Local Star Chefs Tell Us The Good Restaurants In Bergen County Where They Love to Dine

Restaurants  / 

Where do top chefs head when their kitchens close? We asked some of Bergen County’s brightest culinary stars to dish about their favorite local spots for grabbing a quick bite, date-night drinks, and more. Check out this list of good restaurants in Bergen County!

CHRISTINE NUNN – CHEF AT PICNIC ON THE SQUARE (http://www.picniconthesquare.com/)

Family Dining: A great place to go with the family is The Dutch House Tavern in Fair Lawn. They have a great menu that is very kid friendly. Their burgers are amazing as well as their chicken fingers. And it is a great place to go in the warm weather because it has a large porch for outdoor dining.

Dinner with Friends: A great place to hang out with friends is Axia Taverna in Tenafly. They have the best snacks and small plates which are great to share with friends. I love their Greek spreads such as taramosalata and hummus. Their hummus is made from fava beans instead of chick peas which makes it taste delicious. I also really like their zucchini chips appetizer.

Best Cocktails: I mostly drink wine, but when I go out with friends who love having cocktails they all seem to really enjoy the hand-crafted cocktails at Park West Tavern in Ridgewood.

Date Night: Best place to go on a date is Due in Ridgewood. Why is this the perfect place to dine for date night? Well, the food just looks sexy…and of course tastes delicious too.

Favorites from your Menu: As an appetizer I love our Parisienne gnocchi with wild mushroom sherry cream sauce and buttermilk ricotta. This is light, creamy and rich but the portion is a smaller size so it doesn’t feel too heavy after you eat it. My two favorite entrées are our sea scallops with mushroom risotto and brown butter and our rabbit with spring baby carrots, baby tomato, hen of the woods mushroom in a white wine herb broth over celery root puree.

JAMIE KNOTT – CHEF AT SADDLE RIVER INN (http://saddleriverinn.com/)

Family Dining: One of our favorites is Angelo’s in Lyndhurst. It has been around for 60 years, my grandparents went there when they were young. I’ve been going for 25 years and my kids will carry on the tradition. I get the same thing every time, shrimp and a biscuit (spicy) and the manicotti.

Dinner with Friends: My kitchen crew and I like to grab a bite after work when we have an early night. Two of our favorites are Shake Shack in Paramus and Juicy Platters in Fair Lawn. When you spend twelve hours with one another it can’t be business all the time. We all need a little down time and eating together is a great way to get to know someone.

Best Cocktails: I worked in the city for 13 years and definitely tried a few cocktails. For me Employees Only always had the best cocktails, bartenders, and vibe. I enjoy their signature cocktail called The West Side. It’s Meyer lemon vodka, lemon juice and crushed mint served chilled. Also the great thing about this place is that it’s like a chef you really trust, meaning, you go and say what’s good today? I trust you’ll make me your favorite cocktail (dish). A lot of fun and always different.

Date Night: It’s tough with three small children to get a night out, but when we do, we scoot into the city and go to Marea. It’s an Italian seafood restaurant that has amazing food, professional (not stuffy service), beautiful ambiance and across the street from Central Park. So after you eat too much, you can walk it off in the park on a nice evening. We generally sit at the bar because reservations are hard to get. We order 6 to 8 appetizers and share everything. I love to see what other high end restaurants are serving and that’s the way we like to eat.

Favorites from your Menu: I really enjoy raw food, so my favorites at the Inn are the tuna carpaccio, and steak tartare. The tuna is very light and has a ton flavor. The steak tartare is smooth, creamy, and has a nice pop from the capers and mustard. I could eat those two dishes everyday.

ERIC WOODS – CHEF AT 14 & HUDSON (http://www.14andhudson.com/)

Family Dining: The Farmhouse in Cresskill. This place is so cute, we love the atmosphere. On a cool, fall day, it’s just perfect. They have a great kids menu and we love their milkshakes!

Dinner with Friends: Now that we have 14 & Hudson, a lot of our friends come to us. In the past, we’ve enjoyed St. Eve’s in Ho Ho Kus. It’s a cozy, hidden gem with friendly service and good food. Plus it’s BYOB.

Best Cocktails: Definitely Il Fresco in Orangeburg, NY. Their mixologists make some delicious concoctions. Great cozy martini bar, delicious summer sangrias, and homemade infused vodkas.

Date Night: When we can steal away a night out from the kids, we like Zestt in Tenafly. Hal and Carol are the most gracious owners. It’s close to our home in Harrington Park and a great stop before or after the movies. The atmosphere is warm and contemporary and the food is fresh and presented beautifully. Some of our favorite dishes are the Greek salad, rack of baby lamb chops and the delicious plate of grilled pita, feta dip and olives that you get before your meal.

Favorites from your Menu: Jumbo sweet chili chicken wings – the sweet chili sauce is unique and the chicken wings are rubbed and cooked in a non-traditional way. I also love our yellow fin tuna tartare with sriracha, avocado, soy, ginger, and wontons – ours stands out because we use sushi-grade tuna. Our pappardelle, slow braised short ribs with kale and hon shimiji mushrooms is also a favorite and of course we use fresh pasta so it really is delicious.


