5 festive locations you must visit
Wreaths are up at Audi dealerships and Santa has appeared on Morgan and Morgan billboards – it’s Christmas time in Jersey.
And while we all have some complaints about this place (no Golden Corrals, high tolls, and literally the entire city of Seaside Heights), no one spends the holiday season like the old Northeast.
The New York City metro area is known around the world as one of the most magical places to celebrate the season. Evergreen trees grow to skyscraper heights, and thousands of colorful lights illuminate street lamps, windows and walkways. However, my personal favorite thing about the holidays is the way local restaurants transform from in-the-wall counter service to cozy Christmas oases.
Well, that, and the way Santa carries a bag of cardboard money instead of presents in the aforementioned personal injury ads. But we’ll save that for another article.
Here are five great festive restaurants you can visit in North Jersey right now.
Pop-up “Miracle” Christmas cocktail bars at various locations
Deck the halls with sprigs of tequila shots. Everyone’s favorite Christmas pop-ups are back for the season. In six New Jersey cities (Wood Ridge, Verona, Nutley, Jersey City, Freehold, and New Brunswick), “Miracle” cocktail bars have taken over local restaurants and are easily the state’s most festive culinary concepts. So, if extravagance is what you’re looking for this December? You don’t need to read further than this.
Here’s how this concept works. Every (late) November and December, Miracle appears at local venues. Unlike Spirit Halloween, the stores that acquire it are actually Bars and restaurants located. So, for about six weeks, the two retailers have been living in the same space: simultaneously offering festive Miracle drinks alongside the restaurant’s regular menu.
In the area, I recommend visiting the Miracle on Valley at Gus’ Last Word or the Miracle on Bloomfield at The Parkside Social, as the former happened Christmas story The decor and finish are in Verona (and I love Verona). And with tens of thousands of Christmas lights at each location, whichever miracle spot you choose is sure to have your sleigh bells ringing.
He goes: Nearest: Wood Ridge, Verona, Nutley, Jersey City; Miraclepopup.com.
Metro Franco, Fort Lee
Every year, Metro Franco goes all out for the Christmas season. Strings of lush green plants – secured with sparkling bows – stretch from wall to wall, and golden lights twinkle in the restaurant’s many mirrors. Bartenders even make jingle juice. A vibrant red cocktail (with a candy cane-like straw) that tastes like Buddy the Elf mixed with Shirley Temple.
However, beyond the decor of the place, Metro Franco perfectly captures and accentuates the homely feel of the holiday season. Having been in Jersey for over 50 years, the neighborhood restaurant is full of heart, history and longevity. As for food? Everything is Italian home style.
So, while the Bergen County area may not have as many lights as the Miracle, it has the true spirit of Christmas in the bounty. Spend an evening at one of his delightful wooden tables, and you’ll feel like you’re dining – on December 25th – in the comfort of Nonna’s home.
He goes: 1475 Bergen Blvd, Fort Lee; 201-461-6651, francosmetrofortlee.com.
1776 by David Burke, Morristown
Morristown Green is one of the most festive places in Jersey, so the 1776 location by David Burke was already working in its favor when it put on its Christmas display this year. Located just feet from the Santa Maurice County House, the restaurant overlooks a downtown filled with colorful lights, decorative trees, and romantic walking paths lined with lampposts and wreaths. However, lucky placement isn’t the only thing that earned Burke’s cheerful concept a spot on this list.
Outside the towering glass entrance dating from 1776, there is a garden of trees covered in silver and blue lights. Inside the dining room, evergreens look as gorgeous as ever; Decorated with golden bows and fragile glass ornaments. The whole scene, as you go through it, looks like something out of a holiday movie filmed in a beautiful hotel in Manhattan.
For a restaurant in the Top Golf Swing Suite, it’s really clean.
He goes: 67 E Park Pl, Morristown; 973-829-1776, 1776bydb.com.
The Woolpack Inn, Woolpack Township
I could Let’s say The Walpack Inn is one of Jersey’s most festive restaurants due to its rustic decor, cozy atmosphere, or dinner options reminiscent of Christmas (think Prime Rib of Beef Au Jus and Baked Mac and Cheese). But what really makes the place a holiday destination are the special traditions the team hosts for the season.
Perhaps the most famous—and warmest—is the Holiday Cookie Table. It happens once a year on a December evening, when Grandma Jane, the mother of the owners, bakes more than 1,500 cookies and places them on a linen-covered table in front of the inn’s roaring fireplace. After enjoying their meals, guests are invited to enjoy all of their homemade creations for free.
He goes: 7 National Park Service Route 615, Woolpack Township; 973-948-3890, walpackinn.com.
“Sippin’ Santa” at The Vanguard, Harrison
This is literally the exact same thing as Miracle Pop-Up Bars (it’s even hosted by the same company), but tiki-themed.
So, whether you like gifts, piña coladas, or both, a night out at The Vanguard is a must-do this Christmas.
He goes: 705 Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. S, Harrison. 201-292-3633, thevanguardharrison.com.
Kara Vandewegwaert is a food writer for NorthJersey.com and The Record. If you can’t find her at the best Jersey restaurants, she’s probably running a race track in the mountains. Catch her on Instagram: @karanikolev & @northjerseyatsAnd register for it North Jersey Eats Newsletter.