Home Culture Rutherford v. East Rutherford: Your Guide to These North Jersey Spots

Rutherford v. East Rutherford: Your Guide to These North Jersey Spots

by Sarah Griesbach
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Differentiating between Rutherford and East Rutherford may not be quite as challenging as sorting out the four Oranges, but these two neighboring boroughs’ individual charms are worth knowing about. Both are a short train trip on the NJ Transit Bergen County Line leaving from Hoboken. A trip to Rutherford promises the kind of small town with one historic Main Street that North Jersey is known for. East Rutherford, on the other hand, is a town with a teeny population (<10,000) but spectacular entertainment venues that draw massive crowds. Read on for a guide to visiting Rutherford and East Rutherford.

Origin Stories

Rutherford was originally Rutherfurd — after it was Boiling Springs, that is. It was named for Senator John Rutherfurd (years in office: 1791–98), with the spelling altered during the time of Rutherford B Hayes’s presidency (1877-1881).

East Rutherford became a borough in 1894. The borough was the second formed during what was referred to as the “Boroughitis” phenomenon in which 26 boroughs were formed in Bergen County. Today, East Rutherford is frequented by massive numbers of sports and music fans, mall shoppers, and thrill-seekers.

Rutherford

As you prepare for your trip to Rutherford, keep in mind that this town is a semi-dry town, one of the biggest differences between Rutherford and East Rutherford. While you will be able to find liquor stores, all of the restaurants are BYOB and there aren’t any bars in this area.

What to Do

Iviswold | 231 Montross Avenue

Iviswold, also known as “The Castle,” was constructed in 1869 by newspaper tycoon and developer Floyd W Tomkind who called it “Hill House.” In 1887, David Brinkerhoff Ivison expanded the mansard-roofed two-story building into a three-story turreted mansion with multiple balconies, 25 rooms, and a music room. Then, in the 1930s, a pool was installed on the second floor with a water tower built to supply it. 21st-century preservation has made the building the center of the Rutherford campus of Felician College.

The Meadowlands Museum | 91 Crane Avenue

meadowlands museum rutherford

(Photo credit: @meadowlands_museum)

The Meadowlands Museum was established in 1961 as a repository for artifacts relating to the history of Rutherford and the New Jersey Meadowlands region. Antique toys are on permanent exhibition. As is the museum’s collection of local rocks and minerals. Various 19th-century and early 20th-century household objects are organized into displays of New Jersey life long ago.

Soldato | 19 Franklin Place

soldato rutherford

Soldato is a very worthy destination. This art gallery-like, independent book and record store will inspire the mature intellectual looking for something novel and the teen seeking challenges to her reality. Despite the small size and clean aesthetic, Soldato’s rich variety of inventory represents the wide scope of interests of Peter Leonard and Chuck Olivo, who run the shop. Uncommon zines, old vinyl, and a totally eclectic selection of new and used books ensure you’ll walk away with something unexpected.

The William Carlos Williams House | 9 Ridge RoadWilliams Performance Center | 1 Williams Plaza

williams center for the arts rutherford

The William Carlos Williams House, built in 1913, was the home to poet and physician William Carlos Williams for half a century. It’s still used as a private residence and doctor’s office, so don’t expect to visit. But do walk the tree-lined neighborhood to the Williams Performance Center and read a poem or several by this great Puerto Rican-American poet whose economic use of words and unique style, known as Imagism, still manages to draw in the poetry resistant and make the reader smile. The Williams house is a stone’s throw away from the borough’s modest 1936 New Deal era post office built by Edgar Irving Williams, the younger brother of… you guessed it… William Carlos Williams.

Labor Day Street Fair | Downhill Derby 

(Photo credit: @rutherforddownhillderby)

A couple of annual events draw crowds to this sweet borough: The Rutherford Labor Day event is the longest-running street fair in New Jersey and usually attracts ~20,000 people. This year’s Downhill Derby will be held on Saturday, June 18, from 1PM-5PM. The Derby epitomizes small-town cuteness as kids and adults design, build, and race gravity-powered race karts.

