This is the first in a three-part series on what's new on the Maplewood food scene. In part two, Patch looks at Lorena's, the new Sona, and Highland Place/Crane's.
Today, we take a look at how three acclaimed restaurants in the Village have strengthened their commitment to using local and sustainable ingredients and making virtually everything on the menu "in house."
The result? Some of the finest dining experiences available in the state.
Coda: This two-year old gem has become not only one of the most popular restaurants in town, but also one of the most consistently satisfying. Chef/owner Luke Finn said he has been focusing on a more natural approach to cooking.
"We have been working with local farmers, buying more natural meats such as pork and chicken and only buying sustainable seafood," said Finn. "We have found the local products great, and you will especially see it on our specials menus."
Before putting down roots in Maplewood, Finn was chef of the acclaimed Savoy in New York City, a pioneer in buying local, organic produce from the Union Square Greenmarket and making use of the "whole animal."
"I'm trying to bring some of that thinking to our restaurant," said Finn. "It's the present and future of how we live and its the way we feed our kids and teach them how to treat the environment." The restaurant also makes all its own stocks and sauces from scratch.
Also check out Coda's fancy new digital menu box outside. "As a restaurant that relies so much on the freshest ingredients and a long list of daily and seasonal specials, this allows me to change menus every day," said Finn.
The Laurel: The cozy, comfortable spot that has already won accolades from The New York Times and others has changed up its menu for fall.
"We've added new soups to our regular rotation, and every day we will have two options: one meat based soup, and one vegetarian," said owner Lauren Dwyer. Laurel fans can also rejoice at the new dessert menu, which includes house-made strawberry shortcake, Lickt lemon Curd & lavender gelato and Lickt butter molasses gelato with chocolate covered maple candied bacon.
Other new dishes include: Country Breakfast with two eggs, house-made sausage and creamy grits; Frisee Salad with bacon lardons, sunnyside egg and mustard vinaigrette; and a Veggie Burger served with housemade pickles and ketchup on a toasted Balthazar roll. Top it off with cheese, fried egg -- or bacon. "We won't tell," quipped Dywer.
Arturo's: NJ Monthly said, "If you love Arturo’s in Maplewood, then head on over to co-owners Dan Richer and Fred Shandler’s new place: Razza Pizza Artiginale (heirloom in Italian) in Jersey City." Reviewer Rosie Saferstein said: "This stylish 40-seat restaurant serves one of the best wood-fired pizzas we’ve ever had.
But never fear, Maplewoodians: the duo remain deeply loyal to their first place. Richer said the restaurant is even more committed to local, sustainable agriculture and has expanded the number of local farms they work with. For instance, all of the salad greens on the menu are from Garden State Urban Farms in Orange. They are also working to eliminate all soy and corn products from the menu, using alternate sources of dairy, meats, and oil.
"While this is costly and difficult on a pragmatic level, I feel that it is important to challenge the current standards and practices of the restaurant business," said Richer. He added, "Razza is a wonderful, new and exciting place to dine, but we LOVE Maplewood!"
Coda, 177 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood
The Laurel, 175 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood
Arturo's, 180 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood