A layover at Newark Airport lands you tantalizingly close to Manhattan and all that New York City has to offer. But if you only have a few hours to kill between flights, there are still plenty of amazing sights, sounds, and flavors to enjoy during your brief stop in New Jersey’s largest city.
The garden state is iconic for its classic Italian comfort food. Images of grandmas lovingly toiling away in the kitchen to concoct their generations-old red sauces certainly comes to mind, but Newark has a shockingly diverse culinary scene. Sure, there are meatballs and cannolis everywhere, but Spanish, Portuguese, East Asian, Brazilian, and Caribbean cuisine all make Newark a worthy culinary destination. The Ironbound neighborhood (which is clustered around the airport) is one of New Jersey’s best restaurant scenes, so you won’t be short of options.
Before you venture away from the airport, leave everything you don’t need at a Newark Airport luggage storage. It will make dining in this area so much more pleasant.
Here are the best places to eat near Newark Airport:
Iberian flavors are the name of the game at Newark’s most-renowned eatery. Adega Grill tops most lists of the city’s best restaurants for a reason and is one of the main reasons Ironbound is the state’s best culinary neighborhood. This eatery’s decor perfectly recreates a Spanish vineyard, with subtle details that really add character to the experience. Waiters dressed to the nines, romantic lighting, and a lounge make it a comfortable space for an upscale meal.
Tapas, seafood, and Iberian ham are the stars at Adega Grill. There are Portuguese elements to the menu as well, with delicious linguića sausage and a catch-of-the-day adding some infinitely savory options. Explore the wine list or order a few digestifs to really celebrate.
Adega Grill is only 15 minutes away from Newark International Airport and certainly worth the quick Uber during a layover. Because of the restaurant’s sterling reputation, reservations are highly recommended to secure a table!
130 Ferry St, Newark, NJ 07105
Brazilian food is one of the best cuisines on the planet for carnivores, but you won’t have to throw down at an upscale steakhouse to taste the flavors of Sao Paulo. The burgers at Hamburgao are massive and delicious, with high-quality beef and interesting toppings. The thinly-cut and crispy batata palha fries are ultra satisfying, and they serve homemade sodas and juices inspired by the fruits and flavors of South America.
Hamburgao is a tiny diner located less than 15 minutes away from the airport and is the perfect spot for a quick, easy, and delicious bite to eat during a layover. Because it’s convenient, you’ll even have time to explore the Ironbound neighborhood or grab a drink after chowing down.
288 Lafayette St, Newark, NJ 07105
If you’re eating in New Jersey, you’ll probably want an old-school experience. Table-cloth neighborhood joints manned by old Italian immigrants are certainly the image that comes to mind, and Nasto’s Old World Desserts is one of the closest establishments to this ideal.
This ice cream parlor specializes in traditional Italian sweet treats. You’ll find nearly-forgotten classics like spumoni, Tartufo, gelato, and even reginetta. Grab a scoop and head to nearby Independence Park to relax! Just know that this spot gets pretty popular during the warmer months, so there will be a line around the corner on most afternoons.
236 Jefferson St, Newark, NJ 07105
In Newark’s restaurant scene (and in particular, the Ironbound area), the Spanish influence cannot be overstated, and Mompou is at the forefront of this class. This tapas restaurant and bar serves traditional Spanish favorites in a comfortable but sleek setting. Exposed brick, mood lighting, trendy music, and a hip but approachable staff will make you think you’re a few miles east in Brooklyn, but you’ll be within a 20-minute drive from the airport!
The shared plates are the name of the game here, solo diners can treat themselves to hearty lamb chops or a Spanish stew. The wine list is deep, but to keep it casual, you can sip on refreshing (and criminally underrated) Spanish and Portuguese beers. Even better, order a delicious seasonal Sangria!
77 Ferry St, Newark, NJ 07105
Is there another Spanish restaurant on this list? Yes. Are you in Spain? No. Will you want to visit Spain after your layover in Newark? Yes. Will you need to? Not necessarily. Newark’s iconic Spanish Tavern has perfectly recreated a traditional Iberian diner with approachable (but authentic) seafood, wine, and world-class paella.
With flavors so rich and comforting, it’s hard to imagine this food being prepared by anyone other than a grandmother. And, of course, there are tablecloths!
103 McWhorter St A, Newark, NJ 07105
One of the most beloved Newark restaurants is a traditional soul food restaurant. Sure, that’s not exactly what you associate Newark or New Jersey with, but Vonda’s Kitchen has become one of the most iconic restaurants in the city. The owner Vonda McPherson is practically an institution herself, with a larger-than-life persona that really comes through in her cooking and the restaurant’s atmosphere.
Eating at Vonda’s Kitchen is a relatively casual experience, so it’s perfect for grabbing a bite during a layover. Whether it’s her amazing waffles for brunch or an authentic plate of fried catfish, you’ll definitely want to post this meal on your Instagram.
183 W Kinney St, Newark, NJ 07103
Being a proper (and modern) port city, Newark has a rich culinary heritage that rivals any of its northeastern neighbors. Owing its diverse array of cuisines to the numerous immigrant groups that call Newark home, this city has something for basically everyone. While a layover is never ideal, rest assured that you can make a quick escape to the Ironbound neighborhood or other hotspots to kill a few hours sampling surprising or familiar flavors. While it may lack the luster of some of its neighbors, doing a little research can go a long way toward making your brief stay in Newark a memorable culinary experience.