New Jersey restaurants spent 2021 battling to rebound from a catastrophic 2020, a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic created a series of crises unseen in our lifetimes, closing eateries around the state and putting the industry on the brink of collapse. This year brought an ever-evolving set of challenges for restaurants, from a massive labor shortage and hostile customers to supply-chain issues and proof of vaccination debates.

But 2021 also saw the return of indoor dining with zero capacity limits in May, the closest thing the food world has had to normalcy since early 2020. It was a chance to begin the climb back from plummeting profits and lost restaurants.

#3 Cafe Alyce, Jersey City

For the abundance of sensational eats in Jersey City, it isn’t exactly a great brunch town. But Cafe Alyce is beginning to change that with a creative menu featuring both Southern and Indian influences. Housed in what was once the Medical Center Luncheonette, Alyce kept the neon sign from the old restaurant as an homage but revamped the interior and menu otherwise. The biscuits and gravy are one of the best breakfast dishes I had all year, their grits are so good you’ll swear you’re in the South and their aloo paratha (an Indian flatbread) is just delicious. (JS)