Family Dining: We recently discovered a small bistro in Ridgewood called Le Bon Choix Café. My kids (4 & 7) absolutely love the shortbread dough they first bring out (in shape of a rooster) to decorate with sprinkles and then they bake them for dessert. It’s a small menu revolving around local Goffle Brook Farm organic rotisserie chicken. They make a burger if you order it Bocose style, they add crispy chicken skin and a fried egg (yum). Everything takes a little while but it’s because it’s done right from scratch. Must haves are: Le formage sandwich with gruyere cheese on sliced brioche and goat cheese in the middle.  I’m ashamed to say it, I ordered it for my kids to split and stole some from them (yes that good). Their french onion soup is great. I would recommend the chicken sandwich on ciabatta with cole slaw and a curry peanut sauce (it’s crazy good). Like I said it’s small, food takes a while, but service is friendly…just like in Paris and I love it.

Dinner with Friends: I always end up doing dinner with friends kind of casual and BYO is usually fine. We like it upbeat, with something that will lure you back in. My best friend took me to Ani Ramen in Montclair it is in a small location, small menu, high quality ramen noodle soups, pick a meat, a broth, and you can enhance your soup. Its got a mixed clientele from all generations but foodies for sure.  Here is what I get:  No.3 spicy miso-classic chicken broth, miso, pork chasu, bean sprouts, chili Oil.  I add “Ajitama” soft boiled egg and “Kakuni” braised pork belly. I break out into a sweat (in a good way). The walls are covered with old Asian newspapers and a bunch of Edison light bulbs hanging in some kinda uneven fashion just as it should be.  Check is dropped off in a note pad in which you can doodle a note or draw if it’s easier to express gratitude for what you have just experienced (rightfully so).

Best Cocktails: I like to drink wine and suck down oysters as often as I can.  Since I don’t drink at work, I sometimes go to Oceanos in Fair Lawn.  I can grab a glass of wine and they have a small selection of oysters but that’s fine for me.  The Bartender Christine is very nice and I love that she remembers your drink and is very knowledgeable.  Ambiance is good.  It’s really nice to get great service from a serious bartender who know their bar and menu.

Date Night: Without a doubt, Cafe Matisse in Rutherford (http://www.cafematisse.com/).  Chef Peter does a great job with ambiance.  I like the back terrace when the weather is nice.  It’s a mini rainforest with nice bistro tables dressed in white linen.  Our server is always excited about the menu. The menu is always changing due to the chef’s creativity.  I would do a disservice attempting to describe the dishes I get because they are so intricate and dynamic. One thing I’ve said in the past is that I would repeat everything I’ve ordered in the past. Its grazing menu in which you are recommended to order 3-5 courses (3 is not the way to go) - Go for 4 even 5 if you love food.

Favorites from your Menu: First up I mentioned oysters and how I love them with a crisp glass of wine. We currently carry a selection of 12 different oysters and clams. I am a chef and chefs love foie gras. Our foie gras is always a focus because whenever it is on the a menu I order it so I want to deliver for those who go out and are pleased to see this on the menu cause it’s my last meal with a nice glass of Pinot Noir. I grew up eating clams, whole fish, octopus; The fruit of the sea.  That being said, I love being able to procure the freshest fish with traceable origin point which I know are eccosustaineable and good for me. Two of my favorite snacks here that we serve on our Admiral Hour Menu are our shrimp and cheesy grits and our fish tacos.  Just today, we served tacos with blackened Alaskan halibut and Costarican swordfish. They are really amazing if you like fish tacos and who doesn’t (really).


Family Dining: Grant Street Café in Dumont is like a throwback to the TV show “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name, they’re always glad you came, you get the idea. The pizza is better than many pizzerias, great wings, mussels, and an eclectic craft beer list.

Dinner with Friends: Umeya, Japanese restaurant in Cresskill is one of a very few places I dine in.  It is a full-fledged Japanese restaurant, but I usually have sashimi and sushi, always excellent, and very classic.  No dragon rolls, inside out rolls, Philadelphia (cream cheese, seriously?) rolls here.  My wife and I have been dining there since we moved to NJ in 1998. Chef Kenji and his wife Mosako run the place together with great symmetry and excellence.  His attention to detail is unstinting; Mosako has told me I am like an American version of him, a major compliment.

Best Cocktails: At the risk of sounding boastful, Orama has a terrific list of specialty cocktails. I am more of a classic cocktail drinker, a dry martini is my drink of choice, but I mostly prefer wine.

Date Night: I’m a chef. What’s a date night again?

Favorites from your Menu: My favorite dish is lobster maxime.  Besides being delicious and elegant, it is a homage to my chef/mentor, Maxime Ribera. Other faves are anything from our raw/cured section: sake cured salmon, spicy tuna tartar, fluke crudo, octopus ceviche, wagyu carpaccio. I am a big BBQ fan, so I am fond of my “Texinese” spareribs, which are seasoned with a Texas-style dry rub, cooked low and slow for about 6 hours, then brushed with an Asian-influenced spicy sweet and sour glaze. 

Related Posts