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Best of the Best 2015: Food & Drink

Best of the Best 2015: Food & Drink
…From the pages of South Jersey Magazine…

As you may imagine, canvassing South Jersey for our annual Best of the Best feature is no small job. It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of eating, drinking, shopping and pampering. OK, we realize that doesn’t actually sound too bad, but trust us, it’s a lot of hard work. We traveled through¬out the area in search of worthy winners from both well-known establishments and those off the beaten path. The payoff is being able to bring you our selections for everything from chocolates and cigars to fine jewelry and flowers. To make the list even more comprehensive, we’ve also included our readers’ choices for their favorite places in a variety of categories. It certainly was a busy year, but we’re always up for the job.

STROMBOLI
Abbruzzi & Giunta’s
There’s something about Abbruzzi & Giunta’s strombolis that keep us coming back for more. Maybe it’s the variety, with strombolis like prosciutto and roasted peppers, salami, broccoli rabe and provolone and grilled veggie listed alongside classic pepperoni and meatball. Or maybe it’s their specialty blend of cheeses that ooze out with the first bite. Whatever it is, we’re not the types to question perfection. Mount Laurel, (856) 231-0203, AbbruzziGiunta.com

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BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Allora by Da Soli
Chef and owner Mark Berenato has done it again with Allora, his second South Jersey restaurant featuring a completely original menu full of flavor. You get rustic, classic Italian served up generously with fresh, top-of-the-line ingredients in an inviting space where the vibe is as comforting as the plates on the table. Marlton, (856) 596-6882, AlloraFood.com

NAAN BREAD
Paradise Biryani Pointe
Indian lovers around the area have probably had their share of this traditional flat bread, but trust us when we say you ain’t seen naan-thing yet. We use Paradise’s extensive menu of curries and kebabs as an excuse to dive into their garlic naan, which comes bursting with garlic flavor and topped with ribbons of fresh cilantro. Marlton, (856) 574-4967, MarltonParadise.com

AL FRESCO DINING
Zaffron Mediterranean Cuisine
There are few places more charming than Haddonfield’s Kings Highway, but dining outdoors on the main street also means sharing your space with the pedestrians, pets and street traffic. Zaffron’s al fresco seating is built into its own private alcove, so you can enjoy the bustling downtown without passersby hovering over. Haddonfield, (856) 429-2800, ZaffronMediterraneanCuisine.com

FROZEN YOGURT
Frusen Berri
Take your pick from a variety of fun and funky frozen yogurt flavors (cinnamon bun, anyone?) then dive into the selection of toppings, syrups, fresh fruit and candies. Grab a seat at one of their outdoor tables or chill out in their upscale lounge space inside, which includes couches, a television and plenty of tables and chairs. There’s even an espresso machine and coffee station for the grown-ups, so you can make it through that sugar high with a bit of energy. Collingswood, (856) 858-6200, FrusenBerri.com

WINGS
Whistler’s Inn
Whistler’s wings come fried crispy before being tossed in your choice of sauce, and we speak from more than enough experience when we say there’s nothing quite like that first, satisfying crunch. The homemade sauces come in flavors like garlic, barbecue and bald eagle—a spicy concoction not for the faint of heart. Cinnaminson, (856) 786-7427, WhistlersInnNJ.com

SOUP OF THE DAY
Marie’s Sandwich Bar
It’s hard to pick just one soup that we love from Marie’s, and not just because they change from day to day. The team behind Marie’s daily soup specialties use the freshest ingredients to produce out-of-this-world varieties like Sante Fe chicken, vegan tomato bisque, and even cold options like raspberry and tomato gazpacho or cucumber avocado basil that keep us coming back all year long. Haddonfield, (856) 375-2449, MariesSandwichBar.com

LAMB TACOS
Oasis Mexican Grill
Meaty leg of lamb gets cooked slow until tender, then shredded and served in plates of three tacos, all on corn tortillas and topped with fresh lettuce, queso blanco and just a bit of sour cream. They’re proof of what attention to detail and a respect for authentic Mexican technique can do. Collingswood, (856) 858-1807, OasisMexicanGrill.com

