So the beginning of this trip was a bit bittersweet. I was traveling to New Jersey for a funeral for my cousins' grandmother who had passed suddenly. In Haitian culture,more often your cousin's grandma is like your own and in this instance, that rang very true. Instinctively, my mother , siblings and I made arrangements to go support the family as they mourned. The weird and perhaps most wonderful thing about funerals , for me , is amidst the pain , tears and sheer vulnerability ; you are surrounded by the most purest form of love and support. The energy of having family and friends who you may not have seen in a while , come and be present to wipe your tears and make a joke to make you smile is beautiful.
I was born in Newark , NJ and although I was raised in Miami , we spent endless summers in Jersey. As soon as I landed , I could feel the crazy memories flood my mind and I was so excited to explore our old neighborhood and introduce Jersey to my sister's fiance to a piece of us. He had never been to New Jersey or New York! The game plan was to go the funeral , enjoy family time and incorporate sight seeing. First stop was breakfast at one of my favorite diners in New Jersey , named Tops Diner . I first visited Tops many years ago with my sister and cousin and had the BEST red velvet pancake I ever had in my life (this is important because I am a self-proclaimed red velvet connoisseur). To my dismay and absolute horror , they stopped serving red velvet pancakes ! I was devastated but also super hungry so I quickly found an immediate replacement. Honestly, they have a great variety of options for breakfast and lunch so you really can't go wrong with anything you order. Major key to any restaurant I go to , big portions ( I'm greedy and my eyes are always bigger than my stomach but so what ?) and Tops definitely delivers on that end. I ordered a nutella waffle topped with bananas , strawberries ,toasted almonds and a heavenly sprinkle of powdered sugar. My God! My mouth is watering just typing the description. So when you're in Jersey , make this place your business to at least try.
SPREAD LOVE , IT'S THE BROOKLYN WAY
Of course , we visited Manhattan , Times Square and all that good stuff. The best day was in Brooklyn. My cousin was gracious enough to bring us around to explore what I like to call the "new Brooklyn". It definitely wasn't as nice when I would visit as a kid but Brooklyn now carries a different vibe that I honestly really love. More importantly, we were ready to eat and drink so that was the most important activity to explore.
We started at Habana Outpost. Described as "the neighborhood joint where locals , families and trendy Brooklynites can sit side by side"but they had me at margaritas and tacos. Frozen margaritas were our first mission and Habana had plenty to choose from . Flavors include strawberry , mango , passion fruit , pina colada and mojito. I had a mix of mango and passion fruit and it was delicious. We didn't have any food but it was definitely a great starter.
Next stop was the famous , Juniors , famously known to the world for their cheesecake.It's more famous to me because it's where Diddy made Da Band walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get a slice of cheesecake for him only for him to leave when they returned from their treacherous yet comical trek. Don't act like ya'll didn't watch that episode! My personal squad rolled up to the restaurant and indulged in a little dessert before dinner. I ordered the red velvet cupcake because to be real I'm not really into cheesecake but I cant say no to red velvet. Ever. The cupcake was topped generously with traditional cream cheese frosting. Every bite decadent , moist to perfection.
You know how some girls could have eaten that cupcake and be fine for the rest of the day without eating anything else because that cupcake is equivalent to probably a few slices of pizza? Yea , I'm not that girl. So the next stop was dinner but like for real this time. Our unplanned dinner location turned out to be a restaurant showcased on one of my favorite shows , " Diners, Drive-Ins and DIives". We were walking towards the car when simultaneously each one of our heads turned and mouths began to water as we were graced with fragrant smells of BBQ. Enter, The Smoke Joint . The eatery's seating offers a casual feel sort of like a backyard family BBQ with all your favorite cousins hanging out , telling jokes and making fun of each other over greasy fingers and greasier food . If the smell from outside was any indication to what we could look forward to , the food would not disappoint. Short version , it did not. I ordered the catfish accompanied by pickles, cole slaw and I requested a side of corn (you will see why in a sec) . Our table was covered with flavorful items from their menu and left me wanting to return.
Nothing makes my heart smile more than a beautiful meal , genuine laughs and moments with family that will last a lifetime. Bittersweet moments can quickly become moments I never want to forget.
Thank you Brooklyn ,
Me and my appetite will meet you again !