7 new North Jersey restaurants to try now: Vegan, burgers, Mexican and more

In the mood for something new?

You're in luck. Despite a tough year, restaurants — those wonderful, transporting, delicious and fun places we humans congregate in for nutritional and social sustenance — keep opening in North Jersey. Here is the latest batch eager to feed you and lift your spirits. 

Patisserie Florentine, Hackensack

Patisserie Florentine, which offers flaky croissants in its Englewood and Closter shops, has opened a new spot in The Shops at Riverside, Hackensack.

Tomer Zilkha, bored during the pandemic, decided to learn all about coffee. And to drink lots too. He sampled 30 varieties of coffees from six vendors and consequently decided to change the coffee he serves at Patisserie Florentine, his popular French-style bakery and cafe in Englewood and Closter.

You can get Caffe Vita's coffee, an independently owned coffee roasting company headquartered in Seattle, too now at his new spot in The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack, as well as pastries and lunch. Every week, Caffe Vita, with locations in Seattle, Portland and New York City, drops off fresh roasted coffee at Patisserie Florentine. Every week Zilkha goes to its Brooklyn place to get a crash course on the roasting and brewing of coffee.

Patisserie Florentine moved into a 1,400-square-foot space that had housed Ground Connection, across from Sephora, and today serves homemade pastries (a must: PF's almond croissants) and lunch items including quiches, salads, pastas and soups. And, of course, gourmet coffee.

"We opened a third location because there's nothing like Patisserie Florentine on Route 4," Zilkha said. "It's the only place to get good coffee and good pastry."  

BTW: Should you find yourself in Closter in need of a quick cup of espresso, Zilkha has installed an espresso cart in front of his store (242 Closter Dock Road), where you can get a rapid dose of caffeine. "It's like going to Italy," he said. "It's a curbside experience."

Go:  390 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack; patisserieflorentine.com.

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Jack’s Potatoes, Westwood

A fully loaded baked potato at Jack's Potatoes in Westwood

Guray Odbekrem and his business partner and childhood friend, Ahmet Kas, have opened a takeout and delivery restaurant that specializes in stuffed baked potatoes.

"It's healthy and delicious," said Odberkrem, who hails from Istanbul, Turkey. And it can be quite filling apparently.

Jack's Potatoes uses Idaho potatoes that, once baked, are stuffed with your choice of six toppings. There are 16 to choose among, including red cabbage, sliced mushrooms, broccoli, green beans, sliced hot dogs, black olives and green olives.

"It's big enough for a full meal," said Odberkrem.

Choose six toppings to load onto your baked potato at Jack's Potatoes

Your $10.90 meal can be delivered free of charge by Jack's Potato if you live in Westwood, Hillsdale, Washington Township, Emerson, River Vale or Oradell. Otherwise, stop at the shop and take one or two home.

Go: 288 Third Ave., Westwood; 201-664-5225, jackpotatoes.com.

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True Food Kitchen, Hackensack

True Food Kitchen is attempting to bring healthy options to The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack.

True Food Kitchen, a "health-driven" franchise, has opened its first New Jersey location at Hackensack’s The Shops at Riverside.

The 6,628-square-foot space has a garden-inspired dining room complete with vines drooping from wooden fixtures in the ceiling and artwork of vegetables on the wall, as well as chairs made of recycled soda bottles. True Food Kitchen also has a 1,200-square-foot patio.

The menu is full of seasonal dishes that are lighter than your average mall food. The spring menu includes a vegan double “cheese” burger made with portobello mushroom on a flaxseed bun; spicy tuna spring roll; and avocado key lime pie. Fresh pressed juices, organic teas and cocktails are also available.

True Food Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Go: 390 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack; 551-295-7401, truefoodkitchen.com/locations/hackensack.

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Shake Shack, Hoboken

An array of shakes at Shake Shack.

The iconic thin burgers, thick shakes and crunchy crinkle-cut fries of Shake Shake are now available in Hoboken. A new location opened on Washington Street between 1st and 2nd Streets.

The 4,618-square-foot space features an enclosed courtyard, a skylight and a mural done by artist Vizie. Meals also can be ordered for pick-up through the ShakeShack app or website. Dine in at 50% capacity is also available.

Go: 111 Washington St., Hoboken; 551-277-1487, shakeshack.com.

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Opening Soon

East Coast Crust, Wood Fired Pizza and Sushi Bar

East Coast Crust serves pizza and...sushi

Pizza and sushi?

"You never know," said John Centrella, who is set to open East Coast Crust, a casual 28-seat BYOB that will offer both pizza, old-school Italian dishes and, yes, sushi. "We're trying something new."

Centerella co-owns Let's Meat Steakhouse in Harrington Park. He explained that his dad started in the pizza business in the late 1950s. East Coast Crust is an homage to his father, he said — and a return "to my roots."

The pizza will be a cross between New York pizza and Neapolitan. The dough won't be as thick as Neapolitan, but it will have Neapolitan's San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. Entrees will include spaghetti and meatballs, veal piccata, chicken parmigiana and chicken Marsala. There will also be hero sandwiches "with a twist," he said. 

The restaurant will offer table service plus takeout and catering.

East Coast Crust is scheduled to open the second week in April.

Go: 124 Lincoln Ave., Hawthorne; eastcoastcrustmenu.com.

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Bitol Mexican Kitchen, Clifton

Bitol is set to open in Clifton

Bitol Mexican Kitchen, a sexy-looking upscale Mexican restaurant with a sizable bar, is set to open on April 1 in Clifton. The cuisine will showcase the foods of several regions of Mexico. The 2,000-square-foot space will accommodate about 70 diners. 

Among the more novel items are steaks cooked tableside on lava stones and fresh-made blue and yellow corn tortillas produced in the traditional Mexican process called nixtamalization; corn is treated with lime, then cooked, dried and ground.

On the menu are such items as mini tortillas stuffed with goat cheese, guava paste and pomegranate seeds; melted cheese casserole with guacamole and salsa; ahi tuna, cured bass and shrimp ceviche; and Mexican-style pizza. 

Chef Julieta Ballesteros will head the kitchen at Bitol Cantina.

Julieta Ballesteros, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, and a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, is heading the kitchen. Ballesteros has worked as executive chef at Los Feliz and La Loteria in Manhattan, studied at The French Culinary Institute and spent time as executive chef of Mexicana Mama, Los Feliz and La Loteria.

Go: 1061 Bloomfield Ave., Clifton; 973-246-3558, bitolnj.com.

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Gus Last Word, Wood-Ridge

Gus' Last Word signage

Thomas and Dean Maroulakos, the brothers behind Cowan's Public, The Barrow House and The Vanguard, are on a roll. Recently they launched a ghost kitchen, Dottie's Crispy Chicken, out of the kitchen of The Vanguard, their rustic-industrial looking American restaurant in Harrison. The Vanguard opened in the summer of 2019. Now they're poised to open another restaurant and bar that they say is a "love letter to the classic bars of the 1950s." 

We're talking stiff drinks, ice-cold drafts and traditional American bar eats. Gus consists of two rooms — a bar and a dining room — plus a seasonal backyard garden. It is slated to open in late spring.

Go: 191 Valley Blvd, Wood-Ridge; skoposhospitality.com.

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Esther Davidowitz is the food editor for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.

Email: davidowitz@northjersey.com 

Twitter: @estherdavido