Praise from The New York Times is always nice (in its recent review of Wild Ginger, the paper called Maplewood "a town overflowing with interesting restaurants"), but locals have known for years that our little hamlet boasts some of the best and most eclectic food in the state.
That's why the return each spring of Maplewood Restaurant Week is such a highly anticipated event.
This year, Restaurant Week runs from March 3-9 and is sponsored once again by the Maplewood Village Alliance, Springfield Avenue Partnership and Maplewood Chamber of Commerce.
More than 20 participating restaurants throughout town will offer customers everything from prix fixe to tasting menus and discounted lunch or dinner specials, according to a press release. (For a full list, visit the Restaurant Week webpage.)
To sweeten the pot, local merchants will offer discounts on flowers, wine, gifts and more. Look for a downloadable coupon available on the site in late February.
"This is our first time and we are really excited," said Barry Williams, who owns Soul Terrific with his cousin, John. "We have heard great things about Restaurant Week."
The cousins opened Soul Terrific on Springfield Avenue in September. "We like the area, our customers are friendly and a lot of them are locals," said Williams. The restaurant specializes in comfort soul food, and popular dishes include fried catfish, grilled pork chops and housemade banana pudding.
Soul Terrific is offering 10% off the total bill for lunch and dinner during Restaurant Week. (1553 Springfield Avenue, visit them on Facebook.)
Another Restaurant Week "virgin" is Tandoori Chef 2, which opened last fall in the former Sona space at 6 1/2 Highland Place in the Village, and has been getting rave reviews from customers. The restaurant is offering 10% off the entire dinner order for the week.
Other businesses in town are veterans of the six years of the initiative (three of those years have included restaurants townwide), including the Maplewood Deli & Grille.
"The first year we participated, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people from outside of Maplewood came to town just because of Restaurant Week," said owner Sean Flood. "It brings people to town to dine at participating restaurants and...exposes them to the wonders of quaint Maplewood Village. It's really something special." The deli is offering 20% off daily blackboard specials to anyone who mentions Restaurant Week.
Other participating restaurants include The Laurel, Verjus, Lorena's, Coda, Churrasco, Highland Place/Crane's, Edo's Cakes, DiPietro's Food, Gigi's Cupcakes and more.
"The restaurant business in Maplewood is vital to our economy," said Rene Conlon of the Chamber of Commerce. "More importantly, it is vital to who we are as a town. Let’s be honest. We like to eat. We’re lucky that we have some of the best places in New Jersey in which to do it."