FAST CASUAL RESTAURANT
Honeygrow
Let’s face it, fast food and healthy eats don’t typically go hand-in-hand. Honeygrow takes that notion and flips it upside down, creating fast casual stir fries, salads, smoothies and more with a focus on high-quality ingredients served as fresh and simply as possible. The menu also appeals to vegan and gluten-free eaters, with clearly labeled sauces, toppings and salad dressings to pick from. Cherry Hill, (856) 520-8122, Honeygrow.com

CHOCOLATES
Giambri’s Quality Sweets
Chocolate lovers will appreciate all of the handmade items from this fourth-generation family-owned candy shop, but for something that will truly blow your mind, try a box of the caramel-filled European waffles covered in Belgian milk chocolate and toppings like M&M’s or rainbow jimmies. This is one six-pack that won’t last very long. Clementon, (856) 783-1099, Giambris.com

CAKES
Adelaide’s Cakes
Whether you’re looking for a birthday cake shaped like your child’s favorite character—think Elmo or R2-D2—or a dazzling wedding cake that your guests will never forget, Adelaide’s is the spot. Their cakes, which are delivered from South Jersey all over the East Coast, are creative, original and most importantly, delicious. Glendora, (856) 939-3677, AdelaidesCakes.com

CHEESESTEAK EGG ROLLS
Catelli Duo
You can find cheesesteak egg rolls at just about any sports bar in the area nowadays, but not like this. The flavorful steak comes “wit” plenty of Catelli’s homemade cheese whiz sauce for dipping, and is the ideal choice to start off a memorable meal. Voorhees, (856) 751-6069, CatelliDuo.com

PRIME RIB SANDWICH
The Red Hen
With a diverse menu that suits the eclectic atmosphere of the restaurant, The Red Hen has become a popular stop for any meal of the day. Might we suggest the prime rib sandwich—thinly sliced meat with cheddar cheese and creamy horseradish—as a standout on their impressive sandwich list. Swedesboro, (856) 467-3058, TheRedHen.biz

CORN ON THE COB
Duffield’s Farm Market
No summer barbecue is complete without sweet Jersey corn from this Gloucester County favorite farm. Not only is the corn itself sizable, but the kernels are full, giving intense flavor in each bite. Now is when the corn is at its best and the good eating will last through the rest of the summer season. Washington Township, (856) 589-7090, DuffieldsFarm.com

ITALIAN DELI
Matteo’s Italian Food Products
Originally located in South Philly, Matteo’s selection of high-quality products is now easily available on this side of the bridge. That includes homemade pastas and mozzarella, loaded hoagies, specialty meats like parma prosciutto, cannolis and more. Sicklerville, (856) 629-5799, MatteosItalianFood.com

SHRIMP AND CRAB BISQUE
Pat’s Pizza
We weren’t expecting to find great soup at this pizzeria, but Pat’s does so many things right, and this bisque is at the top of the list. Filled with plenty of baby shrimp and lump crab meat, this tasty treat always warms us up on a cold day. Marlton, (856) 810-9999, PatsFamilyRestaurant.com

SOUL FOOD
Aunt Berta’s Kitchen
It can be tough finding real, home-style Southern dishes around South Jersey, which is why we can’t get enough of the plates coming out of Aunt Berta’s Kitchen. Take your pick from Southern staples like fried chicken, ribs and fried fish then add on unbeatable sides like candied yams, mac and cheese, and our personal favorite: slow-cooked collard greens. Berlin and Oaklyn, (856) 858-7009, AuntBertasKitchen.com

FOOD TRUCK
Kevin’s Salad Station
In a sea of trucks serving up fatty street food, Kevin Stanton serves up a fresher roadside option. Stanton chops and tosses a variety of salads out of his custom-made truck, with impressive homemade dressings to match. You can follow the truck’s route on Facebook or catch it at the Westmont Farmer’s Market throughout the summer. (609) 424-4282

