The Best and Most Unusual Things To Do in Newark, NJ
Seidler Chemical Co
Contact Us 973-465-1122
"Family owned and operated since 1896"
Loading

The Best and Most Unusual Things To Do in Newark, NJ

What is it that makes Newark, NJ such a unique and unusual city? Perhaps it was in its DNA from the beginning, when Puritan colonizers moved to this region and founded Newark to be “the closest place to heaven on earth.” While it may not have attained that lofty vision as yet, Newark is a wondrous city full of interesting people and great stories. Known as one of the largest transportation hubs in the nation, Newark has again become a destination of its own. This article is designed to introduce you to some of Newark’s best and most unusual treasures.

For your convenience, here is a clickable table of contents:

The Music

Newark Symphony Hall is New Jersey’s biggest and oldest showcase for the arts and entertainment programming. The Symphony Hall that was built in 1925 has also been known as the Salaam Temple. It is considered to be New Jersey’s most historic event venue. The Symphony Hall offers a Performing Arts Academy for the local youth, as well as a variety of events for the entire community. The design of Newark Symphony Hall is very impressive with massive columns on the exterior, and an elegantly sculpted interior with marble design resembling Egyptian and Greek styles.

The facility was home to many historical artists as well as New Jersey’s musical and artistic companies. Some of the companies included the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the New Jersey Ballet Company, the New Jersey State Opera, and the Newark Boys Chorus.

Many famous performers, including Patti LaBelle, Victor Borge, Gladys Knight, the Temptations, and Richard Pryor, have performed at this prestigious venue. Newark Symphony Hall hosts some of the most successful people in the performing arts throughout the year and welcomes the people of the city of Newark to come and enjoy its productions.

Newark

Newark

New Hope Baptist Church is a vibrant place of worship that seats up to 1,500 people. The church’s famous choir gave birth to the talent of Cissy and Whitney Houston. The church was formally organized in June of 1903 with the election of Rev. Jesse Williams, who came from North Carolina to lead the congregation. The choir is still led today by Cissy Houston, mother of the late Whitney Houston.

Newark Church

On February 18, 2012, a private funeral was held for Whitney at the New Hope Baptist Church, the institution where she first showcased her singing talent. Grammy Award winner and Gospel singer Marvin Winans was selected to give the eulogy.

New Hope Baptist Church

Today the community looks up to Pastor Joe A. Carter, who has been spiritually guiding the members of the church for over 21 years. He is well-known for his work and determination to seek change within the community. He developed the organization Christian Leaders for Community Empowerment (CLCE), which functions to collectively take action in strengthening the community.

New Jersey Performing Arts Center has been around since 1997 and after 18 years, over 2,600 artists have performed in this world-class venue. Architect Barton Myers’ design for the center was inspired by Newark’s industrial heritage. The Performing Arts Center, located in downtown Newark, is the artistic, cultural, and civic center of New Jersey.

NJPAC New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Since opening night in 1997, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center has attracted over nine million visitors, including the Dalai Lama and two U.S. Presidents.

NJPAC’s free Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City concert series brings thousands of people out to Newark each week during the summer. NJPAC is also the home of Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, and has been the selected venue for a variety of film productions and the popular TV series, ‘America’s Got Talent’.

NJPAC

As the cultural, artistic and educational center of New Jersey, NJPAC productions and events have come to transform the lives of the people of Newark and its visitors each and every day.

Grace Episcopal Church, located on Broad Street, has an enriching music program that encourages worship services and offers cultural outreach to the city and its suburbs. The church’s high mass music is reflective of Anglo-Catholic traditions, inspiring the choir to create what is considered some the finest sacred sounds in Newark.

The 1990 Casavant Organ

The church is home to the Grace Church organ, made by Casavant Freres, one of the best-known and most respected pipe organ builders in the world. The organ’s case, including the pipe shades, is crafted from quarter-sawn oak. The organ has a total of 2,703 pipes, although most of the music played is mechanical.

A series of free, public concerts are held at the church, funded by the Music Society of Grace Church. Although there is no charge to attend the concerts, guests are free to make a donation to help defray program costs.

The Choir of Grace Church Singing

Jazz Archives in Newark

WBGO and Rutgers Dana Library are both Newark institutions that house Jazz archives. The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers had been broadcasting its show “Jazz from the Archives” on WBGO for over 35 years.

The Institute of Jazz Studies is a world famous research facility founded by Marshall Stearns, an English Professor at Hunter College in New York. Stearns used his collection of books, periodicals, recording, photos, memorabilia, and sheet music to create the Institute in 1952.

The university chose to give Stearns collection a permanent home, as a part of the Rutgers libraries. With help from the advisory board, Stearn solicited donations from record producers, musicians, and journalists to help build what is now the world’s largest library and archive of Jazz-related material in the world.

In 1994, the collection was moved to the fourth floor of the Newark Campus, named the John Cotton Dana Library. The library is mostly used by students, musicians, and other arts agencies to access the plethora of Jazz history archives that exist.

In October of 2013, The Institute of Jazz Studies was designated as a landmark in the National Registry of the Library of Congress.

The Parks

Branch Brook Park can only be described as a breath-taking county park in Essex County. It was designed by the Olmsted Brothers, the nephew and son of Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer with Calvert Vaux of Central Park in New York. The park, located in the North Ward of Newark, is the site of cultural affairs, recreation, and its famous Cherry Blossom Festival.

