Gourmet cinnamon rolls, a fresh take on empanadas, and a brand-new beach carousel make Garden State debuts

by Jessica Jones-Gorman

GOURMET ON THE GO!
After finding success in Wood Ridge with The Empanada Shop, which launched last year, Joni Caldera and Nelson Contreras set about opening a second location of their gourmet eatery in Rutherford, one that opened just last month. The Italian-Dominican duo, who met two years ago on their respective sons’ soccer field, combined their family recipes to create classic versions of Latin staples (with beef, chicken, pork) as well as Italian flavors (sausage, peppers and onions, and tomato and basil) plus American riffs (Buffalo chicken, broccoli and cheddar, and chili mac and cheese). For dessert, there’s guava and cheese or apple pie fillings. Delicious custom pockets can also be assembled at the shop’s rice bowl bar, where customers pick toppings like fresh veggies, pico de gallo, and spicy corn.

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“Empanadas are popular because they are delicious, and not something that can easily be made at home,” the couple point out on the restaurant site. “They are easy to eat with your hands and make a great, quick meal while on the go!” 251B Valley Blvd., WoodRidge / 30 Park Ave., Rutherford, theempanadashopnj.com

THEATER IN THE ROUND
A classically-designed and ornately carved carousel debuted in Long Branch this summer, adding a touch of nostalgia to the boardwalk expansion at Pier Village. Handcrafted by Carousel Works, an Ohio-based company that preserves and recreates these wonderful rides (which debuted in the mid 19th century; the first patent for one, dubbed “the flying horses,” was granted to a Brooklyn business in 1850), the attraction features 42 wooden figures—a mix of horses, dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine life-inspired creatures.

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Housed in a retractable glass encasement that opens during the summer (enclosed and heated during the winter), the carousel is slated to be open year round. Rides cost $4 (three for $10), and the attraction, operated by the city of Long Branch, is open daily from 12 noon to 9 p.m. 50 Chelsea Avenue, Long Branch, piervillage.com

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ROLL WITH IT
Cinnaholic, a vegan bakery franchise that got a boost from Robert Herjavec’s investment in the wake of a 2014 episode of the ABC series, Shark Tank, opened its first New Jersey location in May. The dessert shop, which currently operates 30 locations across the United States and Canada, was founded by Shannon and Florian Radke, who met in 2008 and bonded over a shared love of animals and a plant-based diet. After operating several California locations, the company gradually ventured east; the Westfield address its latest endeavor.

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Serving a variety of “create-your-own” cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats, customers can select from more than 20 unique frosting flavors and a variety of fresh and decadent toppings. All products are scratch-made, fresh-baked, 100% vegan, and dairy-, lactose-, egg-, and cholesterol-free. Customer favorites include Blueberry Pie, Strawberries and Cream, and Cookie Monster, and lemon, maple, coffee, and hazelnut frosting varieties are also crowd pleasers as well. 18 Elm Street, Westfield, cinnaholic.com