CARIBBEAN FOOD
Little Negril Jamaican Restaurant
This family-run restaurant takes us on a Caribbean vacation every time we come in with Jamaican plates that are packed with tropical flavor. We’re partial to the jerk chicken and oxtails, but will never turn down one of their crispy, flavorful meat pies. Cherry Hill, (856) 755-0002; Berlin, (856) 753-3100, LittleNegrilJamaicanRestaurant.com

MACARONS
Posh Pop
You’d be surprised to learn that the tasty treats coming out of Posh Pop’s ovens are all gluten- and wheat-free. Especially the Parisian-style macarons, which come in an interesting assortment of flavors like cinnamon French toast, Nutella, green tea and fleur de sel. Each macaron is light and fluffy, with a hand-crafted, creamy filling that you won’t soon forget. Haddonfield, (856) 428-7674, PoshPopBakeshop.com

COMFORT FOODS
The Apron
You can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy inside after sitting down for a meal here. Food prepared from scratch that reminds us of childhood meals prepared by mom is why we’re regular customers. From the hearty soups and refreshing salads to fresh baked baguettes and meatloaf, the menu changes frequently, just like at home. Haddonfield, (856) 795-4333, TheApronOnline.com

WATER ICE
Primo Water Ice
There’s so many fine flavors of water ice here that no matter what winds up on the menu board during your visit, you’ll find something to suit your taste buds. Tangerine and mojito both rank high on our list, while others like white Russian and chocolate banana are also attention-grabbing. Picking just one may be the hardest part. Westmont, (856) 854-822, PrimoWaterIce.com

PANINIS
Lulu’s Lunchbox
A popular spot for grab-and-go lunch in Medford, this place makes fresh paninis that will satisfy those midday hunger pangs. They change frequently but if you spot the spinach, artichoke and sundried tomato or the crispy chicken with havarti cheese and honey mustard, you won’t be disappointed. Actually grab one for us, too, we’re hungry just thinking about them. Medford, (609) 953-5800, LulusLunchbox.com

TAMALES
La Cita
What this teeny Mexican joint lacks in size it makes up for with bold, authentic flavors. There’s a lot to like on the menu, but no order is complete without sampling their tamales. Chicken or pork is cloaked in masa for a starchy, savory bite enhanced by your choice of sauces. (We suggest going with the complex mole.) Cherry Hill, (856) 375-2194, LaCitaAuthenticMexicanFood.com

BABKA
L&M Bakery
Most folks associate babka—the soft, spongy cake-like bread—with the common cheese variety. You can find that at L&M, and it’s quite good, but you’ll want to expand your horizons a little. Raspberry, chocolate and apricot are some of our favorites and we are not alone as Polish food vendors in Philadelphia often order from here, as well. You may want to start thinking about your holiday orders now. Delran, (888) 887-1335, LMBakery.com

FRIED PICKLES
Fat Louie’s
Once considered a Southern delicacy, fried pickles have thankfully made their way up north. And while most places tend to coat whole spears, which inevitably become unsheathed after one bite, Fat Louie’s does it right by slicing the pickles and frying them as chips. The result is a crispy, audibly crunchy side order that’s a bit of a main attraction. Woodbury, (856) 853-1000, FatLouiesNJ.com

TO GO ORDER
Iron Hill Brewery
It doesn’t have to be game day to score Iron Hill’s fabulous $25 takeout special of two pizzas and a 64-ounce growler filled with one of their signature handcrafted brews. We go for the parma pizza (prosciutto, spinach, balsamic-glazed onions, asiago and mozzarella cheeses finished with a garlic sauce) or a traditional pizza where we like to add bacon and goat cheese. Maple Shade, (856) 273-0300; Voorhees, (856) 545-9009; IronHillBrewery.com

HAPPY HOUR
Distrito
Moorestown meets Mexico City at Iron Chef Jose Garces’ vibrant Distrito where happy hour is a daily celebration of quality food and drinks. Sip on $5 sangria and margaritas while munching on fresh guacamole and chips or dig into the $5 tacos (two per order) that come with your choice of chicken, fish or pork and well-thought out accompanying ingredients that give sophistication to food you eat with your hands. Moorestown, (856) 252-0300, Moorestown.DistritoRestaurant.com

