Butter & Jam

I always love a good restaurant recommendation. That’s why I joined the SOMA Eats Local Facebook group, where people from my community gather to discuss the latest and greatest food nearby. Get the lunch menu meatball sandwich, they might say of Arturo’s, the legendary wood-fired pizzeria in Maplewood village. The Maple Leaf Diner has great specials and ample portions, someone might opine. Most days, I log on to Facebook for the explicit purpose to see what people are saying about good eats in my community.

A while back, possibly in January, someone posted about Butter & Jam, a restaurant in downtown Madison known for a delectable brunch. I tucked away a mental note about the place for a future outing with a friend. Fast forward to today, when my friend Carol and I visited Butter & Jam for lunch. And, reader, it was worth the wait.

I wouldn’t call the interior welcoming, although the people who work there are warm. The spare environs with probably bad lighting belies the glorious food that’s churning out of the Butter & Jam kitchen.

We started with beverages from their “cafe” menu (accessible via QR code because this is how restaurants work now): I ordered an iced latte and Carol got a hot caffe mocha. The iced latte was delicious, likely due to the fact that Butter & Jam uses illy coffee and espresso, known for its high-quality, consistent bean blend. Poured into a cavernous mug, Carol’s mocha was delicately decorated with chocolate sauce cross-hatches and foam a mile deep. It was, in a word, gorgeous.

Butter & Jam Board

Moving on to the winning food, we ordered the Butter & Jam board: mountains of housemade, fresh-baked miniature buttermilk biscuits, miniature croissants, and quartered (normal-sized) corn muffins surrounded by blended butters — strawberry, blueberry, and cinnamon honey — and three housemade jams — strawberry, peach, and blueberry — all sitting like Hallmark ornaments on a spacious tray. As Carol and I pored over the menu, we noticed that the Butter & Jam board was recommended for “two to four,” which struck me as odd because the difference between two people and four people seems relatively vast — how could this serve up to four people or also be satisfactory for two? Once I dug in, I realized that the board is actually sufficient for two people like Carol and me.

The star of the Butter & Jam board is unquestionably the corn muffin. Supple and — dare I say — moist, the muffin has a vibrant corn flavor with a touch of sweetness. The divine texture makes it the perfect canvas for one of the jams, which were all bursting with colorful fruit flavor. The butters were, on a whole, less impressive to me. While the cinnamon honey butter offered a hearty tang, the strawberry and blueberry butters were a tad too subtle in my opinion. It’s worth noting that the dense and crumbly buttermilk biscuit and flaky croissants were also a notch above. But the corn muffin is the star of this place, and I won’t accept a different opinion on this matter, thank you very much.

Mexicano Ensalada with Salmon

Moving on to our entrees, Carol and I both ordered the Mexicano Ensalada (which both of us called the “Mexican salad” for whatever reason). I paired mine with salmon, while I twisted Carol’s arm to get some grilled chicken on hers. I found the salad to be exquisite. The salsa verde dressing — which, if I’m being honest, I didn’t quite understand from the menu description — is a runaway favorite, I’m sure. It’s bright and floral, with a sweet undertone, and totally creamy. Our delightful waitress commented that our salads were the last ones they were making for the day. Not only is there a baby formula shortage happening in America today, but apparently there is also a shortage of this perfect salsa verde. Somebody call The New York Times.

In addition to the completely delicious dressing, the salad boasted a half avocado that was conveniently sliced (although I forked through chunks of it anyway), red onions, and cherry tomatoes tossed with mixed greens and topped with a pile of tortilla chip strips. It was perfect.

I highly recommend Butter & Jam, but it’s important to note that Apple Maps didn’t take me to its actual location, which I somehow intuited toward through an alley that Carol and I were both surprised we didn’t pass by without notice. What I’m trying to say is don’t use Apple Maps to get there.

Butter & Jam also serves dinner, which is certain to be outrageous. After your meal, be sure to stroll around downtown Madison, which is filled-to-the-brim with charming boutiques, like a yarn store and old-timey toy store.

Butter & Jam

30 Cook Plaza

Madison, NJ

Valley Street Eatery

Taylor ham, egg, and cheese with potato rosti on a brioche bun.

Any New Jersey denizen will tell you that the taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich is a delicacy not to mess with. Most bagel shops, delis, and diners keep it simple: a few slices of taylor ham crisped on the flat top, over-hard egg, and American cheese on a kaiser roll. Salt, pepper, and ketchup typically adorn this statewide treasure of a sandwich. As someone who has eaten many taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches in her life, I can confidently say this is usually the optimal way to consume this particular food.

