Taste: Watch Out, Walnut Street

Collingswood is the area’s hottest restaurant real estate

For the past six years, Collingswood mayor Jim Maley has believed that restaurants, not residents, are the key to reinvigorating his New Jersey home. “We saw restaurants as a business that would be a destination and bring people in,” Maley says of the town’s efforts to create a more urban atmosphere on suburban Haddon Avenue, the main street of the less-than-two-square-mile town. The word got out that Collingswood was looking for new eats and would help make the tedious zoning and permit processes easy as pie. Maley’s plan is working: Seven restaurants have opened in the past five years, and at least four new ones are due to open in the next 12 months. Among the new and soon-to-be are these.

Pop Shop, 729 Haddon Avenue, 856-869-0111; thepopshopusa.com. Longtime Collingswood residents the Fisher family opened this ’50s-style soda fountain and diner with chef Nonna-Marie Reikert, formerly of White Dog Cafe and Hamburger Mary’s, in the kitchen. Tunes from the jukebox provide the background for Bassetts ice cream soda fountain mixes and an enormous menu that offers 20 types of grilled cheese sandwiches, chopped salads, and breakfast all day; everything is under $10.

Casona, 563 Haddon Avenue, 856-854-2874; mycasona.com. After being involved with eateries in Philadelphia (GM of Tierra Colombiana and part owner of Mixto), owner Larry Grillo will try his hand at a New Jersey Cuban/Latin American spot set in an historic home. Each room will feature live music; there’ll be a prix-fix Sunday brunch and a coffee and pastry bar. The menu, which will have traditional Cuban components like arroz con pollo and the ground-beef dish picadillo, will also offer more Nuevo Latino fare. Set to open mid-November.

Fifth Corner, 618 Collingswood Avenue. This small Russian restaurant from Elena Koshkina, a real estate investor in Collingswood, is scheduled to open in January. It will serve traditional Russian food, like borscht and crepes, and have live piano music on the weekends, as well as Sunday brunch. Entrées will be around $15.

One Fish Two Fish, 806 Haddon Avenue; 856-854-0222. Come spring, a contemporary seafood grill is swimming onto Haddon Avenue. Look for wood-fired fresh fish, a seasonal menu, and specials from owner Don Donaldson. Most entrées will be under $20; open for lunch and dinner.