BISCOTTI
Bella’s Biscotti
Medford Lakes’ Natalie Stone is behind this online-based cookie distributor and she makes some of the most sinfully delicious Italian cookies we’ve ever tasted. We love the mint chocolate chip and the cranberry almond, but there’s something to be said about the good old-fashioned anise. BellasBiscotti.com

CLAM STRIPS
Val’s Seafood Trattoria
Breaded, fried and oh-so-addictive, the clam strips here are anything but skimpy. Served with homemade tartar sauce, these briny, crunchy delights just taste like summer. They come in half-pound orders, which makes them perfect for sharing, but we wouldn’t hold it against you if you preferred to keep things to yourself. Sewell, (856) 468-6655, ValsSeafood.com

FLATBREAD
Champps
Some pizza purists are overly dismissive when it comes to flatbreads. We would challenge them to eat the chicken, bacon and spinach version from Champps and not become a convert. Grilled flatbread is the foundation for grilled chicken, silky spinach, crunchy bacon and finished with mozzarella and an artichoke sauce for a bit of an added flavor profile. Marlton, (856) 985-9333, Champps.com

SALAD
Blue Fig Café
You can get a salad at most any restaurant, but the Blue Fig Café takes theirs up a notch with quality, fresh ingredients and unique homemade dressings. We especially love their signature salad, which includes spring lettuce, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, mandarin oranges, roasted walnuts and grilled halloumi cheese, topped with their special fig vinaigrette. Moorestown, (856) 638-5186, BlueFigCafe.net

DOUGHNUTS
Beiler’s Coffee and Donut Shop
If you’re a doughnut aficionado and have yet to bite into any one of Beiler’s pillows of goodness, you’re missing out. Made fresh Thursday through Saturday (operating days for the Amish Market where Beiler’s is located), you won’t find a place offering more topping varieties or filling flavors that make up delectable bites like chocolate covered strawberry and peanut butter and jelly. Mullica Hill, (856) 223-9998, AmishMarketMullicaHill.com/Beilers_Coffee_Donutshop

PIES
Sweet T’s Bakeshop
As the name suggests, sugary confections are the specialty at Sweet T’s, and while we’d never turn down any of their baked goods—their muffins and scones are the perfect morning treat—we’re partial to their pies, which lean more toward the traditional. Think pumpkin and lemon meringue, but also the unique—you won’t find a better pear pomegranate anywhere else. Haddonfield, (856) 428-0222, SweetTsBakery.com

WINERY
Sharrott Winery
Whether you like your wine dry or a little on the sweeter side, Sharrott Winery has something for everyone. From a light-bodied pinot grigio to a bold chambourcin to our favorite, Just Peachy Sangria—the name says it all—we can’t help but look forward to a warm weekend afternoon relaxing on Sharrott’s patio, glass in hand. Blue Anchor, (609) 567-9463, SharrottWinery.com

GRILLED CHEESE
Eat. Pizza
The authentic (and very delicious) Neapolitan wood-fired pizza might be the main attraction at this new Cherry Hill eatery, but tucked away in another section of the menu is the grilled cheese panini. Loaded with not one, not two, but three different cheeses—smoked gouda, fontina and smoked mozzarella—this panini is a polished twist on one of our favorite childhood meals. Cherry Hill, (856) 424-2020, EatPizzaRestaurant.com

LOBSTER TAIL
Carlo’s Bakery
Far sweeter than its sea-faring counterpart, the lobster tails from Carlo’s Bakery in Marlton— the only South Jersey outpost of Cake Boss’ Buddy Valastro—are crafted from a flaky, crunchy dough, baked to a perfect golden brown and filled with cream. The pastries are the bakery’s top-selling item, and after tasting them, we can’t say we’re surprised. Marlton, (856) 452-5552, CarlosBakery.com

