Tag Archives: restaurant

What Are “Ono Bowls”? They Are DELICIOUS!! And They Are In Westfield!

I don’t know about you, but I’m LOVING all the healthy choices you can find in Cranford and Westfield eateries nowadays. With my busy work schedule, I often grab meals on the run, and it’s a bonus if I can eat healthfully while still enjoying the convenience of quick meals. Ono Bowls recently opened in Downtown Westfield, and it has become a favorite spot for a fast but healthy and yummy meal! 

Tricia Caminos launched Ono Bowls this past November, but she’d been enjoying smoothie bowls for many years beforehand! A Cranford resident who’s been juicing since she was 19, Tricia is married to a native Hawaiian, who introduced her to the juicing trends of Hawaii. Tricia said, “I was eating smoothie bowls for 10 years. They became popular in Hawaii and California, and are only just becoming a thing on the East Coast. ‘Ono’ means ‘delicious’ in Hawaiian!” 

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Ono Bowls is located at 107 Quimby Street, next to the forthcoming Salad House. The menu has raw juices and smoothies typical of a juice bar, but the ono bowls are truly what set it apart. Each ono bowl consists of a thick smoothie base (often made with acai or pitaya for added heath benefits), topped with granola, fresh fruit, honey, and other delightful toppings. I sampled the PB&J ono bowl while I was there, and it was super tasty and filling. Tricia uses organic and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.

Something I loved about Ono Bowls besides the great menu is the atmosphere! There’s a large room in the back with plenty of comfy seats for lounging, a table where you can enjoy your ono bowl while getting some work done, and even cute coloring books and such strewn about for kids (and kids-at-heart)! It has a definite “chill” California vibe that is such a welcome addition to Westfield. 

I was thrilled to hear that Ono Bowls has been super busy since day one of opening! Tricia said, “All the kids come in after school throughout the week. We’ve even hosted parties here for Girl Scouts and other groups. We’re looking into offering catering services in the future.” 

You might spot some of Tricia’s family members working in Ono Bowls–two of her three kids work there part time! I love supporting local businesses that are a family affair. 

Ono Bowls is open Monday through Saturday from 9-6, Sunday from 10-5. Look for expanded hours in the spring. You can follow Ono Bowls on Instagram @ono_bowls and visit their website http://www.onobowls.net/index.html to view their full menu.  

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Valentine’s Day Dinner Spots in the Cranford-Westfield Area

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Love is in the air, folks! Have you planned a Valentine gift for your sweetie? Forget flowers or a cheesy card–the best gift is FOOD, baby. Specifically, a delicious dinner out on the town that you can enjoy together. Here’s a list of restaurants in the Cranford-Westfield Area that are offering Valentine’s prix fixe meals and specials that will make for a DELICIOUS and romantic date night. cNote that prices listed do not include taxes and gratuity (be kind to your servers!).

Bar Americana
24 N. Ave E, Cranford, NJ
(908) 276-3664

Three-course dinner of pear salad, filet mignon or snapper, and berry-topped cheesecake (plus a sorbet palate cleanser) includes champagne toast; $45 per person.

Chez Catherine
431 North Ave., Westfield
(908) 654-4011

Three-course dinner features lobster bisque, filet mignon, and chocolate mousse cheesecake, and coffee; $80 per person. Reservations begin at 5pm and are a must.

