Jersey boys (and girls) know that the Garden State has a language all its own when it comes to discussing our home turf. But did you know that some folks from one region of New Jersey might have totally different experiences from other folks in different regions? It’s true! Ask your friends in Northern Jersey what a Sloppy Joe is, and then call someone from South Jersey and ask them how they make a pork roll. The answers will surprise you!

Enter the NJ Vocabulary series. Here at Best of NJ, we’re breaking down the most interesting topics that are exclusive to New Jersey and sharing them with readers far and wide. You don’t have to be from outside of NJ to enjoy the series, either; we’re willing to bet even lifelong natives won’t know about a few of these items. So sit back, relax, and be sure to check back often for new installments of NJ Vocabulary.

Featured NJ Vocabulary


What Are Jughandles?

It’s all right in New Jersey — at least when it comes to making a left. Jughandles can be a loopy roadside woe to a driver — especially someone who learned to drive outside of the NJ area — that missed their turn. For the rest of the road, though, they ensure a safe and secure way to keep traffic moving. That’s why Jughandles are our NJ Vocabulary word of the week. Learn all about this NJ-specific driving scenario…

What Is Mutz?

Ahh, mozzarella. It’s most famous as a pizza topping, but it’s delicious no matter how you have it. Cold and sliced with tomato and basil. Baked over chicken and red sauce. Of course, it’s a welcome addition to a prosciutto ‘sangwich,’ too. And in Hoboken, there’s even a festival devoted to it. (Mutzfest is a rite of passage for residents.) Elsewhere in America — even across the Hudson — the cheese is referred to as “mahtz-arella”…

The Fairy Tale Forest

Once upon a time, kids in the rest of the country could only imagine walking through a real-life fairy tale forest. But kids from Jersey actually got to do it. The Fairy Tale Forest was the stuff of little-kid dreams. The children’s amusement park was built in 1955 by Paul Woehle Sr., a German immigrant who settled in Oak Ridge. It took Woehle two years to complete the forest; he built the entire thing by hand with a little help…

Razz Ma Tazz

There was nothing like being a kid in the late ’80s and early ’90s — especially if you lived in New Jersey. We had the shore! We had Great Adventure! And perhaps most importantly, we had Razz Ma Tazz. This Perth Amboy/Sayreville border family fun center had it all, and, it was every kid’s dream — especially on birthdays. Much like Chuck E. Cheese, the place was full of the good stuff, like video games and junk food…

Hunka Bunka

Not long ago, particularly during the summer season, New Jersey nightlife was synonymous with shore living. But even when the months of summer were over, that Garden State nightlife didn’t take a hiatus; it simply relocated to Hunka Bunka, a music emporium in Sayreville that has earned the spotlight as our NJ Vocabulary word of the week. Hunka Bunka was the place to be for people from all over the Tri-State area…

The Evil Clown of Middletown

New Jersey is famous for loads of visual landmarks. The beach, the Meadowlands, lighthouses, Asbury Park’s way-too-smiley Tillie and many more. The one landmark that stands out like an evil clown watching you drive down a highway is, well, the actual enormous evil clown parked on Route 35 in Middletown. Yes, the evil clown is real; the larger-than-life billboard cutout was created in 1956 by Leslie Worth Thomas…

Chicken Savoy

New Jersey has an impressive history with food. There are, of course, NJ-only offerings such as pork roll and disco fries, as well as dishes NJ has perfected, like the tomato pie. Another Garden State-only dish that has proven to be quite popular is Chicken Savoy. For those who have never heard of the meal, it’s best to start at the beginning. The dish has its roots at the Belmont Tavern, a Belleville restaurant…

Action Park

If you grew up in New Jersey, summer wasn’t summer unless there was a visit to Action Park involved. It couldn’t be helped. The commercial started around mid-May and teased hopeful thrill-seekers all summer long. Mention Action Park and you’ll undoubtedly find someone who visited  — even more likely is to find someone who was injured there. Action park opened in 1978 as one of the country’s first modern water parks…

WSOU

In 49 states, WSOU are letters. To New Jersey natives, it’s a culture. Music runs deep in New Jersey and a lot of it starts at WSOU. The radio station is responsible for breaking many now-mainstream hard rock and metal bands, and it’s all because of some undergrads at Seton Hall. The hard rock and heavy metal student-run radio station of Seton Hall University — dubbed “Pirate Radio” — dates back to 1948…

Disco Fries

There ain’t no party like the one that takes place in a diner at 2 am. In the mid-1990s, almost every table at a Garden State diner would be taken by partygoers who were fresh out of the club — and ready for some drunk munchies. And what they wanted were Disco Fries. If you want to talk Disco Fries, talk to the folks at the Summit Diner. The Summit is New Jersey’s oldest diner and dates back to 1929…

NJ Ripper

The Ripper

Philadelphia has the cheesesteak, Chicago has deep-dish pizza and Portland has whatever the hell kale is — but when it comes to regional cuisine, nothing is quite as unique and delicious as the Ripper at Rutt’s Hut in Clifton. Rutt’s Hut opened in 1928, and it didn’t take long for the eatery to become the preeminent hot dog joint in North Jersey. The original owners created the unique Ripper, which is still a phenomenon today…

NJ Tomato Pie

NJ Vocabulary: The Tomato Pie

It shouldn’t be any different, right? It’s the same three ingredients, simply arranged in a different order. But just as 123 isn’t the same as 321, changing the order changes everything. And there’s something delicious in the special way an authentic Trenton tomato pie is made — which is why it’s this week’s New Jersey vocabulary word. In truth, the tomato pie is as delicious as it is controversial, according to Nick Azzaro…

NJ Pork Roll

NJ Vocabulary: The Pork Roll

It’s breakfast. It’s lunch. It’s dinner. It’s brunch. It’s a sandwich, a pizza topping, a side dish or a main course. If you’ve ever been in a New Jersey diner (and if you haven’t, you’re living wrong), you’ve seen pork roll on the menu and smelled the smoky aroma in the air. It can be found in restaurants and grocery stores across the tri-state region, but the pork roll headquarters of the world is Trenton. And its popularity is growing…

NJ Sloppy Joe

NJ Vocabulary: The Sloppy Joe

While some can argue that a New Jersey tomato pie is similar to a pizza, comparing a New Jersey Sloppy Joe to a Sloppy joe anywhere else is impossible. And there are still some New Jersey residents who aren’t aware of the difference. That’s why Sloppy Joe is our NJ Vocabulary word of the week. Elsewhere in America, a Sloppy Joe is made of ground beef and lots of sauce, but in New Jersey it’s a whole different story…


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