FOOD COURT
Rastelli Market Fresh
Rastelli Market Fresh is far more than just a high-end grocery store, and boasts a variety of made-to-order options, from the taqueria to the sushi and raw bar to Craftwich, featuring ready-made gourmet sandwiches to anchor a hearty lunch. Try the Caprese panini, which features the usual suspects: basil, fresh tomato, mozzarella, a dash of balsamic vinegar and sprinkling of rosemary to give it that extra kick. You’ll also find brick-oven pizza, fresh salads and Asian-inspired offerings like pad Thai. Marlton, (856) 334-8074, RastelliMarket.com

COOKIES
Sweet Eats Bakery
While this local hotspot is perhaps most well-known for their specialty cakes, it’s their butter cookies we can’t stay away from. Featuring 16 tantalizing varieties, like raspberry spritz, pecan sandies, orange cranberry, chocolate chip, almond brittle and chocolate molten, you can’t go wrong—unless you buy your cookies elsewhere. Marlton, (856) 596-0331, SweetEatsCakeBakery.com

COFFEE HOUSE
Harvest Coffee Roastery
Serious coffee drinkers have followed their noses to Medford’s Harvest Coffee Roastery, where a father-son duo are roasting and serving upwards of 12 different blends in-house. On the menu of this intimate coffee house on Main Street are countless opportunities to caffeinate your tastebuds—with their Sumatran blend or even an organic coconut black tea—making it our go-to spot for a midday pick-me-up. Medford, (609) 975-8484, HarvestCoffee.com

MEATLESS MEALS
Norma’s Eastern Mediterranean Cuisine
A mecca for vegetarians, Norma’s offers up meals that could cause any carnivore to take notice. Start off with the hummus and pita for the table before diving into any of their veggie- or vegan-friendly dishes, like the vegan moussaka with locally made seitan, veggies and chickpeas topped with an almond béchamel. Cherry Hill, (856) 795-1373, NormasRestaurant.com

FRENCH FRIES
The Pour House
The Pour House is one of our favorite beer bars in South Jersey, and the more time we spend there, the better acquainted we become with their exceptional food menu. In particular we’re fond of their cheese fries with short rib gravy. This heaping plate of shoestring fries topped with pulled short rib, soaking in juicy gravy and smothered in melty American cheese is far from your typical bar snack. Grab a pint, a fork and dig in. Westmont, (856) 869-4600, PJsPourHouse.com

NACHOS
Blue Monkey Tavern
When you’re devouring—er, enjoying—a plate of really good nachos, chip-to-topping ratio is a key factor. This Merchantville tavern gets it right, piling tri-colored tortilla chips with refried black beans, jalapeno peppers, Monterey Jack cheese, green onions, cilantro and a generous helping of sweet, yet tangy pork. Once you add the salsa, sour cream, guacamole and homemade cheese sauce (all included), you’ve got yourself a big plate of happiness. Merchantville, (856) 661-8008, BlueMonkeyTavern.com

ICE CREAM
Leo’s Ice Cream Company
Leo’s is more than a Medford mainstay, it’s a South Jersey institution known for scooping up the best homemade ice cream in the region. We’re suckers for the usual suspects like strawberry and cookies and cream, but if you’re feeling adventurous, this is the place. Go for flavors like cannoli or pumpkin pie when in season. Or the aged balsamic strawberry. Or the blueberry cheesecake. Or… you get the point. Medford, (856) 797-8771, LeosIceCream.net

STICKY BUNS
Aversa’s Italian Bakery
We love Aversa’s bakery for several reasons, but a quick morning trip for some of their scrumptious sticky buns is a rite of passage. Whether covered in nuts or raisins, there’s no wrong way to indulge in these heavenly delights. Turnersville, (856) 227-8005, AversasBakery.com

BARBECUE
David & Sons Meats
This relatively new addition to the South Jersey food scene—founded by executive chef David Wiederholt—is a top-notch butcher shop that also offers fresh seafood and sandwiches. But be sure to try their takeout barbecue selections that would fit perfectly in Tennessee or Texas. Ribs, brisket, pulled pork and more are slow smoked over an oak fire to mouthwatering results. Swedesboro, (856) 832-4870, DavidAndSonsNJ.com

