A Short Guide to Bloomfield

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There are 564 municipalities in New Jersey. We will never visit most of them, some of which we have never heard of, but we have associated feelings and opinions with many of them. This writer has always had a positive association with Bloomfield long before he set foot there, not because of the food scene but because of a longtime resident.

Stan Bloomer was a kind, interesting, and generous man who died two years ago at age 98, and every mention of Bloomfield has always evoked memories of him. We used to meet regularly for lunch decades ago in Downtown Manhattan because he loved a good conversation over a good meal. He also loved his Essex County community, so it’s only fitting that this town profile comes with plenty of great food.

The best-known ice cream stop in Bloomfield, known by far, is Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery, or simply Holsten’s. Photo courtesy of Holsten

You can get all sorts of things to eat here, but the ice cream is always a good place to start. Bloomfield arguably deserves the title of “Ice Cream Town.” Art.ICE.zen is not just a fantastic vegan ice cream shop, but a fantastic ice cream shop that happens to be vegan. APEM Dairy // Sorbetteria is run by a couple who met at culinary school and developed their concept on the west coast before moving here. Some of the ingredients come from their garden, and they have weeks where they feature special themed flavors. The only problem so far is that they are steadily selling out. It’s a good problem.

Of course, the best known ice cream stop here, known by far, is Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery, or just Holsten. Open for over 75 years as an ice cream and homemade candy lounge/luncheonette, it was a destination long before the final scene of “The Sopranos” launched it into television history and fame. Speaking of which, do you remember what Tony ordered his family to share? (The answer is at the bottom of the article.) By the way, the answer to “What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream at Holsten’s?” is peach.

The Rab·bit Hole, a not-so-secret speakeasy at the top of Blue Steel Pizza Co., is a recently opened spot to enjoy some mighty drinks. Photo courtesy of Blue Steel Pizza Co.

The town is named after Joseph Bloomfield, who was state governor, served in Congress, and led a contingent of federal troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. Thankfully, no one is stopping anyone from having a drink ( legally) in Bloomfield. today. The inn of Obal has been a neighborhood destination for decades, just like the city ​​pub. (It’s in a building that has housed a dining establishment since 1893.) The rabbit holea not-so-secret speakeasy at the top of Blue Steel Pizza Co. (a restaurant serving much more than pizza), is a more recently opened place to enjoy strong drinks.

Yes, Bloomfield has some Italian influence in its food scene. Popolari pizza and pasta bar is, indeed, legitimately popular. Anthony’s Cheesecake and Restaurant gives you the option to skip straight to dessert or not. There’s also a brunch that locals swear by. Buco refreshes many of your favorite classic Italian dishes. At Gencarelli’sFamily-owned and operated since 1975, is a fine example of a dying breed – the excellent all-purpose bakery, with Italian bread and pastries as its big draw.

Stamna Greek Taverna is an ideal place to gather around a good meal. Photo courtesy of Stamna Greek Taverna

There’s a lot more to eat in Bloomfield than frozen treats and Italian. The history of ethnic diversity and the composition of racial diversity allow eaters to travel the world. Stamna Greek Tavern opened in 2008, but it feels like it’s been around longer, as it’s consistently garnered rave reviews from critics and customers since it opened. As if that were not enough, the Nissirios family opened Agora of Stamnacombining a Greek market, cafe, cafe and bakery into one. Gypsy is Mediterranean with Lebanese spices. Mr. Exquisito has a fun Latin-tinged name and serves fun Latin-tinged food. Rombiolo Bakery and Cafe specializes in Uruguayan and Argentinian treats and Q’ENKO offers authentic Peruvians.

closer to home, Big Bill’s Corner Cafe brings Southern cuisine and hospitality to Northern New Jersey. If your appetite leans towards Asian cuisine, Binh Duong offers tasty Vietnamese in a simple setting. pandan brings all the colors of Filipino cuisine while Wabi Sabi and Aki give diners two good choices for Japanese. SO JUICY goes pan-Asian with hibachi, poke bowls, bubble tea and many satisfied customers.

Every bubble tea flavor imaginable can be found at SO JUICY. Photo courtesy of SO JUICY

There is also a food story in Bloomfield. A hundred years ago, the Candy Co. Tropical Charms was founded in Bloomfield and its longtime factory (originally a WWI munitions factory) was there on Bloomfield Avenue until it moved to Freehold in 1973 (then later in a less relevant state) . Charms, as the company eventually became known, were used in troop food rations during World War II as an energy booster and were the top-selling hard candies for some time after the war.

The last mention of the restaurant epitomizes both old and new Bloomfield. Bloomfield Steak and Seafood House is a family-run chophouse with a varied menu, offering great food and drink in a welcoming, comfortable, indoors and outdoors, and historic setting. The family bought the building in 2002, but it was built in 1676 – the oldest pre-revolutionary building in the city. In its day, it served as a family farm (descendants of Thomas Davis, the first owner, lived there until 1903), hospital, church and now a restaurant. Built of stone walls up to 10 feet thick in some places, it will last longer than most of us.

Bloomfield Steak and Seafood House offers great food and drink in a welcoming, comfortable and historic setting. Photo courtesy of Bloomfield Steak and Seafood

In this stone cave, however, was a passage to a mile-long tunnel that led to Orange Mountain, or today’s Eagle Rock. During the War of Independence it was used to shelter women and children from British attacks. In the following century, it was a key Underground Railroad route, helping slaves escape their oppressors. Bloomfield and Montclair were important communities in the movement, and the tunnel allowed those seeking freedom to escape capture in our state, the last in the North to abolish slavery. When dining out today, know that you are sitting on history while enjoying the present and hopefully looking to the future.

May you all one day run into someone, like Stan Bloomer from Bloomfield, and have a positive feeling about a Jersey town because of them, and maybe even share a good conversation over a good meal with them from time to time. Bloomfield certainly offers so many places to do that.

Oh, Tony ordered onion rings for the table before the show went black. But you’re from Jersey and you already knew that.

Hank Zona regularly writes about wine, spirits and a range of other topics such as food and culture. He also pour wine and spirits events of all kinds for over a decade.

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