14 Elm St, Westfield
Three-course dinner with so many choices, including shrimp cocktail, grilled octopus salad, lobster risotto, chilean sea bass, and chocolate-covered strawberries, plus complimentary champagne toast and soft drinks/coffee; $65.95
per person.
Le Petit Temptation
19 Eastman St., Cranford
Five courses include cauliflower velvet, la homard mousse, monkfish or chicken, grapefruit and champagne, and dessert; $75 per person. BYO
Mulberry House
415 Westfield Ave., Westfield
(908) 233-3562

Five-course dinner includes truffled potato soup, root vegetable salad, roasted salmon, seared filet mignon, and a Valentine’s dessert plate; $75 per person. Seatings are available at 7pm or 7:30pm. BYO

Pairings: Palette + Plate
10 Walnut Ave, Cranford
(908) 276-4026
Four-course dinner with such choices as viking village scallops, duck risotto, beef tenderloin, and navel orange mousse; $98 per person. BYO

Tablespoon Cafe
21 N. Union Ave, Cranford
(908) 276-1900
Four-course dinner featuring such choices as lobster bisque, escargots, and braised lamb shank; $65 per person. Reservations begin at 5pm. BYO

235 Elmer St., Westfield
(908) 232-3962

Four-course dinner plus complimentary nonalcoholic mimosas; $40 per person.
No, I didn’t forget A Toute Huere, but they are completely booked! Their sister restaurant 100 Steps has limited seating left, although no Valentine’s specials. For more information visit: www.localrootscranford.com. Many other restaurants in our area will be offering a la carte specials that night as well, so you almost can’t go wrong wherever you go! If you hear of any great specials, please SHARE!! 

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Fine Dining at Westfield’s Acclaimed Chez Catherine


I recently revisited one of the most highly regarded restaurants in New Jersey and enjoyed an absolutely incredible meal. Chez Catherine in Downtown Westfield is a classic in every sense of the word, and I’m already fantasizing about my next phenomenal meal there. 

For more than 30 years, owners Didier Jouvenet and his wife, Edith, have wowed every critic from the New York Times to the Star Ledger and everyone in between. Prior to opening Chez Catherine, Didier worked at the venerable La Grenouille and the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. Edith is responsible for the timeless decor of Chez Catherine, right down to the stunning flower arrangements in the restaurant that were plucked from their very own garden. 


When I dined at Chez Catherine for a recent lunch, I was delighted to discover that they offer a prix fixe lunch menu. Authentic, impeccably prepared French cuisine can make a considerable dent in one’s wallet, but Chez Catherine’s prix fixe lunch and dinner menus offer the same delicious food (and several courses of it!) for a very reasonable price. A two-course lunch is just $25, and three courses is $35. 

I was immediately charmed by Maitre d’ Stéphane Bocket, who has been with Chez Catherine for 11 years, and who will soon be taking over the helm as owner of the restaurant. Stéphane’s thick French accent did not prove hindersome, and he had both me and my lunch date cracking up with laughter at his wry sense of humor. 

I asked Stéphane why Chez Catherine continues to be one of the most lauded restaurants in New Jersey–or anywhere!–year after year. Stephane said, “We have always kept the same high standards here. We make sure the customer is happy, and there is a nice balance between delicious food and personalized service.” 

You can see from my photos that the food is plated as beautifully as it tastes. And the portions are anything but small, (some restaurants skimp on the portions of prix fixe menus–not Chez Catherine!). We enjoyed salad appetizers, crispy duck and perfectly cooked steak, fluffy profiteroles with warm chocolate sauce, and one of the most interesting desserts I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating: “Ile Flottante de ‘Catherine'” (a whisper-light, marshmallow-like meringue topped with vanilla sauce, caramel, toasted hazelnuts, and almonds … truly to-die-for. 

We gorged ourselves on the scrumptious food, and at the meal’s end, Stéphane jokingly warned us never to say “Je suis finis” at the end of a French meal. “It does not mean ‘I am finished,” he said. “It translates to ‘I am dead.'” Duly noted, Stéphane!

Chez Catherine is located at 431 North Avenue West, next to the Westfield Inn. FREE PARKING is located behind the Inn. Reservations are recommended: 908-654-4011.


Tuesday – Friday

Noon to 2:30 PM .


Tuesday – Thursday

5 PM to 9 PM

Friday and Saturday

5 PM to 9:30 PM

Closed on Sunday and Monday (except major holidays)

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The Transformation of Cranford’s Rockn’ Joe’s Coffee Shop!