Branch Brook Park

Breath-taking cherry blossom trees in Branch Brook Park overlooking Cathedral Basilica of Sacred Heart.

Branch Brook Park was the first county park to be opened for public use in the United States, and has been placed on both the New Jersey (1980) and National (1981) Registers of Historic Places.

Located in the City of Newark on and bordered to the south by Route 280, the park crosses Bloomfield Avenue, Park Avenue, and Heller Parkway, ending near the Newark/Belleville line. The park is nearly 4 miles long and approximately 1/4 mile wide. At 360 acres, it is the largest developed park in Essex County. It features a combination of open meadowland and small patches of woodland over gently rolling terrain.

Named for a “branch” brook that flows through the valley into the Passaic River, the stream that remains and much of the surrounding landscape retain a natural appearance. The more than 4,000 cherry trees that blossom during April are greater both in number and variety than the famed Washington, D.C., display, the result of a gift to the city. At its height the Cherry Blossom Festival attracts over 10,000 people a day.

Video clip of the Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossoms in Newark

Newark Riverfront Park is a new and beautiful park that runs along the Passaic River in the Ironbound. This long awaited park is the first of its kind to connect the Newark residents to the river. In 2008, Newark Riverfront Revival was launched to bring every Newarker to the river with local culture, arts and education including boat tours, gospel festivals, House parties, water workshops and more. Click here for a park calendar.

Damon Rich, former Planning Director & Chief Urban Designer for the City of Newark and founding Director of Newark Riverfront Revival, collaborated with landscape architect Lee Weintraub on the design plan and construction of the new park. Damon stated, “The park was the result of 20 years of residents’ organizing,” adding, “This is the park that the people made.” Working together with Essex County, the City of Newark, the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC), and The Trust for Public Land (along with other partners), they all helped to build multiple areas and programs for the 15 acres of riverfront parks. Their aim was to develop a bicycle and walking trail, courts and sports field, floating boat dock, boardwalk, playground, and beautiful settings where people can relax, exercise, and enjoy picnics, all of which are now possible.

Visitors watch the sunset while looking at the picturesque Newark skyline on the boardwalk.

In 2014 many events were organized which included a gospel festival, kayaking event, annual “Walk to the Water and Orange Party,” boat tour, movie nights, and free yoga and Zumba, and a summer camp for local children. In addition to the events, significant steps were taken towards expanding public access and cleaning the river. It is now the first public riverfront allowing access to Newark residents outside of the Ironbound. Plans to open another segment of the park along Raymond Blvd close to Prospect Street is in the works for late 2015, as well as work on another section on both sides of the Jackson Street Bridge. The hope is that one day there will be an uninterrupted walkway along the river in Newark, from the Ironbound up to Belleville.

Newark Newark boardwalk

Newark mural
Newark Murals dedicated Song of the Passaic, its twenty-third large-scale outdoor painting, a collaboration between Ironbound Community Corporation, Seidler Chemical Company, and a team of artists led by Kevin Blythe Sampson.

Weequahic Park Trail is a part of the only neighborhood in Newark with a Native American name. The name derives from a Lenape word "wee-qua-chick" meaning “head of the cove,” by the Delaware tribe of Native Americans that previously lived in the area. The trail in this park is 2.2 miles with a rubber track that provides walkers and runners with an excellent surface to exercise while taking in what can only be described as a serendipitous landscape. This park is the 2nd largest park in Essex County and is managed and maintained/ by the Weequahic Park Association. The President of the Weequahic Park Association, Wilbur McNeil, has been effectively working towards protecting and improving the historically designed landscape.

The views on the trail within the park are stunning; more fine work done by the famous Olmsted Brothers. Once upon a time, Weequahic Park was the home of horse racing and auto racing, which brought in prestigious visitors including President Ulysses S. Grant.

Newark racing track

From one track to the other, the Newark residents have always loved the ability to use the trail for sports-related purposes.

Newark track

The red trail borders the 80-acre Weequahic Lake, making it the biggest lake in Newark.

Historic Neighborhoods

Historic James Street Commons, a preserved historic area of 19th-century brownstones, is located in the central ward of Newark, New Jersey. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in January of 1978. The residents of James Street have been fighting for over 30 years to defend their cherished neighborhood. After turmoil in the 1960s and the exodus of the middle class in the 1970s, the brownstones were abandoned and were nearing demolition when the city inherited the properties. Since then, the neighborhood has seen a rebirth as residents fight to preserve the neighborhood’s historic character.

James Street in Newark

Early 20th century row of homes along James Street in Newark.

In 2013, The Newark Public Library hosted an exhibition named “Brick and Mortar, Memories and Pride” that featured photos showing the historic row of houses during and after the renovations. In addition to the photos, the exhibit displayed letters from community leaders and politicians that congratulated the homeowners on their efforts. The residents will always be remembered because of their fierce fight against the city who initially planned to redevelop the area rather than let the owners keep their homes.

Forest Hills Homes is a neighborhood located in the North Ward of Newark, New Jersey near Branch Brook Park. This community was developed by Elias Heller, and was the place where wealthy factory-owners of 100 years ago resided between the 1870 and 1920s. One of the notable residents of Forest Hill was the founder of Newark’s Patterson & Ballantine Brewing Company, Peter Ballantine.

