The 12 hottest new restaurants to check out in North Jersey

Boozy bakeries, 17-course sushi tastings and an all Hot Pockets take-out spot: New Jersey seems to have every type of restaurant imaginable. As residents, we've got access to more Indian buffets and pop-up supper clubs than at least 47 other states combined, as well as 530 diners — all with an individual claim to fame.

But, despite these numbers, the Garden State restaurant scene continues to grow, with each season bringing a fresh new batch of culinary concepts to the area.

And, somehow, every little rising mom-and-pop seems to be distinct from the next; all offering something (whether atmosphere, food or service) that they claim to be one-of-a-kind.

This season is no different.

From Christmas cocktail bars to a "designed for delivery" food hall, here are 12 recently-opened (or coming soon) restaurants in Jersey.

Walnut Street Bagels & Co., Montclair

The Filipino Breakfast at Walnut Street Bagels & Co.
The Filipino Breakfast at Walnut Street Bagels & Co.

The hottest new bagel shop in Jersey, Walnut Street Bagels & Co. is all about putting fun, modern twists on our state's favorite breakfast food. With cream cheese varieties from Kimchi to Truffle — and sandwiches from Cacio e Pepe to the sushi-inspired Philly Roll — the chef-driven hole-in-the-wall definitely isn't serving your average bacon, egg and cheese.

"My vision for the shop was to put an upscale spin on bagels," Beverly Lacsina, owner of the artisan bakery, said. "The sandwiches we're making here? You can't find them anywhere else in the area. Maybe in New York City, but not around here."

But, to say that Lacsina's creations (or even something similar) are being served in Manhattan would be an overstatement. Her delicious Filipino Breakfast sandwich, for example, is piled high with longaniza sausage, a fried egg, hash browns, pickled red onion, banana ketchup and roasted black garlic cream cheese.

Try locating one of those in Midtown, and you're bound to come up dry.

Opening date: Currently open (as of Nov. 11), 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Go: 98 Walnut St., Montclair; 973-746-0789,

Fat Buddha Izakaya, North Caldwell

Conceptualized, and to be opened, by the owners of popular omakase restaurant Umai Sushi, Fat Buddha is one of the more hush-hush culinary projects coming soon to the area. Check its Instagram page and you'll find about five pictures total — only two of which even feature food. From the concept's name, however, we can deduce what the team is going for.

Fat Buddha will be an Izakaya restaurant, which, in Japanese, translates to “stay-drink-place.” At this genre of eatery, small plates are served in place of large entrées (like an Asian version of tapas), and sake runs endlessly. Assuming the team gets a liquor license, we imagine this is exactly the form that Fat Buddha will take.

If they don't get the green light on alcohol, however, we still expect the trendy spot to serve its food appetizer-style. A teaser of its menu showcases items from Crispy Rice to Crudo, each of which are generally plated in small portions.

Though we don't know when reservations for the restaurant will go live, early social media buzz suggests they're going to fill up quickly.

Opening date: December. Monitor Instagram @fatbuddha.nj for updates.

Go: North Caldwell, address not yet disclosed;

Kinjo, Newark

Dumplings at Kinjo.
Dumplings at Kinjo.

Kinjo is a collaboration between acclaimed North Jersey restaurateur Jamie Knott (Saddle River Inn, Madame, etc.) and former 7 Doors Down Ramen chef Bill Sanders. A "Japanese and Korean-inspired neighborhood spot," the Newark social hub is the first culinary project to be (partially) owned and operated by the latter. What that means for diners, then, is that the menu is loaded with lots of heart, care and passion.

We sampled Kinjo's dishes at a seven-course industry pop-up dinner the chefs' hosted prior to the spot's official opening. Some creations included Crispy Wings with shiso ranch, a decadent Shrimp Toast with yuzu aioli (fancy Asian mayo), and a refreshing Scallop Crudo.

Though the formal menu has not been published yet, we've been told that a few of the aforementioned dishes will be included, as well as "bombastic" bao buns, "dope" dumplings and lots of chef-crafted ramen.

Opening date: Thursday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. For now, the spot is only offering dinner service.

Go: 159 Washington St., Newark; 973-944-2828,

Marcus Live! Bar and Grille

A chicken sandwich at Marcus Live! Bar and Grille.
A chicken sandwich at Marcus Live! Bar and Grille.

Are you a Marcus Samuelsson fan that also loves watching food be prepared right in front of you? Then the James Beard Award-winning chef's latest concept Marcus Live! is the place for you.

To be located in the American Dream Mall, the 7,000 square-foot space will be, as explained by Samuelsson and his team, an "experiential restaurant." The center of the room will be occupied by a large, open-concept kitchen, so that guests can witness the team of chefs at work.

Some dishes to be made include Hot Honey Chicken, Miso Halibut and Banana Pudding — each of which are inspired by the recipes of the Food Network and New York Times-acclaimed chef.

Opening date: Early December. Monitor Instagram @marcuslivebg for updates.

Go: 1 American Dream Way, East Rutherford;

Wonder Food Hall, Hoboken

Wonder Food Hall opened in Hoboken.
Wonder Food Hall opened in Hoboken.

