We have always enjoyed Mediterranean food. The food and wine adventure of summer 2018 catapulted our appreciation for the simple yet sublime flavors of Greek cuisine to new heights. Characterized by so many of my favorite things, Greek cuisine features grassy olive oil, bright and citrusy lemon, fresh and flavorful herbs. Northern New Jersey is home to a number of restaurants serving authentic Greek cuisine alongside Greek-influenced dishes that feature the culinary delights of the entire Mediterranean.
Greek restaurants tend to do well when recreating some of their signature dishes this side of the Atlantic. Some of New Jersey’s best produce is signature Greek fare — tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers, and hearty herbs like oregano and thyme. Fresh seafood is abundant and doesn’t have to travel far to hit your plate. High quality imported essentials such as, olives, feta cheese, and olive oil are readily available. It all adds up to a deliciously authentic dining experience.
While I have a few northern New Jersey Greek restaurants I recommend and enjoy, my favorite is a relative newcomer. EVOO + Lemon in Millburn, NJ may be tucked away in an unassuming spot, but the food and service stand out from the crowd. EVOO + Lemon is a favorite both for date night and a lingering lunch.
Regular readers know I do not say this often: every single dish at EVOO + Lemon is excellent. How do I know? Between my husband and I, I am pretty sure we have tried them all. EVOO + Lemon does what I wish more restaurants would do: serve fewer dishes and serve them really well.
The starters at EVOO + Lemon
As always, the appetizers are my favorites, starting with the meze (a.k.a. mezze or “the dips”). Do not visit EVOO + Lemon without sampling a selection of your personal favorites. Our meze always includes:
- Taramosalata, a deliciously fishy spread of cured carp roe and almonds
- the well-known and loved Baba Ghanouj, made with roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, garlic, and herbs
- Htipiti (pronounced ch-tee-pee-tee), a spicy dip made with roasted red peppers, aged feta, greek yogurt, and ricotta cheese.
Every table is served a bowl of freshly-prepared hummus and a handful of delicious olives. Order more if you are a big hummus fan.
Two favorite appetizers are locked in a tie for the winning dish. The often-overlooked grilled cheesy peppers stuffed with lemony feta, salty parmesan, and sweet ricotta cheese always garner jealous stares from nearby tables. I cannot get enough of this simple, delicious dish. The Shrimp Santorini is a savory bowl of baked shrimp, tomato concasse, bell pepper, ouzo, and of course, feta cheese. Most of the time, I don’t make the choice — I order one as an appetizer and the second as an entree. After spending quality time with those dips, it is the perfect meal.
The mains at EVOO + Lemon
My husband is what you might call an octopus connoisseur. EVOO + Lemon prepares this tricky seafood just right, grilling it to perfection and ensuring the ideal texture every time. For team Calamari, at EVOO + Lemon you can enjoy it grilled and served with roasted red peppers and “Bomba Calabrese”, an Italian pantry staple made from a mix of Calabrian hot peppers, eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and of course, olive oil.
Did I mention the team at EVOO + Lemon are masters of the open flame? Every single grilled meat and seafood we have sampled is a hit, all prepared exactly as they are meant to shine. The lamb chops melt in your mouth. The ahi tuna is packed with flavor. The scallops burst with rich and buttery goodness.
Lunch at EVOO + Lemon
At lunchtime, the menu features a beautiful array of fresh salads, all featuring the signature Greek palette of fresh vegetables, herbs, feta cheese. EVOO + Lemon adds a few surprises to their salad options, including light and sweet watermelon, rich roasted beets, crunchy pumpkin seeds, and rich dates. Add a protein to any of the salads and round out your meal. I love the salmon, and more importantly, I love that I don’t need to tell them how to prepare this fish that is too often overcooked. The grill masters at EVOO + Lemon serve their salmon at the correct temperature, yielding the perfect silky flakes packed with grilled flavor.
So why EVOO + Lemon above the other solid Greek restaurants in the area? The service. I find it welcoming and genuine. They are attentive, anticipating your needs and meeting them before you have to ask. Polite and engaged, with no trace of overbearing. In nice weather, you can even enjoy outdoor dining, albeit on a high-traffic street.
Some might say it is a downside that EVOO + Lemon is BYOB, but we have grown to love this NJ restaurant quirk. We always appreciate the opportunity to work through our growing wine collection, and in this case, enjoy bottles acquired during our trip with a toast to fantastic memories. Greek wine doesn’t have the best reputation, but favorable growing conditions in places like Santorini are yielding some delicious and affordable summer wines. Here’s a list to get you started.
Looking for more Greek food in northern New Jersey? I love Lithos Estiatorio in Livingston for a more upscale Greek dining experience, with high focus on fresh-caught seafood and shellfish. For a more extensive variety of authentic, traditional Greek dishes, try Thavma in Livingston. If you are craving mezze, check out Jackie & Sons in South Orange. Yamas!
EVOO + Lemon
45 Main Street ⋅ Millburn, NJ ⋅ (973) 564-6075 ⋅ evooandlemon.com
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