New Jersey Date Night is a series on NJ Flavor by relationship writer Craig Rogers.

Nothing is more on the receiving end of loneliness and neglect right now than our suitcases, thanks to this pandemic.

Luckily for us, a Garden State summer makes staying local a pretty great and tasty option. A melting pot of ethnicities, New Jersey boasts restaurants that bring the international flavors straight to your local table. Granted, your passport won’t be stamped, but think of the travel time you’ll save! And skipping the cost of a plane ticket makes it easy to give your masked server an extra special tip.

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Get ready for a New Jersey Date Night that’s ready to sweep your palates away to far-away lands!

Babalu for Two

An escape to Cuba in the 1950s meant a trip to extreme glamour. From beautiful people to exquisite meals, a trip to Havana was the ultimate getaway. 

The vibe and flavor of Cuba is perfectly captured by Son Cubano in West New York. While overlooking the Manhattan skyline, you’ll enjoy authentic Cuban dishes such as ropa nueva (short ribs with black beans, corn and cilantro salad) and salmon mojo (salmon with piquillo peppers, chickpeas and crispy artichokes).

Be sure to save room for dessert because you won’t be able to resist their traditional flan with amarena cherries or their coconut banana cream pie.

For more information on Son Cubano, visit

Turkish Delight

Why spend 10 hours on a flight to Istanbul when you can enjoy the tastes of Turkey at Toros? With three locations in New Jersey, their Montclair spot offers an especially beautiful outdoor setting. Turkish cuisine is the perfect blend of Far East and Mediterranean flavors and the family recipes used at Toros honors that tradition.

Beginning your meal with red lentil soup is a great idea, followed by main dishes such as etli namya (lamb baked with tomatoes and okra, served with rice) or cop sis (marinated beef grilled with mushroom, pepper and onion, served with rice). You can’t go wrong by choosing a classic kebob such as the yogurtlu tavuk (chicken kebab with yogurt with sautéed buttered bread).

For more information on Toros, visit

Bollywood Nights

The air quality in New Delhi is a bit questionable, but the breeze in Westfield is always sweet … and spicy!  Spice Bazaar serves up modern Indian cuisine sure to delight.  

You and your date will have many innovative main dishes from which to choose including chicken chettinad (chicken in coconut sauce with coriander seeds and black pepper) and lamb vindaloo (lamb with four ground chilies, vinegar and potato). Be sure to check out their vegan and gluten-free options, such as chickpea masala.

For more information on Spice Bazaar, visit


France makes you think of art and romance and you can combine the two thanks to Rat’s. Located in Hamilton at the Grounds for Sculpture, their outdoor paradise will transport your date into a Monet painting. Named for the beloved character Rat fromThe Wind in the Willows,” Rat’s offers the best of French country cuisine.

A plate of artisanal cheeses and their charcuterie followed by French onion soup is a great start, followed by sharing the seared shrimp (with piperade, chorizo, parsley and toasted breadcrumbs) or the seared crabcake (with corn, watercress and Piquillo pepper emulsion). 

If you’re on the hungry side you can’t go wrong with steak frites, but be sure to save room for the crème brûlée.

For more information about Rat’s, visit

Don’t be Trippin’

Step by step and phase by phase, our communities are slowly coming out of quarantine. To most the re-opening process is arduous and the frustration can be overwhelming. It’s difficult, but we need to put the annoyances on the back burner and focus on forward movement in a smart and safe manner. 

Same goes for singles as they re-start their dating lives. We’ve learned that being single and ready to mingle during a pandemic is perhaps the biggest challenge of them all. The key is to keep your eye on the prize and not let the situation get the best of you because the situation is only for now. First dates, just like vacations, are just around the corner. In the meantime we make the most of what we’ve got … and in Jersey there’s more than enough for seconds.

 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

What’s your idea for a great New Jersey Date? Tell Craig all about it at


More Date Night Ideas:

Restaurants with Great Outdoor Dining

Come to My Window (For Ice Cream)

Chicken Restaurants That Sizzle

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