11 Notable New Jersey Wine Restaurants

These Garden State dining spots are outdoor-only for now, but they’re stellar wine destinations year-round

11 Notable New Jersey Wine Restaurants
Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen's seasonal menu ranges from small plates and light bites to full-size entrées like a burger on a house-made milk bun. (Courtesy of Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen)
Jul 16, 2020

From big cities to small beach towns, New Jersey is made up of many different landscapes and atmospheres, and that diversity is reflected in its restaurants. There are world-renowned fine-dining destinations, mom-and-pop spots and everything in between, including 80-plus Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners. Below are some standouts from across the state, all open for outdoor dining.

To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s nearly 3,800 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 100 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

Note: Opening hours and menus are subject to change as the industry continues to adjust to evolving regulations.


The Pluckemin Inn

359 Route 206 S., Bedminster, N.J.
Telephone (908) 658-9292
Website www.pluckemininn.com
Grand Award

Exterior of the Pluckemin Inn
The Pluckemin Inn is set in a restored farmhouse about 60 miles from downtown Philadelphia. (Joseph De Leo)

With its iron banisters and reclaimed French oak walls, the Pluckemin Inn is a fitting symbol of Pluckemin, N.J., a historic village that briefly served as General George Washington’s headquarters in 1777. Opened in 2005, the restaurant represents a longtime dream of founders Gloria and the late Carl LaGrassa to offer guests fine American cuisine and a selection of both premium and accessible wines. The Grand Award–winning collection is stored in a towering three-story cellar, supplying its wine-retail business and its 6,000-label list, overseen by wine director Brian Hider. There is a broad range of options, from regions throughout France, Italy, California, Washington and beyond, with a vast Champagne selection and myriad verticals from producers like Burgundy’s Marc Colin et Fils, Sonoma’s Arnot-Roberts and Napa Valley’s Joseph Phelps. These are matched by chef Jason Ramos’ menu, now available with outdoor seating, created by converting the entry driveway and valet circle, in addition to a few small tables available on the regular patio. Indulge in dishes like saffron risotto, avocado gazpacho or Portuguese octopus, or for heartier fare, there are options such as suckling pig, steaks, swordfish and foie-gras torchon.


Caffe Aldo Lamberti

2011 Route 70 W., Cherry Hill, N.J.
Telephone (856) 663-1747
Website www.caffelamberti.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Caffe Aldo Lamberti’s wine director, Chris Wanamaker, pulling a bottle of wine in the cellar
Wine director Chris Wanamaker built the Restaurant Award–winning wine collection of 16,000 bottles at Caffe Aldo Lamberti. (Courtesy of Caffe Aldo Lamberti)

Before opening the restaurant that bears his name, chef Aldo Lamberti traveled far from his childhood home on the coast of Naples in Italy to work in his father’s Brooklyn pizzeria. Today, his Caffe Aldo Lamberti serves modern Italian dishes in Cherry Hill, N.J., matched by a wine list that has earned a Best of Award of Excellence for more than a decade. Since mid-June, the café has been serving guests on both its patio and a new outdoor deck, while waiting to fully reopen. This includes Lamberti’s dishes like burrata and heirloom tomatoes, seafood salad and eggplant Napoletana. Much of the menu consists of pastas, several made in-house, as well as rich seafood options. Joining these are 1,220 labels from wine director Chris Wanamaker’s list, which emphasizes picks from California, Bordeaux and, of course, Italian regions Tuscany and Piedmont. A diverse by-the-glass list is backed up by a range of bubbly bottles, including noteworthy Cava options, and an array of top Brunellos and older Barolos from producers like Bruno Giacosa and Michele Chiarlo. Verticals of Masseto and Sassicaia and trophy bottles from Burgundy, Napa and Oregon broaden the range.


Catherine Lombardi

3 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, N.J.
Telephone (732) 296-9643
Website www.catherinelombardi.com
Best of Award of Excellence

New Brunswick, N.J., restaurant Catherine Lombardi is named for the grandmother of its co-founder Mark Pascal, and her Neapolitan cooking continues to influence the dishes. Overseen today by chef J.R. Belt, this “Brooklyn-style Italian” menu relies heavily on tomatoes sourced from local New Jersey farms. Until recently, Catherine Lombardi had only been able to serve guests through delivery, but with outdoor seating now available in a dining area set up on the sidewalk, guests can sit for classics like caprese salad, mozzarella in carozza or shrimp scampi. You’ll also find a variety of pastas, like garganelli with truffle cream, as well as osso buco and steak pizzaiola. Alongside these plates, wine director and co-owner Francis Schott’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning list includes more than 600 labels from across Italy, California, France, Germany, Portugal and beyond. There is a hefty selection of Chardonnays, largely from Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Napa, and numerous Rieslings from top German producers. Options from Armenia, Croatia, Slovenia and Lebanon add diversity, and there are plenty of Pinot Noirs, Cabernets and full-bodied reds to pair with heavier dishes.