The Ballantine Gates

The Ballantine gates on the east side of Branch Brook Park

Newark Mansions

These enormous homes and mansions are made up of Victorian, Colonial Revival, Spanish Revival, Gothic Revival, and Beaux-Arts design styles. Within this neighborhood are landmarks that include the old Tiffany factory and the Branch Brook location of the Newark Public Library. This northern part of Newark is considered an official historical district.

Forest Hill is one of the best-preserved neighborhoods in Newark, and very few of the homes have been demolished. Unlike many other areas of Newark, few properties have been converted for institutional use or renovated into apartments. The New Jersey Historical Society organizes special tours for visitors, and some of the homeowners open their homes to participate in these tours.

The Ironbound section in eastern Newark, also known as Down Neck, was an industrial neighborhood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Surrounded by railroad tracks, Ironbound was home to the workers of companies such as Ballantine Beer, Benjamin Moore paints, Hensler’s Beer Brewery, Feigenspan Brewery, the Murphy Varnish Company, and Conmar Zippers. At that time, this area was considered to be one of the poorer neighborhoods in Newark (downtown was home to the owners of the factories and Newark’s wealthy citizens). Both the Airport and the Seaport are Ironbound’s immediate neighbors. Unfortunately, industrial pollution left an unhealthy legacy of polluted air, land and water. But through the efforts of many individual residents and organizations, the Ironbound has continued to become cleaner and greener.

Today, experiencing the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark provides visitors with a primer on the positive power of immigration through the decades. The Portuguese culture is very evident in the community, with established businesses, bakeries, and restaurants. But also evident are the more recent immigrants from Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, as well as the long established African American and various white ethnic residents. Led by the 45 year old non-profit, Ironbound Community Corporation, the people of Ironbound have worked together to clean up toxic wastes, and deal with ongoing environmental issues. In 2012 the first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effort to clean up the Passaic River began. Also in 2012, the community’s efforts, and cooperative political leadership, finally resulted in the development of Newark’s first riverfront park. After many decades of being cut off from the river, Newark residents are able to enjoy the river for recreational activities again. Exercise classes, boat trips, sporting events and cultural activities are now taking place along the waterfront.

Ironbound video

The Ironbound Recreation Center provides healthy activities for the youth of Newark. The recreation center serves approximately 3,500 people each month who are interested in healthy lifestyles and take advantage of the services the center has to offer. The facility has a pool that offers swimming lessons to the residents. The ice rink is not only used for ice-skating but also for hockey games. It is a great place for the community to get together and build relationships with neighbors while keeping the kids active. Senior citizens who participate in the City’s Senior Program also use the Rec Center as a home, and take advantage of its exercise room and facilities.

In 2012, Members of the New Jersey Devils assisted in promoting hockey to the youth in Newark as the ice rink underwent a facelift. Although there typically isn’t a huge hockey following in the community, Dennis Ruppe, the co-director of the nonprofit Hockey in the Newark program, stated that “Once the kids are there and try (hockey) out, they fall in love.” After some new lockers had been installed and some repairs were done, the rink looked significantly better than it had in years. Both youth and adult hockey leagues are encouraged by the NHL-sponsored recreation center, which has helped to promote the sport in Newark.

For many decades, Ironbound volunteers have run a variety of leagues for children, including Pop Warner Football, Ironbound Youth Soccer (now partnering with the Red Bulls and with 1200 participating young people), and Ironbound Little League (400 young people involved). The Ironbound Boys & Girls Club runs summer and afterschool recreational programs for young people, as do many churches in the area. Essex County College runs a neighborhood campus in Ironbound. The Van Buren St. Library is an oasis for many residents with its free computers and books. It is the most widely used branch library in the city. Ironbound also counts a volunteer ambulance squad as an asset. Artists abound, some through the ethnic cultural clubs, newcomers, and some who have lived and created in Ironbound for years. Bike riding is enjoying a resurgence, with a community wide bike-tour led by the local Councilman Augusto Amador each year, and the search for dedicated bike lanes continues...

(For more information about Ironbound Community Corporation, you can go to their web page: Ironboundcc.org).

The Prudential Arena is an indoor stadium located in Newark by the central business district, two blocks away from Newark Penn Station. The arena opened in 2007 and is now the home of both the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the NCAA’s Seton Hall Pirates men’s basketball team. The arena has been nicknamed “The Rock” by sports writers and fans. The name derives from the reference to the Rock of Gibraltar, which is the logo for Prudential Financial, who owns the naming rights to the arena. The arena now plays a lively role in the life of the city of Newark.

NHL’s New Jersey Devils

NCAA’s Seton Hall Pirates

The Prudential Arena sits on a seven-acre site that was originally selected to be the site of the Renaissance Mall, which was never completed. HOK Sport designed the interior of the arena, and the exterior was designed by Morris Adjmi Architects.

Museums and History

The Newark Museum & Ballantine House are integral parts of the culture and arts of Newark, NJ. Located in Essex County, the Newark Museum is the state’s largest art museum. It is filled with a variety of diverse fine art collections ranging from American Art to the arts of Africa, Asia, and the ancient world.

