It’s likely that South Orange is the tastiest stop on North Jersey’s Morris/Essex rail line. Exiting the train, commuters are often greeted by mouth-watering scents and, during good weather, the inviting sounds of a good time flowing freely from the open-air seating areas. The revelry is as near as it sounds (and smells), thanks to Above restaurant and bar, which is located adjacent to the station on the upper level of Eden Marketplace in the hub of South Orange Village.
Inside the restaurant, ornate mosaic designs, open brickwork and a trickling fountain lend a decidedly European ambiance. The main dining room’s spacious seating area leads to a lively bar space with counter seating, as well as tables. But, on summer nights (and days), patrons flock to Above’s two rooftop patios—both are great for people watching; there’s a view of disembarking commuters and of the village bustling below.
The restaurant, opened in 2008, has a well-rounded menu—supplemented by daily specials—and takes full advantage of the bountiful goods available from the specialty market below. There are lots of shareable small-plates/appetizers, seafood, meat selections, pasta and sushi.
The well-stocked bar offers an extensive wine list, hard-to-find beers and a cocktail menu with nearly a dozen inventive martinis.
Appetizer selections include traditional dishes, creatively reimagined. The fried calamari comes with a fresh, chunky relish of zucchini and tomato, pesto aioli and lemon remoulade for dipping. Spicy creamed corn makes a tasty sauce for the crab cakes, which are served with mango salsa and micro greens. The popular mac and cheese is offered in two varieties: pulled pork and lobster. Main course standouts include a simple and tasteful preparation of branzino, grilled whole with fresh, herbed oil, and served with jasmine rice and asparagus. For a heartier dish, try the short-rib ragu, the 22-ounce Porterhouse pork chop or steak options. Sushi fans will be pleased with the à-la-carte offerings, menu of signature rolls and hand rolls.
For dessert, the creamy fried cheese cake is a decadent meal ender. It is coconut crusted and swirled with strawberry and chocolate sauces. On the lighter side, there’s port-poached pears in mascarpone and gelato and sorbet in refreshing flavors such as lemon, cran-orange, pomegranate and pear.
Above hosts monthly pairing menus—recent events included a black-truffle dinner with wine selections and a beef-and-beer dinner. Follow the restaurant on Twitter or join its Facebook page to get the inside scoop on happy-hour promotions and fun deals like the recent commuter special—offering rail riders $5 martinis with a train ticket or receipt.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 am to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday until 11 pm; and Sunday, 11 am until 8 pm. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 3 pm. A third-floor event space is available for private parties. There is also free parking and weekend valet service.
1 South Orange Avenue, South Orange
The skinny: Upscale eatery in the heart of the South Orange village, with a lively bar scene, signature drinks and outdoor dining.