That is, of course, until I ordered one from Valley Street Eatery.

New kid to the block in Maplewood, Valley Street Eatery takes the place of the old Tara’s Deli, an establishment I’m not sure I ever saw anyone enter in my three plus years of living in this community. Valley Street Eatery is a short walk from Memorial Park and the Maplewood train station, making it a great place to pick up lunch for a picnic or a quick bite while waiting for the train. I had heard of Valley Street Eatery from a community group called SOMA Eats (it’s important to note that this Facebook group has quickly become my GOAT group to belong to and makes me use Facebook every day). Word on the street is the owner of Sabatino’s, a widely praised (and deservedly so) pizzeria just a few blocks away from Valley Street Eatery, opened up this new breakfast-and-lunch joint. Intrigued by its pedigree, I decided to give it a try this past week for lunch and then breakfast.

So, back to the sandwich. I’ll admit, at first I was skeptical of Valley Street Eatery’s take on the taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. Their menu noted that it was pressed between brioche bun halves and an adventurous eater could even get a potato rosti (a Swedish version of the latke) on it. This sounds a bit too fancy to me, and maybe they’re trying to do too much, I thought. But, lover of all things taylor ham that I am, I decided to order it. Reader, believe me when I say that the Valley Street Eatery sandwich is the best taylor ham, egg, and cheese I’ve ever had. Yes, ever. That means it beats Hoboken’s well-known O’Bagel’s version and every other sandwich I’ve ever had, including those from New Jersey’s many well-respected diners. So, what puts Valley Street Eatery’s rendition above the rest? It’s the perfect, sumptuous combination of the buttery brioche roll with the just-greasy-enough insides. The potato rosti certainly elevates the sandwich to distinguish itself from any other in the great Garden State, but it also tastes at home in this tried-and-true combination.

Breakfast burrito.

When I visited Valley Street Eatery, the nice woman taking my order highly recommended the breakfast burrito, which comes stuffed with scrambled eggs, avocado, onion, peppers, American cheese, and the refined potato rosti. MDP felt it was perhaps too cheesy (likely due to the sheer gooeyness of American cheese), but found it satisfying. I tried a bite and thought it was delicious.

Apple turnover.

I also snagged an apple turnover, which may be housemade based on what I see in the Valley Street Eatery Instagram account. This pastry felt like a revelation and I encourage commuters to arrive early to get one before they sell out. It was both delicate and flavorful, with an almost croissant-like pastry exterior and not-too-sweet cinnamon-flecked sliced apples within. Valley Street Eatery also has muffins, although the flavor variety may be lacking for some.

On a different day, we ordered lunch: the kale apple salad and cubano sandwich. Both were satisfying.

Kale apple salad.

The kale apple salad is fresh-tasting and hearty. My takeout container came packed with bright-green kale, chunks of honeycrisp apples, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, and blue cheese crumbles. I added grilled chicken ($5 extra) to round out my dish. I found the balance of ingredients to be superb and particularly liked that they tossed the salad with just-enough of the white balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Cubano.

MDP’s cubano sandwich looked good and he found it to be satisfying bite, as well. It’s important to note that Valley Street Eatery uses a good hoagie roll as the “case” for their Cuban sandwich, rather than the light, crisp Cuban bread you’ll find at an actual Cuban eatery. MDP felt the bread, which had been pressed, was pretty good but agreed that Cuban bread — such as what you’ll find at La Isla in Hoboken — is preferred. Nonetheless, the actual roasted pork shoulder was tender and meaty, while the sliced ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and dijonnaise formed a delectable complement.

Aside from what we ordered, they have a handful of other specialty sandwiches, like a portobello mushroom one, a fried chicken sandwich, and a double burger. You’ll also find some deli sandwiches on their menu, like the spicy turkey, roast beef and provolone, and chicken cutlet. On the side, you can try their potato leek soup (always a favorite of mine) and their french fries.

You’ll see a few types of bagged chips and soft drinks near the entrance, so be sure to grab these before you order. If the weather isn’t great for a picnic in the park, you can sit at a table inside Valley Street Eatery. According to their frequently updated Instagram, Valley Street Eatery also has chocolate icebox cake — which just sounds so delicious, doesn’t it? — so be sure to get a slice for dessert.

I hope the word spreads about this awesome new place in our community, so Valley Street Eatery gets the love they deserve!

Valley Street Eatery

503 Valley Street

Maplewood, NJ

973-320-9722

Open 7 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Friday; 8 am to 3 pm on Saturday and Sunday; and closed on Monday (as of November 21, 2021).