Newark Museum

It was founded by Director John Cotton Dana, who believed that museums were made to nurture the understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the arts. He, along with a group of prominent businessmen and public officials, established the museum in 1909 at the public library of Newark. Working together with local collectors, he was integral in making the museum one of the most progressive cultural institutions of its time.

The Ballantine House was built in 1885 for John and Jeannette Ballantine of the Newark Beer Brewing company. The water in Newark was believed to be the reason for the success of the brewery and the beer it produced. Originally the brick and limestone mansion was built with 27 rooms that included three bathrooms and eight bedrooms. It has been a part of the museum since 1937 and has been classified as a National Historic Landmark since 1985.

The Jewish Museum of Newark is housed at the historic Congregation Ahavas Sholom, which is a national landmark and the only active synagogue in Newark. The concept for a Jewish museum was conceived after its founder, Joseph Selzer, visited the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach. The museum, located on Broadway, was founded in 2003 and was established as a non-profit corporation.

Jewish Museum of NJ

Over half a million people spread across the 21 counties in New Jersey are of Jewish descent. Jewish residents have made major contributions to the state and the Jewish Museum provides a centralized location where research, exhibition, and preservation of NJ history can be archived.

With the Museum’s programs on diversity and tolerance, tours of old Newark, and interfaith programs, the benefits of this institution are open to visitors of any faith. The museum exhibits more than 400 years of history in New Jersey. Some exhibits feature Holocaust survivors, immigration, the Newark community, Jewish farmers, civil rights movement, film moguls, and the history of distinguished Jewish individuals. As a larger plan, the Museum empowers the community with its cultural and educational programs.

NJ Historical Society Museum was founded in 1845 and is considered to be the oldest cultural establishment in the state of New Jersey. The New Jersey Historical Society is categorized as a private, state wide, non-profit historical library and museum that archives the political, cultural, economic, and social history of New Jersey. The Society audits who and what the people of New Jersey are, and what it means to work and live in New Jersey. They examine all that is unique about the contributions to New Jersey as well as what the residents provide to the region and country. A resource to the community, the Museum offers free programs for families on Saturday afternoons.

The former home of the NJ Historical Society was located in Trenton, NJ when it was founded in 1844. By 1931 it had moved to a smaller building in Newark.

New Jersey Gazette

Tourists enjoy vising the New Jersey Historical Society to learn about the history of New Jersey and browse newspaper archives such as this "New Jersey Gazette", dated Dec.

Historic Buildings

The Newark Public Library is an active historical institution with a crusading history of serving the working class by providing opportunities that can enrich their lives. The library connects the residents with informational resources making them the center of community life, and hosts free events year round. For example, the Van Buren branch features ICC's Environmental Justice History & Resource Center on the second floor, while offering occasional art classes downstairs.

The Newark Library Association was formed in 1847. However, it wasn’t until 40 years later that the residents of Newark approved the founding of this free public library. The library opened on West Park Street with 10,000 books that were shelved in open stacks. At the time, open stacking was a new concept. Over time, the need for more space lead to the construction of a bigger building located on Washington Street. Shortly before occupying the building, John Cotton Dana was appointed as the new director.

John Cotton Dana

John Cotton Dana Born: 8.19.1856 in Woodstock, VT Died: 7.21.1929 in Newark, NJ

Dana, an 1878 graduate of Dartmouth College, studied law. He moved to New York in 1883 and began his career as a museum and library director. In that capacity, Dana worked tirelessly to make these cultural institutions relevant to the lives of the citizens. In his 40 years as a librarian, he encouraged the benefits of reading by forming a variety of library services.

Upon entering the Newark Public Library, visitors walk through an elegantly arched doorway that leads through a marble-clad hallway and into a spacious, illuminated central court. The spacious interior is embellished with marble floors, columns, panels, stairways, and medallions. The vaulted ceilings in the entrance are covered with intricate mosaics that pair well with the detailed mythological themed murals.

Broad Street Station, also known as the little sister station to the Newark Penn Station, is a beautiful historic building located on University Avenue in Newark. The architecture of the main building resembles Parisian architectural design and includes an elegant clock tower with brick and stone exterior. This commuter rail station was built between 1901-1903 on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad main line running from Hoboken to Denville NJ, Scranton PA, and Buffalo NY.

The Broad Street station opened in November of 1836 at the east end of the Morris and Essex Railroad to Orange, NJ. The first few decades, trains east of Newark ran across the New Jersey Railroad to Jersey City. A number of western expansions were built that lead to the Hoboken Terminal, including the eastern end of the line, which opened in 1907. By 1945, the Morris and Essex Railroad merged into the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. In 1960, the Erie Lackawanna Railroad was formed, which was absorbed by Conrail in 1976. Since then, New Jersey Transit has been operating all passenger train services.

Renovations to the station took place from 2004 to 2008, creating two high passenger platforms. One platform is an island that facilitates cross-platforms transfers. There other became the new westbound waiting area, built in place of the historic westbound shelter that had been removed.

Plume House was built before 1725, and is the second oldest building in Newark. It was originally constructed for the Plume family, early Newark settlers. This Dutch Colonial House is made up of local sandstone and hand-hewn timber framing and flooring. In 1874, an addition to the back of the house was made, creating the structure that stands today.

