There is debate about whether Central Jersey exists. During colonial times, the state was divided by the Kita Line, which separated East Jersey from West Jersey. Today, it is more clearly divided geographically by a line drawn by Giants fans or Eagles fans—and by those who refer to our state’s signature meat treats like Taylor ham or pork roll, only to the distinction between North and South Jersey. Benjamin Franklin called New Jersey the double-threaded barrel because of its location between New York and Philadelphia. The middle of this “barrel”, an area that is mostly equidistant from the two cities that determine the loyalty and inclination of many Jerseyans, is the town of Jackson.
Located in Ocean County, Jackson is large: just over 100 square miles. In addition to the town’s main attraction, there are several classic eateries with loyal fans that feel just as big.
New Jersey has plenty of great pizza, and Jackson certainly has its fair share of pizzerias, none of which have received more positive press than Brooklyn Square Pizza. Pietro Grippo’s family migrated, like many others, from Southern Italy to Brooklyn and New Jersey. He traveled from Brooklyn for many years, working elsewhere before opening his own.
Grippo can claim that his pizza is “out of this world” and this should not be an exaggeration; one of his creations accompanied astronaut and New Jersey native Garrett Reisman to the International Space Station in 2010. When Pete Genovese named it the best pizza in Jersey in 2017, Grippo exclaimed that the “off the beaten track” restaurant could be one of the state’s top destinations for many. (Of course, this is not the wilderness, this is Central Jersey.)
Another Jackson business that caters to Italian food lovers is the Bella Italia Pork Shop. It literally serves but also offers a wide range of prepared foods, imported delicacies, fresh cut meats, pastries and more. The Sgroi family also moved from Italy to Brooklyn (with a stop in Staten Island) in New Jersey, opening Bella Italia in 2009 and quickly becoming a mainstay of the community.
There is one place to keep in mind if you are heading to Jackson early in the day, with an emphasis on the early hours. The village donut shop opens at 5am and stays open until it’s sold out. This means that the red-canopy bakery shack often closes by noon. Keep in mind: many of your favorite products may sell out much sooner, so get there early and grab a box.
Some businesses are located in Jackson; this one is centered in Jackson. Tacos y Alitas means Tacos and Wings, and this truly popular food truck, run by the father and son team of Angeles, brings famous Mexican-American dishes and wings to diners. Follow them on social media because they sometimes place bets and go to festivals and private parties.
You can also find farms in the 100 square miles in the center of the state. Jackson is home to numerous horse farms, but there are also options for fresh produce grown in Jersey. Look out for I and G Farms, an 80-acre farm and garden center that grows local fruits and vegetables. People go for corn from all over, not just from Central Jersey.
It would be a mistake not to mention one of the largest theme parks in the world, which covers over 500 acres in Jackson. The “Great Adventure” was conceived by a New York City businessman who saw the Jackson area as an ideal location due to its location between New York and Philadelphia. His Adventures of Leroy opened one of New York City’s most colorful places to eat and drink: Tavern on the Green, Russian Tea Room, and Maxwell’s Plum.
Alas, the food situation at Great Adventure never quite reached such heights, and while some feel that a full stomach and deadly rides don’t go well together, a day of fun eating pairs perfectly with the thrill of the park’s rides for many others. You’ll find many categories of expected and desired treats throughout the park, some company names familiar to regular visitors, and some new additions each year. This year, the park will feature Fatburger, a famous Los Angeles burger joint that continues to expand east. This will be his first theme park location and many fans will see him as the sublime and most popular culinary attraction.
Or visit some of these other local Jackson businesses before walking in or out of the park.
Hank Zona writes regularly about wine, spirits and assortment Another topics such as food and culture. He also has there was wine and perfume events of all kinds for over ten years.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Delivered to your inbox bi-weekly on Thursdays, Jersey’s Best is pleased to offer FREE subscription to Garden Statementhighlighting the most popular content from Jersey.