New Jersey has hundreds of amazing restaurants, but there’s something extra special about the “mom and pop” restaurants that make you feel like part of the family. There’s at least one in every community, bringing people together. Here are 12 that offer that friendly vibe along with fantastic food. Please note that they are listed in no particular order, each restaurant is amazing in its own way.
1. Browns Restaurant, Ocean City
See the crowd on the Boardwalk? Those are for the donuts. Opened in 1976, this business is now owned by the second generation of the Brown family. Serving more than magnificent donuts, you can enjoy breakfast and lunch here, or an early dinner.
2. Belmont Tavern, Belleville
Reviewers rave about the friendly atmosphere at this local favorite. Everyone knows everyone at this Italian joint, and if you don't know everyone yet - you will soon. The delicious dishes will keep you coming back, especially the famous Chicken Savoy (pictured).
3. Pic-A-Lilli Inn, Shamong
Though it has seen several names and incarnations over the years, this has been a family business for decades. The service is top-notch along with the mouthwatering wings and crab soup.
4. Star Tavern, Orange
This iconic eatery has been in business for over 65 years and has been owned and operated by the Vayianos family since 1980. They have a loyal following and amazing thin crust pizza. This is definitely a spot you don't want to miss.
5. Kathy's Restaurant, Newton
This family owned diner in Newton serves up delicious breakfasts all day and reviewers rave about the friendly atmosphere. You'll feel at home here while enjoying good food at fair prices. Owner Chris Kaltsas and his wife Kathy also own the Fredon Dairy, a great local ice cream spot.
6. Federici's, Freehold
This Italian spot has been a family business since 1921 and they still use "Mom's" original recipe for cheese lasagna. The popular pizza spot offers outdoor eating in warmer weather and friendly service that customers love.
7. Ventura's Offshore Cafe, Northfield
Lou Di Ventura runs this restaurant, purchased by his parents in 1996. The eatery serves a mix of Italian and global cuisine and offers a great tomato (pomodoro) pie. Be sure to check out the specials, like a complimentary happy hour buffet. The cocktails here are also fan favorites.
8. My Kitchen Witch, Monmouth Beach
It's easy to be enchanted by this magical market. Enjoy "healthy home-cooked comfort food," a fun atmosphere and fantastic juice bar. Breakfast and lunch are served daily; BYOB candlelight dinners are served on Friday nights.
9. Caffe Aldo Lamberti, Cherry Hill
You may be surprised to learn that a place as swanky as this makes every guest feel like family, but the restaurant is truly welcoming. A Lamberti family business for over 20 years, patrons can enjoy indoor and outdoor dining, private wine cellars and spectacular seafood.
10. Lovin' Oven, Frenchtown
This charming spot offers locally sourced ingredients and delicious homemade baked goods. Enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, a cafe menu and great specials. Check out Welcome Home Wednesday, a 3-course dinner for $23.
11. &Grain, Garwood
You'll love the unique specials (the Mother's Day Lemon Poppy Crepe is pictured) and homemade bread at this exquisite eatery. Enjoy a small but flavorful menu of fresh, locally sourced options. The owner, John Ropelski, is also the head baker.
12. Steve & Cookie's By the Bay, Margate City
Cookie Till's shore staple offers an innovative menu and incredible homemade desserts. Many come in mini sizes for just $2. The local favorite gives back to the community, hosting the neighborhood farmer's market in their parking lot and supporting urban gardens through "A Work In Progress." To top it all off, Steve & Cookie's is a 3 Star Certified Green Restaurant.
Have you been to any of these restaurants? What was your experience like? Many of the best, most authentic “mom and pop” restaurants are hidden gems with a limited online presence – do you have any you’d recommend? For more local favorites, check out these
12 tiny restaurants in New Jersey.