I just celebrated my birthday at the end of January and was faced with a tough decision, and it wasn’t picking out something my wife could purchase for me. That was quite easy actually, I seem to always need, err want, something. No, it was trying to choose a restaurant to have a celebratory dinner. Having just returned from a vacation in Austin where I had some of the better meals I’ve ever had, I found myself trying to pick out the perfect spot to keep my momentum going. Italian? Steak- house? Maybe sushi and sake? The walls were closing in all around me.
The variety, and quite frankly the quality, of fine dining establishments in South Jersey is what makes our annual Golden Forks issue such a gift and a curse. On one side you have many deserving eateries that are worthy of attention and on the other comes the difficult task of trying to pick and choose who deserves the spotlight right now. This year we selected 25 restaurants we feel are a cut above the rest; spaces that are inviting with a high level of service and attention to detail. And of course, they all have some serious food being created in their kitchens by highly skilled chefs who are making an imprint.
In a former life as a food writer in Philadelphia, I would often hear my peers and colleagues scoff at the notion of having a good meal in South Jersey. I found myself becoming the defender of the culinary scene, which much to their surprise extended farther than just Collingswood’s restaurant row. Years later, it’s not uncommon for me to run into someone on this side of the bridge using their cloth napkin to wipe the egg off their face.
Speaking of good food, it was a pleasure to sit and talk with our cover man Michael Symon ahead of his forthcoming restaurant in Atlantic City. As a chef, restaurateur and TV personality, Symon is in good company with some of the other big names holding residency at the Borgata and he’s poised to only further energize the area’s dining landscape.
Food brings people together, no matter if you’re at the kitchen table on a weeknight or dining at that buzzing café on Saturday evening. We hope this issue will enhance that familial feeling and maybe even help you pick the perfect spot to have your next birthday dinner. Just don’t ask me for advice; I can’t handle that kind of pressure.
Peter J. Proko
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 11 (February, 2017).
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