Like many students from New Jersey, I decided to head south for college to escape the long winters and find a little more sunshine. With one semester and tons of vacations in North Carolina under my belt, I have experienced my fair share of southern culture and cuisine.
That disk they try to pass for a bagel in the dining hall is a sad excuse for the breakfast food we know and love and the squishy store bought ones aren't going to cut it either. Toasted, yes it's edible, but you really can't beat a warm, fresh New Jersey Bagel in the morning. Yes, bagels can and should be both crispy AND soft.
Plain, sesame, everything, rye, blueberry, French toast, rainbow — we have them all. If you meet anyone from NJ, they can and WILL fight you on why their local bagel shop is the best. That's a fight you just can't win.
New Jersey is known for their diners and there are a ton of reasons why. Sure, diners EXIST in other states, but their tiny menus and slim hours are not reflective of the true NJ diner beauty. There is nothing better than sitting around a crowded table in your local diner packed with everyone you know whether it's for brunch on a Sunday, or a completely random meal with friends at 3 a.m on a Friday.
The south has its fair share of late-night/early-morning eating options such as Cook Out and Waffle House, but it's not the same as a 24 hour round the clock restaurant with pages and pages of pancakes, french-toast, burgers, and Disco Fries for order at any time.
While I have found delicious specialty pies down south at places such as Mellow Mushroom and Pandora's, nothing can quite beat my hometown pizzerias when I'm craving a plain cheese slice. Italian food in general is best in Jersey where the garden state tomatoes have perfected sauce: not too sweet or too spicy.
Now this one is going to sound silly. Of course there are a ton of places to get sandwiches outside of jersey but nowhere have I found one as good. Something about the crispy bread and the homey feels of local delis in NJ make for the best sandwiches of all time. Whether you're grabbing a classic Italian sub or a grilled specialty from my favorite, Millburn Deli, you are sure to be satisfied.
5. Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese
THIS IS IT. the Most New Jersey Food imaginable, and the thing I miss most about Saturday mornings in the south. Whether you prefer your Taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a hard roll (diner) or bagel (local shop), you are absolutely starting your day off right. No better way to cure your hangover than swinging by Dunkin's for an iced coffee, and chowing down on this breakfast sandwich of champions.
*If you call it pork roll, we're probably not friends.
While the South has its fair share of delicious home style specialties, my heart belongs back home in New Jersey. When I was touring colleges, I never thought to look at the dining hall bagels or to scope out local pizzerias. While I wouldn't leave my school for the world, I'd do pretty much anything for a late night diner run or a Taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a Saturday morning. So call me a snob, but once you try NJ food, you'll never go back.