A favorite local coffee shop is getting a makeover from top to bottom, inside and out! The former Rockn’ Joe Cranford is evolving into a coffeehouse with a brand new name, a cool new look, and some awesome new java. 

Rockn' JoeCranford’s Rockn’ Joe was the flagship location of the Rockn’ Joe franchise, founded by Kevin Brennan. Two years ago, Kevin sold the franchise and has slowly phased out of the business in order to become an independent coffee shop. The iconic rock-and-roll music paraphernalia that used to line the walls of Rockn’ Joe is all gone now. Over the next few months, the space will be transformed and won’t look a thing like its predecessor. 

Kevin said, “The renovations hopefully should be complete in July. It’s going to be amazing, very Brooklyn-esque with an industrial vibe. We’re more than tripling the space from 18 seats to 60 seats.” Sounds like a fabulous addition to Downtown Cranford, right?!

Currently the business is operating under the temporary name Coffee Works. But Kevin says that is NOT the final name–stay tuned for the real name once all the legal elements are in place. 

I asked Kevin why he decided to sell Rockn’ Joe and start anew. He replied, “My whole purpose is to be more coffee-focused, to sell an excellent coffee first and foremost.” That’s good news for us coffee lovers! And according to Kevin, the expansion will allow him to offer coffee drinks that Rockn’ Joe was never able to make before in the limited space, like Nitro Cold Brew coffee, an iced coffee that comes out of a beer-like tap, frothy and smooth (yum).  

Rockn' Joe

You’ll still see the same friendly faces from the Rockn’ Joe staff who’ve come to know your name. And “Coffee Works” is open during renovation–they have not missed a beat, no pun intended–so you can keep getting those lovely lattes and sweet treats until Kevin’s dream coffeehouse is complete. 

Stay tuned for photos of the completed interior and the unveiling of their new menu! 

“Coffee Works” is located at 5 Eastman Street in Cranford. Remember to utilize the free 10-minute parking selection at the parking meters when you get your coffee!

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Mountainside’s Echo Tap and Grille is the Area’s HOTTEST New Place!

Echo Tap GrilleToto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore! As soon as you walk into the newly opened Echo Tap & Grille in Mountainside, you’ll forget you were just on Route 22 and feel like you’re in some hip city. With its distinctive urban vibe, vibrant crowd, and trendy eclectic cuisine, it’s no surprise that Echo Tap is already THE place to be in Union County.

The Dedes family is well known in the restaurant business: Nick Dedes and his brother Peter owned Union Plaza Diner (a favorite of many locals!) for 37 years before purchasing the property formerly occupied by Echo Queen Diner. Francisco Mejia was a loyal employee at Union Plaza who worked his way all the way up to head chef in his 20+ years there, and he is now part owner of Echo Tap along with the Dedes brothers and Nick’s son Nico Dedes. Nico says: “We are a family-owned business with a strong love for food but also a love for what goes on behind closed doors, for our employees, for our guests–we want to make everyone feel as content as possible.”

The family involvement doesn’t end with Nico–his sister Stephanie Dedes served as the lead interior designer of the incredible space. Ah yes, the space. You simply have to check this place out–it doesn’t look like any other restaurant in the area, owing to Stephanie’s unique eye. Her firm–Sarkos–came up with a design that is difficult to describe, since it combines styles from industrial to rustic, and the finished product looks like something straight out of a glossy magazine.

The actual building of Echo Tap was a labor of love in its truest form, with the Dedeses putting their own blood, sweat, and tears into much of what you see inside. According to Nico: “That wood you see on the walls? We cut and painted every single piece. The tables in the dining area were once part of a water tower in Brooklyn–we salvaged the wood and hand-built those tables.”