Elements

66 Witherspoon St., Princeton, N.J.
Telephone (609) 924-0078
Website www.elementsprinceton.com
Best of Award of Excellence

A set table in the expanded outdoor dining area at Elements
Elements added partitions between the outdoor tables to help make guests feel more safe. (Courtesy of Elements)

Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are at the core of chef Scott Anderson’s Elements, where the culinary style is referred to as “interpretive American.” The restaurant supports this philosophy by foraging for many of the ingredients on its consistently changing menu. And as of July 3, Elements is bringing this cuisine to guests through a five-course tasting menu, with a vegetarian version also available. They’ve taken over parking spaces in front of the restaurant to set up a dining area, and put partitions in between each table for added safety. There’s currently a focus on lighter seafood dishes, including Japanese squid and grilled hamachi, with a Wagyu rib eye topping off the savory side of the meal. The vegetarian courses offer an eclectic mix, with cucumber ceviche, black truffles with linguine and local mushrooms with mustard greens. These dishes mingle with wine director Daniel Tucker Jr.’s 550-label list, a Best of Award of Excellence winner strong in France and California but also stretching as far afield as Germany and Greece. The diverse by-the-glass list includes a Loire pét-nat and whites from Sicily and South Africa.


The Frog and the Peach

29 Dennis St., New Brunswick, N.J.
Telephone (732) 846-3216
Website www.frogandpeach.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Tables in the garden patio at the Frog and the Peach
Lush natural decor ups the outdoor dining experience at the Frog and the Peach. (Courtesy of the Frog and the Peach)

The Frog and the Peach has been a fixture in New Brunswick, N.J., since 1983, housed in an industrial building that dates to the 1870s. But under its current owner, chef Bruce Lefebvre, the restaurant’s influences are anything but old-fashioned, taking cues from cuisines around the world. From za’atar-spiced flatbread to duck and foie gras rillettes, there is plenty of variation in the Frog and the Peach’s outdoor menu, served on its popular garden patio. Wine director Donaciano Betancourt’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning list features 475 labels from California, Oregon, France, Italy and Spain, including a selection of Sherries. Diners might enjoy perusing the strong selections of reds from the Rhône and Tuscany while considering a pairing for Lefebvre’s pepper-crusted Wagyu skirt steak.


Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen

110 South St., Morristown, N.J.
Telephone (973) 644-3180
Website www.jockeyhollowbarandkitchen.com
Best of Award of Excellence

By 2010, restaurateur Chris Cannon had already made a splash as co-founder of New York City mainstay and Best of Award of Excellence winner Marea. It was then that he started planning a new restaurant in Morristown, N.J., in an early-20th-century manor that would become Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen. Today the space houses four different restaurants, including a German-style beerhall and a 1920s cocktail lounge in the manor’s former library. After a period of delivering meals, groceries and meal kits to guests, Jockey Hollow is once again open for outdoor dining, taking advantage of its oyster bar patio. Chef A.J. Capella’s menu offers raw-bar dishes like locally sourced Little Neck clams and a variety of small plates and entrées like crudo, gazpacho, roasted Amish chicken and skate-wing piccata. Sommelier Adam Wechsler oversees Jockey Hollow’s 900-wine list, which emphasizes Italy, France, California and Oregon, with a few local New Jersey selections for good measure. An extensive by-the-glass list features Austrian Sauvignon Blanc and biodynamic Aglianico.


Steve & Cookie’s by the Bay

9700 Amherst Ave., Margate, N.J.
Telephone (609) 823-1163
Website www.steveandcookies.com
Best of Award of Excellence

The exterior entrance to Steve & Cookie’s by the Bay
Guests can check out the charming exterior of Steve & Cookie’s by the Bay as they head to the outdoor tables in a tented space. (Courtesy of Steve & Cookie’s by the Bay)

Steve & Cookie's by the Bay is a community hub in the waterfront town of Margate, N.J., a suburb not far from Atlantic City. Open for more than two decades and a Best of Award of Excellence winner since 2015, the restaurant is serving a summery American menu and its classically focused wine list under a tent in a converted lot adjacent to the kitchen. Chef Kevin Kelly crafts familiar favorites like Caesar salad and meatloaf with gravy, plus creative plates such as Thai chile–caramel Brussels sprouts and a seafood pan roast with lemon basmati rice. Namesake owner and wine director Cookie Till oversees the 400-label, moderately priced wine program, which is especially strong in California, France and Italy. Expect reliable top producers including Sonoma’s Kosta Browne, Provence’s Domaines Ott and Burgundy’s Domaine Leflaive.