Read More: St. Simons Island: Your Next Must-Visit Vacation

Where to Eat

Café Matisse | 167 Park Avenue

cafe matisse rutherford

(Photo credit: @cafe_matisse)

Café Matisse is a restaurant designed for ambiance. The former horse and buggy firehouse expands into a garden patio for outdoor seating. The aesthetic is built around an impressionist-style painting theme. The restaurant hours and menu are both limited. There are two dinner seatings (5:45PM & 8:00PM) five evenings per week (Wednesday through Sunday).  The restaurant is unable to accommodate vegan or gluten-free requests. The four-course prix-fixe menu focuses on local and seasonal ingredients prepared fresh daily. It is a BYOB restaurant and reservations are required.

Fiorentini | 98 Park Avenue

Fiorentini celebrates the cuisine of Firenze and you will too. Though the recipes that co-owners Brenda and Antonio use originate in Italy, they source their ingredients locally. The couple declares their environmental intentions with farm-to-table fare that is elegant enough for an anniversary and a delight for dining out any day.

Red Basil | 4 Glen Road

red basil rutherford

(Photo credit: @redbasil4)

Red Basil has a more extensive menu than most Thai restaurants. The selection may tempt the less adventuresome away from their tried and true favorites. Among the menu standouts are a green mango salad with avocado, mint, red onion, cashews, and carrots in a lime dressing. The restaurant offers an intriguing vegetarian ‘duck’ option along with the traditional vegetable and meat selections to accompany curry, rice, and noodle specialties. The combo platters give individuals a chance to try a few things at once. Delights abound in the dessert menu: fried banana prepared with honey, coconut, green tea, and vanilla, rice dough delicacies filled with coconut, green tea, or vanilla ice cream, pan-seared or Thai style sweet roti served with sweet milk and butter, rice puddings, and Thai pumpkin custard are only some of the options.

The Rutherford Pancake House | 40 Park Avenue

The Rutherford Pancake House provides a menu to please everyone. The traditional breakfast and lunch fare includes fresh fruit-covered pancakes, cranberry orange french toast, Maryland crab cakes, eggs Benedict prepared four ways, roasted herbed potatoes, and loaded veggie burgers. The Pancake House has a great selection of omelet options and tofu scrambles. Smoothies and milkshakes are par for the course, confirming that this is a good place to center a day’s eating. The complimentary refills on iced tea, coffee, and fountain drinks will caffeinate a table into a festive mood. The restaurant is in a welcoming storefront, spacious enough to accommodate large parties. 

Sweet Avenue Bake Shop | 153 Park Avenue

sweet avenue bakeshop rutherford

(Photo credit: @sweetavenuebakeshop)

Sweet Avenue Bake Shop makes cupcakes, 6” cakes, cake truffles, gooey yummy cookies, banana bread, crumb cake, and doughnuts in so many delicious varieties. The choices are the tough part. Here’s a small selection of the Bake Shop’s variations on delicious: lemon raspberry, lavender lemon, strawberry shortcake, cinnamony carrot cake, tiramisu, apple cider, Boston crème, and chocolate ganache topped. This bakery is 100% vegan, the gluten-free selection is extensive, and none of the baked goods contain tree nuts.

East Rutherford

What to Do 

American Dream | 1 American Dream Way

american dream mall east rutherford

(Photo credit: @americandream)

East Rutherford is the site of American Dream, that huge shopping center and entertainment complex you have likely seen in transit but not yet visited. An elaborate mirrored fun house, aquarium, blacklight mini-golf, water park, amusement rides… this place is a trip. Visitors can try surf lessons in an indoor wave pool. The indoor, real-snow, year-round ski center reopens on Memorial Day. It’s all so much and you know you want to try it.

