On my recent trip to the Jersey Shore, I visited Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood before heading to the airport to fly back to Chicago. Its boundaries are Newark’s Penn Station and downtown is to the west, the Passaic River to the north, US Route 1-9 to the east and Interstate 78 to the south. It has a very European feel in its architecture. Ferry Street is the main street in the neighborhood. One of the highlights is St. Stephan’s United Church at the corner of Ferry Street and Wilson Avenue.
Populated in large part by Portuguese, Spanish and Latin American immigrants from Brazil and Ecuador and their descendants, it is known for its culture, authentic cuisine and culinary traditions with over 200 restaurants, bakeries and markets. Starting in the 1830s, the area became a center for tanning, brewing and dye production. In the early 20th century, Portuguese and Spaniards began to arrive, as did African-Americans. Two out of three of the Ironbound’s current 50,000 residents were born outside of the United States. It felt very international as you could hear many languages being spoken on the streets and in the restaurants.
I first visited the neighborhood many years ago when I worked for Newark based Prudential Insurance Company. A group went to dinner at one of the traditional Portuguese restaurants. I was excited to return and to explore it again.
Open since 1989, Seabra’s Marisqueira, is a popular and award winning restaurant that was the first Portuguese restaurant specializing in fresh seafood. It is known for its octopus and other seafood dishes. I chose their tasty version of a seafood paella with rice in a tomato sauce with lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops. Their octopus also gets excellent reviews. I enjoyed the food and the attentive servers from Portugal and Ecuador. 87 Madison St.
While in Lisbon, Portugal several years ago, one of my favorite experiences was visiting the Belém District and Pastéis de Belém. This is a bakery and cafe that opened in 1837, where I tried their specialty, the Pastéis de Belém, which is a sweet pastry with a custard filling and served warm with powdered sugar and cinnamon. It is one the best things I ate on my entire trip! In other bakeries it is known as Pastéis de Nata.
After lunch at Seabra’s Marisqueira in Newark, I headed to Pao da Terra, a local bakery at 135 Ferry St., and had to try one of the flavorful Pastéis de Nata. It was wonderful and brought back fond memories of my trip to Lisbon!
With three Ironbound locations, Teixeira’s Bakery is also recommended for the custard tart. 184 Ferry St.
Nasto’s Old World Desserts: At 236 Jefferson St., this is a popular spot that has been selling traditional Italian desserts like spumoni, tartufo, and gourmet cakes since 1939. Frank Nasto, who came to the area from Italy with his wife Angelina opened it on the site of a former neighborhood bar. After my custard dessert, I walked over and had a great coconut ice cream on a hot/humid afternoon!
Other neighborhood restaurant recommendations by the Eater New York include:
Brasilia Grill, a Brazilian steakhouse, is known for its salad bar and large rodízio or meat selection, which is brought by your table, which includes tenderloin, ribs, sausage, lamb, pork and chicken. 99 Monroe St.
Adega Grill is an attractive restaurant, whose interior features stone fireplaces and archways, wrought iron gates, brick walls and walls painted in earthy yellows. It is known for its Portuguese and Spanish cuisine plus large wine selection. The menu has a large selection of fresh fish, seafood and organic meats. The camarão á guilho, or shrimp in garlic sauce, the seasoned king crab legs, the gambas grelhadas, or grilled prawns get excellent reviews. With three distinct venues, in addition to the grill it has a separate bar and separate lounge. 130 to 132 Ferry St.
The contemporary Mompou Tapas Bar & Lounge, puts a modern spin on the Spanish classic tapas dishes including tortillas topped with a Cabrales blue cheese, albondigas or meatballs and patatas bravas. This was second on my list for this past trip, so I hope to try it when I am back in town. 77 Ferry St.
A more recent opening is Manu’s Kitchen Bar & Sushi Lounge, a popular sushi restaurant. The fusion menu is mainly Japanese cuisine along with several Mediterranean dishes, including pistachio-encrusted lamb and charred octopus. The menu features more than 50 hand and specialty rolls. 90 Ferry St., 973-465-5600.
Sabor Unido is a casual Portuguese and Spanish restaurant serving home-made specialties. 77 Jefferson St.
Fornos of Spain is known for its Spanish wine selection and paella Valenciana, an array of shellfish, chicken, and sausage, served over saffron-infused rice. 47 Ferry St.
I hope you enjoy the area as much as I did. Just make sure to walk the side streets to get a feel for the neighborhood.