Up until the year 1847, the Plume House was a private residence. It was converted to a rectory for the House of Prayer church in 1850. In 1887, while he resided at the Plume House, Reverend Hannibal Goodwin invented celluloid photographic film. You’ll find this landmark on Broad Street in Newark, where you can admire the historic house that survived, despite the significant industrialization of Newark throughout the years.

Notably, the Plume House barely survived the creation of an overpass on I-280, a mere four feet away. The presence of this overpass still threatens the Plume House today, due to pending future plans to widen the I-280/Route 21 interchange.

The Food: Bakeries

Teixeira's Bakery, located in the Ironbound district, is one of the biggest and most loved bakeries in Newark. It is one of the few places where you can get homemade soup and tasty old-fashioned buttered rolls. The quality of their food is top-notch and made-to-order.

The pricing, also worth a notable mention, makes one of the area’s most delicious values. This legendary bakery is considered one of the top 10 restaurants in town and has received accolades by well-known New York Times food critics.

Among the mouth-watering items on the menu at this Portuguese bakery are all-time favorite selections like chicken soup, custard cups, espresso with milk, and their amazing buttered bread. Portuguese bread is traditionally served with each daily meal and selling hand-made pastries and bread to the community was a natural fit for Manuel Teixeira when he opened his shop in 1976.

Not every bakery grabs the attention of food critics as this beloved Newark shop did. Due to its popularity, Teixeira has locations across Northern New Jersey, but focuses daily operations in the original Ironbound shop, where one corner of the bakery has been devoted to making their handmade artisan breads.

Calandra's Bakery is a wonderful old-school Italian bakery on First Avenue in Newark. With three locations, Calandra’s also distributes products through local retailers. Find out where to buy their tasty pastries and bread products.

In 1962, Italian immigrant Lucian Calandra opened the Italian and French Bakery after being in America for only five years. Together with his wife Ortenza, they worked hard to build their reputation with their delicious bread and pastry products.

The business skyrocketed when sons Luciano Jr. and Anthony began working running the business. This was the beginning of a successful family venture. The Calandras instilled a strong work ethic, emphasizing the importance of family in their boys. Satisfying customers has been the family’s mission, and has been key to their success for over 50 years.

Although the bakery is owned and operated by an Italian family, one of their bestselling pastries is made by one of their bakers, Tony Rodrigues, from Portugal. His delicious custard cups have become one of the most popular pastry selections sold at the bakery.

The Food: Restaurants

Fernandes Steakhouse can best be described as a steak dream for foodies. This Portuguese/Brazilian grill is conveniently located on Fleming Avenue in Newark, NJ. Located in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood, Fernandes Steakhouse serves an endless variety of meats on skewers.

The restaurant has received raving reviews for its famous Rodizio, where diners pay a fixed price for a seemingly endless amount of delicious food. The restaurant’s seafood and paella are must haves, as is their sangria. If you plan to dine at Fernandes Steakhouse, bring a hearty appetite -- you won’t want to miss a bite.

When visiting Ironbound on your next food expedition, remember that Fernandes Steakhouse may be your first and final stop. Be sure to try their marvelous filet mignon wrapped in bacon, their juicy beef kabobs, and their terrific pork tenderloin. To balance out the incredible flavors, don’t forget to try their grilled pineapple.

Sol-Mar Restaurant is an absolute favorite to the people of Newark, who enjoy exquisite Portuguese Cuisine. The restaurant is located in the center of Newark’s Ironbound among many eateries. This restaurant is known for serving delicious authentic Mediterranean flavor -- in fact, their food is said to awaken taste buds and alert the senses. Be sure to head over to the Portuguese Seafood Bar to enjoy fresh oysters and clams, served in a setting that feels like a cosy beachside bistro. The restaurant offers seasonal indoor and outdoor dining.

Sol-Mar Video

The restaurant caters to all of your dining and event needs. Whether you’re looking for a casual meal or an upscale setting, Sol-Mar has the room for you. Their sangria is one of the local’s favorite menu items, and pairs well with their extensive seafood selection. In fact, there is very little on the menu that is not well-regarded. The friendly service makes the entire dining experience pleasurable, from sangria to seafood.

Vonda's Kitchen, located on West Kinney Street in Newark is adored by locals for its healthy southern cooking in an urban community. It is arguably the best southern cuisine in the Central Ward area. The owner and Executive Chef Vonda McPherson is a native Newark resident; as such, she garners consistent community support in all her ventures. Vonda came from corporate America and worked her way to the commercial kitchens in order to master her roots in dining and event planning. Her passion lies in culinary arts, as proven in her flair for presentation. This natural talent for the kitchen coupled with her savvy business experience has worked well in aiding her on her path to success. This restaurant may well be the number one southern food restaurant within the metropolitan area.

Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark

Some of the favorite dishes at Vonda’s Kitchen consists of true southern menu items like fried fish, candied yams, mac & cheese, garlic string beans, catfish, collard greens, black eye peas, sautéed spinach & roasted garlic, black beans & rice, BBQ & fried chicken, oxtails, and much more!

