New Jersey is considered a food lover’s paradise, as there are many regional specialties that are famously delicious and (worth a try!) throughout the state. From boardwalk pizza to disco fries, get a taste of the Garden State during your next visit with these must-try foods.
Pork Roll (Taylor Ham)
There have been many contests, reader polls, and social media discussions about where to find the absolute best pork roll (also referred to as Taylor ham) sandwiches in New Jersey. Despite all the controversy, pork roll lovers agree that this unique favorite always hits the spot when you’re hungry. It’s processed, pork-based meat that’s served on a roll with egg and cheese. It’s usually a staple at most New Jersey diners, but if you want to try it at one of the more well-known places, visit Beckman’s Deli in Belmar.
Italian Ice (Water Ice)
Delicious and refreshing, Italian ice is a widespread favorite across the state of New Jersey during the summer. In fact, in some places, it may even be more popular than ice cream. Some popular flavors are lemon, cherry, vanilla, blueberry, chocolate, mango, and lime—and there are many others, depending on the location. Expect a line of loyal customers no matter where go in July and August. If you wish to try an authentic Italian ice in New Jersey, it’s best to order your icy treat from Rita’s (and be sure to call it “water ice” in the southern part of the state).
Yes, it’s true: The eclectic Jersey shore towns have a taste all of their own! Boardwalk pizza is a crispy, thin-crust style pie typically made with a mozzarella-white cheddar cheese blend, your standard toppings and spices (pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom, etc.), and sauce that's been swirled over the whole thing in a decorative spiral. But really, if you eat it on the boardwalk, it’s called “boardwalk pizza.” There are plenty of pizza joints along the boardwalk that serve up fresh pies, but if you're in Ocean City, grab a slice at the legendary Manco and Manco.
You’re guaranteed to get a zesty blend of flavors when you order a mound of French fries topped with hot brown gravy and melted mozzarella cheese. The savory late-night snack is always on the menu at New Jersey diners across the state, although the type of fry you get depends on the establishment making them—some serve up steak or curly fries, while others opt for potato wedges. It’s a matter of taste, after all. One of the most popular places to order them is the Tic Tock Diner in Clifton, New Jersey.
If you’re lucky enough to visit New Jersey during the summer months, be sure to stop at a roadside farm stand and purchase a big bag of freshly-harvested bright red Jersey tomatoes. These incredibly sweet and flavorful tomatoes are a state-wide favorite, and due to the soil, they grow best in southern New Jersey and near the shore. They don’t last long, however, so be sure to get your fill while you can. Avid tomato fans wait all year for the “Jerseys” to ripen so they can add them to sandwiches and salads—but many purists love to eat them right off the vine!
You can get your Jersey tomatoes at many places around the state, including gardens, or in Cherry Hill at Springdale Farms.
The word “hoagie” is a Philadelphia/South Jersey term for a large, overstuffed lunchmeat sandwich that’s usually on a seeded Italian roll (or a long, soft roll). Also called a “submarine” sandwich, the classic Italian version is usually filled with salami, provolone, and seasonings such as oil, vinegar, hot peppers, and oregano. However, there are plenty of hoagies to choose from—turkey, chicken, veggie, and more, depending on how creative your deli decides to be! If you want to taste something extra special, visit Jersey Mikes for a great hoagie and order it Jersey Mike’s-style.
Deep-Fried Hot Dogs
This new Jersey style of cooking hot dogs relies on frying the meat in an oil-coated pan and charring the skin, or actually using a fry-basket to immerse the hot dogs in boiling oil. Adding more flavor to the regular version of hot dogs, this deep-fried version results in blackened skin, ensuring the dogs are well done to a crisp. A legendary place to order up some of these flavorful specialties is Rutt’s Hut in Clifton; be sure to order their famous “ripper:”
Geographically, the southern part of New Jersey is adjacent to Philadelphia, so naturally the surrounding region is filled with avid Philly cheesesteak fans. There’s always a lively discussion about who makes the best, and New Jersey establishments are among the ranks. Made on a grill with thinly-sliced beef, fried onions, and cheese (usually provolone), these mouth-watering regional sandwiches are best devoured when they are sizzling hot. A New Jersey favorite is Donkey’s Place (and if it sounds familiar, it was put on the map by the late Anthony Bourdain who visited the Camden locale during the filming of his TV show, Parts Unknown).