It seems we're busier now than before the lockdowns that shuttered and slowed so many small businesses for nearly two years. In addition to events that are picking up at a rapid rate, there's the reconnection with friends who are traveling again.

Three great New Jersey small businesses jumped off the page over the last few days.

Although one is hardly a small business, it's worth mentioning because of the outstanding service from the employees.

I'll start with the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. I know, it's a huge company. But the employees did such a fantastic job with our State Police Awards dinner and ALS fundraiser it's worth a mention.

From the chefs that prepared the banquet food to the bartenders, wait staff, and service team that presented one of the nicest hotel stays that we've had in a while. Kudos to the management and the staff for providing a great experience.

We also had two great restaurant experiences over the weekend. The first was at a truly authentic Italian restaurant in Hamilton called Chick and Nello's.

Owner Peter is a proud family man representing three generations of quality and service. The grilled veal chop was cooked perfectly with the right amount of char. Simple and delicious marked everyone's dinner that night and we will certainly be back.

On Saturday, we met friends at the Peacock Inn located in Princeton. Really terrific to have the fine dining of their restaurant "The Perch" so close to home. The GM Chris knows how to run a restaurant for sure. The food was outstanding and memorable with an atmosphere in the bar and dining room that will have us back soon.

Here are a few other small businesses who joined the conversation today:

The Mobile Cigar Lounge

31 South Grille and Deli in Clinton

Pie Lady Cafe in Moorestown

Max's Market Eatery in Flemington

HappiNest Antiques in Whitehouse Station

TNC Party Rental in Burlington

Get Wet Powerwashing in Forked River

Champion Fastening Systems in Egg Harbor Township

House of Flowers in Linden

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Spadea. Any opinions expressed are Bill's own. Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015.

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Every NJ pizza joint Barstool's Dave Portnoy has reviewed

Dave Portnoy, commonly known as El Presidente, is the founder of Barstool Sports. Somewhere along the way, he decided to start reviewing local pizzerias, and the concept took off. Here is every New Jersey pizzeria Dave has stopped in, along with the score he gave them.

Best coffee shops & cafes near NJ beaches

When it comes to food, New Jersey is known for many things such as pizza and pork roll. Don't count us out when it comes to coffee.

With all the hustle and bustle involved in the average New Jersey resident's day, coffee is essential. It doesn't matter whether you're living in the cities of North Jersey or the vacation spots at the shore.

In fact, as the former owner of two Jersey shore coffee houses, Coffee Dot Comedy in Sea Isle City and the Daily Grind in Ocean Grove, I know firsthand how much people at the Jersey shore love their coffee.

With respect to that, I asked my social media following where the best coffee houses at the Jersey Shore were, especially since my two places no longer exist.

Below is what they came up with. (And see this other article for their coffee shop and cafe recommendations for Central Jersey.)

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