In 2014, Vonda opened Duke’s Southern Table in downtown Newark, together with co-owner Paul Profeta. In a short time, the restaurant has already become a Sunday brunch favorite. The venue offers live jazz to be enjoyed with its healthy southern menu item favorites such as salads, crab cakes, short ribs, and turkey wings. To complement the menu, the owners added signature drinks such as the Southern Julep, the Prudential Shake, and, of course, the most fitting drink of all, the Brick City.

Krug’s Tavern is located in Newark’s historic Ironbound. The tavern is family owned and operated by the LaMotta family since 1932. By reading the sign out front, you would think that they’re mostly known for happy hour to the community but, in fact, their claim to fame comes from their famous burger. Local members of the community have stated that the Krug’s burger is the best burger in all of New Jersey. In addition to their famous and delicious burgers, Krug’s takes pride in all of their unique and satisfying menu items. They serve fresh and homemade foods such as their well-known oversized sandwiches that are made up of freshly baked bread and best choice meats. Locals also rave about their savory seafood plates that are topped with their secret homemade family sauce and their succulent ribs.

The staff at Krug’s is friendly and welcoming, making it the favorite local tavern, hands-down. They offer full bar service and are very busy during happy hour. It is an excellent place to stop in for a drink or a tasty meal. When stopping in for lunch, be sure to ask about their list of infamous burgers. Try the all-time favorite Krug’s “Taylor Ham Burger, which is served on a soft sesame bun.

Casa Vasca Restaurant is located on Elm Street in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood, and is one the best restaurants New Jersey has to offer. The Basque cuisine they serve has no rival. They have been voted one of Newark’s ten best restaurants and consistently receive raving reviews by food critics. They are known for serving traditional dishes in huge portions. The authenticity in their recipes is what sets them aside from other Iberian restaurants alike in the community. Zagat echoed the feelings of many customer when he stated that visiting this popular and busy restaurant is “always a treat.”

Whether you’re in the mood for a naturally appetizing “Caldo Gallego” soup, a feast of seafood or paella, a succulent array of meat, or all of the above, Casa Vasca has the dish for you!

Their food is simply presented, but has outstanding flavor. The service is spectacular, which is part of the reason that customers in the community are so loyal to the business. Maria, the owner, hasn’t changed much about the way the operation has run since 1976. She has a way of making guests feel right at home. Residents can usually find her in the market during the early morning hours buying fresh ingredients for the day’s menu. She goes out of her way to greet customers and makes everyone feel like family with the way she interacts with all who come to her establishment.

While the locals usually feel right at home dining in the café and bar section of the restaurant, there is also an excellent dining section for special occasions and events. Most people choose to order right off of the blackboard rather than the menu.

The Food: Specialties

T.M. Ward Coffee Shop – This old-fashioned establishment located on Broad Street, near city hall, in the heart of Newark is best known for its excellent coffee. Their unique product is distributed throughout the Greater NJ & NY area as well as New Orleans, Seattle, and San Francisco. It’s known as an old style candy & soda shop, and is somewhat reminiscent of the days when soda was called “pop.” The store features fabulous treats such as ginger candy, old fashioned butterscotch, and peppermint and other timeless delights.

Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark

Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark

Timothy Ward opened this family-owned business in 1869 making it one of Newark’s oldest institutions serving coffee from all around the globe. It was later sold by his widow to William Sommer and has been an established business for over 145 years now.

This veteran coffee shop has been standing since way before coffee shops became trending chains that serve insanely expensive cups of coffee. They’ve undoubtedly maintained their old-fashioned ambiance providing a sense of home to the Newark locals. Once you walk in, take a breath and embrace the delicious scents of coffee beans, tea, and candy, walk over and enjoy the soda bar or select your choice of candy.

If coffee, candy, tea, and soda weren’t enough, T.M. Ward’s shop is full of nuts -- they stock an incredible array of ground and tree nuts. And their affordable pricing means that with just a few dollars, you can satisfy your craving for coffee, nuts and sweets.

Hobby's Delicatessen, located one block away from the famous Prudential Center Arena on Branford Place, is one of the oldest delis in Newark. Since its inception in 1962, this old-fashioned Jewish deli has been managed by the Brummer family. Initially, the Brummers focused their sales on corn beef, pastrami, and turkey, which was popular in Jewish tradition. Over the years, their menu has expanded. Back in the 1960’s, Hobby’s was one of approximately a dozen Jewish delis (fast forward to today and there are a few more). Residents have given fabulous reviews on their delicious potato pancakes which they consider to be a must-have item. Their hearty soups are homemade and savory, which are proven to make customers come back time and time again.

Video with the Brummers

Everything at Hobby’s Deli is made from scratch giving each and every dish the taste that only Mom can make. They pride themselves in delivering only the best flavor with fresh ingredients on every order which may be why Zagat listed them as one of the top 10 best buys in New Jersey.

Besides serving choice foods to the community, Hobby’s is the proud sponsor of Operation Salami Drop (OSD). This organization sends a taste of home to our American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a collective effort with donations from all over America, they are able to send over 18 tons of salami to the troops.

Nasto’s Ice Cream serves old world homemade ice cream to the world. Nasto’s was founded in 1939 as a mom and pop shop to the neighborhood by Frank Sr. and Angelina Nasto. The corner storefront was once a brewery until the family installed an ice cream machine in the window and began making delicious homemade ice cream with Italian flair. People would watch outside as the ice cream was being made. The Nasto family had nine children who helped build the business to what it is today. Surely, staffing was never a problem!