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Other highlights of the interior include the gorgeous copper-topped fire pit in the dining area, the metal gears that line the ceiling of the bar area, and the “Echo Tap” sign made out of gas cans, which was once standing outside the building but now found its proper home inside, just past the hostess desk. And unlike the tucked-away kitchen at Union Plaza Diner, the kitchen at Echo Tap is part of the decor! You can watch Chef Ben and his sous chefs hard at work plating meals at a furious pace behind large glass windows.

Nico has high praises for Chef Ben. “Ben is so talented–he creates his own recipes and makes EVERYTHING from scratch. We’re a bar and grille, but we’re also so much more than that. For the pizzas you see on the menu, we make the mozzarella, the dough, the sauce, absolutely everything in-house from scratch. We juice fresh oranges for mixed drinks at the bar, and then Ben uses the pulp for salad dressings.”

Some of the bestselling items on the menu thus far have been the gourmet burgers, the churrasco (skirt steak), and the molcajete (fajita-like stew). Also on the menu you’ll find tacos, flatbreads, pizzas (cooked in their brick oven), salads, and seafood specialties such as crab legs and scallops. They even have a kids’ menu with tried-and-true mac & cheese, and every kid gets an ice cream.

The menu at Echo Tap will be changing a lot with the seasons in order to utilize the freshest ingredients, and the same goes for cocktails and beer. If you’re a beer lover, you’ll definitely want to belly up to the bar here. They have an impressive 24 beers on tap, including several hard-to-find craft beers. And if you want a great meal but don’t want to miss the big game, fret not–there are many large-screen TVs to ensure that every sport fanatic will know the scores at all times.

Echo Tap & Grille is located at 1079 US-22 in Mountainside. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. every day and is open 7 days a week. They don’t take reservations, and the wait can be long, but with mouth-watering cocktails like the blueberry mojito calling my name at the bar, a little waiting doesn’t bother me a bit. To view their menu, visit www.echotapandgrille.com.

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Dinner In A Pinch In Cranford NJ Offers A New Twist On Takeout!

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“We are changing the way folks do takeout.” Can you guess which local eatery abides by that slogan? It’s Cranford’s Dinner in a Pinch, which cooks up hearty, homestyle meals like chicken pot pie and their bestselling meatloaf that are ready in about 30 minutes! And Dinner in a Pinch has now joined with the highly reputable Cake Artist Cafe, so you can get your savories and sweets from the same location!
Ligia DeJesus used to teach cake decorating classes at Sweet ’n Fancy Emporium in Cranford before opening Cake Artist Cafe next door in 2011. She can create a cake in virtually any theme you can dream up! I’ve seen (and tasted) one of her cakes that looked like a paint can pouring out rainbow paint. I can vouch that unlike some other highly decorated cakes out there, Ligia’s cakes always taste GREAT.


In 2014, the owners of Dinner in a Pinch (which is also right next door to Cake Artist Cafe) decided to sell their business. Ligia’s sister Maria jumped at the opportunity to cook traditional cuisine, and she took over Dinner in a Pinch. Lilia says, “This business is Maria’s baby! She has kept a lot of the same recipes that the previous owners used, but we are focused on fresher ingredients now.” Besides the comforting favorites that Dinner in a Pinch always had on the menu, Maria offers healthier choices such as fish and shrimp dishes. Every meal order comes with your choice of 2 sides, and they have a great kids’ menu as well.
And by the way, it ain’t just dinner! They have terrific LUNCH specials as well, such as butternut squash soup and empanadas. If you’re hosting a party during the holidays, don’t forget about the famous appetizer sampler from Dinner in a Pinch: 24 pieces of their most popular finger foods plus dipping sauces, which can be ready with as little as 2 hours’ notice.
Join the Dinner in a Pinch VIP Club and receive a FREE dessert or $5 off your next purchase of $30 or more—text PINCH to #51660 (see their Facebook page for more details: https://www.facebook.com/dinnerinapinch).
cDinner in a Pinch offers convenient curbside pickup on South Union Ave. (please note this is a one-way street), and yes, they also DELIVER! To hear the latest specials or place an order with Dinner in a Pinch, call 908-272-5136.
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Westfield Seafood is an Area Favorite!

