Friday, July 30, 2021

Good eats: With tacos, pizza, subs and sushi, you won’t go hungry at NJ flea markets

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Watch: Take a flea market food tour in New Jersey

We check out the food offerings at Collingwood Flea Market in Farmingdale.

Brian Johnston, Asbury Park Press

You can find anything – and everything – at a flea market.

New clothes, old clothes, antiques, jewelry, spices, fresh fruit, records, toys, fabric, incense, lawn decor, shampoo, greeting cards – it’s all there, packed into a maze of stalls winding this way and that.


There are places to get a haircut or a tarot card reading, to have a key made or a picture framed. There are arcades, watch repair shops and stores selling luggage. 

Then, there is food – and lots of it.

At New Jersey’s flea markets, it is impossible to leave hungry. There are counter-service restaurants that have been in the markets for decades and takeout spots making a go of a new business. They’re serving everything from tacos, sushi and smoked turkey legs to bulgogi, sub sandwiches and chicken pot pie.

Hungry? Read on for a culinary tour of truly tasty flea market eats, from New Meadowlands Market in Bergen County to Columbus Farmers Market in Burlington County. 

Collingwood Flea Market, Wall 

It has been more than 60 years since Collingwood Flea Market opened its doors, and its 60,000-square-foot indoor market is home to food vendors old and new. 


The market closed for several months when the coronavirus pandemic hit in spring 2020.

“It was hard on them,” manager Jeff Winters said of the sellers.

But Collingwood has reopened, and vendors like Kenny Poll – and their customers – returned.

“I’ve been here 40 years,” said Poll of Ken’s Pizza, whose two-sided pizza counter offers regulars a place to talk while he cooks pizza, sausage and peppers sandwiches, and meatball parm subs.  

At Sisters Mexican Restaurant, “everything’s homemade,” said Erika Ramos, who for 11 years has been serving tacos with salsa verde, Spanish rice, and chicken wings, among many other dishes. At the month-old Seafood Delight, Rafael Basurto and Ana Corona scoop fresh seafood salad and fry calamari.


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Rich Rutkowski runs Collingwood Sub Shop, which he says is as old as the market itself. 

“People have come from all over New Jersey,” he said of the busy store, where the best-seller is The Original: chopped ham, salami and provolone on fresh bread from Nino’s Bakery in Long Branch. Rutkowski’s preparation is thoughtful and geared toward shoppers: He doesn’t slice the bread all the way through, and he tucks the sandwiches into plastic bags so customers can eat while they shop without making a mess.

“It’s simple, but there’s a lot to it,” Rutkowski said. 

“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” said Tammy Richardson of Neptune, who visited the sub shop on a recent weekday to pick up sandwiches for her family and co-workers. “Nothing’s changed.”


Debbie Almeida, along with her son, Jon Almeida, and his wife, Andrea, run Nosh Nook Pickles. They are the fourth owners of the 65-year-old business, which sells “every kind of pickle you can imagine” in pints, quarts, half-gallons and gallons. 

“It’s fun,” Debbie said of working at the flea market. “I love talking to people. They’ve become my friends and my family.”

Keith Rodemer’s Philadelphia-based Impresso Cafe is a newer addition to the market; he and Mariko Perry opened their coffee shop in the fall. On a recent visit, Rodemer was testing vanilla oat milk matcha popsicles and cappuccino pops, summery additions to their regular roster of hot coffee and espresso drinks.

They use lemons and strawberries from Collingwood’s produce market to make flavored syrups for their drinks and sell baked goods, and “we’re going to start roasting our own beans,” he said. 

Go: The flea market is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays; 1350 Route 33 in Wall; 732-938-7941, collingwoodfleamarket.com.

Columbus Farmers Market, Columbus

There are two things to bring when visiting Columbus Farmers Market: An appetite and your walking shoes. 

“We have lots of food,” said Janice Ackerman, who has been managing Columbus’ 60 indoor stores for more than 30 years (there are another 1,200 vendor spots outside). “It’s so much stuff that you can bring the family and keep everybody happy.”

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On a recent visit, the Amish Market, selling everything from pickles to pork ribs, was particularly busy. At its Stoltzfus BBQ, customers dug into platters of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and carrots.

“This is the best,” one diner says.

At Esther’s Bakery and Bulk Foods, the line for freshly baked doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns and breads wound past stacks of shoofly pies and apple turnovers, and the employees of Sara’s Subs & Salads were busy scooping rice pudding and ringing up chicken pot pies. 

“It’s a huge draw,” Ackerman said of the Amish Market. “Lots of people come and just go to the Amish to sit down and eat and takeout, as well as take cooked food home.”

