Iberia is the ancient name for the Peninsula that includes Portugal and Spain and well, as we all know, delicious food and flavors hail from that part of the world. Thanks to Iberia Tavern and Restaurant located at 80-84 Ferry Street, locals were able to get a taste of it right in Newark. The massive eatery introduced Portuguese and Spanish cuisine to the area in 1926, and over the years, Iberia began its journey as a small tavern and luncheonette and had grown into the largest restaurant in Newark all while securing a regionally renowned reputation. From locals to tourists, Iberia was a staple in the community. Recently, this restaurant sadly announced that it has closed its doors as of June 4th, 2023, as its owners Ilda Loureiro and Jorge Fernandes are retiring. Read on for more about Iberia and what we will miss about this beloved Ironbound spot.
A Brief Backstory
Iberia Tavern is the older brother of the Iberia Peninsula located at the heart of Newark’s Ironbound section at 80-84 Ferry Street. When the demand for Iberia Tavern outweighed the capacity of the space, Iberia Peninsula, the extension of the restaurant was born. The entire restaurant dominated two full blocks.
Iberia specialized in traditional Portuguese and Spanish dishes. The menu was extensive, the portions were extremely generous, and the affordable prices always kept customers coming back for more. The menu was very meat and seafood forward.
Patrons could find classic dishes like chorizo (Portguese sausage) and paella, one of the best-known dishes in Spanish cuisine that consists of rice, beans, seafood, vegetables, and various livestock meats depending on the region.
The restaurant was known for its rodizio (Portugese-style all-you-can-eat) options. The waiter would bring you skewers of barbequed chicken, filet mignon, pork, turkey, ribs, sausage, and more until you say stop.
The Parrilhada dish was another popular dish amongst parties, as it feeds two to three people. The dish was prepared with lobster, jumbo shrimp, clams, mussels, garlic shrimp, calamari, flounder, and saffron rice — and whole lobsters, 1-6 pounds, 24-ounce lobster tails.
Appetizers ranged from a shrimp cocktail to an octopus salad (a full salad menu was also available). With 16 seafood entree options, it was overwhelming to just pick one (in a good way), but classics like the broiled salmon filet and grilled shrimp platter were go-to’s.
The meat section of the menu boasted over 10 entrees as well. Naturally, there was steak options, as well as pork, and chicken. The boneless broiled sirloin steak with shrimp was a solid option. Barbeque options included pork baby back ribs, Portuguese-style BBQ chicken, and more. For pasta, Iberia kept it simple with two options, linguine with clams or shrimp in garlic sauce.
There was a full-service bar both inside and outside with an impressive selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines, as well as vino from France, Italy, Chile, and Australia and domestic vintages from California. The sangria is a fan-favorite and paired well with any meal on the menu.
The restaurant had a casual vibe with an upscale design and was well-known for its resemblance to a Renaissance castle (and for a feeling like you’re stepping back in time!). There were cathedral-style ceilings, large barbeque pits, and exposed brick walls draped in nautical decor.
Both the indoor and outdoor eating areas were spacious. There was a main-level dining room and two large banquet rooms above and below the main restaurant for private parties that can accommodate close to 300 patrons.
During the warmer months, the outdoor dining area was in full swing with close to 100 tables that vary in size, access to TVs to watch all of the biggest sporting events (soccer is the restaurant staff’s favorite sport), and occasional live music performances.