Water & Wine Ristorante-Taverna

141 Stirling Road, Watchung, N.J.
Telephone (908) 755-9344
Website www.visitwaterandwine.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Outdoor tables under a tent at Water & Wine Ristorante-Taverna
The tented dining area at Water & Wine Ristorante-Taverna is next to a lakeside park that’s ideal for a before or after–dinner stroll. (Courtesy of Water & Wine Ristorante-Taverna)

Water & Wine has been a Restaurant Award winner for more than 15 years, consistently serving an exceptional wine program and a modern American-meets-Italian menu. It’s a team effort from sibling co-owners Chris and John Tocci, with John serving as chef and Chris running the wine program. There’s a “short list” of approachable, value-driven wines for guests seeking a guided pick, followed by the full 775 selections. The wines are mostly from Italy and California, excelling in Piedmont and Tuscany, but you’ll also find French sparklers including grower Champagnes. The lakeside property also abuts a peaceful park for guests seeking a scenic stroll before or after dinner. Water & Wine is offering meals for curbside pickup as well, with a 35 percent discount on all wine selections. The Tocci brothers also own another longtime Best of Award of Excellence winner, La Griglia Seafood Grill & Wine Bar in Kenilworth, N.J.


Dock’s Oyster House

2405 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City, N.J.
Telephone (609) 345-0092
Website www.docksoysterhouse.com
Award of Excellence

Atlantic City is a casino hub, but it’s also home to numerous Restaurant Award winners with superior wine programs, like Dock's Oyster House. The family business was founded by Harry "Dock" Dougherty in 1897 with “60 seats, no liquor license and very high standards.” The Dougherty family also owns the similarly historic Best of Award of Excellence–winning Knife and Fork Inn. The Award of Excellence–winning list at Dock’s is managed by Ryan Bray and is strong in California and France. It’s matched by chef Stephan Johnson’s American seafood menu which, of course, includes a variety of oysters and raw-bar items, plus three-tiered seafood towers. Experience it all under the restaurant’s outdoor tents until service resumes in the dining room.


Sorellina Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar

1036 Washington St., Hoboken, N.J.
Telephone (201) 963-3333
Website www.sorellinahoboken.com
Award of Excellence

Four entrees from Sorellina Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar
Local ingredient–driven entrées and house-made pastas are on the menu at Sorellina Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar. (Anne Molnar Photography)

Restaurateur Gabi Lombardi grew up in an Italian household, where she was a “sorellina,” or little sister. Her family’s heritage was the inspiration for Sorellina Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, an Award of Excellence winner since 2017, where Lombardi is owner and sommelier. The seasonal Italian cuisine showcases fresh pasta and local ingredients, and includes gluten-free pasta options. The 110-label wine list is exclusively Italian, covering almost all the country’s winegrowing regions. Set on the uptown portion of historic Washington Street, a lively stretch of largely 19th-century buildings lined with restaurants and storefronts, Sorellina is just a short walk from Hoboken's waterfront walkway and parks. The city allowed outdoor seating to be expanded into the street—shaded by umbrellas and separated from the sidewalks by a row of greenery—and Sorellina's vantage point provides for great people watching and architecture admiring.


Summit House Restaurant + Bar

395 Springfield Ave., Summit, N.J.
Telephone (908) 273-6000
Website www.summithousenj.com
Award of Excellence

Summit House Restaurant + Bar occupies a renovated 1894 structure (originally one of New Jersey’s first YMCAs) that serves as a stage for Justin Antiorio’s American menu, and a wine program earning its first Award of Excellence in 2020. Overseen by general manager and sommelier Justin Lord, the wine list comprises 240 selections strongest in California and France, with approachable pricing, just like the fare. Springfield Avenue is now closed to vehicles to allow restaurants more space for outdoor seating, where Summit House is offering a three-course prix-fixe that starts at $75. Among the menu choices are crab tagliatelle with Calabrian chile and seared scallops with charred zucchini, and curbside pickup is also available.


Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.

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