Best Restaurants 2018
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The focus of these establishments is tasty food at an approachable price-point. Atmosphere and/or service often are secondary considerations — the low-fuss attitude of these restaurants is a draw for some diners.
Gaucho Parrilla Argentina
STRIP DISTRICT: 1601 Penn Ave.
[Argentine] There regularly are lines around the block at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, and for good reason. Chef/Owner Anthony Falcon, Executive Chef Matt Neal and their team are serving some of the tastiest steaks in town, and they’re doing it at an affordable price. Flank, ribeye, New York strip and other cuts of beef are cooked over open hardwood fire to smokey perfection; top them with one — or more — of the house-made sauces. Gaucho’s menu also includes excellent pork, fish and chicken options, as well as seasonal vegetarian options. Look for the Asado Truck, the restaurant’s mobile option, around town.
BLOOMFIELD: 4606 Penn Ave.
Kate Lasky & Tomasz Skowronski
[Central/Eastern European] Apteka is so cool. Chefs/Owners Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski dig into their central and eastern European heritage with an all-vegan menu that includes popular dishes such as pierogi and borscht, but also lesser-known, equally tasty items such as zupa grzybowa (mushroom and smoked chili soup with cabbage and herbs) and boczniaki z kapusta (oyster mushroom and braised cabbage in beer broth with butternut miso and rye crumb). The duo this year introduced a late-night special — a vegan burger that, and we don’t say this lightly, is a deeply satisfying alternative hamburger treat.
Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette
BLOOMFIELD: 4613 Liberty Ave.
[American] Combine the best aspects of the farm-to-table movement with an old-school neighborhood lunch counter, and you have Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette. The restaurant, which seats 17, might be pocket-sized, yet Chef/Co-Owner Becca Hegarty makes magic with what she serves on her curated, vegetable-forward menu that also features house-baked breads and pastries. Hegarty and her partners pay fastidious attention to quality of ingredient, farming some of what’s cooked and teaming up with other regional producers for the rest. Saddle up to the counter for a killer sausage and egg breakfast sandwich, a vegetable hoagie or a bowl of soup. Or, all of them ... and a doughnut.
LAWRENCEVILLE: 5202 Butler St.
[Middle Eastern] Omar Abuhejleh’s Upper Lawrenceville establishment is a restaurant with flavorful, Levantine-influenced vegan cuisine that also serves as a soulful community cafe. Start your day with a specialty coffee or a bracing shot of espresso while enjoying avocado or almond butter toast on house-baked bread; the buckwheat sourdough pancakes are another excellent option. For a healthy and satisfying lunch, begin your meal with a selection of mezze such as best-in-town baba ganouj and labneh made from fermented cashews, crush a za’atar flatbread and dig into a falafel salad.