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Mac, Meet Cheese – Newark, NJ

By Sheree Bykofsky 

Newark itself is more gritty than pretty, but if you know where to go, the food and fun never stops. Be among the first to discover the new Newark.  Situate yourself in the perfect location at the Hilton-Penn Station. The smartly renovated rooms are extremely comfortable and clean and it’s easy to get everywhere from there. Going to Manhattan is as simple as crossing the street and hopping on the Path train, but Stop!!! You would be missing so much right where you are. Manhattan can wait.

Are you hungry? Have tapas and drinks at Catas on Market Street in the famous Iron Bound section of Newark—filled with Portuguese, Spanish and Brazilian restaurants. We were drawn to Catas by the Gaudi-inspired art décor that made us feel like we were in Barcelona, but we were pleased to find good food and some great conviviality at the bar. We enjoyed the fritters, octopus, beet salad and lobster mac & cheese.

Newark - pic 1The following night we got our beer & mac and cheese fix at the Dinosaur BBQ also on Market Street but closer to the Prudential Center. The atmosphere, ribs and brisket were stellar, but we never really tasted mac &cheese until we arrived at the Elbow Room on Halsey Street the following day for lunch. The Elbow Room is actually named after the elbow in elbow macaroni and features mac & cheese as its main staple—but this is not just any mac & cheese. The dishes were brilliantly crafted by Chef Luis Ulloa who spent time at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. With names like “Old School,” “Brats and Beer,” and “Chicken Tinga,” you will find carefully balanced mac & cheese to please all palates from little children to gourmet sophisticates and even vegans!

Well, the mac & cheese is enough of a reason to visit Newark, but the city offers so many other delights as well. Halsey Street is a pretty little enclave filled with bars & artisan shops, cafes and bakeries.  Before lunch at the Elbow Room, I picked up a wire-wrapped beaded ring at the very welcoming Artisan Collective down the street. We stepped around the corner after lunch and watched glass being blown at the Glass Works. Then we joined a class and learned to make beautiful and colorful glass beads.  Normally reservations are required ahead of time to participate in glass-making crafts, and so we were very lucky to be able to jump right in.Newark - pic 2

After glass-blowing we only had to walk two blocks to the very impressive Newark Museum and its attached Victorian Ballantine House, where we spent a very pleasurable three hours, barely scratching the surface of seeing the museum’s abundant offerings.  And after dinner, I proudly wore my personally-crafted glass bead necklace and new ring to the symphony.  On the night we were there, the exquisite New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) featured the New York Philharmonic with world-renowned pianist Andre Watts playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Newark is very much alive with culture, and, as usual, every seat was filled with enraptured music aficionados.

The Prudential Center is Newark’s famous home to big ticket entertainment.  On one night you might be cheering on the New Jersey Devils and on another you might be watching Bruce Springsteen or Mick Jagger perform.  No matter what your tastes and pleasures are, there is one more thing you need to do before you take that Path Train.  I knew you’re stuffed, but—breakfast, lunch, snack, or dessert–no visit to Newark would be complete without tasting a red velvet pancake at Top’s Diner in East Newark.  You can always start that diet when you get to Manhattan.

If You Go:

Hilton Newark Penn Station

1048 Raymond Boulevard



538 Market Street


Elbow Room

41 Halsey Street


Tops – The Diner

500 Passaic Avenue (East Newark)

Harrison, NJ 07029


Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

224 Market Street

862 214 6100

NJPAC: New Jersey Performing Arts Center

One Center Street


Newark Museum

49 Washington Street

973 596 6550

The Prudential Center

165 Mulberry Street


Glass Roots

10 Bleeker Street

973 353 9555 for reservations

The Artisan Collective

25 Halsey St.







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