Meadowlands Racetrack | 1 Racetrack Drive

meadowlands racetrack

(Photo credit: @meadowlandsracetrack)

The Meadowlands Racetrack is a horse racing track where you’ll hear things like: “Haymitch shook loose late out of traffic two starts back!”, “Rock The Casbah moves inside!”, and “Bronson’s Delight flashes plenty of late pace from an impossible spot!” Who knows what they’re talking about, but you can put your money down on the pretty Andalusian and see what happens.

MetLife Stadium | 1 MetLife Stadium Drive

metlife stadium

(Photo credit: @metlifestadium)

MetLife Stadium, previously the location of Giants Stadium, is best known as the home of the New York Giants and the New York Jets. The arena also hosts college basketball, football, big-name concerts, and all kinds of major headline events. MetLife Stadium hosted Super Bowl XLVIII (that’s how you write 2014 in Super Bowl script), which made East Rutherford — a borough of fewer than 10,000 residents — the smallest city ever to host a Super Bowl, not to mention the smallest city to host any professional sports.

Oak & Ivy | 231 Paterson Avenue

oak and ivy east rutherford

(Photo credit: @oak_and_ivy231)

Oak & Ivy is a darling plant shop run by just the people you need to consult with about why your window tenants are always wilting no matter how much you do or don’t water them. They’ll tell you which house plants they recommend for air purifying and then how to repot them. There are great classes along with good advice and gorgeous green roommates for you to take home.

Thriftnicks | 227 Paterson Avenue

thriftnicks east rutherford

(Photo credit: @thriftnicks201)

Thriftnicks is a thrift and consignment shop with sweet finds that haven’t likely been picked over like anything within subway distance of NYC. It’s tiny but packed to bursting. Treasures await for the sharp-eyed collector of vintage knickknacks, jewelry, and clothing.

See More: A Guide to West New York

Where to Eat

Eros Café | 168 Union Avenue

eros cafe east rutherford

(Photo credit: @eroscafe_nj)

Eros Café offers a massive menu for serious eating, from stuffed grape leaves to baked brie cheese wrapped in phyllo with toasted almonds, honey, and apples, to any kind of omelet or pizza. It is a crowd-pleaser with a classic Jersey diner-style menu with added specialty drinks and hookah. The atmosphere is comfortable and inviting with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.

Annabella’s House of Mozz | 900 Paterson Plank Road

(Photo credit: @annabellasmozz)

At the well-loved Annabella’s House of Mozz, meat is the star of this menu — even the five specialty salads are centered around meat. However, there’s more to the menu than meat. Fresh mozzarella gets center billing and everything in the dolce section of the menu is Insta worthy. Save space for a cannoli and a pistachio or peanut butter ice cream bomb.

Elia Mediterranean | 240 Hackensack Street

elia mediterranean east rutherford

(Photo credit: @eliamediterraneanrestaurant)

Elia’s standout dishes include eggplant and zucchini chips cut paper-thin with yogurt spread, butternut squash schnitzel, and a seafood raw bar. Executive chef Jose Luis Falcon gives inspired twists to Mediterranean cuisine while staying true to age-old recipes for lavraki, fagri, and other signature dishes. Elia’s dress code states: “No baseball caps, sports apparel, flip-flops, or tank tops,” so you might take dining there as an opportunity to dress up a bit.

The Yard House | American Dream Way

The Yard House Gastropub is located in the American Dream Mall shopping mall in Court A, Level 3, where sports apparel is not a problem. The menu is peppered with novelty foods fit for a fancy Super Bowl party: poke nachos, vampire tacos, slider-piled plates, and Wisconsin fried cheese curds, to name a few. It claims the world’s largest selection of draft beer with 130 taps and a full-service bar, which means that finders should walk, not drive, from the restaurant to the MetLife Stadium (via the pedestrian bridge).

Ho Ho Restaurant | 235 Paterson Avenue

At Ho Ho Restaurant, traditional Korean and Japanese plates pull in loyal customers with sought-after bibimbap, kimchi, and bulgogi. It’s a cozy restaurant for very casual dining. The unique warning — “Our seafood menu items may contain seashells and are not recommended for people with weak teeth” — will likely read to some as a challenge.

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