The business began to blossom when the two eldest sons, Al and Frank Jr., joined in the efforts to start a wholesale and retail operation. They began with making goodies like Spumoni, Bisque Tortoni, and Italian style ice cream. As the years went on, the menu of items grew to an entire dessert line.

The business is now under the third generation ownership and uses modern equipment with state of the art techniques for production. They use the highest quality ingredients in all their family recipes to produce innovative desserts like no other ice cream company. Their desserts can be found in some of the finest hotels, restaurants, and catering companies in the tri-state area. However, their home will always be in the historic Ironbound section of Newark where their retail store is located.

Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark

Nasto’s Fresh Fruit Sorbets

Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark

Nasto’s Reginetta

Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark

Nasto’s Tartufo

Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark

Nasto’s Spumoni

The Unusual and Unexpected

Newark Beekeeper Aaron Daniels sells his honey at the Washington Park Farmers Market in Newark and works as a full-time Beekeeper in the urban farming industry. He is a member of the New Jersey, Essex County, and American Beekeepers’ Associations. This young beekeeper, in his early 20s, has produced and distributed honey and honey-related products for three years. While most people run from bees in Newark, he found a way to make a profitable business out of them. He also finds enjoyment in providing workshops and explaining the importance of bees and the benefits associated with healthy hives.

Daniel’s “Jersey Buzz” products include raw honey, pollen topped honey, honey straws, lip balm, honey soap, face scrub, body scrub, and foot scrub. Starting with just two hives, Daniel maintains bees in Newark property owner’s backyards. The bee’s rent is paid to property owners in honey. His products are currently sold at the Newark Flea Market on Saturdays and Sundays and at farmer’s markets throughout the state. Check his website for updates.

Branch Brook Park Roller Rink is one of few remaining roller rinks in the New York metropolitan area offering great family fun and birthday parties to the residents of Newark. This structure is located within Branch Brook Park, near the Colonade apartment building (designed by modernist Mies van der Rohe). Inside, you’ll find old school lights, disco balls, and streamers.

Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark

Members of the Northern Nightmares during a roller derby at Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Center taking on the Hub City

On any given day you can enjoy the site of fabulous roller dancers who skate at a professional level. Entering this venue will place guests in a virtual 1970’s disco scene where speed skating and figure skating came second nature to folks who loved moving with wheels on their feet.

Newark Murals is a public space project of the Newark Planning Office. This public art program is one of the first in the nation that has been launched within a planning office. The artistic murals of Newark are all across the city prominently providing a cultural visual to the outcome of collaborating residents with community organizations. The art tells stories of camouflaged inner-city youth and events that have taken place. The creation of the murals is facilitated by the Newark Public Art Program staff who work continuously to put together the perfect team that delivers memorable pieces. The organization works with students that have experience in making graphic or visual art and are interested in engaging in community outreach programs and events.

In 1975, ‘City Without Walls’, an urban gallery of contemporary art which helps advance the careers of emerging artists, was incepted. One of CWOW’s programs is City Murals that has been training youth through art projects to produce public murals throughout the city of Newark. Their mural teams engage the residents of the community to interact in the design process that ultimately produces the completed and permanent murals. The programs significantly help build character, pride, and culture within the community.

Fairmount & Mt. Pleasant Cemeteries are two of the most beautiful cemeteries in the state of New Jersey and have been around since Newark was established. Entering the grounds, you will be welcomed with Victorian gates, beautiful stone structures, and incredible mausoleums that house some of the most famous residents of Newark, NJ. Many historic and wealthy families of Newark have been laid to rest in the cemeteries where people are able to visit their loved ones in the serene landscape. Depending on where you’re standing, Mt. Pleasant also has incredible views of the NYC skyline.

Walking around and looking at the gravestones, you will find prominent names such as:

  • Attorney General Frederick T. Frelinghuysen who served during the Civil War.
  • U.S. Senator and Secretary of the State, Peter Ballantine, who was the founder of Ballantine Brewery.
  • John F. Dryden who was the founder of Prudential Insurance Company.
  • Franklin Murphy who was the Governor of New Jersey.
  • Mary Stilwell who was Thomas Edison’s first wife.

There are many other notable residents buried at this historic cemetery amongst the unusual funeral sculptures that range from a simple graves to amazing architectural mausoleums. You will find that the designs of the structures are reflective of Romanesque and Egyptian Revival styles as well as Baroque, Victorian, and Art Deco. The grounds are filled with truly inspirational creativity, making it a perfect place to preserve the memory of Newark’s most memorable figures.

Horace Baldwin, a jewellery maker, was the visionary for the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. In 1843, he set out to create a beautiful picturesque place where people could pay their respects in a tranquil setting to those they have loved and lost. The first funeral took place on July 1st, 1844 and was held for Elizabeth Jacquez, who died at 54 years of age. Years later, Fairmount Cemetery was founded in 1854 and is also filled with many distinctive monuments that were created by the families who chose Fairmount as the final resting place for their loved ones.

Fairmount is a non-profit cemetery that serves all faiths and directs all funds to the care and welfare of the grounds. Fairmount offers guided tours of the mausoleums and grounds for all who wish to visit and get a historic tour.