2023 is the age of food-on-wheels, but, all too often, delivery grub shows up cold, soggy and underwhelming. Order from Wonder Food Hall, however, and that won't be the case.

A "food hall made for delivery," the new-age food court features 18+ of New York City and North Jersey's most prominent restaurants, each designing their iconic dishes specifically for take-out. Famed Di Fara Pizza, for instance, offers Brooklyn pies (in flavors like Broccoli Rabe and Sausage) that will still be warm when they arrive on your doorstep. Bobby Flay Steak, in another case, promises you'll get "premium meats" in 35 minutes or less.

If you prefer to dine-in, though (and witness all 18+ kiosks in their glory), no problem. The hall also has plenty of indoor seating options.

Opening date: Currently open 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Go: 221 River Street, Hoboken;

'Miracle' Pop-up Christmas Cocktail Bars, various locations

Miracle on Bloomfield cocktail bar.
Miracle on Bloomfield cocktail bar.

Deck the halls with boughs of tequila shots; everyone's favorite boozy Christmas pop-ups are back for the season. In six New Jersey towns (Wood-Ridge, Verona, Nutley, Jersey City, Freehold and New Brunswick), "Miracle" cocktail bars are taking over popular local restaurants. Need more elaboration? Allow us to explain.

Every Miracle location — such as Miracle on Valley at Gus' Last Word or Miracle on Bloomfield at The Parkside Social — features dazzling Christmas lights and over-the-top festive decorations. As oppose to Spirit Halloween, which seasonally occupies vacant stores, however, these holiday bars sign agreements with existing restaurants, allowing them to pop-up in the space for approximately six weeks. In some cases, the restaurants still offer their usual menus, but, in others, it's all about Miracle.

The food offerings at Miracle vary by location, but the cocktails are the same across the state. Some include a Snowball Old-Fashioned (rye, gingerbread, aromatic bitters, wormwood bitters and orange essence), and a Carol Barrel (Irish whiskey, banana liqueur, Jamaican rum, Guinness punch, lime, chocolate bitters and nutmeg).

Opening date: Most have already opened, check to confirm your nearest location.

Go: Nearest: Wood-Ridge, Verona, Nutley, Jersey City;

Honey Day Cafe, Glen Rock

Honey Day Cafe opened in Glen Rock.
Honey Day Cafe opened in Glen Rock.

Admittedly, we haven't visited Honey Day Cafe yet, but early Instagram buzz around the spot has certainly put it on our map. A Korean-American brunch restaurant, the cafe offers Asian-inspired breakfast and lunch dishes that are notably aesthetically pleasing.

Some menu options include K-Chicken and Waffles (crispy mochi waffle, sweet and spicy glazed fried chicken, maple syrup), Crispy Ddukbokki (crispy rice cakes, jammy egg, everything seasoning) and Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes. What really caught our attention, though, were the Croffles, which are described as sweet flaky croissant waffles with seasonal berries and whipped cream.

From those early descriptions, we a feeling that Honey Day's food will be as tasty as it is visually appealing.

Opening date: Currently open.

Go: 228 Rock Rd., Glen Rock; 201-389-3535,

More new (or coming soon) restaurants:

  • Han Dynasty, a Philadelphia-founded Chinese restaurant chain, has announced the opening of its first North Jersey location in Jersey City. The restaurant specializes in authentic Sichuan fare, and was once ranked by CNN in America's top 50 Chinese restaurants. Date: TBD. Address: 124 Bay St., Jersey City.

  • Cornbread, a popular local soul food chain, opened its fourth Jersey location in Montclair. All offerings, such as Fried Catfish, Chicken & Waffles and Turkey Wings with various sides, are farm-to-table. Date: Open. Address: 38 Upper Montclair Plaza, Montclair.

  • The Iron Horse Tavern in Westwood reopened with a new look, new owners and a new menu. After a three-month closure, the 51-year-old restaurant has returned — rebranded — as The Tavern at the Iron Horse. Novel offerings include new cocktails and desserts (like a maple pecan bourbon tart), though many entrées (such as cheese-stuffed burgers) have remained the same. Date: Open. Address: 20 Washington Ave., Westwood.

  • Fatto Con Amore, an artisan Italian sandwich shop by chef Robbie Felice will open in Montclair "soon." Some menu highlights include a Ciccioli Panino (pork, orange, fontina, and garlic crema) and an unnamed mortadella sandwich with stracciatella cheese and crumbled pistachio on focaccia. Date: TBD. Address: 349 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair.

  • Fogo de Chão, an upscale chain of Brazilian steakhouses, opened its second New Jersey location in Wayne's Willowbrook Mall. In true Churrasco style, meats are carved table-side, and include bottomless offerings of Filet Mignon, Linguica (spicy pork sausage) and more. Date: Open. Address: 1400 Willowbrook Mall Rd., Wayne.

Kara VanDooijeweert is a food writer for and The Record. If you can't find her in Jersey's best restaurants, she's probably off running a race course in the mountains. Catch her on Instagram: @karanicolev & @northjerseyeats, join our NorthJerseyEats Facebook group, and sign up for her North Jersey Eats newsletter.

This article originally appeared on New restaurants in North Jersey to check out