If you’re visiting New York City, there’s a pretty good chance you don’t have a trip to New Jersey on your itinerary. But if that’s the case, you’re missing out. In the heart of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, you’ll find a culinary gem: the Ironbound. The 19th-century neighborhood is known for its clusters of Portuguese, Spanish, and Brazilian restaurants and bakeries, many of them located on or around Ferry Street. Waves of Portuguese immigrants began to join the Ironbound population in the 1960s, surpassing the number of other European immigrants who came before them. A wave of Brazilian immigrants arrived in the late eighties. Not only did the neighborhood’s close proximity to Manhattan make it attractive to those who worked in nearby factories or in New York, but the convenience of having everything within a three-mile radius was a major draw. And it still is.
Ironbound is just a short walk from Newark’s Penn Station, where the PATH train arrives from New York every 10 to 20 minutes. You’ll know you’ve reached your destination the second you smell grilled meat in the air, coming from one of the many barbecue restaurants or someone’s backyard. Take a seat at one of these restaurants or bakeries, enjoy a casual lunch or more upscale dinner, and be back in New York by bedtime.
The best time to visit is… between May and late October, for the sunny weather and the start of the New Jersey Devils’ hockey season at the Prudential Center.Don’t forget to pack… a beach towel and book—you’re going to want to unwind at Independence Park.Don’t leave town without… a good-luck rooster figurine for your kitchen.
A hamburger with batata palha (potato sticks), corn, lettuce, and tomato from Hamburgao.Photography by Chris Gregory
Breakfast (and pre-breakfast)
A 15-minute walk from Newark Penn Station, Teixeira’s Bakery is an ideal first stop for a pre-breakfast treat. The second you step inside the quaint bakery, with its hand-painted tiled walls, you’ll be stunned by the pastry case’s overwhelming choice of baked goods, as well as the baskets of fresh-from-the-oven bread behind the counter. But the main draw here is the pasteis de nata, or Portuguese egg custard tarts. They’re warm and crunchy on the outside, and sweet and silky on the inside. Get one or two to enjoy on your walk over to breakfast.
Sihana Cafe offers stellar lattes, teas, and baked goods to go, but you’ll want to sit down for a proper breakfast in the wide open space, where sun pours in through big arched windows. The cafe offers excellent poached eggs with feta and spinach or avocado and arugula. And if you want something more substantial after housing a few egg tarts on the walk over, you can’t go wrong with the chorizo omelet or a stack of house-made pancakes.
Take a long walk or visit a treasure trove of home goods
With a latte in hand, walk over to Riverfront Park, a 20-minute stroll from Sihana. The city’s 12-acre waterfront property features multiple athletic fields and playgrounds, but it’s the boardwalks that make this place special. You’ll get gorgeous riverside views of Newark’s skyline as well of Red Bull Stadium in the neighboring town of Harrison.
If you’re in need of a little retail therapy, Portugalia Sales is reason enough to visit the Ironbound. The vibrant Portuguese home goods store on Ferry Street has been open since 1977 and offers a wide variety of hand-painted pottery and ceramics, terracotta cookware, kitchen textiles, and traditional good-luck roosters in their typical ceramic or aluminum forms.