make your point. I think in general there's a stronger case for shopping rather than restaurants. There's no shortage of New Yorkers who hop in a car to stock up at Trader Joe's or Stew Leonards or Costco, and really, the Indian, Korean and Japanese supermarkets we went to are like Asian versions of those. But I can't get anything like the Moksha buffet or the Santouka ramen in NYC. I can get a very very good, stupidly overpriced slider, but not a White Manna slider... you might not appreciate that until you've had one. And I'm quite certain I can't get anything like a Jimmy Buff's in NYC... I mean, it's so wrong, all these tourists come to NYC and get a dirty water dog, but there's no hot dog culture like there is in Chicago or LA or who knows where else. I CAN, tho, go to Lederhosen and get a brat, a bock, some german fries and spaetlze, and get something approximately close...

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Interesting write-ups, I wish I could have made it.  As someone who worked for 13 miserable years in Fairview, NJ, I wish I'd have known about these places beforehand.  Ah well.  I am happier working from home now.

I do seem to recall a great hot dog place in Fort Lee but the name escapes me.

I'd be up for a day trip to Newark for Portuguese food, BTW.

Cheers!  :cool:

I think you're talking about Hiram's. It's really, really good.

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Interesting write-ups, I wish I could have made it.  As someone who worked for 13 miserable years in Fairview, NJ, I wish I'd have known about these places beforehand.  Ah well.  I am happier working from home now.

I do seem to recall a great hot dog place in Fort Lee but the name escapes me.

I'd be up for a day trip to Newark for Portuguese food, BTW.

Cheers!  :cool:

I think you're talking about Hiram's. It's really, really good.

Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! We have a winner! That's it! Man, those dogs were delicious. Granted this was a while back, but still.

Thanks for reminding me.

Cheers! :cool:

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I took on the challenge today (a Saturday), and got myself and wife to Mitsuwa to try Santoka. It's worth it folks. I'm no ramen expert or anything, but it's the best I've had since moving to NYC. Perhaps there were some places that were better in So. California, but that was so long ago I remember them only in dreams.

To be honest, I'm not going to go to NJ the next time I happen to be in the mood for some ramen, but I'll certainly go there without hesitation if I'm looking to get the best ramen I can get.

I have nothing to add in terms of describing the ramen, but the food court there is more than serviceable in terms of comfort. There was a small line to order and wait, but not too bad. And the trip via the shuttle bus shouldn't deter--although they've now raised the price to $3/one way.

Once at Mitsuwa you can pick up, like I did, a 1.8L bottle of Wakatake dai ginjo sake for $62, as well as some pretty decent looking sashimi. Not bad at all.

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which Manhattanites are undertaking that special trip, by either taking mass transit or renting a car, to NJ for a foodie day.  And those of us who aren't, is it because you're lazy?

Generally the way it works with people who live in Manhattan is the more expensive the rent the more married they are to the idea that travelling is "not worth it". Native New Yorkers and those I know with reasonable rents are much more open to the idea of enjoying themselves off the island as well. Maybe because they've been in NY longer they have nothing to prove anymore, maybe just because they can more easily afford to.

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Generally the way it works with people who live in Manhattan is the more expensive the rent  the more married they are to the idea that travelling is "not worth it". 

well yeah! and it's not the cost of travel that's the issue...it's the loss of return for that rent. (i.e., why would one pay 4K a month for a studio in order to spend your weekends in Jersey?)

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