Come hungry to Collingswood, N.J.
Collingswood has a beautiful, bustling food scene — Photo courtesy of The Borough of Collingswood
Just a ten-minute train ride outside of Philadelphia is Collingswood, N.J. – the winner of the 2018 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Small Town Food Scene. Collingswood is a small town in southern New Jersey known for its charm, bustling Farmers’ Market, local boutiques and main street full of award-winning BYOB restaurants.
With more than 30 different dining options, Collingswood’s food scene has something for everyone. Here are 10 of the town’s extraordinarily diverse and delicious restaurants to try the next time you are in town.
If you’re looking for a full-blown experience, look no further than dinner at Osaka. The front half of the restaurant serves up, arguably, Collingswood’s best sushi, but the back half is where you’ll find all the hibachi action: chefs tossing eggs into their hats, squirting sake into customer’s mouths and making flaming volcanoes out of onion slices.
By far the most spectacular part of their show is when one of the hibachi guests is celebrating a birthday – and someone is always celebrating a birthday. Without warning, the lights will dim as strobe lights and disco balls kick into action. Momentary confusion is squashed as the waitstaff emerges from the kitchen with a complimentary sushi boat full of fruit, complete with a rotating lotus birthday candle playing “Happy Birthday.”
One thing Collingswood is not short of is Italian restaurants. In less than two square miles, there are at least 10 Italian restaurants and that’s not counting the pizza shops. While they’re all fantastic and merit a visit, Il Fiore has long been considered the front runner for traditional fine dining.
The space is small and they’re known to have quite the wait for a table (even with reservations, so be prepared), but once you’re seated know that you’re in for quite the meal.
Popular entrees include the ravioli il Fiore, “homemade lobster ravioli in a cognac sauce;” involtini di pollo, “chicken breast rolled with spinach, smoked ham, fontina cheese in a pink sauce with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes;” the gnocchi di ricotta, homemade pasta dumplings made from spinach and ricotta cheese and served with a tomato-basil sauce; and vitello il Fiore, “veal medallions sauteed with garlic white wine sauce, crabmeat and sundried tomatoes.”
The Pop Shop
The Pop Shop offers a modern twist on the classic fountain shop. Their award-winning menu is full of quirky takes on classic American comfort food including mac and cheese, burgers and milkshakes.
But not to be missed is the grilled cheese section of the menu offering over 30 different grilled cheese sandwiches including The Park, “American cheese on a grilled split Philly soft pretzel” and the Dayton, “Monte Cristo style grilled cheese. Grilled ham and American cheese on brioche french toast. Sprinkled with powdered sugar.”
The Pop Shop is open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is a great spot for anyone, with or without kids, visiting Collingswood.
Don’t leave town without visiting world-renowned chef Vipul Bhasin’s Indiya. Chef Vipul’s menu includes a nice combination of both traditional Indian dishes and those inspired by contemporary trends in the Indian food scene.
Indiya is a full-service restaurant with an extensive lunch and dinner menu, but I recommend stopping by between 12:00 pm and 2:30 pm to take advantage of the lunch buffet which offers the opportunity to sample a variety of “savory street foods,” “tantalizing vegetable dishes,” “fragrant curries,” and “signature tandoor-grilled meats and seafood.”
Besides great food at unbeatable prices, locals love the friendly and knowledgeable servers at Indiya, as well as the abundance of gluten free and vegetarian options available on both the menu and at the buffet.
The Tortilla Press
The Tortilla Press, another Collingswood household name, brings “an American touch to classic Mexican dishes” like cheesesteak empanadas, honey cholula wings, and chicken, mango and brie quesadillas.
While they’re open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, don’t miss brunch served until 3 pm on both Saturdays and Sundays, when you can partake in the ultimate fusion of Mexican and American. Entrees include a scrambled egg and cheese quesadilla, churro waffles and Mexican French toast. The Tortilla Press, like most spots in Collingswood, is BYOB, so don’t forget to bring along a bottle of tequila to top off your virgin margarita.
Porch and Proper
While the majority of Collingswood’s food scene is located along Haddon Avenue, it’s important to mention that there are a couple of hidden gems in West Collingswood. Porch and Proper, located just west of Route 30 on Collings Avenue, is one such example.
Chef Ryan McQuillan and his team work closely with local farms to design an inviting menu with high quality seasonal produce. Named one of Philadelphia’s “10 Most Exciting New Restaurants” by Philadelphia Style magazine in January 2019, Porch and Proper has more than just the critics raving.
Locals love the Aleppo pepper spaghetti, grilled tilefish, smoked cauliflower steak and coffee eclairs, but the menu is constantly changing so be prepared to find some new favorites when you visit.
Don’t overlook Grooveground, a hip little coffee shop brewing Philly’s own La Colombe coffee, alongside satisfyingly delicious breakfast sandwiches like the Philadelphian, “scrambled eggs with mozzarella, red onion, and sundried tomato pesto on a ciabatta roll,” and the Milan Panini with “grilled chicken, mozzarella, tomato and basil pesto.” Also on the menu are wraps, pastries and more.
Besides serving up flavorful food and drinks, this cozy cafe sells new and used vinyl records, CDs and DVDs that give the space a feeling of nostalgia. On select Fridays, local musicians can be found jamming as part of the Fridays Live series.
El Sitio, an Ecuadorian steakhouse, has been bringing the taste of South American cuisine to Collingswood’s Haddon Avenue since 2010. Owners, Cecilia and Francisco, both born in Quito, Ecuador, passionately share their love for their homeland and culture through the food they serve.
The menu includes a unique blend of options from Ecuador, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay. Local favorites include the plantain empanadas and tropical ceviche as appetizers, and the Peruvian scallops, octopus with olive sauce, Peruvian picante, and seco de chivo as entrees.
One of Collingswood’s newest BYOBs is also one of its hottest. Hearthside, “a contemporary wood-fired restaurant,” opened in the fall of 2017 and the accolades have been rolling in ever since. In addition to being included on many of Philly’s “Best of” lists (despite being in a different state), they also received the honor of being invited by the James Beard Foundation to cook at the Beard House for the Foundation members.
Chef Dominic Piperno’s menu revolves around the use of fresh, local and seasonal ingredients and includes such local favorites as wagyu beef carpaccio, crab squid ink pasta, coconut curry mussels, and a 30-day dry-aged porterhouse. With all the popularity though, reservations are a must, so be sure to plan your visit a couple months in advance.
Sabrina’s Cafe, long regarded as one of Philly’s hottest brunch spots, opened their New Jersey location in Collingswood’s historic Woolworth’s building in November 2015 to much fanfare.
Offering both brunch and dinner, their eclectic menu will leave both carnivores and vegans more than satisfied with choices like vegan Philly cheesesteaks, crispy tempura shrimp tacos, stuffed challah French toast, tofu scramble and Spencer’s slammin’ pork.
Sabrina’s does not accept reservations, so if you’re trying to snag a seat for brunch, consider stopping by on a weekday. Or just put your name on the list and use the time to walk along Haddon Avenue and discover all the great little shops and boutiques that make Collingswood so much more than just America’s Best Small Town Food Scene.