Westfield Seafood Honest. Fresh. Seafood. Those three little words are the slogan behind Westfield Seafood, and the truth behind them is what has kept customers returning to the local fish market for decades.

The only way you could get your hands on fresher seafood (aside from chartering a fishing boat) is if you traveled to Fulton Fish Market in New York City at 3 a.m.–which is exactly what Westfield Seafood owner Vince Bruns does. EVERY DAY. Vince has owned Westfield Seafood since 1984, and you’ll find him expertly filleting fish behind the counter at any given point in the day.

Located adjacent to the South Ave Train Station lot in Westfield, there is free parking in front of the shop. Inside, don’t expect a fancy-looking market. Westfield Seafood is simple and no-nonsense, but the beauty is in the seafood itself.

Every day you’ll find about 20 different varieties of fresh fish, such as flounder; lemon sole; snapper; salmon; catfish; swordfish; tuna; tilapia; branzini; as well as a more variable selection of fish that are more seasonal or harder to come by, such as rainbow trout, shad, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, and more.

We love the house-prepared soups, especially the Manhattan clam chowder and lobster bisque. There is also a great selection of shellfish, including cooked shrimp done a variety of ways; Alaskan king crab legs steamed to order; blue and stone crab claws; and good ol’ lobster. And let’s not forget clams, oysters, and muscles, as the seasons permit.

There are a variety of prepared salads available in-store, from shrimp salad to tuna salad made from FRESH (not canned!) tuna. And if you’re in a pinch for dinner, you can always pick up one of Westsfield Seafood’s prepared entrees, like crab cakes or stuffed flounder, which you can just pop in the oven and then look like a hero.

So the next time you’re craving fresh seafood, or you want an impressive shrimp cocktail for your next party, call or stop by Westfield Seafood. They’re open 7 days a week: Monday through Saturday 10 am to 7 pm; Sunday 12 to 5 pm. 908-233-3042

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Seafare Chippery in Fanwood, NJ

Want to feel like you’re on vacation when you go out for casual eats?  Then you’ve got to check out Seafare Chippery in Fanwood, where you can get the freshest seafood around and savor it in their new nautical outdoor dining area — nicknamed Captain Chip’s Dock — that will transport you to the shore.

Owned by the Walter family, Seafare Chippery reopened in November of 2012 with a distinct image4vision: to recreate the family-friendly fish-and-chips restaurant that the Chippery was known to be back in the 1970s. Chef Brian Walter has brought back the exact fry batter from that decade, the same round “chips,” and even hired some of the original staff members. He says, “I ate here as a kid and even worked here. My goal was to replicate the Chippery of my childhood.”

If you love seafood, you might start salivating at the description of the food at the Chippery. Arctic cod arrives fresh EVERY day, and you can taste the difference, folks, because it all but melts in your mouth. The fish is hand-dipped in their signature batter and fried right in front of you. The delicious bread buns at the Chippery are provided by Cranford’s own Breadsmith.

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Besides the classic fish-and-chips platters, the Chippery offers NJ diver scallops (so fresh that some of Brian’s acquaintances have eaten them raw); soft-shell crabs; lobster rolls (hot or cold!); shrimp; clams; fish tacos and sandwiches; house-made clam chowder; and a daily broiled special such as mahi mahi. You can also order a variety of more adventurous fried items, including fried pizza, fried burgers, fried pickles, fried oreos, and more. Got kids who might not be fish lovers? No worries. The Chippery has a kids menu with plenty of non-fish options (hot dog, mac-and-cheese, chicken tenders), and the kids’ meals can be served with chips or fresh fruit.

