We’ve got the scoop on what’s hot and happening in New Jersey this season.

Wood Burning Oven - Circolo Waldwick

Wood Burning Pizza Oven – Circolo Waldwick

Circolo {53 Franklin Turnpike, Waldwick; 201.882.1818}
This Italian eatery is owned by George Kalivas, who also owns The Plum & The Pear in Wyckoff. He has teamed up with Executive Chef Sage Sakiri, who previously was the chef at Il Villino, a prior restaurant owned by Kalivas. The menu is based around food from Naples, Italy, and the surrounding area. A wood-burning oven imported from Italy will cook up Roasted Chicken, Stuffed Pork Chops, and, an Italian staple, Neapolitan Pizza. “Circolo is casual yet chic,” says Kalivas. “It’s affordable with a good menu.” Some other items include lamb, mussels, meatballs, mozzarella, and pasta. No time for a sit-down dinner? A cafe at the restaurant’s entrance offers various coffee beverages as well as desserts, including gelato and other Italian sweets.

Piggyback Bar {200 Hudson Street, Jersey City; 201.345.7775; piggybackbar.com}
Husband and wife duo Ben Byruch and Leah Cohen have recently opened their second restaurant, Piggyback, which serves elevated Asian inspired bar food, in Jersey City’s Harborside.  The first establishment, Pig & Khao, located on Manhattan’s lower east side, has been serving diners for the last five years. Chef Leah, who has been trained in the culinary arts around the world, and Ben, who manages the restaurant, aim for a casual vibe with this new spot. Appetizers such as Sriracha Buffalo Wings and Yellow Curry Crabcake pair Asian flavors with bar favorites. Sandwiches like Kimchi Pulled Pork and Southern Thai Curry Fried Chicken are served with togarashi fries, which is a Japanese chili blend. Now, what else is on par with the food? The skyline views of Manhattan are the perfect backdrop to your meal.

Hudson Hall Libations

Hudson Hall {364 Marin Boulevard, Jersey City; 201.659.6565; hudsonhalljc.com}
This beer hall and smokehouse boasts a menu highlighting Eastern European and American flavors, focused on various methods of preparation, including smoking, pickling, and fermenting various food items. Small plates like Smoked Salmon Roulades (smoked salmon slices rolled with choice of scallop, ceviche, or whitefish salad; served with mini latkes) or Pilsner Mussels (pickled onion, smoked garlic, pork belly, toasted garlic bread) are a great start to your meal. Pastrami, French Dip, and Cheddar Brat are excellent selections available to satiate your sandwich craving. Soups and salads are also available for those searching for lighter fare. There are a couple of options for family-style dining, including a Charcuterie Board (cheese, whitefish salad, sliced meats, jam, and fermented vegetables; served with crostini) or Basta (a selection of meats with accompanying sauces and three sides), so be sure to bring your friends and your appetite! Specialty cocktails, wines, beers, and an array of whiskeys offer patrons a bevy of beverage choices.

Gringo's Tacos Jersey City

Gringo’s {12 Coles Street, Jersey City; 201.389.4110; gringostaco.com}
New to the Latin restaurant scene in Jersey City is Gringo’s, offering Mexican cuisine and drinks. Opened in July, this long-awaited restaurant has the same owners as the popular Pier 13 bar located in uptown Hoboken. With corn tortillas made in-house daily, all salsas and sauces containing the freshest ingredients, and meats, poultry, and seafood sustain-ably raised without hormones or antibiotics, we recommend that you tell yourself this is a “healthy” indulgence! Fun taco entrée names such as Buffalo Soldier (tempura jumbo shrimp, gringos buffalo sauce, carrot-celery slaw, ranch crema) and Duck That (duck leg confit, cucumber, scallion, pomegranate mole sauce, crispy skin) offer unique combinations of ingredients rarely found in a typical restaurant. If you can’t decide which tequila you want to pair with your meal, they offer three different tequila flights, called A Tasting in Agave Country, certain to thrill even the most discerning tequila drinker. Other libations include beer and cocktails. The kitchen closes at 1am Thursday through Saturday, which makes this a perfect late-night munchies spot.

Shumi Ridgewood

Shumi {70 East Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood; 201.345.0808; shumiomakase.com}
Shumi recently opened its doors in Ridgewood, coming off of the success of their first location, in Somerville. Owner and sushi chef David Seo has worked closely with the master chef of the Somerville location, Aikasa, to create an experience not to be forgotten. We recommend the “Omakase” meal, which translates in Japanese to, “I will leave it up to you.” This multi-course meal, personally hosted by the chef, consists of seasonal sushi and sashimi from the day’s catch. Feeling nostalgic about the days you may have been so tight on cash you had a ramen diet (college, anyone?), Shumi offers four different gourmet ramens to satisfy your sentimental craving. And, of course, as with any great Japanese restaurant, sushi can be ordered by the roll or à la carte. Shumi is open daily, for both lunch and dinner.

By Heather Dean Bennington