Gosh it’s been a while! Things have been a little hectic in my life since Christmas, so I haven’t had time to really sit and update the blog. Between all of the events which have happened over the past few weeks, I spontaneously planned a trip in February to Paris, to see my favorite singer of all time, Bjork, perform one of her Biophilia shows. Her next residency will be in Paris, and for this show, she’ll be performing in a circus tent on the river Seine, on I’le Seguin. Steve & I decided to also fit in a small stop in London. So I look forward to updating this blog with any relevant vegan finds in both of these cities!
Today is the first post in a new feature series on being vegan in New Jersey. The little state that you could easily travel across in half a day. You can go from the city like landscape of North Jersey to the shopping mall spree of Central Jersey in an hour, followed by a quick trip to the shore, and if you’re not tired, even cut across to the Philadelphia area.
In these features, I’d like to focus on areas of the state where you may find stand out resources as a vegan. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve talked to who had no idea what kinds of options they had, or that something so good was actually so close to their home. Some places just pop up, or you have no idea besides word of mouth. There are always vegan friendly places opening up in NJ, and the best part is, they are typically small businesses owned by passionate people. These places will range from restaurants to quick service/deli type places, to clothes and small gifts and body care, juice bars and chocolates, the list goes on.
The good news I should add to this feature is that I will also be writing an article on New Jersey for the indepedent magazine Chickpea. This feature with also include photos by Steve, and will appear in the Spring Issue. So keep an eye on this!
I’d like to begin in North Jersey and work my way throughout the state until we are all the way to Cape May! Today’s first town is the town of Rutherford. Rutherford is a peculiar little town that is very suburban, yet is so close to New York City that it feels like a missing borough. The area is very hilly, so much so that at certain points on high roads you can clearly see the skyline of New York. Most people associate the town with nearby Giants stadium, the Izod center, that crazy Xanadu mall, and Medieval Times. At least, I used to.
I lived in North Jersey for around two and a half years while commuting to school in New York, and although being from Central Jersey, found plenty of treasures in the cute towns of North Jersey. Rutherford is no exception, as once you get off Route 3, you take a few small roads to their main street, which is lined with a lot of independent businesses. The street looks like many across towns in New Jersey: red brick sidewalks, old buildings that look beautiful when covered in snow, and a specific air that feels removed from all other surrounding areas.
Rutherford Pancake House
I had heard about Rutherford Pancake House for years through various friends. Apparently this typical breakfast/diner spot had vegan pancakes. I remember thinking to myself, well that’s really neat. But I could make pancakes at home!
However upon further inspection of their website, it turns out they don’t just have pancakes. Virtually everything on the menu for Rutherford Pancake House has a vegan friendly version. Waffles, challah french toast, and tofu scrambles for breakfast that can be made with veggie sausage and daiya cheese. And these options can be customized to your liking – pancakes with fresh fruit or coconut or nuts, french toast stuffed with vegan cream cheese, scrambles with fresh veggies. Their coffees can be made with soy or almond milk. They have smoothies and juices. Their entire breakfast menu can be enjoyed by both regular customers and vegan customers.
It doesn’t end at breakfast, either. They have vegan versions of diner favorites – nachos, cheese fries, quesadillas, seitan cheesesteaks, and a build your own burger. They really go above and beyond with the veg friendly options here. I was sold when I checked out their Facebook page and saw that they are constantly offering specials, both regular and veganized. This kind of consideration to me makes Rutherford Pancake House a real gem in New Jersey.
The diner is a big deal in the state, and has always been one of my favorite kinds of meals to have – a big plate full of warm food, french fries, coffee. Most diners have one or two veg offerings, but here, it feels like back in the day when I could order eggs at a diner with home fries, toast, and other typical breakfast servings. My meal wasn’t perfect – there was a lot of daiya! – but to have this kind of option available to vegans is incredible. Steve flipped over his seitan cheesesteak – he said it tasted exactly like a cheesesteak. Overall, the Rutherford Pancake house really blew us away with its hospitality for its customers. Nothing beats being able to one again each a huge breakfast in a cute small town diner.
Sweet Avenue Bakeshop
Before I became 100% vegan, I tried Sweet Avenue Bakeshop. The cotton candy cupcake I had was the best cupcake I had ever had up to that point in time. And after going again recently, I say they still hold that title.
Sweet Avenue Bakeshop is tiny, but its small facade really calls out to you with its vibrant pink exterior and memorable sign. Walking up to the building, it smells like the inside of an always-baking oven. The smell alone tells you that you won’t leave empty handed. Inside its very small, but the pink, black and white exterior give the small space a lot of personality. And then, there’s of course, the best part. All of the options in one small case:
Sweet Avenue not only has the best cupcakes, but they also make a myriad of cookies and cakeballs. I’ve never tried the cakeballs but they had a lot of options: cookie dough, peppermint, confetti cake, gluten free, and so on. They also have crumb cake and coffee available, among other things. I also sometimes see them update their Facebook with savory options such as sandwiches, and during Thanksgiving they had a savory menu for ordering.
On their site, they have a cupcake schedule. Each day has a few selections available that day. We went on a Saturday, and had options such as Strawberry Fields and Banana Cream Pie.
The above we chose were “Dark Side of The Moon,” and “Cookies N Cream” along with the “Banana Cream Pie.” Out of all of them, the “Banana Cream Pie” was by far the best: banana cake with banana custard and marshmallow buttercream topping. The other two were also incredible. I would say that Sweet Avenue’s strongest aspect is their frosting, which tastes exactly like rich buttercream from an old school bakery. They are extremely sweet but in the way you’d crave from something like a cupcake. Each cupcake has a huge helping of frosting. And don’t forget how beautifully decorated each is! Someday I’d love to get a birthday cake here. They take custom orders, and if you take a look on their site, you’ll see your options are vast and overwhelming. A look through their work shows that they can make anyone’s dream cake come true.
Sweet Avenue Bakeshop is also involved in the yearly Cupcake Fest which takes place in the early Summer in Rutherford. Cupcake Fest is held to raise funds for Bloomfield Animal Shelter and the NJ SPCA, and is typically held on a Saturday with events ranging from music to games to cupcake eating contests. It’s inspiring to see a successful small business be able to get their local community involved in helping local shelters.
Overall, Rutherford, though a small and sweet town, has two of the best possible places a vegan could visit for a day of fun. I highly recommend checking out these small businesses. And if anyone knows of any businesses I missed in Rutherford, please do comment and let me know!
As for the rest of New Jersey, keep your eye on this blog for more towns. Any and all recommendations are appreciated!