Video tour of Fairmount Cemetery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alIN3nrbtS4

Pequannock Gate, a structure built in the shape of a castle chess piece, is located on Bloomfield Avenue right outside of Calandra’s Bakery. Pequannock Gate was created by George Sanzenbacher and built in 1917 by Francis McCue for a nominal cost of $12,496.00. Back in the 1960s, people worked around the clock to keep Newark’s water system working. The safety of the water is something the residents did not take for granted. At that time, Newark had an unlimited water supply from the Passaic River and its tributaries, but by the time the Civil War began, water quality was questionable. The poor condition of the water convinced many residents to begin digging wells, as by the 1880s the river’s water had become infested with bacteria and tannic acid. Even the wealthy couldn’t escape the water issues, which lead the breweries to threaten relocation of their factories.

Mayor Joseph Haynes

In 1888, Mayor Joseph Haynes, contracted the East Jersey Water Company, who provided facilities that brought in clean water to Newark. By 1939, the water company turned over its property to the City of Newark.

The tower is dedicated Mayor Haynes, whose profile is embedded in the design of the structure. Above the door, you can see the carving of the bearded mayor with a dedication to his name and his contributions.

Hawthorne Hawks Healthy Harvest Farm is a 2.5 acre farm in Newark's South Ward where the people of Newark can grow their own fruit and vegetables. The farm does not just produce food but also offers inexpensive and wholesome foods to the community. “A farm is very important for us to have. And then to have it across the street from a school takes it to another level,” added Baraka, who was also the principal of Central High School. Ras Baraka (pictured below wearing the blue tie) is now Mayor of Newark. He’s standing next to Corey Booker, the former Mayor of Newark (wearing the white shirt).

The plans to build the farm came shortly after the stall in the plan to build a university on the property which left an empty patch of unused land. Then in 2012, a lease agreement with School Development Authority and the Greater Newark Conservancy went into effect to create the 360-plot farm. The plan was to allow residents of Newark to use the plots to grow their own gardens and agriculture that would help feed family sizes of up to four people all year round. Those who choose to grow their own food receive free seeds and assistance from the organization.

Ultimately, growing food year-round will produce approximately 40,000 pounds each year that will then sell at a very low cost. The ability to purchase food with city assistance programs such as WIC will also be allowed.

Greater Newark Conservancy promotes environmental programs to improve the quality of life in the urban communities of New Jersey. The organization was founded in 1987 and focuses its outreach in the areas of community gardening and greening, job training, environmental education, and environmental justice.

In 2010, the Greater Newark Conservancy moved to the Urban Environmental Center on Prince Street where they hosted many open houses and community events. Since their move, they have helped residents grow nutritious food through their urban farming program, and provided landscape training to the residents of Newark. The organization’s educational program is housed in the Oheb Shalom Synagogue. Through collaborations and sponsorships, they have been able to achieve their goals of a “greener” Newark and continue their efforts to improve the community.

Newark Riverfront Boat Tours have been offered to the public since 2008 through Newark Riverfront Revival and the Newark Planning Office in partnership with Hackensack Riverkeeper. During two hours on the water you will learn about the city, its environment, and victories by residents organized to clean up and create public access to the Passaic. The mission for these tours is to “bring Newarkers back to their river.” Newark’s former Planning Director Damon Rich stated that “the tours serve as a great way to get people involved.” Rich felt that if people came down to see the river for themselves they would become advocates for the riverfront revival. The inexpensive guided tour is well worth the experience!

The Cathedral Basilica of Sacred Heart located on Ridge Street in the Lower Broadway section of Newark is where the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark resides. This divine foundation is the fifth largest cathedral in North America. Although construction started in 1899 for this “fitting monument to the faith” it was not completed until 1954. The design of the building is considered to be a French Gothic Revival style that was modified from the originally planned English-Irish Gothic Revival style.

The Cathedral was originally named Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. After the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1995, where he participated in evening prayer, it was elevated and became the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. There are concerts held throughout the year where members of the community enjoy the mesmerizing sound of the organs and uplifting spiritual voices.

The exterior and interior construction of the church is nothing short of perfection. From the tunnels in the basement to the thirty-one-foot copper “fleche” that tops off the intersection of the nave, it is no wonder why it took fifty-five years to complete. The immaculate architectural design of the actual building outside is incredible, but some may have more appreciation of all of the attention to detail in the carvings of the scriptural scenes and portraits inside. The artistic stained glass windows, limestone walls on the interior, and marble altar are among the many attributes that make this cathedral one of the most impressive and imaginative constructions in all of Newark.

For a complete list of Historic Landmarks in Newark, New Jersey, click the link.

We’d like to thank the following contributors:

Marcy DePina, Newark Riverfront Revival Program Director

Damon Rich, Principal, Hector, and former Planning Director & Chief Urban Designer for the City of Newark

Drew Curtis, Director of Community Development & Environmental Justice, Ironbound Community Corporation

Nancy Zak, ICC Director of Community Outreach

*There are many other wonderful places in this city, some of which may be more noteworthy or precious than those listed here. It was not the author’s intention to slight or overlook them; we would love to hear from you about what places you think would be a great addition to this list.

© 2015 by Seidler Chemical