Hidden gems of takeout: 7 North Jersey restaurants that go above and beyond
In early 2020, before this year became a horror show, we wrote about our favorite hidden gem restaurants in North Jersey.
The list included a cozy, family-owned restaurant that has been a local hang for years, a hole-in the-wall pizza joint, an authentic taco spot, a killer Jewish deli and more.
Then the state shut down and dining out was no longer an option. Fast forward to December 2020 and we’ve been relying on takeout for more months than we care to count. So it’s time to release our new hidden gems list: the hidden gems of takeout.
We mined North Jersey restaurants to find takeout options that are a bit different from your average delivery pizza (though, we love those too). Here’s where to find DIY donut kits, meals that feed dozens, perfectly packed ramen and more.
The family meal at Calabria can feed a hordeof people (hopefully all within your quarantine bubble) for $40. Here’s what’s included: a half-tray of chicken, half-tray of a pasta of your choice, half-tray of salad, a large pizza, garlic knots and homemade butter cookies. The best part? It comes with a bottle of wine, as well. Get some containers ready to hold all the leftovers from this meal — there will be plenty.
Go: 588 S. Livingston Ave., Livingston; 973-992-8496, calabrianj.com.
Top That Donuts, Rutherford
Top That Donuts creates DIY donut kits for the holidays that let you dunk and decorate your donut as you please. The Christmas set came with either six or 12 vanilla cake donuts, red and green glazes, three toppings, candy canes and a coloring sheet. But, did you know Top That makes donut kits for birthdays and other celebrations any time of year? It’s a craft and a treat in one — what’s not to love? Kits range in price.
Go: 8 Highland Cross, Rutherford; 201-559-5485, topthatdonuts.com.
Jersey Spirits Distilling Co., Fairfield
Jersey Spirits has been distilling small batches of vodka, rum, whiskey, gin, bourbon and hooch for years. During the pandemic, it also started selling cocktails to-go made with its own specialty liquor. The cocktail list changes regularly (check the website for updates) but has recently included gin martinis, old fashioneds, a Christmas candy cocktail and an autumn harvest-flavored drink. No need to search through the liquor store to find a very specific type of bitter or syrup; no fancy cocktail equipment required — just great cocktails ready-to-drink in sealed to-go bottles made with spirits distilled right in Jersey. Cocktails range in price depending on variety and size.
Go: 1275 Bloomfield Ave., Fairfield; 973-227-5333, jerseyspirits.com.
Coda Kitchen & Bar, Maplewood
Coda gets points for its stellar wine selection and cocktails to-go, including a blackberry gimlet (Ciroc berry, vodka, blackberry liqueur, simple syrup and fresh lime juice, $29) and the Holy Pear To Go (Absolut pear, St. Germaine, lemon juice, pear juice). But the real hidden gem at Coda is its “soup for tomorrow” takeout. On its online ordering system, choose this category and order whatever soup they have cooking for that day. It will be delivered cold, so you can heat it up later when you’re ready to eat, be it in a few hours or the next day.
Go: 177 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood; 973-327-2247, facebook.com/codakitchenandbarmaplewood.
The ugly ramen at Kinyobi is nothing new. But the dish — made with stir-fried ramen, teriyaki chicken, spicy mayo and fresh vegetables and uniquely served sans broth — has become even more precious in our eyes this year. Because ugly ramen has no broth, it’s the perfect meal to take to-go, with all the chewy noodles and umami flavor of ramen without the sloppy broth that makes takeout a bit precarious. Ugly ramen is $12.
Go: 838 Main St., Hackensack; 201-646-3267, kinyobinj.com.
Ani Ramen, various locations
OK, so let’s say the warm, slurpable broth is your favorite part of ramen. What now? Ani Ramen — though it has six locations, making it hardly a “hidden gem” — packs its ramen to-go perfectly, which makes it worthy of our list. The noodles, protein and veggies are secured in one labeled container and the broth is packed in another so nothing gets soggy. Mix them together to enjoy. Ani Ramen also has an option to "give a bowl or bun" for $15 or $9, respectively. All the money goes to CUMAC, a Paterson-based organization that fights hunger.
Go: 401 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair; 973-744-3960. 218 Newark Ave., Jersey City; 201-408-9811. 149 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood; 973-996-2694. 427 Springfield Ave., Summit; 908-679-8157. 109 Walnut Ave., Cranford; 908-325-6156, aniramen.com.
Laylow, Asbury Park
We admit, this option isn’t technically takeout, nor is it in North Jersey. But, we had to include speakeasy Laylow’s virtual cocktail classes. Laylow (located underneath Mediterranean restaurant Reyla in Asbury Park) is known for its experimental cocktails, and the team at the hidden bar has been offering classes on how to make your own fancy cocktails throughout quarantine. They take place every Wednesday at 7 p.m. You can purchase the ingredients ahead of class and make your own cocktail from home, or just watch along and learn how to make it for later. Classes are $10, or you can get a monthly membership for $30.
Go: 603 Mattison Ave., Asbury Park; 732-305-2420, laylowap.com.
Rebecca King is a food writer for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.