After spending time there, stop by the Chicken Coop for fried chicken –”That’s a third-generation family. They sell tons and tons of chicken,” Ackerman said – and make your way to the food court, home to a handful of multicultural food stalls.

There’s bulgogi and kimchi at DJ’s Kitchen, sushi and bubble tea at Golden China, bologna and kielbasa at Wojciechowski’s Bologna Kitchen, and tacos, cemitas and flautas at Taqueria La Calpeña.

Continue deeper into the market and find Louie’s Hoagie Shop – the scent of oil and vinegar will lead you there, where a wide counter and stools await – and Kate & Al’s Pizza, which is owned by Gloria Stefan and has been serving squares of tomato pie for decades.

“People rave about the sauce,” manager Darlene Scully said. “The recipe has not changed since I began working in 1976.”

If you’re not yet full, there’s even more outside.

“We have hot dogs, a number of Mexican restaurants, a guy that’s been here for decades that sells great sausage sandwiches, another guy that sells lemonade and French fries that’s second or third generation,” Ackerman said. “Some people have been here 50 years.”

Go: The flea market is open Thursdays through Sundays year-round; indoor, outdoor and Amish Market hours vary; 2919 Route 206 South in Columbus; 609-267-0400, columbusfarmersmarket.com.

Five Acres Flea Market, Belvidere

The choice for eats is easy at Five Acres Flea Market, a Warren County staple for more than 35 years. 

Here, the sole spot to stop for a bite is Rose’s, a modest food stand with breakfast sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and other casual American fare that is staffed by Rose herself. A painted sign marking the spot of her stand sits in a flowerbed next to a pop-up tent protecting her kitchen. 

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A Knowlton resident and the smiling face behind the counter, Rose Jacobsen has been working the grill for four flea market seasons, which run from April to October. Prior to that, she ran restaurants at the nearby ACI Truck Stop and another in Roseto, Pennsylvania. 

“I just do this on the weekends to keep busy,” said Jacobsen, a great-grandmother. “But you sure do meet a lot of interesting people.”

The breakfast sandwiches, which are piled with bacon, sausage or pork roll and egg and cheese, are popular at Rose’s. Customers can also choose cheesesteaks, chicken tenders, fries, onion rings and corn nuggets from a handwritten menu. 

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“Rose’s is the best flea market food in New Jersey,” said Five Acres owner Angelo Accetturo. “She makes everything fresh and made-to-order. You might wait a little longer, but it’s worth it.” 

Go: The flea market is open “from sunup until sundown” Saturdays and Sundays, year-round; 421 Route 46 in Belvidere; 908-303-1608, facebook.com/5five.acres.

New Meadowlands Market, East Rutherford

“Fresh tacos!”

That’s what you’ll hear any time the line gets short at Mexican Tacos & More, a food stand at New Meadowlands Market in East Rutherford. And it doesn’t get short often: Of the food stands at the flea market, it’s one of the largest.

Several employees dump handfuls of carnitas, brisket, steak and chicken onto an open griddle. When it’s cooked, they use a corn tortilla to scoop up the meat, then add green onions on top. In the seating tent nearby, you’ll find pots of salsa verde and hot sauce, plus trays of cut limes, radishes and cucumbers resting on ice to add to your tacos.

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It’s humble. It’s quick. It’s greasy. Of course it is – it’s in a flea market. Besides Mexican Tacos & More, the flea market has an empanada stand, several shish kebab stands, soft pretzels, Italian ice, pickles, questionably “fresh squeezed” lemonade and the old stalwart, Mister Softee.

Go: The flea market is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, year-round, at MetLife Stadium, Lot J, in East Rutherford; 973-751-7397, newmeadowlandsmarket.com.

Others to visit:

  • Berlin Farmers Market, the sister market to Columbus Farmers Market, has a wide variety of food, from ceviche at Rodriguez’s Peruvian Restaurant and smoked brisket at Seymour’s BBQ to doughnuts at Country Hill Amish Bakery and garlic clams at Vitale’s clam bar. Open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays at 41 Clementon Road in Berlin; 856-767-1246, berlinfarmersmarket.com.
  • Englishtown Auction in Manalapan has something for everyone, from authentic Mexican food at Las Tres Limonsitas, Antojitos Mexicanos and El Pinche Pollo to sausage and peppers at Mutt & Jeff’s. An outdoor food court features Peruvian food, barbecue, and more Mexican dishes at El Paisano Taco Truck, and Mainbrook Tavern is on site for wings and burgers. Open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at 90 Wilson Ave. in Manalapan; 732-446-9644, englishtownauction.com.

Source: Asbury Park


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