HOAGIES
Pal Joey’s Deli
From several different versions of an Italian hoagie to a healthier choice like eggplant, roasted peppers and sharp provolone, Pal Joey’s is known for packing their seeded rolls full of taste. And if you’re not afraid of a little kick, try one of their famous Diablo varieties, like turkey or roast pork. Sewell, (856) 415-9600, PalJoeysDeli.net

CUPCAKES
Cake Stand Bakery
This bakery puts out some of the most intricately designed treats—for the eyes and mouth—for birthdays, showers and weddings, but you don’t need a celebration to indulge in their cupcakes. The moist cake topped with not-too-sweet icing in flavors that rotate, like the coffee and doughnuts or chocolate chip cookie dough, is perfect for any party—or any old weekday afternoon. Voorhees, (856) 229-7384, CakeStandBakery.com


BEER TASTING ROOM
Forgotten Boardwalk Inside an unassuming building in Cherry Hill you’ll find a tasting room as curious as the beers on tap. Forgotten Boardwalk has all of the trappings of a throwback boardwalk, including fun house mirrors, vintage carnival posters and two skee ball machines ripe for some friendly competition. We recommend bringing a snack, ordering a tasting flight (don’t miss the Funnel Cake Nitro) and settling into one of the most unique atmospheres in South Jersey. Cherry Hill, (856) 437-0709, ForgottenBoardwalk.com

ICE CREAM
Leo’s Ice Cream Company
Leo’s is more than a Medford mainstay, it’s a South Jersey institution known for scooping up the best homemade ice cream in the region. We’re suckers for the usual suspects like strawberry and cookies and cream, but if you’re feeling adventurous, this is the place. Go for flavors like cannoli or pumpkin pie when in season. Or the aged balsamic strawberry. Or the blueberry cheesecake. Or… you get the point. Medford, (856) 797-8771, LeosIceCream.net

STICKY BUNS
Aversa’s Italian Bakery
We love Aversa’s bakery for several reasons, but a quick morning trip for some of their scrumptious sticky buns is a rite of passage. Whether covered in nuts or raisins, there’s no wrong way to indulge in these heavenly delights. Turnersville, (856) 227-8005, AversasBakery.com

BARBECUE
David & Sons Meats
This relatively new addition to the South Jersey food scene—founded by executive chef David Wiederholt—is a top-notch butcher shop that also offers fresh seafood and sandwiches. But be sure to try their takeout barbecue selections that would fit perfectly in Tennessee or Texas. Ribs, brisket, pulled pork and more are slow smoked over an oak fire to mouthwatering results. Swedesboro, (856) 832-4870, DavidAndSonsNJ.com

HOAGIES
Pal Joey’s Deli
From several different versions of an Italian hoagie to a healthier choice like eggplant, roasted peppers and sharp provolone, Pal Joey’s is known for packing their seeded rolls full of taste. And if you’re not afraid of a little kick, try one of their famous Diablo varieties, like turkey or roast pork. Sewell, (856) 415-9600, PalJoeysDeli.net

CUPCAKES
Cake Stand Bakery
This bakery puts out some of the most intricately designed treats—for the eyes and mouth—for birthdays, showers and weddings, but you don’t need a celebration to indulge in their cupcakes. The moist cake topped with not-too-sweet icing in flavors that rotate, like the coffee and doughnuts or chocolate chip cookie dough, is perfect for any party—or any old weekday afternoon. Voorhees, (856) 229-7384, CakeStandBakery.com


BEER TASTING ROOM
Forgotten Boardwalk Inside an unassuming building in Cherry Hill you’ll find a tasting room as curious as the beers on tap. Forgotten Boardwalk has all of the trappings of a throwback boardwalk, including fun house mirrors, vintage carnival posters and two skee ball machines ripe for some friendly competition. We recommend bringing a snack, ordering a tasting flight (don’t miss the Funnel Cake Nitro) and settling into one of the most unique atmospheres in South Jersey. Cherry Hill, (856) 437-0709, ForgottenBoardwalk.com

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 4 (July, 2015).
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Author: Erica Bauwens, Matt Cosentino, Amanda Hamm Hengel, Liz Hunter, Rachel Morgan and Peter Proko; Select photography by Jeff Fusco

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