South River, NJ 08882
- Cost: $$$
- Credit Cards: All Major
- Alcohol: Full Bar
- Parking: Public Lot
- Take Out: Yes
August 5, 2016
Since 1976, the Portuguese Fisherman has delivered classic Portuguese dishes on the banks of South River.
While Newark‘s Ironbound may be the neighborhood best known for Portuguese restaurants, other Jersey towns with substantial Portuguese-American communities should be part of the conversation. Eight percent of South River’s 16,000 residents claim Portuguese ancestry. That means it’s the perfect place to search for Portuguese food. Make the Portuguese Fisherman your first stop. Around the corner from the Fisherman is Campozino, and down the street is Ria Mar, two other Portuguese options on my list of places to try.
Facing Jackson Street, the interior of the Fisherman’s stately brick building has been completely renovated since sustaining flood damage during Superstorm Sandy. There’s a parking lot behind the building off of Ferry Street. A full bar and comfortable wood-panelled lounge with television screens tuned to European soccer greet you inside. Even the men’s bathroom has a tv screen, so you’ll never miss the action. (Not sure about the women’s room.) This would have been a perfect place to celebrate Portugal’s victory in the Euros last month.
The adjoining dining room is more upscale – including the prices – with white tablecloths, high-backed plush chairs, and attentive servers. It’s a traditional steakhouse atmosphere. Try the caldo verde with collard greens and chouriço for a classic Portuguese starter. Next time I will try the toucinho, described as hand-cut bacon. A restaurant called the Portuguese Fisherman, as you might imagine, has strong seafood selections. Traditional dishes include polvo grelhado (grilled octopus), bacalhau assado (broiled salt cod) and mariscada (seafood stew). The Portuguese paelha we tried is excellent, a firm short grain rice suffused with saffron broth, laden with lobster, scallops and shrimp. The version here is better than many Spanish paellas I’ve had elsewhere. For Portuguese “surf and turf,” try the picadinho of cubed filet mignon and shrimp, or a carne alentejana (pork cubes with clams). The land side of the Fisherman’s menu offers plenty of chicken and steak entrees. Ask about daily specials. Roast suckling pig (leitão) was available when we visited on a Sunday. For drinks, know that the sangria here is strong, definitely not watered down.
South River, in Middlesex County between Sayreville and East Brunswick, might be one of the most ethnically diverse small towns in New Jersey, with significant Portuguese, Polish, Mexican and Belorussian communities, among others. On a single block of Main Street, you’ll find a Polish restaurant (Krakowiak), a Portuguese bakery (Nossa Aldeia), Middle Eastern falafel (Eddie’s) and a Mexican deli (Juquila). EthnicNJ needs to spend more time here!