Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood, where 25 percent of the population is of Portuguese descent, is the epicenter of Jersey’s Portuguese (and Portuguese-speaking) community, making New Jersey one of the best places in the country to find Portuguese food.From two residents of Newark in the 1870 Census to almost 80,000 statewide in 2000, New Jersey has the fourth largest Portuguese population in the United States. The first wave of Portuguese immigrants, many from the Azores in the Atlantic, arrived between 1880 and 1920. The original Iberia Restaurant on Ferry Street opened in 1926. The Luso-Americano Newspaperlaunched in 1928. Later waves of immigrants from mainland Portugal in the 1960s, and more recently Brazil, have sustained the Ironbound’s Portuguese-speaking community.
Walk from Newark’s Penn Station down Ferry Street and you’ll see all kinds of Lusitanic businesses, shops and restaurants.
The Portuguese use a lot of olive oil, garlic and salt – a very good thing IMHO. Grilled meats and seafood dishes distinguish Portuguese cuisine. Roasted suckling pig (leitao), grilled chourico (sausage) – often served flaming, chicken piri piri (hot pepper oil) and all kinds of BBQ are common.
Popular seafood dishes include shellfish stews (cataplana), shrimp in garlic sauce, cod (bacalhau), and pork cubes with clams. You might also try bread soup (açordo) and baked goods like Portuguese rolls and custard cups (pasteis de nata). These influences also show up in the food of former Portuguese colonies in Brazil and Africa (Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique).
The Ironbound offers a happy mix of Portuguese, Brazilian, Spanish and other ethnic food. Some places serve all of the above.
EthnicNJ.com tries to keep the categories straight, distinguishing Portuguese from predominantly Brazilian restaurants, but I’m sure we’ve made some mistakes. (Let us know with a comment.) Restaurants specializing in rodizio – the all-you-can-eat, roving grilled meat palaces – are generally Brazilian, for example.
You can trace the suburban Portuguese-American migration on the EthnicNJ.com map. Follow the highways that radiate from Newark – West on Route 22 to Somerville, South on Route 1/9 to Elizabeth, and North on 21 to Belleville – to find the next generation of New Jersey’s best Portuguese restaurants.
New Jersey Dispatch: “The Ironbound”
Newark is Home Away From Home to Portuguese Immigrants
Newark’s Portuguese Community Keeps Fires of Tradition Burning
Spanish, Portuguese, or Brazilian recommendations in the Newark area