Newark native Manuel Igrejas took a walk through the Ironbound and discovered some new entrants to the restaurant scene beside longtime favorites. In addition to mouthwatering eateries, you’ll find an authentic grocer and fish market to the delight of home cooks.
Check out 10 Tasty Blocks in Newark (Part 1).
New to me was Manu’s, 90 Ferry Street, (464 4600 manussushilounge.com) a spacious restaurant and lounge that bravely fuses east and west with a menu that incorporates Tapas and Sushi and Sashimi. The tapas include bacon-wrapped scallops with homemade teriyaki dipping sauce. In addition to the tapas and sushi there are specialty rolls like the Caterpillar roll, which consists of shrimp tempura, tuna, cream cheese, cucumber with avocado, crunch and eel sauce on top and rolled in soy paper.
One the next block there was a Seabra’s, (123 Ferry Street), the Portuguese supermarket with several stores in the area and across the country. Here you will find the staples of any market in Lisbon or Porto, such as chourico, linguica, bacalhau (cod), Portuguese cheeses like the Castelinhos from the Azores. The produce displayed on the street looked startlingly fresh and tasty as it was picked over by shrewd shoppers. And if you got a thing for Sumol, the refreshing Portuguese orange pop drink, this is the place to stock up on it.
I passed the Popular Fish Market (129 Ferry Street) and went inside. If you’re a seafood lover you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s always crowded because the fish comes from Portugal and is “so fresh, it’s jet lagged.” I forgot how much I like the smell of really fresh fish. It’s a treat to watch the guys behind the counter in action, like a precision circus act with very sharp knives. Since the place is usually jammed, you can’t hang out for long, but it is something to experience – and you can even take some remarkably fresh, jet-lagged fish home.
Right next door is a small place, Café de La Moda, (129 ½ Ferry St.) a neighborhood hangout where locals were hanging out in front, sipping coffee or beer and eating pastries or sandwiches at the counter while watching a soccer game on TV. If you want to get a feel for what it’s like to be Portuguese and live in the neighborhood, this would be a good place to start.
Across the street is the polar opposite of Café de la Moda, the sleek and popular Adega Grill (130 Ferry Street 973 589 0550 www.adegagrill.com). Adega means “wine cellar” in Portuguese and the lighting is hushed and romantic with “tones of old world yellows, stone fire places, wrought iron cellar gates and sconces.” The bar is long and theatrically lit. A young couple shared a big plate of Lobster and Mushrooms sautéed in garlic sauce that smelled as appetizing as it looked. The rest of the menu featured all the Iberian specialties. As befitting a wine cellar, the wine list is extensive and international with over 180 selections. Adega looks like an upscale club and there is also a lounge in the complex where there’s a DJ Thursday through Saturday nights and Latin Sundays. There’s also seasonal outdoor dining so Adega has all the bases covered.
Delicia’s Bakery Café at 167 Ferry Street is a bright and spacious corner café with an impressive breakfast and lunch menu that includes pancakes, omelets, hot and cold sandwiches, including a Cuban sandwich: roasted ham and pork with Swiss cheese mustard and mayo, and the exotic Media Noche: milk bread with roasted pork, ham, and mayo. Their cakes and pastries are fresh baked daily and some of the specialties are the sumptuous Tres Leches and Dulce de Leche and there are assorted coffees. This is a good place to order a Galao, the Portuguese version of a latte; it’s one quarter espresso and three quarters foamed milk served in a tall glass. With its impressive menu and wide windows, Delicia’s is a great place to sit, sip, chew and watch the daily parade that is Ferry Street.
There’s a sizeable Ecuadorian population in the Ironbound and it’s reflected in Nuestra Casa, (195 Ferry Street), a spacious bar that serves bar food, Latin specialties like ceviche and on weekends features some Ecuadorian specialties like fish soup, beef tripe stew, goat stew, catfish stew. Ecuadorian music fills the room while Ecuadorian television plays behind the bar. If you want to get a feel for Ecuador, Nuestra Casa is a good place to start.
When I got to Andros Diner (6 Wilson Avenue 973 344 2626), which has a cameo in War of the Worlds, I’d reached the Five Corners that marks the end of Ferry Street. When I was a kid, this location housed a hole in the wall diner but in the 60’s it was bought by a Greek family (Andros is the name of the island where they’re from) and it has since expanded to rival any of the best highway diners in the country. There are plenty of sizeable booths and a roomy counter. The menu features just about anything you could think of for breakfast, lunch or dinner (they’re open 24 hours) burgers, fries, zucchini sticks, subs, reubens and panini and then there’s pizza and other Italian specialties (the penne vodka is a fan favorite). The homemade desserts are a thing of wonder at Andros. The cheesecakes are spectacular and there was a gorgeous, brazen carrot cake that was calling my name.
It was fitting that my short tour of Ferry Street ended at Andros, an All-American diner owned by a Greek family where the menu features something from just about every cuisine. It’s a microcosm of the Ironbound, the lively diverse neighborhood where I was raised, where wave after wave of immigrants found a home and made a mark on the culture and cuisine.