Guide to the best ice cream, hot dogs, pizza and more in North Jersey

Warm weather goes well with almost everything: outdoor dining, rooftop bar cocktails, large swirling ice cream cones, greasy pizza, puffy hot dogs.

There are just certain foods that are best eaten when the sun is shining and your shoulders aren’t weighed down by a puffy jacket. Our summer guide is an ode to these foods.

As we pass heavy stews and hot toddies, these are the restaurants where you should dine for light, bright, summer-perfect food and drinks.

The best restaurants, hot dogs, pizzas and more

Best places to dine: These are the pillars. Restaurants that are great any time of the year, not just in the summer. But summer is the perfect time to try the ones you haven’t visited yet.

Best Coffees: To experience coffee full of flavor – fragrant, nuanced, sweet or bright or fruity or caramelized – you need to get it from a coffee shop that knows what it’s doing. These are those stores.

The best hot dogs: Nothing like a hot dog on a nice summer day. North Jersey has some of the best hot dogs in the country. It’s a bold claim, but one that’s backed up with Texas sausages, “All the Way” hot dogs, and dogs slathered in tangy relish or smothered in spicy mustard. We’ve named 11 of our favorites with the help of a hot dog expert. And, if you’re ready to travel, we’ve also got a list of the best hot dogs from every county in New Jersey.

Photo of thin crust cheese pizza at Ralph's Pizza in Nutley on 3/20/19.  This is for our Pie Day Friday feature, which will focus on a different pizzeria each Friday.

Best Pizza: There are so many amazing pizza places in New Jersey that we had to break this one down into categories.

ICONIC ICE STORES: When Van Dyk’s updates its flavor list, Conrad’s turns on its freezers and Dover Dairy Made Swings open its doors, we know summer has officially arrived.

Best bagels: And how not to include bagels? North Jersey, again, has the best in the country in our not-so-humble opinion. These are some of our favorites.

Great restaurants with outdoor dining

The roof of the MC hotel

Rooftop dining: There are few better places to enjoy a cocktail and a meal than above the hustle and bustle on a rooftop. The views are fantastic and the breeze is unbeatable.

Dining Al fresco: Dining outside, enjoying the warmth of the sun, is an instant mood-booster. Suddenly, you’ll feel like you’re in a European cafe without ever leaving North Jersey.

HAVEN Riverfront Restaurant and Bar outdoor patio.

Bring your dog: Your dog absolutely wants to enjoy the great outdoors with you. Fortunately, North Jersey has plenty of dog-friendly restaurants and brasseries.

Dog-Friendly Beer Gardens: Many breweries are more than welcoming to our four-legged friends. Tie your dogs on a leash and take them to these breweries and beer gardens.

Vegan food and other must-see places

These cookies from Yellow Rose Vegan are topped with edible flowers and pistachios.

Vegan guide: Vegans, sometimes vegans, people with vegan friends: this list is for you. These restaurants are either entirely vegan or have many plant-based offerings.

Going out for brunch: There is no specific season for brunch. But, my God, isn’t it so much nicer when it’s warm and the mimosas are flowing? Those looking for fluffy pancakes, crispy waffles, and runny Eggs Benedict should head to these restaurants.

Dive bars: People love dive bars so much we had to do two roundups. These local bars are unpretentious and, in many cases, much more affordable than their fancier counterparts.

A specialty of Kevin Acosta, owner of Kevin's Slice of Heaven in East Rutherford, is Basque cheesecake.  The cheesecake is baked at a high temperature so that the outside becomes caramelized and forms a dark brown crust.

Hidden treasures: Spend some time this summer discovering culinary gems you may not have heard of. From caramelized Basque cheesecake to tender Peruvian chicken to a Jersey City speakeasy, these are restaurant and bakery dishes you should know.

Rebecca King is a food writer for For more on where to dine and drink, please register today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.

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Twitter: @rebeccakingnj

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