New Jersey Date Night is a series on NJ Flavor by relationship writer Craig Rogers.
Warm weather is only weeks away, but residents of New Jersey know that it’s really a few weeks too many. A lot can still happen before spring kicks in; big snowstorms, heavy winds and temperatures that make you think your new next-door neighbors will be a family of penguins. If we haven’t had the time or the extra cash for a warm weather escape with our date, the wait for warmth can seem endless.
If a quick pre-summer tropical escape with your love isn’t in the cards for you, New Jersey offers some culinary alternatives perfect to get you both over the springtime finish line. A date featuring tropical flavors in a warm island-inspired environment may not be the same as being there, but your date night will seem like one tasty get-away. Think of it as a momentary couples’ escape without fighting airport traffic, flight delays and taking time off from work — it’s just what the doctor ordered to get you over the cold weather blues and spring you to the warmth.
Get ready for a Jersey Date Night that doesn’t require a TSA Check-in!
Only in New Jersey is Cuba not so far away
Your heart may be in Havana, but your stomach will receive some Cuban love in New Jersey. Cubacan, located on Asbury Park’s Boardwalk, boasts a tasty menu featuring modern Cuban cuisine and specialty cocktail menu featuring signature mojitos including the Smoked Mojito (Stolen Smoked Rum, fresh lime, mint, simple syrup bitters and ginger ale).
Cubacan features the décor of rosewood floors, Cuban mosaic tile and white linen curtains on iron valences sure to transport you to tropical elegance. The sunny atmosphere is definitely carried over to the menu, featuring favorites like pargo a la plaxa (roasted red snapper with steamed yucca, garlic spinach and coconut cumin sauce) and churrasco (grilled skirt steak with peppers, onions, manzanilla olives, peas, rice and beans). Saving room for dessert is a must with traditional Cuban sweets like coco flan, tres leches and natilla de chocolate (Belgian chocolate, ancho chili, espresso pudding with coconut ice cream).
For more information about Cubacan, visit www.cubacanrestaurant.com.
Jamaican Me Want More
It’s a three hour and 37 minute flight from Newark to Montego Bay — not including Parkway traffic to the airport. You and your date are sure to get to the flavors of Jamaica way faster if you go to Top Taste Caribbean, instead.
This Irvington mainstay features classic Jamaican favorites like traditionally prepared oxtail marinated in Top Taste seasoning and brown sauce with butter beans, carrots, onion and assorted peppers. It wouldn’t be a taste of Jamaica without Roti, and you’ll find several options from which to choose including curry goat, stew beef and vegetarian. If you want to be super-traditional, you can’t go wrong with their slow-roasted jerk chicken.
For more information on Top Taste Caribbean Restaurant, visit www.toptastecaribbean.com.
Aloha and Hang 10
You’d think your date night wouldn’t be romantic if it includes zombies and scorpions, but when they appear in a Tiki bar served by a friendly bartender, you soon realize there’s no worry. Lun Wah in Roselle is certain to take you from polar to Polynesian with one sip of their expertly prepared cocktails. From mai tai to Polynesian Paralysis, their menu is both extensive and very-user friendly, as it includes a potency scale (from light-weight Gilligan to knocking over the captain).
As for food, starting with the pu-pu platter (barbecued ribs, tender beef cubes, pork egg rolls, shrimp toast and chicken in foil, served with a flaming torch) is a must. For your main course you’ll find favorites such as their luau barbecue platter (tender skewers of steak, shrimp and chicken barbecued, served over a bed of onions and broccoli on a sizzling platter) and Volcano Steak (filet mignon served with mixed vegetables in their chef's special sauce served with flaming rum).
For more information on Lun Wah, visit www.thelunwahrestaurant.com.
Viva La Mexico
As fun as a road trip date can be, you’re looking at a 40-hour drive from New Jersey to Mexico City. Your stomachs will be satisfied sooner by visiting Freppe’s Tex Mex in Plainfield. You’ll feel the fiesta from the moment you walk in the door, starting from the friendly staff and ending with some of the best Mexican food you’ll ever experience.
You’ll be tempted by the classic Tex-Mex dishes you love, ranging from fajitas to tacos to enchiladas. You might want to consider a couple of other dishes, such as spicy chipotle cream chicken and shrimp (grilled chicken and shrimp with spinach, tossed in a creamy chipotle sauce with tequila) or the carne asada (marinated flank steak with sautéed onions and peppers with a tequila demi glace).
For more information about the Freppe’s Tex Mex, visit www.freppestexmex.com.
Having a date night featuring an international flair is always fun, and making that date tropical transforms a chilly night into one hot time. Date nights are meant to be an escape for two — be it staying local or boarding a plane.
Your date night, regardless of your destination, shouldn’t include baggage from the past. We all have romantic histories, and constantly carrying them around makes for a very crowded overhead compartment. Granted, some histories are difficult to overcome and perhaps impossible to forget. If we choose to embrace the lessons learned rather than maintain razor focus on the hurt, the baggage will slowly disappear. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the co-star in your new romantic comedy has changed for the better and your adventures are just beginning.
That alone should warm your heart on even the chilliest evening.
Craig Rogers is the guy who gets relationships write. Author of “The 49th Challenge,” Craig has written countless articles on dating, relationships and breakup recovery. To learn more about Craig, visit CraigRogers.nyc.
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