“Great restaurants” are usually reserved for big cities like New York or Philadelphia where diverse populations mean tons of different restaurants and authentic cuisines. Not any more! More and more smallish cities and towns are emerging as gourmet food centers, and Parsippany, New Jersey is definitely one of them! This list of amazing places to eat covers a variety of different cuisines, and ignores the big chain restaurants like Applebee’s or TGIFriday’s that are pretty much the same wherever you are.
Marakesh is probably one of the coolest restaurants in Parsippany. This authentic Moroccan restaurant is decorated in traditional Moroccan fare complete with lavish couch-style seating low tables, and gold accents. The food is all-authentic, too: start with the hummus, dolma [stuffed grape leaves], or baba ganoush and follow up with a main course of kabob, kofta, or baby lamb tagine. Finally, end the night with something sweet like the house-favorite Orange Blossom Sweet Besteeya or chocolate lava cake. While you’re eating, soak in some dancing from the restaurant’s belly-dancers.
2. Valentino’s Pizzeria and Restaurant
This casual spot is your classic NJ pizza joint, offering a variety of specialty pizzas, toppings, and other casual Italian dishes [like chicken parm sandwiches and meatballs the size of your Italian grandma’s fist]. Their pizza crust is that perfect combination of fluffy and crisp, the sauce isn’t too sweet, and they seem to have found that magic balance between not enough cheese and a whole block of mozzarella [okay, that joke might’ve been a little too cheesy]. The real stars of this Parsippany gem, however, are the mozzarella sticks. Instead of the classic bread-crumb coating, Valentino’s uses batter before frying them—genius, and TBH, absolutely life-changing.
3. Kabob Paradise
Right down the street from Valentino’s lies Kabob Paradise, an Afghani restaurant popular with Parsippany locals and outsiders alike. On any given night, the restaurant can be seen filled with music and people, often spilling out onto the small patio area out front. But, it’s not just the atmosphere that draws the crowds—it’s the food. Fresh, authentic, and delicious is what you’ll find at Kabob Paradise. Favorites include the halal platters, falafel, gyro platters, wings, and, of course, Afghan-style kebabs—not to mention their homemade, authentic hummus. A few things to keep in mind if you’re planning a visit: the portions are huge [perfect for sharing with friends!], takeout is available [so, perfect for movie night on the couch or after a long night of drinking], and parking can be a little tricky when they’re busy.
4. Churrasco Grill
Another unexpected Parsippany gem is the Churrasco Grill. This small BYOB restaurant serves authentic Argentinian and Peruvian dishes in a quaint, nice-casual atmosphere. Most of the dishes are grilled over the wood-charcoal grill imported from South America to really seal in all those authentic flavors. On the menu is everything from fried calamari to ceviche [seafood in a lime marinade] to empanadas to Bronzino [whole Mediterranean Sea Bass]. But, the Churrasco Grill is truly a meat-lover’s paradise, and the Churrasco [skirt steak grilled on their signature grill] and Mix-Grill [churrasco, short rib, sausage, and pork chop] menu items are must-tries. End lunch or dinner with an authentic dessert like flan or alfajores [butter cookies with dulce de leche], or stick with a classic like bread pudding or tiramisu—either way, you can’t go wrong!
5. Eccola Italian Bistro
If you’re craving anything remotely Italian, Eccola Italian Bistro is the place! This Italian/New American Restaurant, situated on the corner of Route 46 in Parsippany, has been a local favorite for years. The menu boasts fresh, authentic Italian fare including wood-fired pizzas, traditional antipasta [like grilled or fried calamari and cold antipasto], homemade desserts like tiramisu, and homemade pasta [try the homemade gnocchi and sirloin tips!]. The white tablecloths, candles, and lengthy wine list make Eccola the perfect option for a romantic date night.
6. Shan Shan Noodles
Looking for cheap prices and huge portions? Try Shan Shan Noodles in Parsippany. The small Chinese eatery’s cozy and unfussy atmosphere fits right in with the homemade, hand-pulled authentic noodle dishes on the menu. The traditional appetizers—steamed pork buns, dumplings, and scallion pancakes—are overshadowed only by the variety of hand-pulled noodle dishes. There are 26 different choices of hand-pulled and sautéed noodle dishes, ranging from spicy shredded pork to beef tendon to wonton and vegetable. The portions are pretty big, so bring a couple of friends and share a bunch of different plates—and make sure to check out the cooks hand-pulling the noodles in front of the tables!
7. Las Leyendas de Mexico
In the mood for authentic Mexican in New Jersey? Las Leyendas de Mexico is where it’s at in Parsippany! Don’t let the strip-mall location fool you: inside, the restaurant looks and feels authentic, decorated in color and hand-painted pictures of Mexican scenes taking up the walls. The authenticity doesn’t end there, though—the menu offers traditional dishes like burritos, fajitas, chiles rellenos, and tacos tradicionales. Or, try the homemade guacamole [sorry, guac does cost extra, but it’s worth it, I promise], and wash it down with an agua fresca followed by flan or a piece of tres leches cake.
8. Gourmet Cafe
The Gourmet Café is a cozy little BYOB joint that serves classic Italian dishes like veal parmigiana, cavatelli and sausage [made with homemade fresh pasta], and linguini with clam sauce. If you’re a seafood lover, the mussels are a must-try, made with plenty of garlic and white wine. Follow dinner with the famous bread pudding, tartufo, or gelato, and you’ll have to roll yourself out the door!
9. Sakura Hibachi Steak House
I l-o-v-e hibachi—there’s just something about dinner and a show [or, dinner as a show] that makes the food taste better. Yes, this restaurant is technically connected to the hotel, but don’t let that discourage you from giving it a shot! Sakura offers a bunch of choices for the hibachi lunch/dinner [everything from veggies to steak to chicken to shrimp and any combination], Bento boxes, and a variety of unique sushi and sashimi [try the deep-fried Rock N’ Roll made with salmon, kani, and avocado!]. Definitely a must-try if you’re ever in the Parsippany area!
10. Ruth’s Chris Steak House
I put this last on the list because dinner at Ruth’s Chris comes with a hefty price tag. But, it is absolutely worth every penny. My boyfriend and I went for our anniversary one year, and it was, hands down, the best steak I’ve e-v-e-r had. They have tons of different cuts of steak depending on your taste [from tender filet mignon to juicy rib-eye] as well as other options like chicken and seafood [hello lobster]. The sides are also to die for, but can only be ordered a la carte, so make sure to keep that in mind.
The restaurant also has a pretty extensive wine list with a slew of options to pair with the different cuts and entrees. If you’re going for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary, I’d recommend making your reservation online and filling out the box with the occasion; after we finished our anniversary dinner, our waiter brought out a gorgeous [complimentary] dessert platter with a candle and “Happy Anniversary” written across the plate in chocolate sauce. One of the best experiences of my broke-student life, 10/10 would recommend.