Food & Wine did a big survey on the best classic restaurants throughout the country. I looked hard and analyzed all the restaurants listed in every state because in the past my travels and generous expense account took me to the finest restaurants in the world.

The traveling and restaurant sampling I did led me to have a great appreciation for restaurants, chefs, servers, atmosphere and most importantly the food.

The Food & Wine survey covered some famous well-known restaurants, but I was surprised to see that they went a little deeper than that and included diners, luncheonettes, converted butcher shops and other restaurants that you would not necessarily think of as “classic.”

The pandemic closed many restaurants permanently.

Some restaurants were new eateries that were on the precipice of making an impact here in New Jersey and there were a few classic restaurants that have been around for years having no choice but to close their doors permanently. It was as we all know, an incredibly sad time for business here in New Jersey.

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

Restaurants that held on throughout the pandemic are now on the verge of thriving.

Here are Food & Wine's choices for best classic restaurants here in New Jersey:

Chez Catherine – Westfield, NJ

When you think of classic restaurants you do not expect them to be located by the front entrance of a Best Western hotel, no offense to Best Western. The restaurant is easy to get to as Chez Catherine is located by the Westfield train station.

Classic French cuisine has been thriving in Westfield.

This is a perfect restaurant to experience the fine French cuisine that you would experience in New York City or Paris, France. From the standard appetizers like steak tartare and escargot to duck breast, which I loved, to Dover sole and lamb shank with my favorite souffle for dessert.

The atmosphere of Chez Catherine is perfect, and the wine list boasts of premium choices primarily from the regions of France and California.

Chez Catherine is a must-try for a special occasion or if you enjoy the art of tasty food served the way you expect.


Chef Vola’s – Atlantic City, NJ

Down in the basement, be careful of the stairs, in what looks like a row house is one of the finest restaurants in the country. It is also Food & Wine’s best classic restaurant in New Jersey. I agree.

Many people know about Chef Vola’s, as it has been around since 1921. While they started and still serve primarily Southern Italian dishes, the choices on the menu are extensive and delicious.

That success has made reservations to the famed restaurant difficult, exceedingly difficult. Chef Vola’s is a BYOB, so bring your favorite wine and enjoy a great dinner.

Chef Vola's (Photo via Google Maps)
Chef Vola's in Atlantic City (Photo via Google Maps)

I can highly recommend the house salad, the clams in marinara, the parmesan dishes and I have had the veal Oscar once and that was outstanding. Save room for dessert because Louise’s famous desserts are out of this world. I have never met Louise, but I am putting her on my Christmas list.

Food & Wine and I agree, this is one of New Jersey’s best classic restaurants.


Donkey’s Place – Camden, NJ

Food & Wine called Donkey’s Place in Camden a blue-collar working bar and restaurant. By the looks of it they are right.

I have never been so I cannot give you a full review but looking at the menu they have cheesesteaks served on a poppy seed roll, BBQ, and cocktails.

They are closed on Saturday and Sunday and only open until 6 p.m. during the weekdays.


Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionary – Bloomfield, NJ

For 83 years Holsten’s has been serving up incredibly good ice cream, milkshakes, cheeseburgers, onion rings in the classic fountain service atmosphere.

When I walked into Holsten’s for the first time it was like walking back into a time machine that took me back to such a wonderful place in my youth with the smell, look and feel of good times past. I absolutely loved the experience, and the food was good.

I have been to Holsten’s once and wanted to sit while I digested my first round of food so I could have a second go at the menu.

While at first thought I normally would not consider Holsten’s classic, it is in every sense of the word and I salute Food & Wine for naming them one of the best classic restaurants in New Jersey, I could not agree more.

This is worth a day trip with your family and friends to go and enjoy the great atmosphere, luncheonette food and one of the best places for ice cream in the state.


Harvey Cedar’s Shellfish – Long Beach Island, NJ

Nestled in a 1920’s cottage, expanded twice over the years, sits a seasonal BYOB, first come first served summer eatery that has been serving outstanding food for 50 years.

Harvey Cedar’s is a fish place, if you don’t like fish, save yourself a lot of time and skip a trip to Harvey Cedar’s.

The chowders are particularly good, I am a fan of New England Clam Chowder, and I like to get the steamed lobster platter served with Jersey corn and a couple of sides, it’s delicious.

Since it is first come first served, I strongly suggest that you go when the weather is nice, your chances increase of getting a table, and go early. Bring cash because they do not take credit cards.

I can see why Food & Wine chose Harvey Cedar’s as one of the best classic restaurants here in New Jersey, it exudes summer life here in New Jersey; good food, the shore and being surrounded by family and friends.

Restaurants that closed in New Jersey During 2023

Here are some of the restaurants that closed their doors around New Jersey in 2023 listed alphabetically. Did your favorite restaurant close in 2023? Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

Gallery Credit: Dan Alexander

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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