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Mac, Meet Cheese

Newark, New Jersey

Elbow Room

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.

The 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!

New Jersey Performing Arts Center Exterior
Credit: Chris Lee

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.

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.

New Jersey Performing Arts Center Interior
Credit: T. Charles Erickson

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.

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

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.

-- Sheree Bykofsky

Spring 2013