Over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a riverside city with rising art and culture. That city is Camden, New Jersey where you’ll find an abundance of small businesses. Downtown Camden is full of restaurants that provide diverse food options for students attending one of the three colleges in the neighborhood. One short block away from Rutgers University Camden is Friends Cafe; a Korean fusion restaurant with options for everyone.
Friends Cafe has been around for over ten years and they have held the same quality of food and hospitality since then. Summer 2019 marked a change in restaurant owners, but the shop was taken over by a visitor of the store who is from Korea. Everyone who walks in is remembered and appreciated. The owner makes sure to talk to the customers in an attempt to get to know everyone personally and make their day a little better.
The store is decently sized, not too big or small to fit the crowd. On the walls are polaroids of visitors and posters promoting events going on at Rutgers and in Camden. If you enjoy K-pop, you’ll be very happy as music videos play on the television while you eat.
There are plenty of tasty food items to try, most of them Korean dishes with a few American choices on the menu. If you’re craving a rice bowl, you can try one based on your choice of meat. If you’re in the mood for chicken, they have spicy fried chicken and sweet and sour chicken, and both come with rice and salad. If you’re in the mood for beef, they have bulgogi that also comes with rice and salad. When you don’t want meat, you can get bibimbap with plenty of vegetables and a house-made gochujang. If you’re in need of a ramen fix, you can get a bowl that fits your spice needs. All ramen bowls come with vegetables, beef, and rice cakes as toppings.
In times of a smaller or quick snack, they have a few options: You can get a triangular shaped onigiri filled with either spicy tuna or spam wrapped up for transport. They have both fried veggie dumplings and fries that are great sides for every main dish they serve. For their bowls, you can get two dumplings as an add-on for only a dollar. On the side of their wraps, you can choose between fries or dumplings. All of their wraps are chicken-based, but have different fillings to accompany it such as caesar dressing with American cheese or chipotle dressing with cheddar cheese and jalapeños.
Beverages are super important in completing a meal. Friends Cafe has a wide variety of hot and cold drinks to choose from. On the menu, you can find a few hot drink options in the form of coffee and teas. In the refrigerator, there are cans and bottles to satisfy everyone. A few Korean favorites are at the top of the fridge, such as Milkis and Sac Sac. If you want something else, they have many others like Gatorade, Snapple, aloe vera drinks, and sodas.
It’s always great to support local businesses and enjoy different cuisines. These small stores become hidden gems to locals, and in many cases, are a place of comfort. It’s always worth trying them out. Maybe you’ll find your own safe space. Support local and if you ever find yourself in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area, make sure to check out Friends Cafe!
Cover Image: Friends CAFE
Written by Chey Olexa