Brian listens to his customers and has now begun offering money-saving specials: on any given day you can order from the $10 dinner menu, which includes a choice of entree, a side, and a drink. There’s a $7 lunch menu as well. Brian says they are experimenting with delivery service, so if that’s something you would take advantage of, please write a comment on their Facebook page!

Don’t you love the idea of a fish-themed party this summer? The Chippery can cater your event! In fact, Brian also runs Catering by Bayberry, which provides catering for all types of events with cuisine ranging from casual to gourmet. Brian was trained at the French Culinary Institute in NYC and has more than 20 years of experience in the industry; he has worked with such renowned chefs as Mario Batali and Daniel Or.

The Seafare Chippery is located at 383 South Ave in Fanwood and is open 7 days a week from 11:30 am to 9 pm. It’s BYO. Call ahead for faster pickup: 908-288-7741.

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Mazzella’s of Mountainside NJ Offers an Array of YUMMY Food!

IMG_8903It’s the season for backyard entertaining, but don’t let all the party prep turn you into a party pooper! Forget slaving in the kitchen or standing over a hot grill while you’re forced to ignore your party guests. Instead, have your next party catered by Mazzella’s of Mountainside, the newest gourmet market in our area that has been garnering rave reviews.

Located at 846 Mountain Avenue (with plenty of free parking), Mazzella’s was opened in February of this year by brothers Gary and Stephen Mazzella. For the past 15 years they’ve run a successful Italian market in Jackson, and the Mountainside location is their second outpost. The bright and cheery store offers a wide selection of gourmet prepared foods; custom butchery and meats (sliced Boar’s Head deli meats, Bell & Evans, certified Angus, and homemade Italian sausage); cheeses (including homemade mozzarella); desserts; packaged goods; some fresh produce; and a great cup of coffee!

Mazzella’s offers hot and cold catering for parties as small as 8 up to large weddings and banquets. Wouldn’t a freshly made 6-foot-sub with all the fixings be perfect for your next summer party? They have a wide variety of homemade salads to go along with it, or you can go the hot route with entrees like baked ziti, pulled pork, baby back ribs, or one of their many vegetable entrees such as their “zucchini frittata,” which was a big hit at my friend’s Easter gathering.

You’ll be drooling over Mazzella’s selection prepared foods, such as their #1 bestselling honey mustard chicken, Peter Luger chicken, pasta bruschetta, and their signature prociutto breads–which are Italian meats stuffed into bread dough and shaped into a tempting loaf. During the holiday season Mazzella’s sells upwards of 500 loaves!

According to Gary Mazzella: “We pride ourselves on using the freshest ingredients and making everything from scratch–there are no short cuts at Mazzella’s.”

Visit their website for a good look at their menu and catering services: www.mazzellasmarket.com, or call 908-789-0505. Mazzella’s is open seven days a week.

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Sushi Time 898 in Cranford NJ is AWESOME!

Sushi Time 898


It’s always so easy to miss the small gems, especially when they are located in a small plaza with other businesses.  Nestled in at 12 South Avenue West in Cranford,  behind Dunkin Donuts and the Mailboxes, Etc., across from Dollar General, is one of the best sushi places you’ll find.

The menu at Sushi Time 898 has a large variety of sushi, sashimi, rolls, and entrees for all tastes.   Perhaps best of all is the all you can eat buffet option for only $25!   Customers are given a card to check off what they wish to eat, and then the waiter brings it to the sushi bar and/or kitchen where your selections are freshly prepared.

You can eat in the cozy, upscale, cosmopolitan atmosphere of the restaurant.  The restaurant is BYOB, so be sure to stop in at NJ Wine Seller right across the parking lot to pick up a bottle before stopping in.  Or, if you prefer, you can enjoy it as take-out, and they even deliver.  There’s certainly no shortage of parking in the lot!  They are open for lunch or dinner.

Check out their entire menu at http://www.sushitime898.net/home.html , or, better yet, stop in and give it a taste test of your own!

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